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What are finishes in paint?

We have been asked time and time again to explain what are the finishes in paint and how they should be used.

It's really become a matter of preference, yet to have a preference in anything, you should first know the rules. This is very important for several reasons...

  • Aesthetics - Okay, probably not the most important point to look at, but it really depends on what you want to do with paint... you see, the higher the gloss in finish you chose, the more your eyes will be drawn to that area and just the same, if there's a texture or for that mater a flaw or imperfection, that will be exposed as well.

  • Durability - This should have been at the front of my list, yet coming from a very artistic family, I felt I may have been shamed ha-ha... Let's face it, art is all about looks, style and well other things that I may need to consult with my sister on prior to going too far on the artistic explanation. There’s a basic rule of thumb to follow when choosing paint sheen's: The higher the sheen, the higher the shine — and the higher the shine, the more durable it will be.

  • Practicality and cost savings - So now we are in reality mode... yes, back to our basic home. Not all rooms are equal in your home and the applications differ a lot. Let me explain; if you have small children and even mid sized ones that could be a bit messy, sheen may be a good idea, not to say you need a high gloss, but maybe a stain or eggshell might be a better choice than a flat finish. Rooms like the kitchen, bathrooms and child's playroom or even an adult play/entertaining area, an eggshell finish may be a great start. Always taking notice, that the higher the sheen, the higher the durability, easier to clean and wipe down, with that in mind, durability comes at a cost. That's correct folks, the higher the sheen the higher the cost of paint.


High Gloss

The most durable and easiest to clean of all paint sheen's, high-gloss paint is hard, ultra-shiny, and light-reflecting. Think appliance-paint tough.

High gloss is a good choice for area that sticky fingers touch — cabinets, trim, and doors. High-gloss, however, is too much shine for interior walls. And like a Spandex dress, high gloss shows every bump and roll, so don’t skimp on prep work.

  • Practical application: kitchens, door, and window trim

  • Durability: very high

Semi Gloss

Good for rooms where moisture, drips, and grease stains challenge walls. Also great for trim work that takes a lot of abuse.

  • Practical application: kitchens, bathrooms, trim, chair rails

  • Durability: high


Has a yummy luster that, despite the name, is often described as velvety. It’s easy to clean, making it excellent for high-traffic areas. Its biggest flaw is it reveals application flaws, such as roller or brush strokes. Touch-ups later can be tricky.

  • Practical application: family rooms, foyers, hallways, kids’ bedrooms

  • Durability: high


Between satin and flat on the sheen (and durability) scale is eggshell, so named because it’s essentially a flat (no-shine) finish with little luster, like a chicken’s egg. Eggshell covers wall imperfections well and is a great finish for gathering spaces that don’t get a lot of bumps and scuffs.

  • Practical application: dining rooms, living rooms

  • Durability: medium

Flat or Matte

A friend to walls that have something to hide, flat/matte soaks up, rather than reflects, light. It has the most pigment and will provide the most coverage, which translates to time and money savings. However, it’s tough to clean without taking paint off with the grime.

  • Practical application: adults’ bedrooms and other interior rooms that won’t be roughed up by kids, ceiling in rooms other then your kitchen and bathrooms

  • Durability: medium-low

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