An important and often overlooked aspect of paint is its finish, also known as gloss or sheen. A paint's gloss affects how reflective and how durable its surface is, and the same color paint is often sold in several different levels of gloss. At one end of the spectrum is 'Matte’ finishes (also known as ‘flat’) and at the other is ‘Gloss’ finishes. Matte finishes reflect very little light while Gloss finishes reflect a high amount of light.
Matte finishes are also the least durable, they scuff and stain easily and do not hold up well to moisture or cleaning. The strength of Matte finishes is that their dull appearance allows them to conceal surface unevenness and application errors (such as dried brush strokes and roller marks) better than glossy finishes, whose more reflective appearence can highlight these imperfections. Glossy finishes have the advantage of being more durable and washable than matte finishes, and often times a slight sheen to paint can add an aesthetically pleasing sense of depth the surface.
Different Types of Finish
Most paints are are not entirely flat nor are they entirly glossy; they come in several levels of gloss, and although different brands offer different finishes, most are based on one of the four categories below, listed from least to most glossy.
Matte finishes (also known as flat) are the least glossy of all finishes. Their surface is porous and non-reflective. Smooth and dull in appearance, they possess a consistent color profile making them good at covering existing colors, hiding surface imperfections, and hiding imperfections in application (such as brush strokes). Their porous surface makes them susceptible to stains, scuff marks, and moisture damage. Their delicacy also means they do not hold up well to scrubbing or cleaning products.
- Common Uses: Matte finishes are commonly used on ceilings, walls in low traffic rooms, and to cover surface imperfections.
- When to Avoid: Don’t even think about using Matte or Flat finishes in kitchens, bathrooms, kid’s rooms, laundry rooms, high traffic areas, or on trim around doors and windows.
Probably the most widely used finish; Eggshell finishes have just a touch of sheen making them more durable and resistant to scrubbing than Matte finishes. Their slightly glossy appearance also adds a sense of depth and warmth to surfaces.
- Common Uses: Both Eggshell and the slightly glossier Satin finish (discussed next) are considered well rounded finishes offering durability without excessive sheen. Because of this Eggshell is appropriate on virtually all interior walls, although particularly high traffic areas which require more frequent and vigorous scrubbing such as the bathroom, kitchen, trim, or kid’s room often make use of the glossier Satin or even Semi-gloss finishes.
- When to Avoid: Consider using a glossier finish for high traffic areas or areas that will be subjected to frequent or vigorous cleaning.
Like Eggshell, Satin finishes are widely used because of their durability and moderate glossy appearance. Satin tends to be glossier and more durable than Eggshell, but when comparing different brands you may find that the Eggshell of one brand offers virtually the same gloss as the Satin from another.
- Common Uses: Satin finishes are typically used in bathrooms, kitchens, kid’s rooms, and on trim.
- When to Avoid: Like Eggshell, Satin is appropriate for most applications; however, some may prefer the less glossy Eggshell for interior walls, or the glossier ‘Semi-Gloss’ for high traffic areas or trim.
Semi-Gloss finishes offer, you guessed it, even more durability and more gloss than Matte, Eggshell, and Satin finishes. Semi-gloss is generally considered to be too glossy for general application and is reserved for kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and other high traffic areas.
- Common Uses: If used at all, semi-gloss paint is applied almost exclusively to bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, or other areas which have heavy traffic, exposure to moisture, or might require frequent and vigorous cleaning.
- When to Avoid: Semi-gloss is generally considered too glossy for use outside of the bathroom and kitchen; too much gloss reveals surface imperfections and can give walls an inconsistent color appearance.
Gloss is the least used of all finishes, used so rarely in interior painting that many brands do not even carry an interior gloss finish paint. Extremely durable and stain resistant, gloss paints will dry to an almost laminated look.
- Common Uses: None, but sometimes used for artistic embellishment on cabinets or trim.
- When to Avoid: Gloss finishes are generally not used for interior painting