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Deciding on the perfect paint color for your space can seem like a tough design call. And for the most part, unless you know exactly what you want, it is not an easy decision.

But once you’ve got the paint color down, you still need to figure out the right type of paint finish, as the same color can look a bit different depending on its finish. The right paint finish can significantly change how a room looks and feels.

Whether redoing your home or giving your office a fresh coat of paint, understanding the different paint finishes is key to getting the desired result. Knowing these differences helps you make an informed choice.

Let’s examine the various paint finishes, from matte to high gloss, looking at their characteristics, visual qualities, durability, and suitability for specific areas.

Living Room Home Tour

Types of Paint Finish

Matte of Flat Finishes

Matte or flat finishes boast a smooth, non-reflective surface, imparting a chic and contemporary aesthetic. Flat paint lacks light reflection, allowing more paint pigment to shine through. This quality camouflages flaws and ensures excellent coverage, resulting in a seamless finish. It excels at concealing imperfections on walls and ceilings, making it a favored choice for older homes or spaces with uneven surfaces.

Despite their knack for hiding flaws, matte finishes aren’t as durable as other options and may necessitate touch-ups over time. They’re particularly susceptible to wear and tear from washing and scrubbing, making them challenging to maintain. Consequently, they’re less suited for high-traffic areas or spaces frequented by young children.

However, matte finishes offer a unique advantage in absorbing light, minimizing glare, and fostering a cozy ambiance. This makes them ideal for bedrooms, living rooms, and other areas where a softer, more subdued look is desired.

In summary, matte finishes:

  • Provide a non-reflective, smooth appearance that conceals surface imperfections like nail holes and patches.
  • They require fewer coats than glossier paints and are easier to touch up.
  • They are less durable than other finishes and prone to damage from cleaning agents.
  • Are best suited for new construction, drywall, ceilings, and low-traffic areas like adult bedrooms and dining rooms.
  • It can be cleaned with a damp sponge, but harsh cleansers should be avoided to prevent damage.

Eggshell Finishes

Eggshell finishes blend matte and satin characteristics, balancing elegance and practicality. They feature a subtle sheen that elevates the ambiance of any space while retaining a polished appearance. Compared to matte finishes, eggshell finishes are more resilient, making them suitable for areas with light to moderate foot traffic.

Thanks to their easy-to-clean properties, eggshell finishes are popular for kitchens, hallways, and family rooms. They also provide decent moisture resistance, making them well-suited for areas prone to occasional splashes or humidity.

This type of wall paint is highly sought after for its low sheen and smooth texture, akin to a true eggshell. It fits low—to mid-traffic zones like hallways, living rooms, entryways, and family rooms.

Eggshell paint boasts better washability than flat sheens and resists stains and scuffs. However, it’s worth noting that it may be slightly more challenging to touch up than satin paint.

Satin Finishes

Satin finishes boast a subtle sheen slightly higher than eggshells, lending spaces a gentle luminosity that reflects light beautifully. Renowned for their enhanced durability, they stand up well against stains and abrasions, making them perfect for high-traffic zones such as hallways, kids’ rooms, and bathrooms.

The understated radiance of satin finishes also makes them a favored choice for trim, doors, and cabinets, imparting a touch of sophistication to these areas. However, preparing the surface adequately is essential, as satin finishes may accentuate wall imperfections.

Considered the pinnacle of versatility and durability for indoor wall paints, satin finish paint delivers an elegant, almost pearl-like appearance with its soft sheen.

Suitable for indoor and outdoor use, it resists mildew and fading while being easier to clean than lower-gloss alternatives.

Satin finishes excel in bustling indoor spaces like playrooms, home offices, children’s bedrooms, and moisture-prone areas like kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry rooms. They’re also ideal for outdoor applications such as trim, shutters, and siding.

Semigloss Finishes

Semigloss finishes boast a noticeable sheen that imparts a polished and reflective surface. Highly durable and easy to clean, they’re the go-to option for areas requiring frequent washing, like kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry rooms.

Their reflective properties make semigloss finishes perfect for accentuating architectural elements such as moldings and trims. They also work wonders on furniture or cabinetry, lending a sleek and contemporary vibe. However, the intense sheen of semigloss may not suit walls or ceilings, potentially amplifying imperfections.

With a smoother sheen and even more reflectivity than satin, semigloss paint bestows rooms with a glossy, sophisticated appearance.

Due to its exceptional moisture resistance, semigloss thrives in high-humidity zones like bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms and high-traffic areas like doors and utility rooms.

Although easier to clean and more robust than many other finishes, semigloss can accentuate most flaws on walls and ceilings.

White and off-white hues in semigloss impart rooms with a brighter ambiance compared to those in other finishes.

High Gloss Finishes

High Gloss finishes boast the most intense sheen and reflectivity among all paint options, creating a mirror-like surface that injects drama and elegance into any room. Renowned for their exceptional durability and resistance to stains, they’re the ideal choice for high-traffic areas and surfaces subjected to frequent cleaning.

Yet, their high reflectivity can magnify imperfections, underscoring the importance of thorough surface preparation. Gloss finishes are commonly used on doors, trims, and furniture, where they make a bold statement and elevate visual allure. They’re also apt for accentuating walls or architectural elements, serving as striking focal points.

High Gloss paint:

  • Offers unmatched reflection, durability, and stain resistance.
  • Delivers a glossy, glass-like finish popular for doors, cabinets, molding, and trim.
  • Enhances curb appeal when applied to outdoor features like shutters and window casings.
  • Requires more coats than less glossy finishes like semi-gloss or satin. Optimal results are achieved on smooth, clean surfaces with the fewest layers of paint.
bedroom with orange bed

Tips to Choose the Right Finish

Here’s some advice for choosing the perfect paint finish:

  1. Consider the Area’s Traffic: Assess whether the space sees low or high foot traffic. Opt for semi-gloss or high-gloss paint for high-traffic zones, like hallways or kitchens. These options are easy to clean and offer durability. Take it further by selecting paint with a mildew-resistant additive, especially for bathrooms.
  2. Prioritize Durability: Consider how much wear and tear the area will endure. Semigloss paint is excellent for frequent-use areas like cabinets or high-traffic zones. Its durability ensures longevity, maintaining your paint job’s pristine appearance for longer.
  3. Determine the Painting Location: Decide whether you paint walls, ceilings, or molding. Flat or semigloss sheens are ideal for ceilings, as they conceal imperfections. Consider paints specifically formulated for ceilings, as they’re thicker, less prone to staining or yellowing, and dry faster. Semigloss paint is perfect for molding and high-traffic areas due to its resilience against scuffs and stains.

By considering these factors, you can choose a paint finish that complements your space aesthetically and meets your practical needs.

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Tamara White is the creator and founder of The Thrifty Apartment, a home decor and DIY blog that focuses on affordable and budget-friendly home decorating ideas and projects. Tamara documents her home improvement journey, love of thrifting, tips for space optimization, and creating beautiful spaces.

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