What is the Difference with all the Paint Finishes You Ask?

Have you wondered what is a paint finish or sheen? Perhaps you have been asking yourself what exactly is a sheen or finish, or what the difference between each of them is when starting your own painting project or if you have hired a painting company to do the work for you, the painter will have asked if you have a preference or made the recommendation on which to choose.

Some of the differences are from how shiny you want the paint to look on the walls, or how durable and washable they are, and which is the best one for different rooms.  For example the kitchen and bathrooms have higher humidity levels therefore you would want to go with a more durable eggshell or semi-gloss paint.  Here are some recommendations to help guide you for your next painting project.

Paint Finish

A paint finish is the level of shine or gloss of the paint once painted on 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.   Let’s break down the different types and what the best use for them is.

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.  A flat paint finish is 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 and will provide the most coverage

A friend to walls that have something to hide, flat/matte soaks up, rather than reflects, light. It has the most pigment and will provide the most coverage, which translates to time and money savings. However, it’s tough to clean without taking paint off with the grime.

Matte Paint Finish

Just like a flat sheen the matte paint finish is ideal in a low traffic area like dining room or bedroom.  With hardly any shine or gloss to it, it hides any 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 discolour 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.

interior painting of walls in house with flat paint finish and sheen by PG PAINT & DESIGN Ottawa House Painters

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.  It can be thought of as 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.

Eggshell Paint Finish

Eggshell paint finish is an easy maintenance paint sheen.   It 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.  Egghshell is perfect for living rooms, bedrooms and family rooms.

interior painting of wall in house with eggshell paint finish by PG PAINT & DESIGN house painters in Ottawa


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 scrubble.  Semi-gloss is recommended for painting rooms such as the bathrooms, kitchens and laundry rooms as they have a higher level of humidity and moisture and semi-gloss is a stronger sheen for these spaces.

It is ideal to paint trim, baseboards, crown molding and woodwork.  When painting kitchen and bathrooms, make sure to ask for a mildew resistant formula for these high moisture areas 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.  It is almost mirror like.  The two of them are equal in durability and ease of maintenance as they both can withstand washing and even scrubbing.  Although you will want to note that because of the higher shine level it will reflect all imperfections to any of 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.  Be cautious of using abrasive cleaners as they may leave scratches.

interior painting of kitchen with red high gloss paint finish by PG PAINT & DESIGN painters in Ottawa


If you are tackling your own DIY Painting project always refer to product labels.  Paint manufacturers provide detailed instructions for all their products.

As professional painters our choice of paint products is the Benjamin Moore Paints .  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 paint finish to choose our consultation services can help make the decision.

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This post was originally published on Oct 22, 2014 @ 08:00 and updated on Aug 06, 2019 @ 15:00