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July 27th, 2016 How to Choose the Right Sheen for Your Painting Project?


The Minute you start thinking about painting your home, the first two things that comes to mind are color and painting contractor–both with big question marks. Seldom people think: “I wonder what paint sheen should I use? You are probably wondering how this is even relevant? As a matter of a fact, sheen will play a big roll on color, durability, and light reflectivity.

Let’s start with color. Depending upon what sheen you choose, your color will look slightly different to the naked-eye. For this reason, always be sure to ask your local painting contractor for color samples to be made of the actual sheen you are considering using–if possible.

In choosing a sheen, durability is probably the biggest determining factor to most homeowners ready to paint their house. High sheen paints–like semi-gloss, gloss, or high-gloss paint–are much more durable than low sheen paints–like flat, egg-shell, and satin paint. We will discuss below durability aspects in a little more detail.

The last aspect to consider is the levels of light reflectivity each sheen will provide.  As a rule of thumb, the higher the paint sheen the more light that will be reflected.

The science behind sheens:

High-gloss finish paint have the highest resins (or binding agent) and lowest pigmentation. The same is true on the other end of the spectrum where the lower the paint sheen (such as flat) the more pigment and less resins the paint will have.

So how many paint sheens are there?

There are 5 basic paint sheens.  Flat, egg-shell, satin, semi-gloss, and high-gloss paint.

Ok, let’s talk about each one of them next!

Flat or Matte:

Flat or matte finishes are the best light absorbers. Therefore, low-sheen paints make imperfections on your walls and ceilings less noticeable than any other sheen. A flat finish (with a gloss value of 0-5%) would be your best bet if your goal is to hide or diminish the visibility and appearance of imperfections or blemishes in the room. Matte is a variation of flat but contains a slightly higher gloss (5-10%).

Because of its porous texture, flat paints will be your most difficult one to clean. This is definitely something to consider if you have children or pets.

Typically, people use flat on ceilings and areas of the house that are not going to see a lot of traffic.


Even tough egg-shell is considered to be a low-luster paint, it has a moderately higher sheen than flat. This is the most commonly used finish paint used on walls virtually everywhere. It offers good scrubbability, making it easier to clean than flat or matte finish.  Since it contains higher amount of resins, or binding agents, egg-shell is more durable than flat.

Egg-shell is more commonly used is moderate traffic areas such as living rooms, dining rooms, and bedrooms.


In between egg-shell and semi-gloss, a satin sheen offers a sophisticated pearl-like look. If durability and ease of maintenance are at the top of your priority list, then Satin could be the perfect fit for your home.  Also, for those who prefer a more sleek look but consider semi-gloss too shiny, satin will deliver just enough shine in your space. Because of its reflectivity, however, it will not be as effective when trying to conceal imperfections on your walls or ceiling. Definitely keep in mind the condition of your surfaces before making a final choice.

In the New Orleans metro area, Satin is the preferred sheen for trim, doors, windows, bookcases or any other type woodwork. Also popular in New Orleans for decades, satin finish paints looks incredible when doing a brushed-out monochromatic color scheme for an entire room (walls, ceiling, and trim). This is truly a timeless look!

Watch below our painters brushing-out Satin Impervo oil.


This sheen is perfect for high-traffic areas such as kitchens, bathrooms, and closets. It is also used generally for trim and doors. Its higher gloss makes this paint very durable and easy to clean. On the down side, it will not be very forgiven on your walls and ceilings–it will show imperfections.


As the name indicates, it is the highest paint sheen available–by far the most durable and easiest one to clean. Because of its high levels of light reflection, imperfections and blemishes will become visible and apparent.

Accent pieces and front doors are perfect candidates for a high-gloss sheen as its glossy look will draw attention to it.

In summary:

The right sheen can help your paint job last longer.

The higher the sheen, the better the scrubbability.

Shinier surfaces make imperfections more evident.

Flat: absorbs light and therefore hides imperfections. But it is the least durable.

Egg-shell: Most common choice for wall.

Satin: resists mildew, dirt and stains. It is best for frequently used spaces like hallways.

Semi: high-traffic areas like kitchens, bathrooms, closet doors and trim.

High-gloss: More color depth. Best for something you want to accentuate like a entry door. Add brightness and makes a space feel bigger.

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