Choosing the Perfect Paint Sheen For Every Room

Which Paint Sheen Is Best Where?

We've all been there... you're painting your kitchen and the clerk at the paint store asks what sheen or finish you'd like for your project. In the not too distant past, it wasn't that difficult of a choice. You could pick flat, eggshell, semi-gloss or gloss. Today, it might take you a little bit longer since now you have more choices like lusters, satins, glosses, high-glosses, mattes and more!

Why have paint manufacturers expanded their list of sheen options? To give consumers an even greater array of choices for creating their ideal space, of course. So with so many choices, how do you know which is the right one for you?

Understanding the Perfect Sheen For Every Room

There's more to picking the perfect paint than simply color. First, you need to consider your décor, furniture, and flooring shades and take into account the amount of natural and artificial light the room gets into the mix. Picking a paint that is too shiny can reflect too much light, and one that's too flat may make the room seem lifeless.

The sheen, or finish, affects how a color reads - depending on whether it is reflective or absorbs light. You also want to also consider durability. Typically, the shinier the finish, the tougher the paint. That being said, let's take a look at the types of paint finishes from least to most shiny, and where within the house you should use them.


• Low Sheen Finishes: Flat, Matte, and Eggshell

Low sheen types of paint absorb rather than reflect light, it is non-reflective and low luster. Low sheen finishes work well to hide surface imperfections on the wall. These finishes are the least stain resistant and offer average mildew resistance, but other finishes are better.

Low sheen types of paint are best used for painting ceilings, living rooms, bedrooms and anyplace where little wear and messy spills are uncommon.

• Medium Sheen Finishes: Low-Luster, Satin, and Semigloss

Medium sheen types of paint are shinier and more durable than low sheen finishes. They are tougher and easier to clean. Some paint manufacturers offer both eggshell and sating finishes and they both accentuate imperfections, to make sure to properly prep surfaces before painting. Using a putty knife, scrape away cracked or peeling paint, remove bumps, dried on paint and raised edges around nail holes before applying a medium sheen type of paint.

Low-luster can be used in the family room, bedrooms, hallways and the living room. Satin works well in those rooms too, and also in the kitchen, dining room, children's bathrooms, hallways, and bathrooms. Satin finishes and semigloss tend to be more durable and can be used on both walls and trim.

• High Sheen Finishes: Gloss and High Gloss

These are the shiniest finishes and the most durable. These types of paints must have the smoothest surface possible to work with and are more of a “specialty” paint finish than the others. They are resistant to stains and the easiest to clean.

Gloss finishes are best in areas like kitchens and bathrooms and kid's bedrooms because they're easy to clean and are also an excellent choice for doors and trim, thanks to their durability and luster.


While these are typical uses for these particular types of paints, what type of finish you choose is not written in stone. For example, in a bathroom with inadequate ventilation, using an eggshell or satin finish on the ceiling can help to prevent mold and mildew caused by excessive moisture from the shower. It can also be a good choice for the ceiling in smaller kitchens where smoke from cooking can cause the ceiling to turn yellow.

When Choosing Types of Paint (Or Really Anything), Think About Your Goals First!

Every homeowner is unique. Just because most people use a certain finish for a certain application doesn't mean that you have to. If your creative vision is to have a more muted trim and you decide matte will look best, go for it! The bottom line is to consider how you will use the space, your project goals, and your personal aesthetic when choosing both colors and finishes. 

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Forward Design Build is a residential design-build firm in Ann Arbor, Michigan that is known for its commitment to craftsmanship and communication. We are committed to improving our neighbors quality of life with inspired design and creative remodeling. Our homes are highly functional, exquisitely beautiful, and remarkably comfortable. Contact us to speak with an expert about your new home or remodeling project.