Interior paint finishes how to pick a paint finish
Choosing the right interior paint finish for your home
Interior Eggshell Paint For Modern House

Interior Eggshell Paint For Modern House Interior Eggshell Paint For Modern House
  • Kitchen
  • Doors
  • Family room
  • Playroom
  • Dining room
  • Laundry room
  • Woodwork, trim
  • Children’s bedroom
  • have some reflectivity
  • offer improved durability
  • are frequently used in demanding environments, like kitchens and bathrooms, where easy cleanup without a highly glossy finish is desired

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Finally, we have gloss (also known as high-gloss) paint. The shiny, reflective surface of this paint makes it a good choice for window and door trim or furniture. However, if you want to really bring a glamorous aesthetic into your interiors, don’t be afraid to go big and put a coat or two on your walls.

Unsure which paint is best for your project? Don’t skip the research. The type of paint you choose is just as important as the color, and can have a major effect on the character of your room and the vibe you want to achieve. Read on to learn more about each type of paint — and potentially prevent a time- and money-consuming mistake.

When working with paint, the finish you choose is almost as important as the color. Sheen has a direct impact on how a shade looks, how easy it is to clean and how well it hides imperfections on your walls. With that in mind, it’s crucial to know your options for paint finishes before you get started. Read on to get a sense of the different paint finishes that are available, as well as how to use them.

For those instances when an oil-based paint would traditionally be preferable, but you desire a water-based product, a number of companies have introduced “waterborne enamels” or “waterborne alkyds.” These paints look and behave much like oil-based options because they have good leveling qualities for a smooth finish.

As the name suggests, matte-enamel paint is very similar to matte. Just like the option above, it comes with a flat finish and little-to-no shine. However, this finish comes with one more added benefit. The chemical makeup of matte-enamel paint has been altered slightly so that a bit of film forms on the surface as it dries, making it easier to clean.

After flipping through numerous fan decks, comparing strips of paint chips, and applying test swatch after test swatch, you’ve finally decided on the perfect paint color. But before you grab the drop cloths, painter’s tape, and rollers, hold up. The decisions don’t stop there—you’ll also need to consider the paint finish. We know, you forgot until just now. But finding the right paint finish is just as important as finding the right color.

  • Dining room
  • Family room
  • Bedroom
  • Kitchen
  • Living room
  • Woodwork, trim
  • Entryway
  • Halls

Use gloss paint to make a style statement. Image: Archer & Buchanan Architecture, Ltd.

Choosing the Right Interior Paint Finish for Your Home From Flat to High-Gloss

The extra durability of matte-enamel paint makes it an especially good fit for high-traffic areas like kitchens and bathrooms. If you’re looking for these paints at a local home improvement store, they will most likely be labeled as “washable,” owing to the fact that they’ll stand up to a light scrubbing with mild soap and water.

The next step up from eggshell, stain paint is well-liked because it gives off a warm, almost velvety feel once it’s applied. It’s a particularly good choice for framing elements like doorways, trim and moldings. However, its durability also makes it a good choice for high-traffic areas like hallways, kitchens and bathrooms.

  • Furniture
  • Cabinets
  • Trim

Providing a simple smooth appearance, flat paint is Henderson’s go-to. “Because it doesn’t reflect light directly, imperfections in walls and ceilings are much less noticeable,” Moran says. Flat paint works best in low-traffic areas, such as the master bedroom, a study, or a formal living room. “Be careful if you are someone like me who is constantly moving furniture around or has children with particularly grubby fingers—flat doesn’t clean up quite as easily,” Henderson says.

