When you make the choice to paint, whether it’s a single room or an entire building inside and out, your first thought is likely the colors you want. Of course, color is the first consideration, and picking your palette is important. However, it isn’t the only consideration. You also need to decide on the right finish.

Paint finish goes beyond whether it looks shiny or matte. The finish you choose affects how the color looks. This is due to how each finish reflects light. It also affects how the paint wears over time, and how easy it is to keep clean. Understanding your options helps you decide which finish is right for each project.

Flat Finish

Also known as matte, a flat finish absorbs light rather than reflecting it. It’s a great choice for areas with imperfections, as it helps hide them, and is a popular option for ceilings. Matte colors look deeper than other finishes, thanks to the high light absorption.

You get terrific coverage with flat paints, making them highly affordable. However, using them in areas likely to require a lot of cleaning, such as kitchens and children’s rooms, often leads to bare spots. This is because matte paints require quite a bit of scrubbing to remove stains or dirt. The best places to use flat finish paints are ceilings and areas with low humidity that are unlikely to require regular cleaning.

Eggshell Finish

The next rung of the shine ladder is an eggshell finish, which takes its name from its resemblance to the low sheen of an egg. Like flat, it’s also good at hiding blemishes, thanks to its velvety appearance, and provides excellent coverage.

Eggshell has only a hint of shine to it, giving it coverage similar to flat finish, but with the easier cleaning that comes with a bit of gloss. As a result, it’s a popular choice for both commercial and residential projects.

Though it cleans more easily than flat finish paints, it still requires a bit more effort than satin and gloss finishes. It’s an ideal choice for living spaces, adult bedrooms, and conference rooms.

Satin Finish

A bit glossier than eggshell, satin finish paints have a smooth, velvety appearance with a rich luster. They’re easy to clean, making them popular choices for high traffic areas and rooms whose walls require regular cleaning, such as children’s bedrooms, kitchens, and bathrooms. Satin finish paints are also popular choices for trim, windows, and doors.

Two cons of satin finish paints are the higher cost and the fact that they don’t hide imperfections as well as matte and eggshell finishes do. If you want your walls to have a smooth, satin appearance, you need to repair any imperfections before painting.

Semi-Gloss Finish

Slightly glossy in appearance and smooth to the touch, semi-gloss finish paints are extremely easy to clean, making them both sturdy and attractive. Even crayon wipes off easily on walls painted with semi-gloss paint.

These paints stand up well against humid conditions, making them ideal for bathrooms and kitchens. People also choose semi-gloss for painting furniture and trim, due to how easy it is to clean.

High Gloss Finish

The top rung of the sheen ladder is high gloss finish paint. These paints reflect a great deal of light and are incredibly durable, making upkeep a breeze. However, they do little to hide imperfections and, in fact, reveal them.

High gloss paints stand up well to humidity and high traffic, but are more expensive. If using them on walls, you must repair any imperfections prior to painting, since these paints reveal more than they conceal. High gloss is the ideal choice for doors, trim, windows, and chair rails.

Additional Paint Finish Tips

Before meeting with your paint contractor, compile some basic information about the areas you want painted. This is a big help in determining the type of finish to use for each area.

Provide a description of each room you want painted, including any rooms that serve dual purposes. In addition, make a note of the average traffic each room receives, and how regularly its walls require cleaning, as well as the type of cleaning. Finally, include the amount you’ve budgeted to help your contractor determine the ideal finish for your project.