Paint Finishes

Choosing paint colours can be fun and exciting.  It helps us express our creativity and adds our personalities to our home painting and decorating.  Picking the right paint colour is one part of the equation, the other part is to select the right finish or also known as sheen.

The following information and tips will explain the differences between the paint finishes or sheen, why you need to choose one and which is the best one to use in each room,  so that you can put the finishing statement of the perfect enhancement to your paint colour choices.

paint finish or paint sheen for interior or exterior paintingWhat Is Paint Finish

In the house painting business the paint finish is a measure of how much light reflects off the painted surface, resulting in gloss or lack of.  The different paint finishes will be visible on a painted surface such as walls and ceilings by the reflection of how shiny or glossy the reflect light.

What Is Paint Sheen

Paint Sheen is just another term used for or instead of paint finish but it means exactly the same.  If you want to get technical there is a perfect article with explanation on wikipedia all about paint sheen and finish.

The Different Types Paint Finishes

There are several different types of paint sheens and finishes, some that reflect more light and others that reflect none at all.  The levels of shine or gloss range from no shine to high shine and can affect how colours appear and how lighting affects the dimension of the rooms.

samples of different paint finish and sheens

While there are many different types the following are the most common choices of paint products for home painting.

Flat Paint Finish

Flat or Matte paint finish is a great concealer.  It is best at hiding imperfections on the ceiling and drywall, of which repairs should be done before painting.

Because it conceals most flaws it is typically used to paint ceilings so as to not reflect too much light.  It is also best used on the walls that require less frequent washing.

Painting the walls in a bedroom with a flat or matte paint finish is desirable as it needs little prep work and needs low maintenance. Because bedrooms and closet spaces are little to no traffic spots and require less frequent washing of the walls  a flat or matte finish will do the trick.  Because it reflects very little to no light and is the perfect concealer of most flaws it also works great for walls in older homes with older types of gyproc/drywall.

Flat finishes are easy to touch up but hard to clean so avoid using them in kitchens and bathrooms.

It is also worth noting that when buying paint choosing a flat finish will usually mean a lower cost per gallon of paint.

Eggshell Paint Finish

Very popular and chosen most often for house painting is the eggshell paint finish.  Also similar to the eggshell is a Satin Paint Finish.

It looks almost like a velvet smooth finish when the light reflects off the walls, making it a popular paint finish due it’s not too shiny and not completely flat appearance.

It is easy maintenance with eggshell painted walls.  A simple wiping up of most fingerprints or dirt with just a damp cloth does it for this paint finish.  It hides imperfections well enough but marks up easily in higher trafficked areas of a home.

Eggshell Finishes are best used in the everyday spaces of the home like living rooms and dining rooms and also in bedrooms.  It is not recommended to use in kitchens, laundry rooms or main hallway entrances where it is the most trafficked.

It is easy to touch up with paint if a scuff mark or scratch happens and is the easiest finish to paint over if you change your mind about the colour.

Semi-Gloss Paint Finish

Is a durable and easily washable finish.  It is resistant to humidity making it ideal for painting kitchens and bathrooms, just make sure to ask for the mildew resistant formula for those high moisture areas.

With a slight visible shine it is ideal for trim, baseboards, molding, and doors.  It is also good for woodwork or cabinetry.

Semi-gloss finish is easy to clean and is very durable making it easy to clean frequently.  It can also handle any soap as well as added scrubbing without damaging the paint.

It is important to note that semi gloss finish will reflect light and may make a paint colour look darker.  It will also require more prep work before you begin painting as it will show any and all imperfections to drywall and ceilings and there fore it is important to ensure you get all the repairs to drywall, nail holes filled and make sure all surfaces are completely sanded and dry before painting with a semi gloss finish.

Gloss Paint Finish

Just as the name implies, gloss paint finishes will give you the highest level of shine, sometimes referred to in the painting business as a specialty paint finish.  It sometimes has a mirror like effect and look due to the high shine.

Gloss paint is of the highest in durability factor.  It can take on more dirt and grime than any of the other paint finishes.  It can even withstand a little extra elbow grease when scrubbing to remove the dirt afterwards.

It is the strongest finish but also the shiniest and will also show every imperfection, therefore not making it the greatest choice for painting walls or ceilings.

A high gloss paint finish is best used for trim, baseboards, doors and other architectural elements like crown molding and wainscotting.

Choosing the Right Paint Finish

When tackling a home painting project  deciding on paint colour is the easiest and funnest part of the whole project.  Whether you do it on your own or hire a home painting company  add the perfect enhancement to any paint colour by making the right choice of paint finish.

Knowing which type of sheen to go with has everything to do with how light reflects off the freshly painted walls and ceilings, it could make the difference between the perfect end result and having to do it over again because you don’t like how shiny the walls look.

If you have questions about which paint finish is right for your next painting project contact an Ottawa painter, to schedule a consultation and estimate.

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This post was originally published on Feb 9, 2015 and edited Mar 21, 2020