A matte finish is the most common type for interior walls. Image: Martha O’Hara Interiors

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Matte-enamel paint has a matte finish but is much more durable than normal matte paint finishes. Image: Fisher & Paykel

  • High-gloss looks: Rather than choosing a high-gloss paint for a whole room, use it sparingly in select locations, such as doors and trim. The brilliant surface can appear a bit cold and uninviting. Remember to spend extra time preparing the surfaces to be painted glossy, as this finish tends to really point out any surface imperfections.
  • Kid-friendly finishes: When painting children’s rooms, many painters recommend using an eggshell or satin paint on the walls and semi-gloss for doors and moldings. These finishes are formulated to better withstand repeated cleanings.
  • Cleanability and durability: While most manufacturers have developed all paint finishes with good cleaning qualities, a general rule is that the shinier the paint finish, the better it will stand up to washing and cleaning.
  • Rustic looks: In order to give a worn or old look, use flat finish paints for walls or furniture. If cleanability is an issue, you might select a flat enamel for trim or an eggshell finish for walls.
  • Ceiling color: If you’re looking for a basic white ceiling, you can buy pre-mixed, matte finish paints off the shelf at almost any paint or home improvement store. Of course, if you’re looking for something a bit more colorful, it’s always fun to think outside the box and do something unexpected with your ceiling. Colorful ceilings not only add a unique visual element to the space, they can even increase the apparent size of a room by making their ceilings feel higher. 
  • Eggshell: If you can picture the very low sheen of the shell of an egg, you have an idea of how an eggshell paint finish will appear. With only a slight hint of shine or gloss, it’s good for most walls and holds up better to cleaning than a flat finish or flat enamel paint. Eggshell finishes are an extremely popular choice for walls in family homes, as they combine good washability with the ability to hide flaws. 
  • Flat enamel (matte): Flat enamel is a paint with a durable flat, matte finish, but its chemistry is such that it forms a slight film as it dries. It’s an acceptable choice for powder rooms or guest bedrooms, as it holds up to occasional cleaning. Some manufacturers market this as “matte” paint to distinguish it from their flat finish paints.
  • Satin: Satin finish paint has a smooth, velvety look with a bit more gloss. It is most often used for windows, doors, trim, or ceilings, but it can also be used as wall paint. This is particularly suitable for kids’ room walls, kitchens, or bathrooms, or in areas which get a lot of traffic. Paint with a satin finish is formulated to hold up to cleaning and light scrubbing.

Eggshell and satin paint (satin is slightly glossier than eggshell):

There are pros and cons to each option, but considering all of them before picking up a brush will help save you time and money in the long run. To help you find the perfect finish for every space, we turned to two industry experts to break them down for us: interior designer Emily Henderson and the Home Depot’s divisional merchandising manager for paint, Kate Moran. Here’s what they had to say.

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Your Ultimate Guide to Paint Finishes: What Type Is Best for Your Walls?

Which paint finishes do you prefer in your home? Do you have any tips on how to apply them correctly? Let us know in the comments.

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  • Trim, moldings
  • Bathroom
  • Cabinets
  • Doors
  • Kitchen

All paint finishes are available in both latex and oil-based (alkyd) paints. For most people, latex paints are the better choice since they offer easy cleanup and lower levels of unpleasant (and unhealthy) fumes than oil-based paints.

Finally, it is important to remember that the paint you choose is only as good as the quality of the tools you paint with. Although you may think rollers or brushes are a good place to save money, using high-quality tools will help you achieve the best look.

Again, semi-gloss finishes are a good choice for any rooms with walls that need to be frequently cleaned (heads up, parents with kids who like to draw on the walls). The shine of semi-gloss also makes it a perfect fit for any individual design elements that you want to emphasize. Consider using it for things like kitchen cabinets, fireplace mantels or banisters.

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“Eggshell, or low-luster, finishes are so named because the slight sheen they provide is similar in appearance to the surface of an egg,” Moran says. Unlike flat paint, eggshell bounces light around the room while resisting the inevitable stains and scuffs of everyday life. Select a satin finish for a slightly more reflective look. Satin also offers more durability, making it a great finish for family rooms, hallways, and kids’ spaces.

If this paint has one downside, it’s that the finish begins to show cracks and other imperfections in the wall over time. Make sure you patch up your walls before using this type of paint. Additionally, always work your brush in the same direction to avoid creating lines as the paint dries.

