Choosing the right finish for your paint is as important as choosing the right color to match your room décor.  Interior paints come in a variety of finishes, also referred to as sheens, to provide you with the best options for your specific needs. The finish of the paint can make a huge difference in the way your room will reflect or absorb light, project color, as well as, how well it will endure the test of time.

Interior paint is available in a variety of finishes. Before you select the right paint for your room, it’s important to understand the qualities that each of the sheens offer.

Paints without a shine or sheen are referred to as flat or matte finishes. They absorb the light and tend to be good for covering up blemishes or uneven spots in the wall. A semi-gloss or glossy sheen reflects light more directly, much like a mirror reflects light, which will create a slight shine off the surface.

Almost every sheen can be used in any room of the house, but some are better suited for high-traffic areas than others.

A Flat or Matte Finish is frequently used in new construction and on ceilings because it doesn’t reflect light directly, and therefore, imperfections in walls and ceilings are much less noticeable. Flat finishes are ideal for use on new drywall that has an imperfect taping job or where porous joint compound has been applied.  This finish provides a smooth, subtle finish that camouflages imperfections.

If you are a beginner, flat paint is your best bet, as it tends to have a very dense, uniform color that spreads evenly. Brush and roller marks tend to disappear during application, and when dry, this finish usually looks even and smooth, even if the paint was not applied evenly.

While a flat finish maintains most of the same characteristics of a matte finish, the latter is more durable and can be wiped down in the event it gets dirty, while the flat tends to absorb dirt and is somewhat difficult to clean. The end result of using a flat or matte finish is that it will provide a smooth, elegant finish, but make sure you keep some extra paint on hand for touch ups.

A flat or matte finish should be used in low traffic areas.  Rubbing a flat or matte finish with a cleanser may damage the finish.

An Eggshell, or low-luster finish is so named because the slight sheen they provide is similar in appearance to the surface of an egg. This slight sheen creates a soft, elegant, velvety finish.  Eggshell finishes are easier to wash than flat finishes and resist stains and scuffs.  An eggshell finish offers more depth and warmth in the color of your room.

An eggshell finish is the most popular finish. It’s great for kitchens, family rooms and low to mid traffic areas where the ease of washing the walls down is necessary.

A Satin sheen provides a slightly more reflective surface and is excellent at resisting mildew, dirt and stains, making them better suited for more frequently used rooms. They can withstand cleaning and light scrubbing better than flat or eggshell finishes.  Satin finishes can withstand moisture, making them ideal on the backsplashes of a kitchen counter or an entire bathroom.  Satin finishes are extremely versatile and can be used indoors or outdoors.

Satin finishes are best suited for more active rooms, like a family room, playroom, laundry room, or children’s bedroom.  A satin finish can also be used for trim or shutters if you are looking for a less glossy look, but the ability to withstand frequent cleaning.

Unlike lower-gloss sheens, Semi-Gloss and glossy sheens create a smooth, bright, reflective finish. They are both durable and can withstand repeated cleanings. Glossy sheens do, however, show nearly every imperfection in a wall or ceiling’s surface, meaning it’s best to use them on walls with unmarred surfaces.

The benefit of a higher gloss finish is that it brightens rooms and is very easy to clean.  However, more work is required in the preparation of the walls to ensure a smooth application and a neat appearance once the task is completed.  Semi-gloss finishes are mostly used to highlight interior trim, doors and window frames, and are used in bathrooms with high moisture content.

Semi-gloss finishes offer high resistance to moisture, though they may suffer a little from sticking. High-gloss sheens are brilliant, reflective finishes that are also ideal for highlighting trim, railings, shutters and molding. Glossier finishes may be used on ceilings, but be sure the ceiling has no imperfections prior to applying.  This type of sheen can provide a look similar to plastic or enamel.

Semi-Gloss or Gloss finishes can be scrubbed with ease and are ideal for surfaces that require frequent washing.  A semi-gloss or gloss finish is also great for high traffic areas and should be used for doors, base molding, and trim.

Many manufacturers also manufacture a number of specialty paint finishes to accent a wall, or for other specialty projects. A chalkboard finish can transform a wall into a surface that can be marked and erased over and over again, while a textured finish can add tactile elements for a point of focus, while a water color finish can provide a softer, more muted look to a room.

Some creative homeowners sometimes use sponges or other tools to mix paints to get a more unique look, a process known as “faux finishing.” Faux finishes often give the appearance of being very elaborate or expensive without actually requiring a lot of effort.

When shopping for paint, start by choosing the color, then determine which finish is best for your particular project. It’s usually possible to buy paint in any finish since most manufacturers make their colors available in every sheen.

For more specific information in selecting the right finish for your choice of paint color, you should consult with a knowledgeable paint retailer to provide you with the expert advice you need to ensure your project comes out picture perfect.

Peter & Julie Monzi, Owners – Shamrock Paints & Decorating Center

(718) 981-1616 (North Shore) * (718) 966-9500 (South Shore) *