There is a lot that goes into picking paint for your home.  It’s more than just picking a color!  Choosing a paint sheen, or finish, can be tricky.  The sheen will affect whether or not the light is absorbed or reflected.  Choosing a sheen for your specific situation is also important to ensure the durability of the paint.

There’s a basic rule of thumb to follow when choosing paint sheens for your home: the higher the sheen, the higher the shine — and the higher the shine, the more durable it will be.

In brief, flat paint has no shine; high-gloss is all shine. The sheens inbetween are eggshell, satin, and semi-gloss, each of them with their own characteristics for your needs.

Here’s an overview of each paint finish for you to decide which is best for each area of your home.

Flat and Matte

This paint sheen has the most pigment and will provide the most coverage, which equals time and money savings.  However, the downside is the inability to clean without taking the paint off.  Flat paint has a non-reflective finish and matte has a very low glow.  These two paint sheens are the least resistant to stains.

  • Where to apply: adult bedrooms and other interior rooms that won’t be roughed up by kids.  Places where there is very little wear and tear on the wall.
  • Durability: medium-low


Between satin and flat on the look and durability scale is eggshell.  Its name says it all, as it is essentially a flat (no-shine) finish with little glow, like an egg.  Eggshell covers wall imperfections quite well and is a great finish for gathering spaces that don’t get a lot of activity.

  • Where to apply: dining rooms, formal living rooms
  • Durability: medium

carnival painting interior painting review


Satin has a nice shine that is often described as velvety.  Satin is a noticeably shinier than eggshell.  A satin finish is more durable and are a great choice for areas with lots of acitivy and potential for minor wall wear.  It’s easy to clean, making it excellent for high-traffic areas.  The downside to satin is the touch-ups later can be tricky.

  • Where to apply: family rooms, foyers, hallways, dining rooms, kids’ bedrooms
  • Durability: high


Semigloss is the finish with the highest sheen. Semi-gloss’s extra sheen may change how your paint color looks on the wall.  Unlike the finishes listed above, this finish will reflect light.  The less durable and sheen finishes will absorb it.  Semi-gloss is also more durable than the other paint types and is easier to clean.  Semi-gloss finishes are good for rooms where moisture, drips, and grease stains are bound to happen.  It is also great for trim that takes a beating.

  • Where to apply: kitchens, bathrooms, trim, chair rails and walls where you don’t mind the shine.
  • Durability: high

High Gloss

High gloss is the most durable and easiest to clean of all paint sheens. It is an ideal choice for an area that sticky fingers touch.  This paint type is hard, ultra-shiny, and actually reflects light.  It is ideal to pick this finish when you are choosing deep, jewel-toned colors such as reds, forest greens and navy blues.  With this high sheen, the colors will appear more vivid and rich.

  • Where to apply: kitchens, doors, wood surfaces, and window trim
  • Durability: very high

Extra Tips

Paint color does come into play when picking a sheen.  If your paint color is dark and rich but you don’t want a super shiny effect, step down at least one level on the sheen scale.  This is because the darker and richer the paint color is, the more colorant it has, which boosts the sheen.  Do the same if you’re painting a large, sun-washed, or imperfect wall.  The higher the sheen, the more imperfections will display.