When it comes to paint, it takes more than finding the right shade for your interior or exterior project. One of the things to look at when purchasing paint is sheen. Not sure what that is? Sheen, that is the amount of light the paint reflects, determines durability and overall appearance. Sheen determines how “shiny” or “dull” the paint will be once it is applied to the wall.

There are a couple different levels of sheen to choose from, and understanding the benefits of each sheen is extremely important when painting different surfaces.

Types of Sheen and Their Benefits

  • Flat/Matte

A flat finish or matte sheen should make an appearance on every ceiling. It absorbs light and conceals surface imperfections. Using Matte or Flat paint is great for low traffic areas as well, as it can be more difficult to clean.

  • Eggshell

Whether flat drywall or knockdown, Eggshell is a popular finish for walls. It lends just enough sheen to mask imperfections while withstanding the occasional scuff and cleaning. If you have children, pets, or like to keep your wall surfaces clean, this is an ideal choice. Eggshell finish is great for kitchens and bathrooms as well.

  • Satin

Want to add some drama? Satin finish is your friend. Allowing for a fuller saturation of color and slightly more sheen than eggshell, satin will bounce some light around a room. Darker shades will appear rich and luminous. If your drywall is new, you don’t need to worry about hiding bumps. Try satin in a smaller space, like an office or powder room, before deciding to commit to a larger coverage area.

  • Gloss

Gloss is typically available in two categories, high gloss or semi gloss paint. It should mainly be reserved for millwork. Trim, doors, railings, cabinetry, and other features will pop with the reflective sheen. It’s also the simplest to scrub clean. And who doesn’t love that?

Other Considerations When Choosing Paint Sheen

  • Room Cohesion

Open floor plans are now commonplace. Many homes have adjoining walls from the foyer to the living room and through to the kitchen. It therefore makes sense to select the same sheen for all walls, ceilings, and millwork respectively regardless of color change. Varying the sheen would disjoint appearance unless used intentionally for accent walls or features.

  • Room Type

Bathrooms, exercise rooms, and basements all undergo more temperature and moisture changes from day to day. These high traffic areas need a smooth surface for easier cleaning and better moisture resistance. It’s best to avoid a flat/matte finish in these spaces.

  • Light Source

Don’t forget about light source. Not only do colors change according to light, so too does the sheen. For example, basements most often experience low natural lighting and therefore can benefit from an eggshell or satin sheen. If you choose a satin or semi-gloss finish in rooms flooded with sunlight, be prepared for reflection spots.

For more tips, check our Better Homes and Garden’s paint finishes guide or tips from House Logic.