Paint Sheen Comparison & How To Choose

Paint Sheen Comparison & How To Choose

What to Consider When Choosing a Paint Sheen

There are several paint sheens to choose from when picking a paint finish that will make the rooms in the interior of your home or business look great.

Whether you’re interested in covering up cracks, smoothing over dents, emphasizing a focal point, or applying a new fresh coat, you need to weigh your options before deciding on which paint sheen is best suited for the space to be painted. However, before we begin with our paint sheen comparison let us explain what paint sheen is.

What Does Sheen Mean In Paint?

Paint sheen is how much light reflects from the surface of the paint—for example, the flatter the surface, the lower the reflection of light. As a surface becomes smoother, reflection increases, giving the surface a glossier appearance. 

There are 5 types of paint sheen starting with flat and matte. These finishes have the dullest surface, therefore will reflect little or no light as compared to the high-gloss finish which reflects the most light.

5 Types of Paint Sheens Used for Interior Painting

Flat and Matte

A flat, matte paint finish does not directly reflect light, it absorbs it; therefore, imperfections in ceilings and walls are less noticeable than other sheens. If you have a room with scratches and blemishes and even more extensive scuffs and nail holes, consider flat paint to conceal its flaws. However, applying this type of sheen can be tricky if you are not using high-quality paint. The results can have a chalky appearance.

Many builders use flat paint initially because it offers better coverage enabling the ability to apply only one coat. Also, as subcontractors come into the space and may damage the paint, flat paint is easier to go over, paint and fix than other paint sheens.

A flat, matte finish works well in low traffic areas like master bedrooms.


The eggshell finish is typically used in living rooms and dining rooms. It reflects light and leaves a low luster. Compared to a flat, matte sheen, it gives the room a softer glow. In addition, if the walls have imperfections by applying an extra coat of eggshell, these imperfections will not be as visible as they would be with satin, semi or high-gloss finishes.


Satin has some sheen, but it is a low gloss. It is a good choice for high-traffic areas and those susceptible to moisture, such as bathrooms and kitchens. Even though its sheen has a low-gloss, poorly patched cracks, holes, and divots can be seen.


Semi-gloss has a high sheen level and is even more durable than satin. Therefore, it is best used in rooms with high moisture, like a bathroom without a fan. With the high moisture level, semi-gloss will hold up better than satin while protecting the surface beneath as well. Also, if you have small children, semi-gloss enables easier cleanup of the walls in kids’ bedrooms and the playroom.

Semi-gloss is also excellent for baseboards, moldings and doors.


The higher the gloss, the higher the durability against wear, tear and moisture and the easier it becomes to clean. On the downside, its reflective properties will easily show imperfections. On the upside, it looks beautiful when applied to cabinets and doors. In addition, its bright sheen makes it a great choice when you want to make a particular section an eye-catching focal point.

What to Consider When Consulting a Residential Painting Service

High-sheen paint formulas will help polished surfaces reflect lighting from an aesthetic standpoint. Low luster or coarser paints, producing a dulled-down look, are more suited for warm-colored surfaces. The non-reflective matte paints allow furniture to blend in the background, concealing scuffs and dents on your ceilings.

Of course, you’d want the top coating to match the color of paint covering the interior of your house. So before you pick a paint sheen, you should request a color consulting painting contractor. Are you interested in brightening up the living room? Or do you own custom architectural features that you want to enhance?

Don’t forget to check each type of sheen for its durability, protection against moisture buildup, ability to resist staining and ease of cleaning.

Get Started Today

Consult Carolina Blue Painting, an experienced local residential and commercial painting service, to receive a custom quote.

To get started on your home improvement project, contact Carolina Blue today. We can assure you that we will handle your interior painting project with the utmost care. We can provide you with a free consultation and quote.