Sue Kim, color trend and forecast specialist at Valspar, recommends trying an accent wall with a gloss sheen, while painting the rest of a room matte. But at the end of the day, “It’s all about how you want to set the atmosphere of your home,” she says. “A matte sheen gives you a calm and serene feeling, because of that textural element.” On the other end of the spectrum, gloss adds energy and excitement. Remember that darker and richer colors have a naturally higher sheen (due to increased colorant), so you may want to consider a lower sheen when using a darker paint color.

Although homeowners are usually content to know that flat paint doesn’t reflect much light and that high-gloss paint reflects a lot, the industrial paint industry actually has fairly precise standards for how to categorize different paint finishes, based on how much light they reflect.

  • great for kitchens, doors, window trim, accent walls, and bathrooms
  • are traditionally used on baseboards, moldings, and doors
  • can make a statement, but also highlight imperfections
  • are highly durable and stand up to multiple cleanings
  • are the most reflective sheens

The upside to a satin finish is that it is very easy to clean and it resists chipping and peeling fairly well. The downside is that it’s often possible to see individual brushstrokes. In this case, touch-up painting is no longer an option.

Oil-based paint can be used on almost all surfaces, and is praised for its high durability and rich finish. Still, be cautious, as oil paint emits strong fumes that can be overwhelming, and the paint cannot be washed with water. If you choose oil paint, solvents like turpentine are necessary for washing brushes or other materials with unwanted paint on them.

  • Semi-gloss: Semi-gloss paint is most often used on doors, trim, and cabinets in kitchens and bathrooms. It is easily cleaned and lays down a nice, subtle shine, without being too glitzy. Take care with pre-paint preparation work, as poorly prepared surfaces can be a bit distracting when highlighted by a semi-gloss surface that reflects light.
  • Glossy (High-gloss): High-gloss paints have an almost reflective quality, as their shiny finish mimics the look of enamel or plastic. Though not widely used in home interiors, it is becoming more popular for a dramatic look on cabinets, trim, and furniture in very formal and very contemporary settings. This finish will magnify any surface imperfections, so careful preparation and sanding are essential before painting with high gloss paints.

Semi-gloss paint is similar to satin. However, the extra sheen guarantees that more light bounces off, making the shade you choose appear darker than it would with a satin finish.

Even after you’ve chosen the perfect color for a room, there’s another very important decision to make: the finish. With five or six different paint finishes to choose from, there are a lot of options, even within a single color, and with them comes a number of questions you’ll need to answer. The best advice is to learn the uses and benefits of each finish and determine the right one for your job.

Each paint finish has advantages for different applications:

  • Adult bedroom
  • Ceiling
  • Formal living room
  • Halls
  • Dining room
  • Family room

The majority of wall paint sold today is water-based, primarily because of its ease of use. If your surface has been previously coated with an oil-based product, be cautious when switching to water-based paint as it may have trouble sticking. In this situation, Sherwin-Williams recommends washing the surface and then roughening it all over with a medium to smooth grit sandpaper—making it clean, dry, and dull in order to prevent peeling of the new coat.

  • helps hides imperfections in walls and ceilings
  • has a velvety texture
  • can sometimes be difficult to clean
  • is the least reflective sheen available
  • offers great depth of color
  • is generally considered the standard sheen for walls

Satin paints have a more of a shine to them than eggshell finishes. Image: Hilderbrand Interiors

While in the broader residential paint industry there are six different levels of paint finish, be aware that not all paint manufacturers offer all six. And they may have slightly different terminology for the same finish.

As for eggshell and satin, Kim likes to use them in smaller spaces with little natural light. “I always say a satin finish is great in a powder room,” she says. “It reflects the light to bring out the color.” Eggshell is also great for covering wall imperfections, and is scuff resistant.

  • Kitchens and baths: Any room that will be exposed to water, splashing, or steam is best painted with a semi-gloss paint. A guest bath or powder room, which have​ a less frequent use, could be painted with lower-gloss paint, such as satin or eggshell finish.
  • Ceiling finishes: Ceilings in most rooms are painted with a flat finish paint. You could also select an eggshell finish if the surface of the ceiling is flawless. Choose a glossier finish for good light reflection, but only if the ceiling is newly resurfaced and has no blemishes at all. Lastly, because cleaning and repainting your ceilings are probably not very easy to do, look for a high premium paint that will wear well and not crack. 

