Paint Sheen Differences and Where They Fit into Your Design

White bedroom

If you’re planning a home remodel or addition, you have probably thought about your color options (probably the top Sherwin-Williams paint colors.) You might even have color patches taped to the walls to compare different shades. 

But have you decided what level of gloss and sheen you want?

Paint sheen differences can impact light levels, texture, durability, cost, and aesthetics. Don’t pick a can of paint without looking at the different options and deciding whether they work with the look you hope to achieve. 

Research the effect of sheen, look at different paint samples, and get expert help when you need it.

Comparing Paint Finishes and Sheen

Bathroom with blue and white walls

Sheen is similar to gloss in its relationship to how the paint reflects and scatters light. All paints, except for totally black paints, reflect some light. The reflection of different wavelengths of light determines the paint color.

Some paints have a smooth, polished surface that reflects light sources. These high-gloss paint finishes can sometimes reflect a faint image like a mirror. Since glossier paints do not scatter light as much, they allow more light to reach your eye without bouncing around the room, enhancing the light level.

Glossy paints behave more like mirrors in their ability to reflect light at sharp angles, ranging from 20 to 60 degrees.

Matte and low-gloss paints do not reflect light as intensely as glossy paints but show a more subtle property called sheen. Paint sheen differences give some hues a brighter look than matte paints without being shiny.

You have many options for the sheen of your paint. In many cases, there is no simple “best” answer. Take a look at the options below to see what different sheens of paint there are and where they can work in homes.

Flat or Ultra-Matte Paint

White painted ceiling

Flat paints scatter light in a way that does not produce any sheen. The lack of shine means that minor scratches don’t draw as much attention. Unfortunately, they are less durable than other finishes. 

The rougher surface of a flat finish means that you risk damaging the paint finish if you try to wipe or scrub off stains. If you plan to use flat paints, protect them from pets and people to ensure they last.

Ultra-matte paint is a suitable choice for painting ceilings because most people don’t need shiny ceilings, and ceilings very rarely pick up stains and fingerprints. Since bathrooms have a high humidity and temperature environment, we recommend knowing how to choose the best bathroom ceiling paint.

Matte Paint

Formal dining room

Matte paints are low-sheen paints that are a bit smoother than flat paints.

They have a stylish, subdued feel that works well for dining rooms and other formal locations. You will love it in a parlor or a living room that showcases photos, heirlooms, and antique furniture. 

Matte paint gives you a subtle, understated look that should last because few people will be touching the walls.

Eggshell Sheen

Painted bathroom walls

Eggshell sheen, like its namesake, is smooth and reflects light without being shiny. Eggshell paints can reveal scratches or imperfections in the paint job. Consider how a slight crack on an eggshell shows up against the white of the shell material.

Eggshell paints are ideal for walls in rooms that have high traffic, such as:

  • Active dining rooms
  • Busy living rooms
  • Bathrooms (which have their own best paint)
  • Dens or media rooms

Satin Sheen

Places where satin sheen paints work best

Satin sheen gives you the most sheen in the low-gloss paint category.

Satin is an appropriate paint choice for parts of the room that are the most vulnerable to stains, such as molding, door frames, and cabinets. Satin paint might also be a good choice for hallway walls since it is easier to clean fingerprints off the smoother paint surface.

Be cautious when painting surfaces with satin paints because surface imperfections show more readily with higher-sheen paints. Accuracy is always crucial when painting, but it is even more so with satin paints.

Glossy Paints

Painted crown molding

Glossy paints and high-gloss paints have the highest level of sheen.

They are appropriate for exterior paint jobs, but a polished surface can be overwhelming in many indoor contexts. For the same reasons as satin finishes, many designers use high-gloss paints for parts of the house that are more likely to suffer scratches, such as door frames and molding.

Comparing the Cost of Different Paint Sheens

Paint sheen differences also include their cost. In general, flat paint is less expensive, and increasing the level of sheen for a gallon of paint can add a few dollars to the cost. If you need to add another coat of paint later when stains become unmanageable, you might spend more than if you choose glossy finishes.  

How Sheens Reinforce Your Home Décor

Painted den

Finding the right sheen is a substantial contribution to the overall design scheme. The psychological effect of the paint’s finish depends on the context. Shiny surfaces can seem modern and sleek in some designs and suggest youthful energy in others.

Talk to an interior designer to explore how paint sheen differences, lighting levels, window treatments, the texture of other design elements, and issues such as glare influence the effect of your paint choices. They can help you identify the perfect marriage of aesthetics and practicality.

Which Paint Sheens Work Better as Interior Paint?

Interior paints do not usually need to be as durable as exterior paints. The shine on high-gloss paints can distract from interior design because they reflect overhead, background, and floor light. 

Design experts recommend using flat, matte, or semi-gloss paints for interior walls. Glossy paints with high sheens work best in areas where people are more likely to touch surfaces. 

Choose the Right Paint at Rea Pro Construction

Rea Pro Construction is a thriving family business with a professional team of painters and designers. We work hard to help our customers find suitable paints for their projects. Our focus on detail and our knowledge of different paint brands make a difference in our completed projects.

It can be challenging to weigh paint sheen differences, among other factors, when choosing a style of interior paint. Make the right choices now so you can enjoy your remodeled home later. Get help from the professional painters and designers at Rea Pro Construction by filling out our contact form to arrange a consultation.