When deciding on paint for a room, there are many things to consider. First and foremost, the color! This often ends up being the most time-consuming part of a paint choice. Depending on what kind of project you have, the question of whether oil or latex paint is better for it may come up as well. But there is another consideration that can dramatically change the way a painting project looks: how glossy or matte do you want the paint for your project to be?
Types of interior paint
There are a variety of gloss levels for most types of interior paint. Traditionally, these are (ranging from the most matte to the most glossy) Flat, Eggshell, Satin, Semi Gloss, and Gloss. The range of sheen options is created by the ratio of the pigment in a paint to its binder. The pigment in a paint is solid and powdery, and paints with a higher percentage of pigment have less sheen to them. In contrast, the more resinous binder a paint has, the glossier it will be. Not every finish is going to give the best result for every project.
Flat & Gloss Paints
Flat paints are good for hiding flaws in an uneven surface, and are also great choices for projects like ceilings. They don’t hold up to a great deal of cleaning or scrubbing, though, so it’s best to use them for very low-traffic areas. Gloss paints are on the opposite end of the spectrum. They reflect the most light and have the highest sheen of the range, making them a good choice for a dark space. Gloss is a great choice for trim, cabinets, doors, and other areas that require more cleaning, as they are also the most resilient in the face of dirt. However, they also show every little bump and imperfection in a surface, so it would probably not be the best choice for a project such as an old pockmarked wall.
And so we’re left with our friends eggshell and semi gloss. These are two of the most popular choices for interior paints, and given the extremes of the choices on either side of them, it’s easy to see why. These two paint finishes blend elements of the flat and glossy styles in different ways to provide the best option for many projects.
Eggshell is the more matte of the two, which makes it good for hiding imperfections in a surface. If you have an older wall that has been subjected to decades of doorknob slams and holes for artwork, eggshell is a good choice. While it won’t be as easy to clean as a gloss paint would be, the extra bit of binder does make it a lot easier to clean than a flat paint is. If you are painting a room that has less traffic, such as a guest room, a dining room, or formal living room, eggshell can be an excellent choice. Having more pigment in an eggshell finish also gives the color a bit of depth and richness that a glossier finish might lack. An added bonus for eggshell is that it’s generally a slightly less expensive option than higher-gloss alternatives.
Semi Gloss Paint
Semi gloss is a more durable option, and might be a better choice for a project like a bathroom or kitchen where you know things are going to be a little messier. While it may show a few more imperfections in the surface than an eggshell, it will be more forgiving than a high gloss finish. With a bit of extra work in the surface preparation before you paint, you might be able to spackle and sand away most of the problem bits if that’s a concern. A semi gloss paint is also a good idea for darker rooms, because the light will reflect on the finish more to give it a little more life. If you don’t like the super-high reflectivity of a gloss for things like cabinets, doors, or trim, semi gloss can be a good alternative for those high-traffic, high dirt areas.
If you are still unsure about the right level of sheen in your paint finish for a particular project, speak with the paint professionals at the shop where you are purchasing your paint. They may be able to speak to the finer differences between the different types and also to give you examples of each finish so that you can see precisely what sheen you are selecting.