Even after you've chosen the perfect color for a room, there's another very important decision to make: the finish. With 5 or 6 different paint finishes to choose from, there are a lot of options, even within a single color, and with them comes a number of questions you'll need to answer. The best thing to do is to learn the uses and benefits of each finish and determine the right one for your job.
Here's a quick primer (no pun intended!) on selecting the perfect paint finishes for your next home interior project.
The Different Types of Paint Finishes
Flat Finish: Whether called flat finish or wall paint, this type of interior paint has a matte surface. This paint finish is usually used on interior walls. It's especially good if you have to camouflage small wall bumps, cracks, or other imperfections, as this finish does not reflect light. While some flat paints are advertised as washable today, you may need to touch up scratches or marks by covering with a bit more paint, so be sure you keep some on hand after you've finished painting.
Flat Enamel: Flat enamel is a paint with a durable flat, matte finish. It's a good choice for powder rooms and halls, as it holds up to occasional cleaning.
Eggshell Finish: If you can picture the very low sheen of the shell of an egg, you have an idea of how an eggshell paint finish will appear.
With only a slight hint of shine or gloss, it's good for walls and holds up better with cleaning than a flat finish paint.
Satin Finish: Satin finish paint has a smooth, velvety look with a bit more gloss. It is most often used for windows, doors, trim, or ceilings, but can also be used as wall paint.
This is particularly suitable for kids' room walls, kitchens, or bathrooms, or in areas which get a lot of traffic. Paint with a satin finish is formulated to hold up to cleaning and light scrubbing.
Semi-Gloss: Semi-gloss paint is most often used on doors, trim, and cabinets in kitchens and bathrooms. It is easily cleaned and lays down a nice, subtle shine, without being too glitzy. Take care with pre-paint preparation work, as poorly prepared surfaces can be a bit distracting when highlighted by a semi-gloss surface.
Glossy Finish: High gloss paints have an almost reflective quality, as their shiny finish mimics the look of enamel or plastic. Though not widely used in home interiors, it is becoming more popular for a dramatic look on cabinets, trim, and furniture in very formal and very contemporary settings. This finish will magnify any surface imperfections, so careful preparation and sanding are essential before painting with high gloss paints.
Factors Consider When Selecting a Paint Finish
There are some particular application specifics that you should consider when selecting an interior paint finish.
Cleanability and Durability
While most manufacturers have developed all paint finishes with good cleaning qualities, a general rule is that the shinier the paint finish, the better it will stand up to washing and cleaning.
When painting children's rooms, many painters recommend using an eggshell or satin paint on the walls and semi-gloss for doors and moldings. These finishes are formulated to better withstand repeated cleanings.
In order to give a worn or old look, use flat finish paints for walls or furniture. If cleanability is an issue, you might select a flat enamel for trim or an eggshell finish for walls.
High Gloss Looks
Rather than choosing a high gloss paint for a whole room, use it sparingly in select locations, such as doors and trim. The brilliant surface can appear a bit cold and uninviting. Remember to spend extra time preparing the surfaces to be painted glossy, as this finish tends to really point out any surface imperfections.
If you're looking for a basic white ceiling, you can buy pre-mixed, matte finish paints off the shelf at almost any paint or home improvement store. Of course, if you're looking for something a bit more colorful, it's always fun to think outside the box and do something unexpected with your ceiling. Colorful ceilings not only add a unique visual element to the space, they can even increase the size of a room by making their ceilings feel higher.
Ceilings in most rooms are painted with a flat finish paint. You could also select an eggshell finish if the surface of the ceiling is flawless. Choose a glossier finish for good light reflection, but only if the ceiling is newly resurfaced and has no blemishes. Lastly, because cleaning and repainting your ceilings are probably not very easy to do, look for a high premium paint that will wear well and not crack.
Kitchens and Baths
Any room, such as a kitchen or bathroom, that will be exposed to water, splashing, or steam, is best painted with a semi-gloss paint. A guest bath or powder room which will have less frequent use could be painted with lower-gloss paint, such as satin or eggshell finish.