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Interior Paints: Selecting a Sheen

Interior Paints: Selecting a Sheen
 
Just as different rooms call for different decorative schemes and furniture, so too do they require different types and colors of paint. While choosing the color of paint is largely an aesthetic decision, choosing the paint sheen requires both style and practical considerations. Sheen refers to the amount of light that paint reflects from its surface. Choosing the sheen that best suits a given room depends on what the space is primarily used for and how you want the walls and ceilings to look. The following questions will help guide you to a greater understanding of paint sheens and how to select the right one for every situation:
 
        • What levels of sheen are available?
        • What are the characteristics of each type of sheen?
        • What sheens are best suited to certain rooms?
        • Will you need to apply a primer before using finish paint?
        • What features would you like to have?
 

Sheen Type, Recommended Applications and Primers


Oil and latex paints are available in a number of different sheens. Prior to selecting one, it’s important to understand the qualities that each one has to offer. Paints without a sheen, referred to as flat or matte, absorb light while paints with a semigloss 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 than others. 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 wall, ceiling or other 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. Flat, or matte, finish is frequently used in new construction and on ceilings because it hides flaws extremely well. Because it doesn’t reflect light, imperfections in walls and ceilings are much less noticeable. Flat finishes are ideal for use on new drywall that has an imperfect taping job or where porous joint compound has been applied. Eggshell, or low-luster, finishes are so named because the slight sheen they provide is similar in appearance to the surface of an egg. This slight sheen creates a soft, velvety finish. Satin sheens provide a slightly more reflective surface and are excellent at resisting mildew, dirt and stains, making them better suited to more frequently used rooms. They can withstand cleaning and light scrubbing better than flat or eggshell finishes.
 
        • Flat/matte paint provides a smooth, elegant finish
        • Flat sheens tend to absorb dirt and may be somewhat difficult to clean
        • Keep extra paint on hand to touch up nicks and scratches in flat sheens
        • Eggshell finishes are easier to wash than flat finishes and resist stains and scuffs
        • Eggshell and satin finishes offer more depth and warmth
        • Satin finishes can withstand moisture, making them ideal for kitchens and bathrooms
 
Semigloss and Glossy Sheens: Unlike lower-gloss sheens, semigloss and glossy sheens reflect light, providing a bright, shiny look. They are both durable and aesthetically pleasing. Glossy sheens do, however, show nearly every imperfection in a wall or ceiling’s surface, meaning it’s best to use them on walls with unmarred surfaces. Semigloss finishes offer high resistance to moisture, though they may suffer a little from sticking. High-gloss sheens are brilliant, reflective finishes that are ideal for highlighting trim, railings, shutters and molding. Glossier finishes may be used on ceilings, but be sure the ceiling has no imperfections prior to applying.
 
        • Sheens with higher glosses brighten rooms
        • Semigloss and glossy sheens can be scrubbed and are easy to clean
        • Both sheens require more prep work and sanding to ensure smooth application
        • Semigloss sheens may be used in kitchens and bathrooms
        • Glossy sheens provide a look similar to plastic or enamel
 

Sheen

Description and Points to Consider

Recommended Rooms

Eggshell/Low-Luster • Offers an elegant low-sheen finish
• Best for low-traffic areas
• Smooth surface 
• More washable than flat sheens
• Living room
• Dining room
• Bedroom
• Foyer
• Family room
• Hallway 
• Kitchen
• Trim
Flat/Matte • Provides a smooth, subtle finish
• Camouflages imperfections
• Ideal for low-traffic areas
• Absorbs light 
• Holds dirt and is more difficult to clean
• Rubbing with 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
• Ideal for surfaces that require frequent washing
• Trim
• Woodwork
• Molding
• Doors 
• Cabinets
• Kitchen
• Bath
Satin • Can be wiped clean
• Provides an elegant finish
• Soft sheen reflects light
• Ideal for more active rooms
• Extremely versatile
• May be used indoors or outdoors
• Family room
• Playroom
• Laundry room
• Kitchen
• Guest bathroom
• Dining room
• Children’s bedroom
• Trim
• Shutters
• Doors
Semigloss • Can be scrubbed clean with ease
• Smooth sheen reflects light
• Ideal for high-traffic areas
• Easy to wash
• May be used indoors or outdoors
• Kitchen
• Bathroom
• Cabinets
• Doors 
• Trim
• Molding
• Hallway

Primer: Primer paint is used to pave the way for finishing paints. There are a number of reasons to use primer. If primer is not applied to wood, plaster or drywall prior to painting, the surface may soak up more paint in some areas than others, creating a blotchy pattern that will force you to spend more time painting and apply more paint to even things out. Primer also helps paint adhere to the wall or ceiling more easily. Stain-killing primer/sealers both prime and seal surfaces with water stains or knots in raw wood surfaces. They may be water, oil or shellac based.
 
        • Primers cover different textures, such as drywall and joint compound, to create a smooth surface 
           for painting
        • Use latex primers on drywall, plaster and concrete surfaces
        • Use alkyd primers on raw wood surfaces
 

Features


Tint Base: When selecting paint, take its tint base into consideration. 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: Colorant determines how much paint will fade over time. Colors such as white and brown tend to fade less than bright greens and yellows.
 
Cleaning/Durability: While there are some exceptions, it is generally the case that the shinier a finish is, the more durable and easier to clean it will be.
 
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.