What Paint Sheen Should I Use? A Comprehensive Guide to Choosing the Right Paint Sheen for Your Next Project

When it comes to painting your home, there are many choices to make – from the color and brand of paint to the tools you’ll need to complete the job. However, one important decision that often goes overlooked is the choice of paint sheen. For those unfamiliar with the term, paint sheen refers to the degree of glossiness or shine in a paint finish. The level of sheen can affect not only the appearance of your walls but also their durability and ease of maintenance.

So, what paint sheen should you use? The answer depends on several factors, such as the room you’re painting, the level of activity in that space, and your personal preferences. For example, high-traffic areas like hallways and kitchens may benefit from a more durable and washable finish, while bedrooms may look better with a softer and more subtle sheen. Additionally, certain paint formulas may come in limited sheen options, so make sure you choose a product that fits both your aesthetic and practical needs.

Ultimately, a little research and experimentation can go a long way in determining the best paint sheen for your home. Whether you opt for a flat, eggshell, satin, or glossy finish, the key is to strike the right balance between beauty and functionality. So, grab your brush and let’s explore the wonderful world of paint sheens together!

Types of Paint Sheen

When it comes to painting your walls, choosing the right sheen can be just as important as the color. Different sheens can affect the final look and durability of the paint, so it’s important to choose the right one for your specific needs and preferences. Here are the four main types of paint sheen:

  • Flat/Matte: This type of sheen has no shine or gloss and is great for hiding imperfections on your walls. It is not recommended for high-traffic areas as it is not very durable and can be difficult to clean.
  • Eggshell: This sheen has a slight shine but is still very subtle. It is more durable than flat/matte sheen, making it a popular choice for living rooms, dining rooms, and bedrooms.
  • Satin: This sheen has a soft, velvety finish and is more durable than eggshell. It can also be easily cleaned, making it a popular choice for kitchens, bathrooms, and children’s rooms.
  • Semi-gloss: The most shiny of all four sheens, semi-gloss is very durable and easy to clean. It is a popular choice for trim, doors, and cabinets.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Paint Sheen

Choosing the paint sheen for your walls may seem like a simple task, but there are many factors to consider to ensure that you make the right choice. Here are some of the most important elements to keep in mind:

  • The Function of the Room: One of the primary factors that you need to take into account is the function of the room you are painting. Glossier sheens, such as semi-gloss or high-gloss, are typically more durable and easy to clean, which makes them suitable for high-traffic areas like kitchens, bathrooms, hallways, and children’s rooms. Matte and eggshell or satin sheens are more delicate and best suited for low-traffic areas like bedrooms, living rooms, and dining rooms.
  • The Surface to be Painted: The material you are painting, such as drywall or plaster, will impact your choice of paint sheen. Semi-gloss and high-gloss sheens are better for smooth or lightly textured surfaces as they highlight the imperfections. Conversely, matte or satin finishes help to conceal any flaws or roughness in the surface.
  • The Lighting of the Room: Light plays a crucial role in how the painted surface appears to the eye. Glossy finishes reflect more light, so they can make a room appear brighter and more spacious. Matte finishes absorb light, so they give a room a warmer, cozier feel. If the room lacks natural light, using a satin or semi-gloss sheen can help to brighten it up.

The Different Types of Paint Sheens

It’s essential to know what type of paint sheen options are available and what distinguishes them from one another. Here is a summary of the most common paint sheens:

Sheen Type Level of Shine Best Use
Flat/Matte No Shine/Low Reflectivity Low-traffic areas, ceilings, and walls with imperfections.
Eggshell/Satin Low Shine/Soft Reflection Bedrooms, living rooms, dining rooms, and other low-traffic areas.
Semi-gloss Medium Shine/Medium Reflection Kitchens, bathrooms, trim, doors, baseboards, and other high-traffic areas.
High-gloss Maximum Shine/High Reflection Trim, doors, cabinetry, and furniture, but can be too reflective for walls.

By keeping in mind the above considerations, you can choose a paint sheen that suits the intended purpose of your space and compliments the rest of your home’s decor.

