your guide to the different types of paint sheens

November 3, 2022

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POV: You’re at home depot and ask an employee to mix up a gallon of paint for you, and the employee asks, “what sheen would you like?”. You’re stumped! That’s where we come in. In this post, we’re walking you through the different types of paint sheens we use and love and where we use them.

Selecting a paint sheen is just as important as choosing the paint color because the paint sheen can change how the color will look in your home. Before diving too deep into this guide, let’s briefly chat about what paint sheen is.

Remember that Home Depot employee who brought up the question? In simpler terms, they’re asking you how shiny do want your paint to look. The more enamel in your paint gallon, the higher your sheen and the glossier it will appear!

“Sheen, or paint finish, is a measure of how much light reflects off a painted surface, resulting in gloss—or a lack thereof.” – Benjamin Moore.

As you can imagine, certain paint sheens work better in certain areas than others, and that’s what we’ll dive into now:

alma-homes-bloomington-build-mudroom-satin-finish
#bloomingtonbuild mudroom, Finish: Satin

FLAT FINISH

The flat paint sheen will be your most affordable sheen option of the bunch! We use a flat paint sheen on interior walls and ceilings in all of our new builds. The reasoning for this is that the house will settle in the first year and if you don’t do a flat paint sheen, then you can’t touch up without repainting the entire wall. This sheen is a controversial choice because it’s difficult to clean. We have found that using a magic eraser to clean the scuff marks works great!

alma-homes-bloomington-build-formal-dining-room-flat-finish
#bloomingtonbuild formal dining room, Finish: Flat

MATTE FINISH

We occasionally use a matte paint sheen on interior walls, but we often use a matte enamel finish on woodwork like the trim, doors, and cabinets. A matte finish has slightly more durability than a flat finish. We use a matte enamel finish on woodwork instead of just a matte finish because matt enamel has excellent resistance to steam and moisture. It’s an ideal finish for use in high-traffic areas such as kitchens and bathrooms.

alma-homes-bloomington-build-primary-bedroom-flatte-finish
#bloomingtonbuild primary bedroom, Finish: Flat

SATIN FINISH

Satin finish is another paint sheen that we frequently use on woodwork like trim, cabinets, and doors. If you want better stain resistance and durability than lower sheens (like flat or matte), than a satin finish is the next best sheen. Satin paint is ideal for highly-detailed areas where trim and millwork is of plenty. It’s the perfect finish to highlight windows, shutters, trim, and interior doors. This finish highlights those special and subtle details found throughout the home.

alma-homes-bloomington-build-office-satin-finish
#bloomingtonbuild office, Finish = Satin

We don’t use the following paint sheens as often as we use flat, matte and satin:

  • eggshell: best used in ceilings, bedrooms, dining rooms, and living areas where there is not a lot of dirt build-up or traffic.
  • semi-gloss: ideal for surfaces and fittings, such as doors, trim, window casings, door frames, and baseboards.
  • high-gloss: commonly used on interior doors, trim, high-traffic areas, and exterior doors.

Our basic rule of thumb to follow when choosing paint sheens: The higher the sheen, the higher the shine — the higher the shine, the more durable it will be — the more durable it is, the more it will highlight imperfections on a surface. Woah…soak that in!

What other paint-related questions do you have? Follow us on Instagram for more frequent design tips!

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