Beyond Color | All The Things You Didn’t Know & How To Choose Your Paint Sheen

If you thought choosing paint just meant selecting a color, I am here to introduce you to paint sheens and what you need to know about them.

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I remember back when we bought our first home. The biggest task was choosing which paint color to put on the walls.

I was like a kid with a new box of crayons cause I just couldn't make up my mind. Particularly with the living room.

I am a neutral girl. The most I would do was an accent wall to give a pop of color.  But even then I still played it safe.

When I first went to grab my first can of paint, after finally settling in on a color I was brought to a pause when the person behind the mixing counter said, “what finish do you need that in?”

What?  You mean I have another decision to make?

I wanted to ask my husband but he wasn’t there. And back then people weren’t as strapped to their phones as they are now. So a text could have gone unanswered for more time than I had.

So I made a best guess and rolled with it.

Luckily, I did good.

But I’m gonna give you a hand so you don't have to guess like me. And you can walk yourself in the store and sound like a painting pro.


Buying Paint Like a Pro

What are the different paint sheen options?

paint sheens at home depot

  • Flat
  • Matte
  • Satin
  • Eggshell
  • Semi-gloss
  • Gloss

What’s the difference between the sheen options?

The difference in the different paint sheens is the amount of gloss in them.

And the simple equation is this more gloss = more durable.

Lower sheens are good for hiding surface imperfections.  While higher sheens are more washable and water resistant.


Flat paints typically have a chalky finish with a matte sheen. This type of paint finish absorbs light and helps hide imperfections, making it perfect for decorative projects and refinishing furniture. Choosing a flat paint finish is also great for ceilings because the finish helps hide lap marks and small imperfections in the drywall.


The next level up on the paint finish scale is typically called eggshell. Paint with an eggshell finish is another great option for high traffic areas, offering a slightly glossier finish than chalky flat paint. Eggshell is also a wonderful option for walls in homes with children and pets because it can withstand scrubbing, making it easy to clean.


Semigloss paints reflect light, offering a bright, shiny appearance in well-lit rooms. Choose a semigloss finish on areas that are cleaned often, like bathrooms, kitchens, and doors. Paint with a semigloss finish is easy to clean and highly durable thanks to its sleek, shiny surface.


For a lovely combination of eggshell and semigloss finishes, choose a satin finish. Satin paints offer a pearl-like finish that is great at resisting mildew, dirt, and stains. Satin paint is perfect for walls in children’s rooms and baseboards that take a lot of daily wear and tear. Projects painted with a satin finish are easy to clean and can withstand mild abuse without chipping or cracking.

High Gloss

If you’re looking for paint with the truest shade, high gloss is your best bet. The higher the finish’s sheen, the more vivid your paint color will be. That makes it a great choice for painting projects using deep tones, like reds, dark greens, and navy blues. High gloss finish is a great option for wood surfaces, including trim, cabinets, and doors. But it’s a good idea to avoid using paint with a high-gloss finish on projects with visible blemishes. The shininess of the glossy finish will only make those flaws more evident after you’re finished painting.

How to choose which sheen for interior painting?

The main thing you wanna think about is how durable do you need the paint to be. How often will you need to clean it?  How much traffic will the area get?

So in spaces like kitchens where you have food splatter, spills, and dirty fingers (if you have children), you want something more durable. A kitchen would most likely have semi-gloss or gloss.

Now the other thing to consider is the shine factor because while gloss = durable, it also equals shine.

And shiny walls aren’t always gonna work everywhere. Ya dig?

Characteristics of different paint sheens

Paint finishes range from flat to high gloss, and the type of project you’re working on will determine which finish you need. Here’s how to pick the right paint finish for every project.

least shiny, doesn’t clean well, hides imperfections in walls surface

Minimal shine, while still being durable and scuff resistant

minimal shine factor, cleans a little better than flat, but may still mark up when being wiped, hides some imperfections in wall surfaces

some sheen, washable (with a wet rag) but wouldn’t recommend scrubbing or using cleaning agents on it

subtle shine, scrubbable, resists moisture

high shine, scrubbable and pretty stain resistant, durable against moisture

Suggested paint sheens by room


Living rooms

Hallways, adult bedrooms

Bathrooms, children’s bedrooms, laundry rooms, hallways

Trim and woodwork, children’s play areas, doors window sills

Kitchens, doors

paint sheen by room

Painting a room or a piece of furniture requires you to make a few different decisions before you start your project.

First, you’ll need to pick the perfect color for your painting project.

Then, it’s time to pick the finish.

And in a nutshell, that’s it.  That is everything you need to know to go to your local hardware store and pick out your next paint color and sheen like a pro.

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