Where Different Paint Sheen Levels Are Most At Home


When it comes to selecting an interior paint for your home, there’s more to consider than quality and color. Most paints come in a variety of sheen levels, as many as six, depending upon the brand and some are better suited for certain rooms than for others, according to Debbie Zimmer, paint and color expert at the Paint Quality Institute.


Paints with flat sheen are most common. They offer several advantages, being non-reflective, they tend to conceal imperfections in walls and other surfaces; they help to make uneven surfaces like poorly taped drywall look smoother and more uniform; and many hide the under-color well, since they typically contain a lot of pigment.


“Flat paints are a good choice for just about any ceiling, and for rooms and spaces that aren’t exposed to water, high humidity, or heavy soiling such as bedrooms, home offices, and living rooms,” says Zimmer.


At the other end of the sheen spectrum are paints with gloss or high gloss sheen. Being very reflective, gloss paints tend to highlight imperfections in walls and woodwork. But they are especially tough, durable, and stain-resistant. They are much easier to clean than paints with less gloss.


Zimmer advises that high gloss finishes are ideal for use on windows and trim, children’s rooms, and playrooms. And since they have better resistance to mildew, they also are a great choice for bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms.


Paints with semi-gloss sheen are a smart compromise between the two sheen extremes, providing some of the benefits of each. Since they are not as highly reflective as gloss paints, they won’t show surface imperfections quite as much; yet they still offer good stain resistance and are easy to clean.


“Semi-gloss paints are extremely versatile, working well on windows and doors, trim, even cabinets,” says Zimmer. “They can even be used on the walls of kitchens and baths, and various surfaces in children’s rooms and playrooms.”


Most lines of paint have at least a couple more sheen levels from which to choose. The descriptions vary, with eggshell, satin, and low luster sheen being the most common. The best way to think of these sheen levels is in terms of their performance: Being less “shiny” than either gloss or semi-gloss paints, they won’t highlight nicks and surface imperfections quite as much, but since they have at least a little gloss, they’ll be easier to clean than flat paints.


Where to use eggshell, satin and low luster paints? According to Zimmer, paints in these sheen levels pretty much have the run of the house, working well just about anywhere you need the blend of performance attributes they offer.


At first glance, it may seem confusing having to choose from so many sheen levels. But once you understand what each has to offer, you’ll appreciate the luxury of being able to “calibrate” the exact combination of paint attributes you want in every part of your home.