Paint sheens & finishes: Which is right for your project?

Oct 31, 2013 at 12:00 p.m. ET

You've picked your color, so now for the final decision: Which paint sheen or finish is right for your room?

Wall with satin paint and glossy trim

Paint sheens or finishes can make or break a room. While some are necessary in certain spaces of your home (think easy-to-clean finishes in the kitchen, for example), others can make a huge difference in the look of your painting project.

While every sheen can be used in every area of your home, some finishes are better than others and offer different qualities. Here's a guide to help you pick which paint sheen is best for your space.

Matte/flat paint

According to Bernie Brozek, president of Fresh Coat Painters, flat paints typically are used for ceilings and low-traffic walls and for painting over blemishes. This is because flat paints are the least glossy of all finishes, are porous and don't reflect light well. They also don't do well with scrubbing or cleaning.

"Flat finishes are good for covering walls that are already painted because they have a consistent color profile, which can also diminish surface imperfections," Brozek says.

Eggshell paint

Eggshell finish is one of the most widely used finishes because it displays a slight amount of sheen but also provides a great sense of depth and warmth.

"This well-rounded finish is recommended for almost any room type and is very resilient to scrubbing, making it a winner for high-traffic areas or kids' rooms," Brozek says.

Satin paint

Satin is slightly more glossy than eggshell, but it exhibits a similar look. Many paint companies offer satin finishes that are similar to an eggshell finish, Brozek says.

"When in doubt on choosing a finish, satin generally gets high marks for satisfaction in a wide variety of room types such as bathrooms, kitchens and bedrooms," he says.

Semigloss paint

Semigloss should be used in kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms and other high-traffic areas — but typically not in other areas of the home. It can simply be too glossy and will make surface imperfections on the walls more noticeable, Brozek says. Semigloss has the benefit of being easy to clean, and it can be used both indoors and outdoors.

Glossy paint

Glossy is very durable and stain resistant, but it isn't used as often as other finishes because of its extreme level of glossiness. It's typically used for artistic embellishments on cabinets, molding, doors and trims, Brozek says.

Need more help?

Here's a helpful guide that breaks down the pros and cons of sheens and finishes to help you decide which paint to choose.

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