Pros and Cons of Using High-Gloss Sheen

Choosing the right paint sheen can greatly affect the outcome of your paint job. If you’re looking for a shiny and reflective finish, high-gloss sheen may be the way to go. However, it’s important to consider both the pros and cons of using high-gloss sheen before making a final decision.

  • Pros:
    • High-gloss sheen provides a durable and easy-to-clean surface, making it perfect for high-traffic areas such as hallways, kitchens, and bathrooms.
    • It’s reflective properties can help brighten up a room and make it appear larger. This is especially useful for small rooms or spaces with little natural light.
    • High-gloss sheen is also great for highlighting architectural details such as moldings, doors, and trim.
  • Cons:
    • Due to its highly reflective surface, high-gloss sheen can be unforgiving when it comes to imperfections on the walls. Any bumps, cracks, or dents will be accentuated by the gloss.
    • High-gloss sheen tends to show brush strokes and roller marks more than other sheens, so it may not be suitable for do-it-yourself projects or for novice painters.
    • It’s important to note that high-gloss sheen can be quite expensive compared to other types of paint finishes.

Best Uses for High-Gloss Sheen

High-gloss sheen is best used in areas where durability and easy cleaning are a priority. It’s also great for adding a touch of glamour to a space or highlighting details such as doors and trim. Consider using high-gloss sheen in the following areas:

  • Kitchens and bathrooms
  • Doors and trim
  • Accent walls
  • Furniture or cabinetry
  • Moldings and other architectural details

Tips for Using High-Gloss Sheen

If you do decide to go with a high-gloss sheen, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Ensure that the surface you’re painting is smooth and free from any imperfections before applying high-gloss paint to avoid accentuating any bumps, cracks, or dents.
  • Use a high-quality brush or roller to apply the paint, and work in small sections to avoid brush strokes and roller marks.
  • Allow the paint to dry completely before applying a second coat.
  • Consider using a primer specifically designed for high-gloss finishes to help the paint adhere better and last longer.
Pros Cons
Durable and easy to clean Shows imperfections
Reflective properties brighten up a room Shows brush strokes and roller marks
Great for highlighting architectural details Expensive compared to other sheens

When considering using high-gloss sheen, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons and determine if it’s the right choice for your specific project. If used properly and in the right spaces, high-gloss sheen can provide a stunning finish that adds a touch of glamour to any room.

Satin and Eggshell Sheen: What’s the Difference?

When it comes to choosing the right paint sheen for your walls, many people get confused between the satin and eggshell finishes. While they might appear similar to the naked eye, there are a few subtle differences that set them apart.

  • The Luster: When it comes to the glossiness, satin finishes have a higher luster than eggshell finishes. Satin finishes reflect more light and have a subtle shine, whereas eggshell finishes have a softer, matte look.
  • The Durability: Satin finishes are more durable and easier to clean than eggshell finishes. They are perfect for high-traffic areas such as hallways, kitchens, and bathrooms, where walls are more prone to dirt, stains, and moisture. Eggshell finishes are less durable and are better suited for low traffic areas such as bedrooms and living rooms.
  • The Application: Satin finishes are easier to apply as they have more leveling properties and can mask minor imperfections in the walls. However, they tend to show brush or roller marks more easily than eggshell finishes. Eggshell finishes require a more careful application and can highlight any flaws in the wall surface.

It is also essential to consider the color and texture of the walls while selecting the paint finish. Darker colors tend to show more marks and imperfections, and satin finishes can provide a better finish. In contrast, lighter colors go well with eggshell finishes. Textured walls can also benefit from eggshell finishes, as they provide an even, smooth surface without enhancing the texture.

Ultimately, the choice between satin and eggshell finishes depends on your preference, the purpose of the room, and the existing color and texture of the walls.

Property Satin Finish Eggshell Finish
Luster Higher Soft Matte
Durability More Durable Less Durable
Application Easier to Apply Less Forgiving, Requires More Careful Application

Now that you know the differences between satin and eggshell finishes, you can make an informed decision and choose the right paint sheen that fits your needs and aesthetic preferences!

