Which Paint Sheen is Right for You

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paint sheens

Nothing can change the appearance of your walls like a toddler with a permanent marker. If this has ever happened to you, you may have found yourself desperately gawking at a selection of paint colors to cover up the dastardly deed. Selecting a color is challenging enough, right? But seeking a sheen that will not only cover your decorative toddler’s current designs but help thwart future disasters too, can be a trigger for post traumatic stress syndrome. And even if you don’t have an artsy-fartsy little one spreading their unbridled talent all over your walls like I do, you might have wondered which paint sheen is right for you.

Paint sheen is an important consideration since some finishes are more durable than others. Sheen also influences how color is perceived because different sheens have different reflective abilities. There are positives and negatives to the use of all paint sheens, so our hope is to ease the anxiety that might accompany you while facing a wall of paint sheen choices.

Flat/Matte Sheen

paint sheens
Flat paint is often used on ceilings.

Flat sheen paint is the most inexpensive of the finishes. It’s non-reflective sheen increases this paint’s ability to mask imperfections. Flat paint does not hold up well when wiped or cleaned, so it’s not recommended for zoos or for homes with children and pets. Like mine. It is a good choice for low traffic areas in a less chaotic home, like bedrooms or dining rooms. Flat sheen paint is a good choice for ceilings too.


paint sheens
Eggshell is a relaxing sheen good for use in bedrooms.

Eggshell is slightly more reflective than a flat paint. It’s an appropriate finish for all walls, although it is less durable than satin sheens and glosses. Similar to a flat, it’s not one that can be easily cleaned. Eggshell is a less expensive choice for a peaceful home, like one without pets or children.


paint sheen
Even with a darker shade of paint, satin sheen reflects light well. It’s an easy paint to wipe clean in high traffic areas, like staircases.

A satin paint finish is slightly more reflective and glossy than an eggshell finish. Satins are more durable, too. It’s a good finish for walls in heavier used rooms, such as family rooms and children’s bedrooms or playrooms. Pet hair will slide off of satin finishes, whereas pet hair may stick to an eggshell sheen. When you are choosing between an eggshell or a satin, your main consideration should be the level of activity in that particular area of your home. Satin finish is only a few dollars more than an eggshell, but its durability makes it a better option for busier homes.

Semi Gloss

paint sheen
Semi gloss is a highly durable sheen.

Semi gloss is really the finish my entire home should be painted in – at least the lower 36 inches of all the walls. While its shinier and highly reflective appearance is not a personal favorite in terms of looks, its strong, washable surface makes it a winner for children and pets. It’s a great sheen to use in kitchens and bathrooms where your walls are prone to splatters, spills and regular wipe downs.


paint sheen
Glossy sheen is perfect for trim and doors.

Glossy sheen is the best choice for trim, baseboards, and interior window frames. Gloss is strong and durable. It repels dirt and hair, and it can withstand heavy cleaning. While it can be used on walls, it’s difficult to apply smoothly, and it emphasizes surface imperfections. It’s important to prepare your surface carefully before digging into a glossy paint project. Unless you’re a die-hard do-it-yourselfer, you might want to leave your glossy sheen projects to the pros. Or at least do some studying ahead of time to learn the ways of the gloss masters of the universe.

As for me and my house, we will choose a satin. And maybe a semi gloss. This is our best defense against the battles to come within the walls – and on the walls – of our home. While there’s not a sheen out there that can sustain the clean-up of a permanent marker, we’ve officially armed ourselves with a quart of color matched paint on standby in our easy to clean sheen. We hope you’re inspired to find your own perfect sheen!

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About Amy

Amy spent her early years roaming a neighbor's corn field, much to her parents' distress, and eating tomatoes like apples in her Midwest grandmother's garden. She learned to snap green beans like a machine by the tender age of four. Later, as a Colorado gal, she battled the elements and finally had success growing a celebratory rhubarb plant in a high altitude garden setting. At that point, there was no turning back. She gave in to her green thumb and, in order of priority, is currently growing vegetables, flowers, kids, and pets on the high plains south of Denver.

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