Another benefit of matte paint is that it is very good at hiding imperfections like chips or cracks in the walls. For this reason, it’s particularly well-suited for use in older homes, which may have experienced wear and tear over time. On the other hand, the flatness of this paint makes it very hard to clean off handprints and other marks. In fact, it’s often easier just to touch up with another spot of paint, so make sure to keep some on hand if you decide to go this route.

Finishes may go by different names depending on the paint brand, but there are basically three standard types: Flat/matte, eggshell/satin, and semigloss/high-gloss, which is sometimes referred to as pearl. Each finish has a different level of shine and reflects light differently. You might be tempted to grab some eggshell and call it a day, but choosing the correct finish can make a big difference in the look of your space and, maybe more important, how easy it is to clean. Some finishes are also better suited for certain high-traffic areas or rooms frequented by youngsters, such as entryways, hallways, family rooms, and kids’ bedrooms. There are also finishes that are more labor-intensive, such as high- and semigloss, which require multiple coats to achieve their ultra-shiny look.

Semi-gloss paint is great for trim work. Image: Jerry Jacobs Design, Inc.

Paint glossiness is determined by the chemistry of the paint. Paints that are “high-gloss” have a larger ratio of resins and less pigment volume concentration (PVC). Flat paints, on the other hand, have a much larger ratio of pigments and a lower ratio of resins. This explains why painting with glossier paints often requires a second, or even third coat, while flatter paints may cover adequately with a single coat.

  • attractive gloss
  • good “leveling” (brush strokes fill themselves in to create a smooth finish)
  • longer dry time (good for making fixes)
  • good for high-moisture rooms (ex. bathroom or kitchen)
  • hard, durable finish

You can start with the qualities you need in a paint and choose the best interior paint finish for that purpose:

Matte paint — sometimes also called flat paint — is the most common choice for interior walls and ceilings. It’s popular because it offers little to no shine, letting your other design choices have the focus. A matte finish goes well in just about any room in your home.

Eggshell paint is a midpoint between a matte and a gloss. Image: RS Myers Company

For example, one manufacturer’s “glossy” paint may be the same as another’s “hi-gloss enamel.” 

“For those of you needing a bit of glam in your life, high-gloss could be for you,” Henderson says. Bright and shiny, these finishes are super chic, but they do reveal any and every errant brushstroke or flaw on your walls. Henderson recommends hiring a pro for this reason, and if you’re not ready to commit to a whole space, Moran suggests using these finishes to highlight smaller details, such as trim, railings, shutters, and moldings. These glossy hues are also great for giving wood furniture a new lease on life. Resistant to mildew, dirt, and stains, semigloss is also an ideal choice for busy baths and kitchens.

Paint TypeReflectionWhere to UseFlat (matte)0% to 4%Low traffic areas:

Sheen options vary by manufacturer, but share some common characteristics. As durability improves across all sheen levels with newer paints, many people are finding creative ways to mix and match them. “We’ve noticed that customers are becoming more experimental in their use of paint finish, to create real impact and texture within a scheme,” says Farrow & Ball Director Sarah Cole. “Try painting a stripe of full gloss on a matte wall in the same color to create a striking, textured look,” she suggests.

  • can be used on almost all surfaces
  • doesn’t require a pre-treatment
  • an elastic, flexible finish resistant to cracking
  • easy cleanup with water
  • low VOCs (low levels of toxic emissions)
  • no mildew growth
  • quick drying
  • stable color over time, doesn’t yellow or fade in sunlight
  • Bathroom
  • Trim, moldings
  • Utility room
  • Cabinets
  • Doors
  • Halls
  • Windows
  • Kitchen

Now we start to get into some shine. If you can picture the slight sheen on the outside of an eggshell, you have a pretty good idea of what eggshell paint is going to look like. This type of finish is great for busy family homes because the surface is very easy to clean. Yet, you don’t have to contend with the eye-catching luster that comes with some of the glossier finishes.

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