How to Choose the Right Sheen for Your Project

Choosing the right paint sheen can make all the difference in the final result of your project. Not only does it affect the appearance, but it also impacts the durability and ease of cleaning. Here are some factors to consider when deciding on the appropriate sheen for your project:

  • The Function of the Room: The purpose of the room should be taken into account when choosing the sheen. High-traffic areas such as hallways, kitchens, and bathrooms require a more durable finish that is easy to clean. Whereas, a flat or matte sheen would work better for a bedroom or living room where there is less traffic.
  • The Surface Quality: The texture and quality of the surface being painted should be considered when determining the sheen. Shiny finishes tend to highlight surface imperfections, while matte finishes can help to conceal them.
  • The Lighting: The level and type of lighting in the room should influence the sheen choice. Glossy sheens reflect more light and can make a room appear brighter, while matte sheens absorb light and can produce a cozy and warm ambiance.

Types of Sheens

There are several types of sheens and each has its own unique benefits and drawbacks:

  • Flat or Matte: Flat or matte sheens have little to no shine and are best for hiding surface imperfections. They are also great for rooms with low traffic volumes, as they are not as durable as other finishes.
  • Eggshell: Eggshell sheens have a soft shine and are ideal for walls and trim. They are more durable than flat or matte sheens and are easier to clean.
  • Satin: Satin sheens have a slight gloss and are suitable for high-traffic areas such as kitchens and bathrooms. They are easy to clean and offer a smooth finish that is not too shiny.
  • Semi-Gloss: Semi-gloss sheens have a higher shine and are recommended for trim, doors, and cabinets. They are also durable and easy to clean but can highlight surface imperfections.
  • Gloss: Gloss sheens have the highest shine and are excellent for high-moisture areas such as bathrooms and kitchens. They are the most durable and easiest to clean out of all the sheens, but tend to highlight surface imperfections like semi-gloss finishes.


Choosing the right paint sheen can make a difference in your project’s overall appearance, durability, and ease of maintenance. Consider the room’s function, surface quality, and lighting when deciding on a sheen. Additionally, understanding the benefits and drawbacks of each type of sheen can help you make an informed decision and achieve the desired outcome.

Sheen Type Best Use Durability Shine
Flat/Matte Low traffic areas, hiding surface imperfections Low Little to none
Eggshell Walls and trim Medium Soft
Satin High-traffic areas such as kitchens and bathrooms High Slight gloss
Semi-Gloss Trim, doors, and cabinets High Higher shine
Gloss High-moisture areas such as bathrooms and kitchens Highest Highest shine

Use the table above as a reference to determine which sheen will work best for your specific project needs.

Matte finish vs. gloss: Which is better?

When it comes to choosing a paint sheen, the options can feel overwhelming. Two of the most popular sheen types are matte and gloss. But which one is better for your project? Let’s take a closer look.

  • Matte finish: This type of finish has a low level of sheen, making it perfect for hiding imperfections on walls and ceilings. It also tends to give off a more subdued and calming vibe in a room. Matte finishes are great for bedrooms, living rooms, and any other spaces where you want a soft, subtle look. However, be aware that matte finishes can be difficult to clean and are not as durable as gloss finishes.
  • Gloss finish: Glossy paints have a high level of shine, giving them a reflective, almost mirror-like quality. This finish is perfect for adding drama and glamour to a room, and it’s often used on trim and accents to make them pop. Gloss finishes are also easy to clean and more durable than matte finishes. However, keep in mind that a glossy finish will show every imperfection on a wall or ceiling, so it’s not the best choice for rooms with less-than-perfect surfaces.

If you’re still stuck deciding between matte and gloss, remember that you don’t have to choose one or the other. Many paint companies offer a range of sheens, from flat/matte to high-gloss, so you can mix and match to get the effect you want. For example, you might choose a matte finish for your walls and a glossy finish for your trim or doors.

