Paint Finishes - 4 Best Sheens To Use On Walls, Ceilings, Trim, Bathrooms, Kitchens, Etc.

Published: 25th March 2009
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For those of you who are reading this article right now on how to find out more about paint finishes congratulations. You are a cut above the rest of the crowd who think eggshell is a color.

Before becoming a house painter, I was just about as naive as everyone else when it came to sheen levels. So I thought this article might be of help to you in deciding exactly, which paint finish or sheen you should use on various parts of your house. I hope this information will help give you some fresh new ideas.

Flat Finish' Great for ceilings if it's a true flat. Most flats are not a true flat and will cause streaking which is noticeable on ceilings. Because of the wash ability factor of some paints, many paint manufactures add a bit of sheen to the mix, not giving you a true flat.

The old alkyd flat paint finishes were durable, smooth and highly washable but alkyd or oil base paint is just about a thing of the past due to government restrictions on V.O.C. levels in paint.

You can buy regular ceiling paint, which is a true flat. So I suggest using that. The only exceptions would be kitchens and bathrooms. It's best to use something washable on these ceilings like an eggshell or Matt finish.

Matt Finish - this sheen is ideal for walls. Some of the newer lines of Matt finishes have micro ceramic bead technology in the paint giving them the appearance of a true flat, yet the smoothness and the scrub resistance of an alkyd flat. Most of the cheaper lines of latex wall paint will leave burnish marks if you go to scrub on them.

Matt is very architectural looking as well as washable for fingerprints or smudges. I like to use it in bathrooms for the walls and the ceiling as well. In other rooms I use it just on the walls and use a dead flat ceiling paint on the ceiling.

Eggshell Finish - This sheen is used a lot for walls, hallways, kitchens and bathrooms. Because of the angular sheen level you get a better more washable surface in a latex formula. I used to use eggshell before the newer ceramic Matt finish came along.

Satin Finish - This sheen is best used for woodwork, trim, windows and doors. Many people make the mistake of using semi-gloss. Semi-gloss is way too tacky looking. The satin finish or sheen level is what I use for woodwork and trim either in latex or oil base. It's the norm in all upper class homes.

Semi-Gloss - This was used mostly in the old days for bathrooms, kitchens, hallways, woodwork and trim. Porch floors, basement floors, etc. would be the only modern day exception. Every since I started painting homes back in 1991 I have only used semi-gloss a couple of times. It's that rare.

Gloss Finish - This sheen is common for front entryways. If you can picture seeing a large white front entryway complete with side windows all encased in wood as you are entering a fancy home you will see that some are done in a high gloss white. And most of the time it's alkyd or oil base formula.

As far as I'm concerned, that is about it for gloss. I did have to do some doors in a house once using high gloss for a dentist. He wanted them to look like pearly white teeth I am guessing!

That is about all there is to it for sheen levels other than for exterior painting. For outside painting I will use a low luster finish, (which is comparable to an eggshell) or a satin finish when it comes to exterior siding, trim, doors, etc. I just match the sheen level that was used before unless the customer wants something different.


Lee Cusano has owned his own successful painting business since 1991. He has also helped many others to start their own painting business with his "Paint Like a Pro Estimating and Advertising System". Lee also offers a new free report titled "How To Quit Your Day Job This Week and Double or Triple Your Income". To get it please go to

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