Homeowners can spend hours and days agonizing over choosing the perfect paint colour for their next home painting project and may not realize that picking the right paint finish and the quality of the paint brand is just as important.
Unless you are an interior designer or professional painter you may not know that there are five common paint finishes that you should familiarize yourself with before deciding on the final paint colour choice your make.
The reason why the choice of paint finish matters is because you need to know the LRV or light reflectance value before you make a paint colour decision and know the durability and suitability for which room the paint is being used in. If you have been wondering what exactly is a paint finish or paint sheen and what is the difference between each of them then read on.
What Are The Different Paint Finishes
The most commonly used paint finishes for interior painting are Flat, Matte, Eggshell, Semi-Gloss and High-Gloss. There are other types like Pearl, Satin, Gloss and Ultra-Matte but they are not as frequently or commonly used.
Choosing the wrong paint finish can increase the reflection of any drywall imperfections while the selecting the right paint finish will help deflect them. Ensuring that all the prep work before starting to paint the walls or ceilings is done also plays an important role in hiding any imperfections, holes, dents etc. on the walls or ceilings.
Important factors to know when choosing a paint finish are things like it’s wash-ability and durability. Knowing the differences of how paint finishes also known as sheens stand up to normal everyday situations is important.
When choosing a paint finish you should consider things like the purpose of the area to help you make the right decision. Because some areas of the home like kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms and basements are higher humidity areas you should consider the best finish to use in the different rooms like kitchens and bathrooms to help prevent mold and mildew buildup.
The most commonly used paint finishes for most rooms are Eggshell for the walls, Flat for ceilings, and Semi-gloss for painting of trim and baseboards. Using the highest quality paints will ensure you have the best paint finish that is washable and long lasting.
What Is A Paint Finish
A paint finish is the level of shine or gloss of the paint once it is painted onto the walls. The most commonly used ones are flat, satin, matte, eggshell, semi-gloss, gloss and high gloss for interior painting of walls, baseboards, trim, doors and crown molding. Flat paint on ceilings is most often recommended as it is the best finish to hide all imperfections and reflects the least light.
The higher the shine of the paint the higher the paint’s LRV or light reflectance value will be. Depending on the artificial or natural lighting in the room you may get undesirable affects of what the paint colour actually is.
The paint’s LRV = light reflectance value will affect how the shade of the paint colour shows as well as enhance any imperfections on the walls. Flat paint finishes do not reflect light as much as the semi-gloss or high-gloss paints do.
The Difference Between Paint Finishes
The difference between all paint finishes is ultimately how much shine is reflected once painted on walls, ceilings, trim or baseboards. How shiny you want the walls to look as well as how durable and easily maintained they are makes a difference for rooms like the bathroom or kitchen where higher levels of moisture can build. Painting bathrooms or kitchens requires not only the right finish or sheen but the highest quality paints that will make the biggest impact on preventing mold and mildew.
Note that the higher the gloss of a paint is the harder and tougher the finish will be. In other words when choosing a flat paint finish which is more porous and traps dirt particles easily, it will be a weaker paint and not withstand much scrubbing or washing without you noticing the streaks or paint rubbing off as opposed to painting with a gloss or high gloss that are the most durable and can take on the extra scrubbing and washing. Here are our recommendations to help guide you for your next painting project.
Flat Paint Finish
A flat paint sheen or finish helps to conceal flaws and imperfections to the drywall and as the name suggests it has absolutely no shine. Flat paint finishes are best used on surfaces that require little to no washing. Best in low traffic rooms such as dining rooms and living rooms, closets and bedrooms. A flat paint sheen is also perfect for painting walls in older area homes because of its ability to hide the imperfections. Flat like a matte finish does not reflect light, has the most pigment and will provide the most coverage, however it is tougher to clean without removing some of the paint while rubbing or scrubbing off the dirt or grime.
Matte Paint Finish
Just like a flat finish the matte paint finishes are ideal in low traffic areas like a dining room or bedroom. With hardly any shine or gloss to it, it hides many surface imperfections. Worth noting is that both the matte and flat paint sheens are less durable in the washing or scrubbing department.
These types of finishes can be washed with a soft cloth but know that the area will dis-colour and you will definitely notice it once it is dry. This is why you would not want to paint rooms that are busy like the family room in these types of finishes.
Satin Paint Finish
A satin paint finish is similar to the eggshell where there is just a hint of a shine but not too glossy. Consider it to be a step up from the eggshell due to the extra resistance to washing and scrubbing. It is easy to keep clean with just a damp cloth and can also handle soap if required, making it ideal for any room. Satin paint finishes will give a slightly more reflective finish than the eggshell at the same time giving the look of a glowing and silky finish.
Eggshell Paint Finish
Eggshell paint finish is an easy maintenance paint sheen that has a slight shine to it but not enough to call is glossy. It is a durable paint that can take on more of the washing and scrubbing than a flat paint might. A simple wiping up of most fingerprints or dirt with just a damp cloth does it for this paint finish. Eggshell paint finishes are perfect for living rooms, bedrooms and family rooms.
Semi-gloss Paint Finish
A semi-gloss paint sheen or finish does has a slightly more visible shine than the flat, satin, eggshell or matte and will definitely show most wall imperfections. It does take it up a notch in the durability department as it very washable and scrubbable. Semi-gloss paint finishes are recommended for painting trim, baseboards, crown molding and other woodwork along withrooms such as the bathrooms, kitchens and laundry rooms as they have a higher level of humidity and moisture and a semi-gloss paint is a stronger sheen for these spaces.
When painting kitchen and bathrooms, make sure to ask for a mildew resistant formula for these high moisture areas to help prevent mold from building. We recommend using a high quality paint like the Benjamin Moore Aura Bath & Spa Paint.
Gloss Paint Finish or High Gloss Paint Sheen
A gloss paint is a very shiny yet durable product, that can withstand more dirt and stains. A high gloss paint is at the highest level of shine and is almost mirror like. Both the gloss paints and the high gloss paints are equal in durability and ease of maintenance as they both can withstand washing and scrubbing without leaving streaks or marks. You will however want to note that because of the higher shine it will reflect all imperfections on the interior walls you are painting.
It is best used for painting trim, baseboards, doors, crown molding and other architectural woodwork elements, as it easy to wipe or scrub away any scuff marks or stains. These finishes can easily be washed or scrubbed with soap and water and extra elbow grease. It is not recommended to use abrasive cleaners as they may leave scratches.
If starting your own DIY painting project always refer to the product labels found on the paint cans that provide detailed instructions from the paint manufacturing companies. If you have hired a painting company to do the work for you and you can’t decide on what paint finish to choose they should give you their professional recommendation on which is the best paint finish to use for painting every room.
If tackling a painting project on your own is not something you want to get started with we offer interior and exterior house painting services in Ottawa. If you need guidance on what type of paint finish to choose our consultation services can help you make the decision.
This post was originally published on Aug 06 2019 and updated on May 11, 2021