Matte finish Gloss finish
Hides imperfections on walls and ceilings Shows imperfections on walls and ceilings
Subdued, calming look Dramatic, glamorous look
Difficult to clean Easy to clean
Less durable More durable

In the end, the best paint sheen for you will depend on your preferences and the specific needs of your project. Consider the look you’re going for, the condition of your surfaces, and how much wear and tear your walls will be subjected to. With a little research and experimentation, you’re sure to find the perfect sheen for your space.

The Role of Lighting in Selecting Paint Sheen

When it comes to selecting the right paint sheen for your room, one factor that you may not have considered is lighting. The amount and type of lighting in your space can greatly affect the appearance of your walls, and therefore, the sheen you choose.

To better understand the role of lighting in selecting paint sheen, here are some important points to consider:

  • Lighting influences the reflection of sheen: Different types of lighting, such as natural light vs artificial light, can reflect paint sheen differently. For example, glossy or semi-gloss sheens can reflect too much light in rooms with natural sunlight, making them appear overly bright and shiny. In contrast, matte sheens may absorb too much light in darker, artificially-lit rooms, making them appear flat or dull.
  • Consider the direction of light: It’s also important to consider the direction of light in your room. Rooms with north-facing windows tend to receive less direct sunlight, making them appear cooler in tone. In this case, a warmer, glossier sheen may help reflect light and add warmth. Meanwhile, rooms with south-facing windows tend to receive more direct sunlight, making them appear warmer in tone. In this case, a cooler, matte sheen may help balance the light and add depth.
  • Aim for consistency: To ensure a consistent appearance throughout your space, it’s important to consider the lighting in adjoining rooms as well. If one room has natural light and another has artificial light, choosing the same sheen for both can help create a seamless transition between the two spaces.

To get a better idea of how different paint sheens can appear in different lighting situations, here is a table outlining the key characteristics of each sheen:

Paint Sheen Description Best Lighting Situation
Flat/Matte No shine, absorbs light Darker, artificially-lit rooms
Eggshell Low sheen, subtle glow Spaces with moderate to low lighting
Satin Subtle shine, hides imperfections Spaces with moderate to high lighting
Semi-gloss High shine, easy to clean Spaces with bright, natural light
Glossy Extreme shine, highly reflective Accent walls, moldings, or areas with minimal lighting

In summary, when selecting a paint sheen, it’s important to take all lighting conditions into consideration to ensure you achieve the desired look and feel in your space. By keeping these key factors in mind, you’ll be able to choose the perfect sheen that best complements your lighting situation.

FAQs on What Paint Sheen Should I Use

Q: What is paint sheen?
A: Paint sheen refers to the level of glossiness or shine in paint finish. It can affect durability, cleanability, and visual appearance of walls.

Q: Which rooms require glossy sheen?
A: Glossy sheen is recommended for high-traffic areas such as kitchens, bathrooms, doors, baseboards, and cabinets as it is more durable and easier to clean.

Q: Which sheen should I use for a bedroom?
A: Depending on personal preference and lighting conditions, bedroom walls can be painted with flat, eggshell, or satin finish as these offer a softer and less reflective appearance.

Q: Can I mix different paint sheens?
A: It is not recommended to mix different paint sheens as it can result in an uneven application and poor appearance.

Q: Should I choose warm or cool sheen?
A: The choice of warm or cool sheen depends on the room’s decor and lighting. Warm sheens such as matte and eggshell can create a cozy feel while cool sheens such as gloss and satin can brighten up a space.

Q: How does natural light affect paint sheen?
A: Natural light can make glossy sheens more reflective and highlight imperfections, while matte sheens can absorb light and make colors look darker.

Q: Why is testing paint sheen important?
A: Testing paint sheen on a small area before painting the whole room can help determine if the sheen matches the desired look, lighting, and decor.

Thanks for Reading!

Now that you know the basics of paint sheen, you can make an informed decision on what finish to use for your next painting project. Don’t forget to test the sheen before painting and consider your lighting and decor. Thanks for reading, and we hope to see you again on our next home improvement article.