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Selecting a Paint Finish: What Type of Finish is the Best for Your Interior

Besides a variety of color options, paints also come in various finishes. Some of the finishes are easier to clean and display more sheen while others convey a flat or matte finish – usually not recommended in areas of the home that are used more frequently. The finish you choose should be based on the amount of coverage you need, how easy it is to maintain, how much shine that is displayed and the durability of the covering.


The paint sheen or paint finish refers to the amount of gleam that a paint conveys. You can choose from finishes that display no shine, such as flat paint, or which convey a shiny appearance, such as high gloss varieties. The finish also represents a paint’s durability and overall washability. Glossier paints are considered to be more washable and long-lasting than paints that display a matte or flat finish.

Paint Finishes: A Quick Overview of the Basic Choices

Certain surfaces are well-suited to specific finishes. You can use the following listing as a gauge when selecting a paint. Paints are manufactured in 5 primary finishes. These finishes include:

1. A Flat or Matte Finish
A flat or matte finish is known for its ability to conceal surface flaws or imperfections. This type of finish is suited for older wall surfaces that display some “character.” The finish is often used in older homes inside rooms that are not used a great deal. A flat paint should never be used on walls that need to be washed frequently.

Whether the room is a living room or home office, if it is not used a great deal, then a flat paint can be recommended for use. You can purchase the finish in a paint or enamel-based formula. Flat enamel is often applied to walls along stairways, in dining rooms, family and living rooms and master bedroom areas.

2. Eggshell Finishes

An eggshell finish is not glossy, but subdued. This is the preferred choice for rooms that receive a moderate amount of traffic. Homeowners like this type of finish as it is attractive, practical, long-lasting and simple to maintain. Any smudges can be cleaned away with a dampened cloth. This finish is often used in baths, children’s bedrooms, living areas and in sun rooms or enclosed porches. The soft look of an eggshell finish reduces the glare that gloss-type finishes can convey.

3. Satin Finishes

Satin Finishes are the slightly shinier counterparts of eggshell finished paints. They, too, offer a subdued covering for higher traffic areas and can be easily maintained. Like its eggshell cousin, the paint finish is used in areas, such as sunrooms, where a gloss may uncover some unwanted glare from the sun.

This easy-cleanup finish is used in family and living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms, playrooms, along stairways, in the kitchen and the bath. You can also use it to paint doors, window sills, trims and cabinets. You might say this paint is preferred for most of the surface areas in the house.

4. Semi-gloss

Semi-gloss paint finishes are known for both their durability and washability. The paint, with its medium sheen, is well-suited to moderate and high-traffic locations. Easy to wash, the paint is used on woodwork and trims and is often used for covering the walls of a children’s bedroom or playroom as well as the walls in the kitchen or bath.

The finish notably features a visible shine and is often used in areas of the home that are classified as “high-moisture,” such as the bath. If you do use the paint in rooms with a higher moisture content, make you sure you look at paints that are formulated for mildew-resistance as well.

5. Gloss

Gloss finish delivers the highest amount of durability and shine of all paints. Because of the shine that is produced by the paint, it is better used on smaller area surfaces which are older. Use gloss finished paints to highlight the woodwork on trim, doors and smaller architectural elements. The highly washable paint can be used on cabinets and woodwork and often complements the walls of modern kitchens and baths as well.

Where the Finishes are Generally Applied

Now that you know the kinds of finishes that are offered, you can more easily make a paint and finish choice. In order to make a selection, you need to consider the room that is being painted and the amount of traffic it receives. Usually, high-gloss paint is reserved, as indicated, for small surface areas, such as doors and trim.

Kitchens and bathrooms, because they receive more traffic, are well-suited for semi-gloss finishes. Living rooms and bedrooms usually receive less traffic in the home. Therefore, a satin or eggshell finish is usually applied to these walls. Flat paint finishes are typically reserved for low traffic rooms or for ceilings.

Who Uses the Living Space?

When you take another review of the finishes, you can see that, when you are choosing a paint, again, you need to regard the traffic or how messy a room can get. Also, you need to consider exactly how the room is used and its normal occupants. A family room that is used by adults versus a family room often used by young kids will need different kinds of paints. If kids occupy a space frequently, it is usually better to go with a paint that is easy-to-clean, such as a satin finish or semi-gloss sheen.

How Far Can You Stretch Your Budget

Next, you need to look at what you can afford to spend. The shinier the paint – the higher the price. Therefore, expect to spend more per gallon for a high-gloss paint than what you will spend with a paint that features a flat or eggshell finish. Remember, when you are making a selection, to go with finish that is appropriate for the room you will be painting. A paint with a bit more sheen, such as an eggshell or satin finish, will not need painting as often as a flat finish. If you need to repaint more often, that can also affect the long-term cost.

Are you considering painting the interior or exterior of your home? If so, give us a call at 805-937-9836 or request a free estimate today.

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