6 Types of Paint Finishes

The first step to choosing the right interior paint finish is to consider how much traffic the painted area will receive. Paint finishes affect the durability of the painted surface, how easy it is to clean, and how well surface imperfections hide. Follow this paint sheen guide to choose the right type of paint finish for your home improvement project.

There are 6 different types of paint finishes. The higher the paint sheen the higher the durability but also the higher the cost per gallon. Another factor to consider is the lighting in the room. The more artificial light, or less natural light you have, you will want a higher paint finish. Residential interior paint finishes in order from lowest to highest:

  • Flat
  • Matte
  • Eggshell
  • Satin
  • Semi-Gloss
  • Gloss
types of paint sheen

Flat Paint Finish

Flat paint is a term for a finish that does not reflect light, resulting in no sheen at all. This lack of reflection allows more paint pigment to come through, is more forgiving of flaws, and allows for excellent hide, creating a uniform surface.

Flat is a low-sheen paint with a non-reflective finish that touches up well and hides minor surface imperfections. It’s ideal for low traffic areas and has a medium-low durability level. ceilings.

Matte Finish Paint

Matte finish is nearly as shine-free as flat, again providing excellent hide and depth of color, with slightly more durability.

Matte finish paint is another low luster reflective finish that has a medium durability level. Matte paint finish is easy to clean, touches up well, and also hides minor surface imperfections. is great for low to moderate traffic areas, such as adult bedroom walls (not children).

Flat and matte paint finishes have the most pigment and will provide the most coverage. They soak up light rather than reflect it, which makes them great on walls with surface imperfections.

Use caution when considering flat paint in high-traffic areas that require frequent attention. Stains are harder to remove from low-sheen paint, and constant rubbing or cleaning can result in paint coming off with the grime.

Eggshell Paint Finish

Eggshell paint finish has a soft luster that resists dirt and grime, as well as mildew. Eggshell falls between satin and flat/matt on the paint sheen levels scale because it’s essentially a flat (no-shine) finish with little luster, like a chicken’s egg. Eggshell covers wall imperfections well and has a medium durability. This paint finish is best for gathering spaces that don’t get a lot of bumps and scuffs such as your dining room, bedrooms or living room.

Satin Finish Paint

Satin finish paint has a soft pearl-like appearance and is easy to clean. This interior sheen type is a great choice for painting moderate to high traffic areas or areas that have some exposure to moisture, such as kitchens or baths.

Satin finish paint has a luster that is often described as velvety. This velvet paint finish’s biggest flaw is that it reveals application flaws, such as roller or brush strokes. Making touch-ups trickier. The difference between eggshell and satin paint is that satin has a higher gloss.

Semi-Gloss Paint Finish

Semi-gloss paint finish has high durability, a sleek look, and is resistant to mildew, moisture and wear. Semi-gloss is good for rooms where moisture, drips, and grease stains challenge the walls. Its glossy look makes it one of the best paint finishes for kitchen cabinets. This paint finish is also great for trim work that takes a lot of abuse.

Gloss Paint Finish

A gloss paint finish is shiny with a glass-like finish. This is great for high-use surfaces. This paint finish is the most durable and easiest to clean of all paint sheens. High-gloss paint is hard, ultra-shiny, and light-reflecting. Think appliance-paint tough.

High gloss is a good choice for areas that sticky fingers touch — cabinets, trim, and doors. High-gloss, however, has too much shine for interior walls. Which makes it show its imperfections with every bump and roll.

types of paint finishes

How to Choose the Right Types of Paint Finishes

Step 1: Consider the Surface.

The type of surface makes a difference on which types of paint finishes you will want to choose. Are you painting your cabinets? Your ceilings? Or your walls?

The Best Paint Sheen for Your Walls

We like to recommend three different types of paint sheen for your walls: eggshell, satin or matte.

Step 2: Consider the Activity for that Room.

Paint finishes affect the durability of the painted surface, how easy it is to clean, and how well surface imperfections hide. This is why you need to consider how much traffic the painted area will receive. Areas with high traffic will need more durability than areas with low activity.

Step 3: Consider the Lighting.

A well lit room, with lots of natural light will reflect paint finishes different than a room with a lot of artificial lighting. The more artificial light, or less natural light you have, you will want a higher paint finish.

For a room with a lot of natural light, we like to recommend matte because it helps hide the imperfections on the walls and creates an even paint sheen.

Step 4: Consider the Color of the Paint.

The pigment of your paint color can also affect what sheen you might want to choose. If your paint color is dark and rich the shinier your paint sheen will appear. That’s because the darker and richer the paint color is, the more colorant it has, which boosts sheen. Darker colors also show more imperfections, causing you to want to pick a low level finish with less shine.

Tips For Choosing the Right Paint Finish

Tips For Picking the Best Types of Paint Finishes

Best Paint Finish for Walls

As a general rule, we like to recommend three different types of sheen for your walls: eggshell, satin or matte. Digging deeper into the three depends on the traffic of the room and the level of durability needed.

Best Paint Finish for Bedroom

Choosing the best paint finish for a bedroom can vary based on who’s bedroom it is. A master bedroom with low traffic could be painted with matte or eggshell. However, a child’s room that might experience more bumps and cleaning, would be best to use a satin paint finish.

Best Paint Finish for Living Room

For living room walls, we recommend eggshell finish paint because this sheen covers wall imperfections well and still has a medium durability.

Best Paint Finish for Kitchen

If your stovetop and sink are surrounded by a lot of exposed wall space and minimal backsplash, we would recommend semi-gloss because it is good for rooms where moisture, drips, and grease stains challenge the walls. And is easy to clean.

Best Paint Sheen for Bathroom

Similar to your kitchen, the best paint sheen for your bathroom that we would recommend is semi-gloss because of its resistance to moisture and drips. Satin can also be a great choice because it also has some resistance to exposure to moisture.

Best Paint Finish for Ceilings

Ceilings are barely ever touched which makes flat a great affordable paint finish. Flatt paint finishes are hard to touch up but cheaper. And flat helps diffuse the light since the light washes down the ceiling harder than it does a wall.

Best Paint Finish for Cabinets and Trim

We recommend a semi-gloss paint finish for both cabinets and trim because it has a high durability, a sleek look, and is resistant to mildew, moisture and wear. This paint sheen is not only durable, but also easy to clean.

types of paint finishes | picking the best paint sheen

Take the Stress Out of Picking the Right Types of Paint Finishes for Your Home

Conrad’s Painting is the painting contractor you can trust to get your project done on time, and with the highest-quality results. You can depend on our professional painters to recommend the best types of paint finishes for each room and surface based on each effecting factor. Many of our painters and wallcovering installers have over 15 years of experience and can bring their expertise to your project.