How to Choose a Paint Finish

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Choosing a paint finish is an important consideration when selecting paint for a painting project. Regardless of whether you are sprucing up the interior or painting the exterior of your house it will have an impact on the final results. With a little bit of information, you can make an informed decision that will make you happier with the way your walls, siding or trim look, last and clean when the job is done. Here are a few things to consider.


The finish, or level of gloss of paint, has an impact on its appearance, its durability and its washability, particularly when using latex paint. Oil based paints are still available but latex paint has improved so dramatically it has become the paint of choice in most situations. The finish options are the same for oil and latex.

  • FLAT paint has no sheen and reflects very little light. It is an excellent choice for ceilings and any area where there are surface imperfections. If there are bumps and dents in the walls or siding that cannot be repaired, using a flat paint will make them less obvious. Keep in mind that you will not want to use flat paint on an interior wall that will receive a lot of wear and tear. It is not as durable nor stain resistant.

  • SATIN Finish, also called EGGSHELL, looks just like its name implies. It has a soft luster finish similar to an eggshell. A satin finish is harder, more durable and stain resistant than a flat finish. It is easier to clean and is an excellent choice for interior walls. It adds warmth to the look of a room and is a good choice for living rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms hallways and stairwells. It is also a good option for siding that does not have imperfections.

  • SEMI GLOSS paint has a higher level of sheen and luster than eggshell paints. The finish is harder, more durable and stain resistant. Semi gloss paint is most often used in high traffic areas such as bathrooms and laundry rooms and on interior and exterior wood trim and cabinets. It shows imperfections more readily than eggshell but not as much as gloss.

  • GLOSS paint is the hardest and most durable finish option. It has a high sheen and is very resistant to stain and easy to keep clean. The downside of using gloss is it does make defects in the surface much more noticeable. Gloss paints are a good choice for wood trim, doors, handrails, cabinets and furniture, floors, handrails, and stairs. It is sometimes used for walls in kitchens, bathrooms and laundry rooms.

  • Consider these three basic things when selecting the type of finish for a painting project. First, how much wear and tear will the surface you are painting receive? Secondly, what kind of look would you like to create in your decorating scheme? Do you want the warmth and richness of a satin finish or are you comfortable with the shine of a semi-gloss or gloss paint and want a more durable surface? Third, are there unsightly imperfections in the wall surface you would like to downplay? Do you have ridges or bumps that will stand out if you use a higher gloss paint?

  • As a general rule, flat or satin finishes are used on exterior siding and semi-gloss or gloss finishes are used on exterior trim. Siding that has peeled and been repainted and is not longer smooth will look better when a flat finish is used. If, however, the siding is in good shape, an eggshell finish gives a warm, rich look to siding and is more durable and resistant to the affects of the weather. The same rule applies to choosing between semi-gloss and gloss for exterior trim, the lower the sheen, the less obvious the imperfections.

  • When choosing a paint finish it comes down to finding a balance between appearance and function and which is more important in a given situation.

Tips & Warnings

  • Consider the function of the surface to be painted
  • Consider the condition of the surface to be painted
  • Consider how washable you would like it to be
  • Consider the look you are trying to achieve
  • Visit your local paint store for ideas and suggestions

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  • Photo Credit http://www.fotosearch.com/sc/CSP069/k0691753/
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