Buying Guide

Types of Paint Finishes

Paint Sheen Types
A dining room is painted in a melon paint with a matte finish.

Paint sheen or finish refers to the amount of light that the paint reflects from its surface. Simply put, paints with a sheen reflect light and paints without a sheen absorb light. Paint sheen types can be organized into two broad categories:


  • Flat or matte paints absorb more light than they reflect, so they have no sheen. 
  • Semi-gloss and gloss paints reflect light, giving them a bright, shiny finish. While semi-gloss and gloss paints require more prep work and sanding than their matter counterparts to ensure a smooth application, paints with a glossy finish can be scrubbed once dry and are easy to clean. 


How Paint Sheen Types are Determined 

Paints with glossier finishes, like satin paint, have higher levels of resin and lower levels of pigmentation, while paints with a flatter finish, such as eggshell paint, have higher levels of pigmentation and lower levels of resin. 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 many different sheens. Nearly all types of paint finishes 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 create your preferred finish. 


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

Types of Interior Paint Finishes
A bathroom painted in a clean satin finish.

Different paint finishes have their own advantages and best uses. How shiny or bright you want your room will help you determine which paint sheen types to choose for your rooms.  


Here is a look at the types of paint finishes available, in order of lowest to highest sheen, and how best to use them in your home: 


Matte or Flat Paint 

  • Provides a non-reflective, smooth appearance that hides surface blemishes like nail holes and patches.  
  • Matte paint requires less coats than higher gloss paints and is easier to touch up.  
  • Perfect for new construction, drywall, ceilings and low-traffic areas like adult bedrooms and dining rooms.  
  • Cleans easily with a damp sponge but will be damaged if cleaned with cleanser.  


Eggshell Paint 

  • One of the most popular types of wall paint, eggshell finish provides a low sheen and a soft, smooth finish just like a true eggshell.  
  • Perfect for low- to mid-traffic areas like hallways, living rooms, entryways and family rooms.  
  • Eggshell paint is more washable than flat sheens, and it resists stains and scuffs. 


Satin Paint 

  • Widely considered the most versatile and best paint for walls inside the home, a satin paint finish provides an elegant, almost pearl-like finish and soft sheen.  
  • Ideal for indoor and outdoor use, it resists mildew and fading and is easier to clean that lower-gloss finishes. 
  • Works well in busy indoor areas such as playrooms, home offices and children’s bedrooms, as well as areas that are exposed to moisture like kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms and on outdoor spots like trim, shutters and siding.


Semi-Gloss Paint  

  • Even more reflective than satin with a smooth sheen, semi-gloss paint gives rooms a shiny, sleek appearance.  
  • Because it offers high resistance to moisture, it works well in areas with higher humidity, such as bathrooms, kitchens and laundry rooms, as well as high-traffic spaces like doors and utility rooms.  
  • While easier to clean than other finishes, semi-gloss will show most blemishes on walls and ceilings.   
  • White and off-white paints in semi-gloss give rooms a brighter appearance than whites in other finishes.  


High-Gloss Paint 

  • Offers the highest level of reflection. 
  • Gives a high-shine, glass-like finish that is popular for doors, cabinets, moulding and trim.  
  • Provides curb appeal for outdoor spots like shutters and window casings.  
  • Semi- and high-gloss sheens require more coats than less glossy finishes. Apply to smooth and clean surfaces for the fewest layers of paint and best results. 


Primer 

  • Evens 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.  
  • Helps paint adhere to the wall or ceiling more easily.  
  • Stain-killing primer and sealer combos 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.
Things to Consider
An entryway painted in a bold shade of green.

Before choosing between the types of paint finishes available, think about the type of room you are painting, the durability you need and other considerations.  


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. 


Ease of cleaning: The shinier the paint, the easier it will be to clean.  


Family/kid-friendly: If you are struggling with satin vs. semi-gloss, remember that a finish with less sheen, like eggshell or satin, is best on walls, while higher-gloss paint is better for accents.  


Have fun with it: Choosing types of wall paint shouldn’t be overwhelming. Experiment with color and sheen, choose a paint sample and test on a small patch of the wall to ensure you choose the right option for your home.  


Remember 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.

Different types of paint finishes can accent and brighten your rooms in unique ways. You may need a variety of finishes when painting more than just the walls of a room, since baseboards, cabinets and doors look best with a sheen that contrasts the walls. To find all the paints you need to complete your project, save time with our The Home Depot Mmobile app and shop over one million products online.