Interior Paint Sheens

Take the guesswork out of finding the perfect interior paint sheen for any room

Interior Paint Sheens Buying Guide

When repainting a room or painting a new room for the first time, you must choose between different sheens for your interior paint.

This guide will help you understand the difference between eggshell, flat, gloss, satin and semi-gloss sheens.

Tip: Typically, the shinier a finish is, the more durable and easier it will be to clean.

Sheen Types

Sheen refers to the amount of light that paint reflects from its surface.

Choosing the sheen that best suits a room depends on what the space is primarily used for and how you want it to look.

Oil and latex paints are available in a number of different sheens. Paints without a sheen, referred to as flat or matte, absorb light. Paints with a semi-gloss or glossy sheen reflect light.

Nearly every sheen can be used in any room of the house, but some are better suited for high-traffic areas. If the sheen you want falls somewhere in between two styles, you can mix them together to find a finish that falls somewhere in the middle.

Prior to applying paint, you may need to use a primer or an undercoat to prepare the surface to more effectively receive a coat of paint.

No- and low-gloss sheens: No- and low-gloss sheens absorb light more than they reflect it.

Semi-gloss and glossy sheens: Unlike lower-gloss sheens, semi-gloss and glossy sheens reflect light, providing a bright, shiny look. Both require more prep work and sanding to ensure smooth application but once applied and dried, these paints can be scrubbed and are easy to clean.



Sheen Description Ideal for

Eggshell,Low-Luster, Low-Gloss

  • Elegant low-sheen and smooth finish like an eggshell
  • Best for low-traffic areas
  • Smooth surface
  • More washable than flat sheens, resists stains and scuffs
  • Living room
  • Dining room
  • Bedroom
  • Foyer
  • Family room
  • Hallway
  • Kitchen
  • Trim

Flat or Matte

  • Provides a smooth, subtle finish
  • Camouflages imperfections and is frequently used in new construction and drywall
  • Ideal for low-traffic areas
  • Absorbs dirt and is more difficult to clean
  • Cleanser may burnish the finish
  • Living room
  • Dining room
  • Bedroom
  • Ceiling
  • Family room
  • Hallway

Gloss

  • Can be scrubbed clean with ease
  • Offers a smooth, high-shine finish
  • Shows imperfections, so apply to smooth, clean surfaces
  • High-gloss sheens are brilliant and very reflective
  • Trim
  • Woodwork
  • Molding
  • Doors
  • Cabinets
  • Kitchen
  • Bath

Satin

  • Can be wiped clean and withstand light scrubbing
  • Provides an elegant finish and soft sheen
  • Ideal for more active rooms
  • May be used indoors or outdoors
  • Family room
  • Playroom
  • Laundry room
  • Kitchen
  • Guest bathroom
  • Dining room
  • Children’s bedroom
  • Trim
  • Shutters
  • Doors

Semi-gloss

  • Can be scrubbed clean with ease, ideal for high-traffic areas
  • Smooth sheen reflects light
  • May be used indoors or outdoors
  • Offers high resistance to moisture, though may suffer from sticking
  • Kitchen
  • Bathroom
  • Cabinets
  • Doors
  • Trim
  • Molding
  • Hallway


Primer

Primer paint is used to even out the painting surface. If primer is not applied prior to painting, the surface may soak up more paint in some areas than others, creating a blotchy pattern.

Primer also helps paint adhere to the wall or ceiling more easily.

  • Stain-killing primers/sealers both prime and seal surfaces with water stains or knots in raw wood surfaces. They may be water-, oil- or shellac-based.
  • Use latex primers on drywall, plaster and concrete surfaces.
  • Use alkyd primers on raw wood surfaces.

Understanding Interior Paint Lingo

After you’ve chosen the sheen of your interior paint, the next step is to pick tint base and colorant.

  • Tint base is used to form the foundation for a specific color. It helps determine how tough paint is and how well it can resist dirt and stains. It also dictates how well paint holds up under tough scrubbing.
  • Colorant determines how much paint will fade over time. Colors such as white and brown tend to fade less than bright greens and yellows.
  • Quality: High-quality paints tend to have higher pigment levels, which allow them to cover a surface more thoroughly with fewer applications. They also possess more resins, which lend paint greater durability.