Paint Finishes 101
Not sure which paint finish is best for your surface? Once you figure out what you need, it can be easier to figure out which sheen is best (excluding Charlie, he’s a hot mess).
- Do you need wipeability? As in, ‘I sometimes get scuffs on my walls’
- Do you need washability? As in, ‘I have 4 kids, 3 dogs, 2 gorillas and an elephant in my home. I need a Hazmat suit to wipe down my walls’
- Do you have damaged walls? Too much haphazard picture hanging or ‘honey, we don’t need to hire a drywaller – I can fix it!’
And I know you’re all just here for the photos, but this time, we’re goin’ bare beans with an info based blog post and very little eye-candy.
Paint Sheen Terminology
Flat Finish 0-5% gloss
Flat paint has little to no sheen. Because of this it is usually not washable or even very wipeable. A few of the higher end brands have some luck with very basic washability (BM Aura), but I’m skeptical over the long-term for high-use areas.
Matte paint can have a 5-10% gloss finish, making it slightly more washable, but still not as durable as a shinier finish.
Eggshell 10-25% gloss
The finish of this is similar to that of an eggshell, not flat, not shiny – kind of in between. Eggshell is a great overall finish for most spaces in a home and is the most popular for its wipe/washability and sheen level. The only eggshell finish that is different is Behr which is more like a satin finish.
Satin or Pearl 25%-35% gloss
The next step up from eggshell, satin has a reasonable amount of sheen to it, without being as glossy as a semi-gloss. This is usually my bare minimum sheen for trimwork and is quite washable. Satin can also be popular for bathrooms where the ventilation is poor.
Satin finish (and glossier finishes) can slightly enhance a colour, compared to flat and eggshell finishes
Semi-gloss 70-85% gloss
This one has some kick to it with a sheen level that will reflect light back into the room. Probably the most popular finish for trims and doors.
High gloss 85% + gloss
The full meal deal. A high gloss finish adds drama, impact and has supreme washability. I usually find it to be ‘more than is necessary’ and prefer satin or semi-gloss.
However, the sheen is irrelevant if you buy crappy paint. The better quality your paint is, the more durable your finish should be. – a la moi
The Best Paint Finish for Trim
Satin, semi-gloss or high-gloss.
If you get a lot of dust, drips and build-up on your baseboards, a higher sheen paint will be more washable and last longer.
- Old homes look fabulous with a semi or high-gloss trim
- Newer or modern homes tend to suit a satin finish or semi-gloss at most
- Shiny finishes can expose flaws, so make sure your trim is in tip-top shape – same with your painting skills
- Photo above shows satin finish
The Best Paint Finish for the Ceiling
In 99% of cases, a flat finish is best for a ceiling. Why? There’s a few reasons…
- You don’t want your ceiling reflecting light back at you and shinier finishes are reflective
- Ceilings are often textured. A textured finish is enhanced with shiny paint
- A flat finish is the best for reducing the look of the texture and camouflaging flaws on a flat ceiling
The Best Paint Finish for Drywall / Walls
Flat or eggshell
When it comes to walls, there are a lot of things to consider…
Walls that are in great shape – Flat or Eggshell.
- If your walls are smooth, in good condition and you don’t have kids or dogs, you can definitely consider a high quality flat/matte finish.
- If your walls are smooth, in good condition and you DO have kids, dogs or a spouse with Dorito fingers (oh, we’ve all had them) you may want eggshell for some wipeability.
Walls that are not in good shape – Flat or Eggshell.
- Any sheen will expose flaws on your walls, so if your walls look like they had a mortar thrown at them, you may want to consider a flat finish.
- However, if you have kids/dogs/spouse/gorilla, you may need to sacrifice that low sheen for some wipeability with eggshell.
Textured Walls – Flat or Eggshell
- The great thing about textured walls is that the texture will help disguise any fingerprints, smudges, etc… Now that won’t make it wipeable, but at least any mess will be less noticeable!
The Best Paint Finish for Cabinets and Furniture
Satin or semi-gloss
It’s a toss-up between satin and semi-gloss and a lot of this can depend on the brand. Some satin finishes aren’t quite shiny enough for cabinets, whereas there’s the odd semi-gloss that is overkill!
- Hands-down, my favourite sheen for cabinets is satin/pearl (particularly BM Advance).
- This sheen is great for washability, without reflecting my purdy lil’ face back at me. I have done some pieces in semi-gloss and they looked sharp, but satin is a more predictable look. And again, the shinier the paint is, the more you will see flaws, so if you are painting your own cabinets, satin will have a bit more forgiveness.
The Best Paint Finish for the Front Door
When it comes to the front door, satin is usually a safe bet. Why?
- Direct natural light can expose flaws such as dents, scuffs, brush and roller marks
- Dark colours in a glossy finish can be a bit garish if not suited to the home
- A flat or eggshell finish can look chalky on the front door and isn’t washable enough for the wear and tear that doors get
- Satin finish on the front door is my fave. Wipeable, classy – not glassy
The Best Paint Finish for a Brick / Stone Fireplace
Eggshell or satin
Brick can look abrasive when shiny, yet dull when flat. For this reason I like eggshell for a brick fireplace.
- If you are painting your brick a dark colour, eggshell finish looks best
- If you are painting your brick a light/white colour, eggshell or satin
A few more tidbits…
- If you are painting a medium or dark toned colour, it can look garish with too much sheen. Ideally you would use a flat/matte finish
- The more coats of paint you put on, the higher sheen you will get. What looked eggshell at 2 coats can look satin at 4!
- The quality of your brush are roller matter DESPERATELY! Invest well
Well, that about covers it! I hope you found this info helpful, however if sheen is the LEAST of your concern and you haven’t picked a COLOUR yet, check this out…
Affordable Online Color Consulting, starting at $30