What Sheen Should I Use To Paint My House?

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So you have decided to paint your house. Excellent! Now all you have to do is go pick out which shade you would like, right…right? Unfortunately that’s not all there is to the process. Do you know how many sheen options are available? I think you might be surprised to find out how many sheen options there are to choose from. The sheen options available are: Flat, matte, eggshell, velvet eggshell, low-sheen eggshell, satin, semi-gloss, low gloss, high gloss, and gloss. Wow! That’s a lot. So which one should I use to paint my own house? And which for the trim, which for the walls, which for the ceiling?

To begin I would like to look at what the term ‘sheen’ actually means.




1. luster; brightness; radiance.
2. gleaming attire.


3. shining.
4. beautiful.


5. Chiefly Scot. to shine.
Wow! I want my house to have a beautiful radiance. Where do I sign up! I think most interestingly is the fact that each sheen has its own purpose and their own principle function; to hide and highlight the surface wherein you’re painting.
FLAT: “Having a surface that is without marked projections or depressions.” Flat means to have no shine to it at all. Generally speaking, a flat is almost always used on your ceilings to hide the drywall imperfections found there. The ceiling is a very difficult surface to make perfect from the normal imperfections to paint. Using flat paint will stop your ceiling from getting the dreaded “wave” to it from the drywall. Flat paint also tends to touch-up quite well – however it does not clean well. Builders will utilize flats on walls and ceilings to help hide all the little blemishes on the walls and also helps with touching-up the walls from all the other trades present building your house as well (carpenters, flooring, electricians, etc.).
Matte: “A Matte finish will feel much slicker than a flat and will not give off much of a reflection”.  Matte is the sister to flat; in that matte is the closest to flat. However, matte you have more of an ability to clean it. Matte paints work more closely to an eggshell for wash-ability, while still allowing you to hide those pesky imperfections.
Eggshell: “An eggshell finish will start to show reflections. Maybe a red object close by will cast a slight pink shadow across the finish in a well-lit room. You will not see any distinct shadows of any objects in this finish.” In the family of eggshell sheens – i.e. eggshell, velvet eggshell, low-sheen – all these have great cleaning abilities and are generally used on walls. In high-traffic areas, or in your bathroom and kitchens, you may be leaning toward flat still in order to hide the imperfections. But take care to use eggshell instead so that you will benefit from being able to wash those walls down easier by using the eggshell in those areas instead. 
Satin: “A satin finish is what most laminated surfaces are. It is shiny but don’t expect to fix your hair in the reflection.” This sheen is most often used on walls and trim. Satin offers just about the same level of sheen as an eggshell, but it will offer a fantastic looking finish – while allowing you the needed wash-ability for walls and trim work. 
Semi-Gloss: “Semi-gloss are what most trim is. This is a totally slick surface.” This sheen is almost always used on your woodwork and trim throughout your home. It definitely highlights all the trim in your home. Semi-gloss is extremely simple to clean your door frames and trim work. 
Gloss: “A gloss paint will be shiny enough to show a distinct reflection, depending on the color.” This particular sheen is used for all the finest finishes of your home; such as the older wood table or cabinets. It is extremely washable – but will show many imperfections to any surface. However, this is the most washable sheen available by far. Think of it as the lipstick to your home…yes, please!


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