What Are the Different Paint Sheens?

When it comes to the sheen of your paint that you use in your interior painting project might be something that you may not have given much thought about, but it really can make a big difference in just how your final job is going to look.

It’s important understand that different sheens of paint all have different specific uses. For instance, glossy paints are going to hold up better to high traffic and they are also much easier to clean. The flat pats can’t actually be cleaned at all, however, they do hide flaws in walls better than any other paint sheen. So when it comes to deciding on what sheen to use the real question should be where and not why. Here we’ll go through the different sheens and where you should actually use them to get the best results.

Color wheel

Matte/Flat Paints

Flat/Matte paint is the ideal way for you to hide rough walls or textures that you want to hide or don’t like. This type of paint will help to make a wall have a more uniform appearance and it won’t highlight a surface’s imperfections. It’s best that you use a flat paint for low traffic areas where there isn’t going to be a lot of hands touching the walls. You should stay away from using flat/matte paint on doors, windows, railings, and other areas that get a lot of hand traffic.

The reason this kind of paint doesn’t work well at all in high traffic areas is because that it doesn’t have a strong grip and it can be scraped off pretty easily, It’s also not very easy to clean, in fact it really can’t be cleaned. Other paints usually can be cleaned with a damp cloth to get the dirt off but you can’t do that with flat paint.

Now, if you need to paint rough textured walls or ceilings, then flat paint excels here as long as it’s not used in a room that has a lot of moisture or humidity. So it’s not wise to use this paint in kitchens or bathrooms.

Eggshell Paint

This paint is a step up on the sheen ladder. It’s named eggshell because it does have the same sheen as the shell of an egg. This type of a paint is a pretty good all around paint for walls and that’s probably why it’s one of the more popular ones. It can still hide some imperfections like flat paint does but it’s a little easier to clean. However, it is still not glossy enough for you to use on windows, trim, or doors. So it’s best just to use it on walls.


Satin is another good all around type of paint and it pretty much works for any place in your home. However, satin is still best reserved for walls like kitchens and bathrooms because it is a lot easier to clean than the other types we’ve already discussed. This paint can handle the higher moisture and humidity of a bathroom or kitchen.

Sometimes satin is used for trim, doors, and windows. This is the bare minimum level of paint sheen that you should use in these high traffic areas. It’s cleanable enough for these areas and it can be quite attractive especially on rough surfaces on woodwork. A satin sheen can help to hide imperfections in your trim.

Semi-Gloss Paints

This is a great all around paint for trims, doors, and windows. It’s very easy to clean and it holds up great to very heavy traffic areas and lasts for years. This is a very popular sheen because it gives the room a very high performance look that a high-gloss paint does without showing each and every single flaw in the wall or trim. It’s also pretty easy to apply as compared to the high-gloss paints.

You should never use a semi-gloss to paint walls and ceilings. Even the best drywaller or plasterer are going to leave marks behind on their work that eggshell or flat paint can hide, but semi-gloss can’t. So you might want to be cautious with where you use this kind of paint.

High-Gloss Paints

If you are looking for a paint that gives you an impact, then nothing will beat a high-gloss paint finish. It shines like the sun and it’s the most durable of all the paints. However, it will require a lot of skill in order to use it properly. High-gloss paint does not forgive and the surface will show off every imperfection and it will show every brush stroke. There is no escaping any flaws when you use a high-gloss paint.

When you apply this paint well to something like a front door, for example, the high-gloss is going to look just beautiful. Probably the two best places to use this type of paint would be entrance doors and cabinets. It will take a lot of prep and experience to use this paint for it to look good, so you need to be careful. Sometimes using a spray-on version is much better for the novice to use instead of a paintbrush.