Best Paint Finish For Kitchens

Paint finish in small bucket next to paint brush on marbled kitchen counter

The Spruce / Ana Cadena

Choosing the right kind of paint for a kitchen is especially important because of the nature of the space and how it is used. In addition to the need to choose a paint that you'll love, paint finish is critical. Paint finish, or paint sheen, helps to determine the look of the kitchen, as well as its cleanability factor.

What Paint Finish Is

Paints for interior walls and woodwork come in several different finishes or sheens. Finish or sheen refers to the level of shininess or glossiness that is evident in the coat of paint when it is dried.

Each paint manufacturer has its terminology and means of categorizing the various sheen levels. Many manufacturers use a five-level classification to indicate the levels of shininess:

The Different Types of Paint Finishes

The Spruce / Brianna Gilmartin

Elements That Determine Paint Finish

Technically, paint finish or sheen levels are identified by the amount of light they reflect, and this is determined by the paint's chemistry.

Shinier, high-gloss paints contain relatively high levels of resins and binders that create a shiny, smooth, hard finish that reflects a lot of light. Paints with a higher ratio of pigments will be flatter in sheen and more susceptible to wear.

Because glossier paints contain less pigment and more binder, you may find it necessary to cover walls and woodwork with two or even three layers of paint to get complete coverage.

For many homeowners, this is a price well worth paying in a kitchen, where spills and splatters and other forms of heavy use will certainly mean that you'll need to scrub the walls from time to time. 

Differences Between Paint Sheens

Generally, paint manufacturers describe their different paint sheens in these terms:

Flat or Matte Paint Finish

A flat or matte paint provides a smooth, subtle and almost velvety finish that camouflages imperfections. Flat or matte is ideal for low-traffic areas.

Flat paints diffuse light but tend to hold dirt and are more difficult to clean. The paint layer can be worn off with even minor scrubbing. Flat or matte paints are best suited for ceilings and walls in low-use rooms. Because flat or matte paint absorbs rather than reflects light, flat paints tend to hide wall imperfections. 

Tip

Milk paint and chalk-style paints are flat or matte paints. But they usually receive a top coating of wax or polyurethane, giving them a satin or semi-gloss finish.

Eggshell Paint Finish

An eggshell paint is a low-luster finish with similar merits to flat or matte paints. Eggshell paints are slightly more scrubbable than flat paints. An eggshell paint finish is suited for ceilings and walls in rooms that receive low to moderate wear. 

Satin Paint Finish

A satin paint finish or sheen provides a versatile, elegant look that is perfect for more active rooms. A satin finish is an ideal multi-purpose paint for all walls in homes with children. It is a common choice for kitchen and bathroom walls. 

Semi-Gloss Paint Finish

A semi-gloss paint finish can be scrubbed clean easily and has a sheen that reflects light. It can be used for high-traffic walls, such as found in hallways, and for woodwork. Though more often used for woodwork, semi-gloss is a viable choice for walls in high-use areas such as kitchens and bathrooms. 

Tip

Semi-gloss paints may be easier to clean or wipe down than paints with more matte finishes, but this gloss can also highlight blemishes or defects in the surface of the wall—not ideal in older homes with walls that have been patched often.

Gloss (High-Gloss) Paint Finish

Gloss or high-gloss is a very shiny finish that is ideal for rooms where frequent washing is likely. Not often used on walls, this finish is sometimes chosen for woodwork, since it survives frequent and heavy washing without any wear. Some homeowners find gloss or high-gloss to be too shiny and industrial for use on walls. The extreme shininess can also expose flaws in walls. 

Best Paint Finish For Kitchens

Most people find that satin or semi-gloss paint works the best in kitchens. A common scheme is to use satin paint on walls, with semi-gloss paint used on any cabinets or woodwork that are also painted.

Backsplash areas may benefit from semi-gloss or even high-gloss paint since they are likely to be scrubbed with some regularity. 

Flat or matte paints in high-impact areas are difficult to clean. Often, the best way to clean a flat or matte paint finish is to repaint it. While this can be done quite easily with flat paint since it blends well, it's not a viable option when used frequently. Some paint manufacturers offer scrubbable flat or matte paint.