Types of Paint Finishes: How to Choose the Best Sheen for Your Project

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Selecting the perfect paint color is just the first step in achieving a beautifully finished room. Almost equally important is choosing the right finish. With various finishes available, it’s important to understand the characteristics of each and how they can complement your interior design. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the process of choosing the ideal finish for your next painting project.

Pros and Cons of Each Paint Finish Type

Paint finishes, also known as sheen or gloss, refer to the level of glossiness or shine in the paint once it dries. Each finish has its own unique qualities, which affect both appearance and functionality. Below are the five most common types of paint finish and their characteristics.

1. Flat and Matte Finishes:

Flat and matte finishes offer a non-reflective, smooth appearance with no shine.

  • Commonly Used On: Low-traffic areas like adult bedrooms and ceilings.
  • Pros: Hides imperfections well, offers a cozy and soft look.
  • Cons: Less washable; can be challenging to clean without affecting the finish.

2. Eggshell Finish:

Eggshell finish provides slightly more sheen than flat finish, with a velvety texture.

  • Commonly Used On: Living rooms, dining rooms, and bedrooms.
  • Pros: Hides minor imperfections, more durable and washable than flat finish.
  • Cons: Not as suitable for high-moisture or high-traffic areas.

3. Satin Finish:

A satin finish looks like a subtle gloss. It creates a smooth texture and a soft glow.

  • Commonly Used On: Kitchens, bathrooms, and hallways.
  • Pros: Easy to clean, durable, and resistant to mildew.
  • Cons: Can highlight some surface imperfections.

4. Semi-Gloss Finish:

Semi-gloss finishes give off a noticeable shine. The create a smooth and reflective surface.

  • Commonly Used On: Trim, doors, crown molding, cabinets, and high-traffic areas.
  • Pros: Very durable, easy to clean, resistant to moisture and stains.
  • Cons: Can highlight surface imperfections, so careful preparation is key.

5. High-Gloss Finish:

Glossy or high-gloss finishes are highly reflective. They create almost a glass-like shine to your surface.

  • Commonly Used On: Accents like furniture, cabinets, and doors.
  • Pros: Extremely durable, offers a striking and modern look.
  • Cons: Highlights imperfections, best for surfaces with excellent preparation.

baseboard paint finishes

How to Choose the Right Paint Finish for Your Room or Surface

When it comes to choosing the right finish for your home painting project, there are several factors to consider.

  • Location and Use: Choose finishes based on the room’s purpose and traffic. High-traffic areas benefit from more durable finishes like satin, while low-traffic spaces can embrace softer finishes like flat.
  • Lighting: Consider the lighting conditions in the room you’re painting. Glossier finishes reflect more light and can brighten up darker rooms, while matte finishes can create a cozy ambiance.
  • Surface Preparation: Higher sheen finishes can magnify surface imperfections, so consider the texture of the surface you’re painting and prep the surface accordingly.
  • Type of Surface: Surfaces that take a beating like baseboards, front doors, crown molding, and trim are almost exclusively painted with a semi-gloss finish to improve durability and ease of cleaning. For ceilings, most painters use a flat finish to avoid lap marks.
  • Personal Style: Of course your design preferences play a role in what finish you might prefer. If you prefer a more traditional look, you might prefer matte finishes. If you love contemporary style, glossy finishes might compliment your home.
  • Maintenance: Think about how often you’re willing to clean and maintain the painted surfaces. Glossier finishes are easier to clean and resist stains better. For high-traffic areas, that’s why it’s typically recommended to use at least a satin finish, if not semi-gloss.

Choosing the right paint finish is a vital step in achieving your desired look. By considering factors such as location, lighting, and personal style, you can make an informed decision that enhances the beauty and functionality of your home. Whether you opt for the timeless elegance of a matte finish or the modern charm of a high-gloss finish, remember that each finish contributes to the overall aesthetic of your home.

Need help choosing which paint finish is right for your next painting project? Work with a PAINT CORPS™ near you! Our expert crews can steer you in the right direction to ensure you select a finish you’re sure to love.

PAINT CORPS™ is a Veteran-only franchise with locations across the United States. Count on our trustworthy team to get your job done on schedule and on-budget!

Burgess Perry is the Founder and CEO of PAINT CORPS™ Franchise Group. After serving in the U.S. Army for nearly 10 years, Burgess began a new chapter by opening a painting company in the Tampa, Florida area. He hit the ground running and after five years of unprecedented success, he decided it was time to give back to his fellow military veterans. That's when he founded PAINT CORPS™, a veteran-only franchise founded on military values like service, respect, integrity, and duty.

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