Do-it-yourselfers often spend hours choosing the perfect paint colors, but frequently give far less thought to the sheen they’ll use. That can be very short sighted, since paint sheen affects both the initial appearance of a paint job and its long-term performance.
Top paint brands typically come in as many as six different levels of sheen, which is basically a measure of the reflectivity of the finish. Flat paint is the least reflective, followed by increasingly “shiny” options like matte, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss and – shiniest of all – gloss or high gloss paint.
If your walls are in pristine condition, it’s fine to choose any level of sheen your eye desires. But if they are in any way rough or uneven, be aware that paint with higher sheen will make the defects more apparent, while a coating having less sheen will help conceal these imperfections.
Sticking with aesthetics, keep in mind that paints in higher sheen levels do a better job of reflecting light, rather than absorbing it. So, if you want to brighten your interior without putting a charge into your electric bill, consider using wall paint that is on the glossier side.
There are other aspects of paint sheen that may not be apparent on day one, but that may affect the appearance – and performance – of your paint job years later.
Paints with higher sheen levels are more durable than flat or matte paints. They are tougher, more mildew resistant, and more stain-resistant, so they’ll hold up better over time. As a result, if the room you’re painting gets heavy use, you’d be wise to apply paint from the glossier side of the spectrum.
Glossier paints are also easier to clean when they become soiled. High gloss and semi-gloss paints, in particular, will easily give up fingerprints and other common stains with some light scrubbing. So, they’re ideal for use not just on walls, but on windows, doors and baseboards, too.
Given these helpful characteristics, it’s smart to use semi-gloss or even high gloss paint in kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry areas, as well as rooms frequented by guests, children, or pets. But parts of your home that are subject to little wear and wear, such as entranceways or spare bedrooms, will likely hold up beautifully even with flat or low-sheen paint.
What’s the main takeaway? When the salesperson at the paint store asks which level of sheen you’d prefer, take time to reflect on your needs. In more ways than one, the sheen level of your paint is every bit as important as the color.