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How to Choose a Paint Finish

A question that a lot of y'all frequently ask is how to choose a paint finish?

I get it, choosing a paint color is hard enough, so making a decision on paint finish can add to the headache. As you all know I spend A LOT of my free time painting, so when it comes to choosing a finish I have used nearly every kind. I'm going to break it down by sheen in order of lowest to highest gloss level below.


This is the most common sheen that I use in our home simply because I love the look. Flat paint absorbs a majority of light and is the least reflective sheen. If you like a modern and more natural look in your home like me, than you'll love a flat finish. Traditionally, this sheen is used for ceilings because of its cost-effectiveness (cheapest sheen) and ability to hide imperfections. It is typically used in lower traffic areas because it can be difficult to clean.

Pros: hides wall imperfections well, less likely to show brush/roller marks, cheapest sheen

Cons: harder to clean, not very reflective


This is the sheen that you will see a ton of interior designers use for bedroom walls, kitchens, living rooms and nearly all interior spaces. People love this finish because it has a subtle sheen and is more durable than flat paint because it is easier to wipe scuff marks from the walls. It does not hide imperfections (bumps, cracks, etc) as well as flat, but it's definitely the next best!

Pros: subtle sheen that reflects light, easier to clean than flat but will rub off if scrubbed too hard

Cons: does not hide imperfections as well as flat


There is not much difference between matte and eggshell, which can make it all the more difficult to decide between the two. If you know your walls are going to receive scuff marks and you don't mind a little sheen then eggshell is the best for you. I personally do not use eggshell often because matte is less expensive and is very similar in reflective ability and durability. Plus, I personally prefer less sheen on my walls, so if I can go lower in sheen I will! I'd recommend using the sheen in hallways, laundry rooms, and bathrooms.

Pros: medium durability

Cons: higher cost


In our office we used satin to increase the light reflected off of the dark walls. The room was small with only two windows, so we wanted to increase the ability of the room to reflect light without being noticeably "glossy." To me, anything above satin should be reserved for trim or areas that will be exposed to water, high heat or any type of liquid. Satin is the perfect amount of luster without coming across as too traditional in style and would be perfect for an accent wall or statement room.

Pros: reflects light very well, medium durability

Cons: does not hide imperfections well, difficult to hide brush/roller marks, costly


This sheen is the first of the category which I consider to be "glossy." I personally love semi-gloss on trim and doors because of its great durability and ability to clean. In our home the trim, wainscoting and doors are semi-gloss and I am currently converting all of the main living walls to a flat sheen in Pure White by Sherwin Williams. I love the high contrast of the semi-gloss trim and flat walls. Semi-gloss should be used for spaces that will receive high traffic and will be exposed to water or heat. In addition to the trim and doors, we also have shiplap in semi-gloss serving as our kitchen backsplash which is super easy to clean (I wipe it down daily after the stove top has been used).

Pros: cleans well, more modern look than high gloss

Cons: shows surface imperfections, requires more skill to apply paint evenly


By now you should have figured out that the higher the sheen, the higher the durability, but also the harder to cover up surface imperfections. Like semi-gloss, high gloss is used typically for trim, doors and cabinetry. Glossy paint should be reserved for painting on smooth surfaces as it will show imperfections that you may have on your walls. High gloss fits a more traditional interior style, whereas semi-gloss fits well in a modern home.

Pros: the most durable, easiest to clean

Cons: expensive, does not hide imperfections, must apply on smooth surface

My four favorites...

If I could only pick four sheens to use throughout a home they would be flat, matte, satin and semi-gloss. Flat for the interior walls in all rooms if the drywall is smooth. Matte for all interior walls if the drywall is texture. Satin for any statement rooms or accent walls. Semi-gloss for all cabinetry, trim and doors.


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