How to Choose a Paint Finish for Your Home

foyer blue paint

The hard part is over. You’ve spent hours, maybe days, asking friends, relatives, or spouses, or working with a designer to help you select just the right paint color. You possibly agonized between a few favorite paint color choices and now you’ve finally chosen the perfect interior paint color for one or more rooms in your home.

You may feel like the toughest decision is behind you but guess again. You also have to choose the best paint finish for the rooms and the paint colors you’ve selected, a task that was easier back when only a few paint finishes existed.

Today, depending on the paint manufacturer, there can be as many as ten or more different interior paint sheens for walls, ceilings, and trimwork. (Sherwin Williams has 14 different sheens and 17 or more interior paint product sheens to help you get the perfect finish.)

From flat to matte to high gloss, there is a time and place for each type of paint sheen. So, which one should you choose for your home improvement project? Well, it depends on the project. Let’s take a look at the traditional types of paint sheens, along with some of the newest paint technology, and the reasons for choosing one finish over another.

1. Flat/Matte

Flat paints are the least reflective of all paint finishes. They reflect the least amount of light that enters the room, which allows the paint to effectively hide defects and blemishes. They work to blur any bumps or scratches on the surface, which can give your room a nice even, smooth finish.

Flat paints are difficult, if not impossible, to clean and you can take paint off the wall if you are not careful. If your flat wall gets dirty, the only solution is often a paint touch up. For this reason, we recommend using this paint sheen to cover low-traffic areas, such as bedrooms for adults, or places you don’t want much attention, such as ceilings.

As paint technology gets better and better, products like Sherwin Williams Emerald Matte, are both washable and can be touched up. In fact, Sherwin Williams Emerald Matte is our go to paint for all types of walls because it hides imperfections and it is washable. Our clients love it.

2. Eggshell

An eggshell finish is the next step up from flat in terms of shine. Paints with an eggshell finish are a bit easier to clean than their matte counterparts, while still maintaining some of the light absorption. They help to give depth to a space, making them feel warmer and more inviting, and have slightly better durability than flat paint sheens. For this reason, an eggshell finish is perfect for low-traffic entertainment spaces, such as formal dining rooms or sitting rooms.

3. Satin

Satin sheens have even more shine than eggshell paints. They reflect more light than the previous two, so they’re more durable. These paints do, however, show the imperfections of a paint job or in the wall itself. Satin finish paints are easier to clean than matte or eggshell finishes, which makes them the ideal finish for higher-traffic common spaces, such as living rooms and hallways, or places you know will often get dirty, such as children’s bedrooms.

4. Semi-Gloss

Semi-gloss finishes are incredibly eye-catching. They reflect a lot of light, which makes them stand out much more than the other, flatter paint finishes. Additionally, they are extremely durable and very easy to clean, which makes them an excellent choice for spaces that will see the highest amount of traffic or dirt.

Semi-gloss paint also helps lock out moisture from your walls, acting as a protective barrier for against minor amounts of water in the air. We recommend a semi-gloss for places such as kitchens, bathrooms, and to paint interior trim, including doors and woodwork.

5. High-Gloss

High-gloss paint reflects the most light of any sheen you can choose. Most homeowners opt away from this flashier paint finish because it really does make a statement. So, when is high-gloss paint ever used?

According to Andrea Magno, a Benjamin Moore color and design expert, “Glamorous high-gloss looks are often used in living rooms, dining rooms, on millwork in a library, or to accentuate trim and wainscoting in an entry, with the objective of making a statement whether the style is traditional or modern. … High gloss amplifies light, giving it a romantic, shimmering look, especially when juxtaposed with a softer finish. … The key is to use the finish in a way that will complement the overall look of the room and not overwhelm the space.”

Choosing the right sheen for every wall, door, and other paintable surfaces in your home is tricky. You must consider today’s trends, the colors you’ve selected, the paint manufacturer, the amount of light in the room, and the characteristics of the room getting painted among the many factors in your choice of the best paint finish.

And these days, with all the new paint technology, there are many more options for choosing the best paint finishes for your home. You can rely on Militello Painting to guide you in making the best paint and paint finish choices for your home. Militello Painting is proud to serve the best painting services in Ambler, PA and the surrounding area. Contact us for a free estimate for your next project.

Choosing your paint’s finish is more complex than ever. Newer paint technology includes measuring reflective properties at different angles to ensure the desired sheen. For example, a flat sheen at 60 degrees that has no gloss, may, at 85 degrees have some sheen. Translated, this means that some flat paints have a sheen to them. If a flat paint is selected with the wrong sheen, it will show imperfections.

Hiring a painting contractor that knows these nuances about paint finishes provides you with confidence that your new paint project will be done the way you want it. -Christian Militello, Militello Painting and Powerwashing




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