September 6, 2023

How to select a paint finish/sheen

An important consideration before painting any room is your choice of paint finish—also known as sheen. The finish you select can determine how a room looks and feels and how easy it is to clean and maintain. Each finish has unique characteristics, applications, advantages, and disadvantages to help you achieve the perfect look for your space.

How to select a paint finish/sheen
As the saying goes, "It's all in the details." One of the most crucial considerations when painting a room is the paint finish, also known as sheen. The finish you choose can determine how a room looks and feels and how easy it is to clean and maintain.

With so many finish options available, it's essential to understand the properties and benefits of each finish or sheen to select the best one for your project. This article will provide a comprehensive guide to choosing the right paint finish, considering everything from durability and moisture resistance to coverage and luster. We will also explore the specific rooms and surfaces that each finish is best suited for to help you make an informed decision.

What's the difference between paint finishes?

When choosing a paint finish, there are several factors to consider that can significantly impact the final look of your space. One of the most important is the amount of natural light your room receives, which can affect how the finish looks. For darker rooms, a higher sheen finish may make the space appear brighter and more reflective, while in brightly lit areas, a flat or matte finish may be more suitable to avoid glare.

Another critical aspect to consider is the overall style of the room. A higher-gloss finish on the trim can add elegance to traditional or classic designs. In contrast, a low-sheen finish may be more appropriate for modern or minimalist interiors. The room's function also plays a role in the finish you choose. For areas with high traffic or moisture, choosing a more durable and easy-to-clean finish, like satin or semi-gloss, is essential for maintaining a pristine look.Finally, always consider the quality of the paint you are using, as a high-quality brand will provide better coverage, adhesion, and durability, ensuring a long-lasting finish that retains its beauty over time.

Types of paint finishes

Paint finish and sheen can significantly impact any room's aesthetics, and choosing the right one can be daunting. Whether renovating or painting a new home, it is essential to understand the types of paint finishes available. Each finish has unique characteristics, applications, advantages, and disadvantages to help you achieve the perfect look for your space.

Flat finish

Flat finishes are ideal for hiding imperfections on your walls. With little to no shine, this finish offers a smooth, velvety texture that absorbs light, creating a subtle, muted effect. It is best suited for low-traffic areas like bedrooms and living rooms but not recommended for high-moisture rooms like kitchens and bathrooms.

  • Hides imperfections
  • Reflects less light
  • Offers a subtle and muted effect
  • Easy touch-up
  • Low scrub resistance
  • Stains and marks easily
  • Challenging to clean

Matte finish

A matte finish resembles a flat finish but provides a slightly more elegant look to walls and other surfaces. It is designed to have a dull, low reflective look that softens a room's colors and adds to a space's ambiance. It anchors most light colors and covers walls with minor imperfections.

  • Hides flaws and imperfections
  • Reduced amount of glare and reflection
  • Great anchor for light colors 
  • It can quickly show dirt, scuffs, or stains
  • Requires frequent touch-ups
  • Somewhat prone to chipping
  • A challenge to clean


The eggshell finish offers a subtle shine, separating it from the flat and matte finishes. It is the middle ground between a matte and a glossy finish, featuring a mild sheen and a light texture. The eggshell finish can resist wear and tear better than its flat and matte counterparts, making it ideal for areas that may experience some moderate traffic.

  • Resistant to wear and tear
  • Easy to clean
  • Hides imperfections better than a gloss finish
  • Lower durability compared to satin and semi-gloss finishes
  • Limited availability in terms of colors 

Satin finish

This finish, similar to eggshell, has a slightly more significant gloss or sheen, creating a smooth and velvety appearance. Satin finishes reflect more light than eggshell, providing a sleek finish that's practical but not as flashy asa gloss finish. Satin finishes are perfect for high-traffic areas due to their high durability and easy-to-clean surfaces.

  • Durable finish
  • Easy-to-wipe-down surfaces
  • Better scratch and scuff resistance than eggshell
  • It is challenging to get an even finish because of its high reflectivity
  • Requires perfectly smooth surfaces for the best finish
  • It can show roller marks and paint ridges


A semi-gloss finish creates a reflective surface that's highly durable, making it perfect for bathrooms, kitchens, and playrooms. It combines durability with a degree of shine that strikes a balance between the cushioned eggshell and the more brilliant high-gloss finish. 

  • Easy-to-clean surface
  • Provides a durable and moisture-resistant finish
  • Great for high-traffic areas 
  • Hard to touch up with a brush
  • Uneven finish on rough surfaces
  • Requires meticulous preparation before application 


The high-gloss finish is the most reflective or shiny of all finishes, intended to create a mirror-like effect on surfaces. It is the most durable, easy-to-clean, and moisture-resistant finish, making it ideal for high-traffic areas, bathrooms, kitchens, and other high-moisture areas. 

  • High durability
  • Easy clean-up
  • It provides a professional look when highlighted by light
  • Needs frequent dusting
  • Shows surface imperfections
  • Challenging to touch up as it shows brush and roller marks 

Final thoughts...

Understanding the best use of various paint finishes will help you decide on the best type for your painting project. Each finish has unique characteristics, suitable applications, and advantages and disadvantages. Factors such as the room's lighting, wall condition, and desired level of sheen will also influence your decision.  

With choices ranging from the low-sheen flat finish to the ultra-shiny high-gloss finish, there is a paint finish to fit every style and preference. So, whether you're aiming for a smooth and modern look or a more traditional and subtle finish, be sure to select a paint finish that suits your needs, promotes a healthy home, and enhances your space's overall look and feel.

If you’re considering giving one or more of your rooms a fresh coat of paint, consult the experts at White Oak Painting to discuss your requirements. We can help you select the ideal finish/sheen to achieve stunning results.

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