Eggshell Paint: What Is It and When to Use It?

Eggshell Paint Sheen on Living Room Wall

asbe / Getty Images

When choosing interior paint, color seems to get all of the attention and paint sheen less so. While it's true that paint colors affect the look and the mood of a room, so too does sheen. In fact, paint sheen and color register are closely related. 

Eggshell paint sheen is popular for many good reasons. It is an attractive, one-size-fits-all paint sheen that draws out the best in a paint's color. At the same time, eggshell is cleanable and somewhat resistant to wear and tear.

What Eggshell Paint Is

Eggshell is a paint sheen, or gloss, that looks and feels somewhat flat but with a slight gloss to it. Eggshell paint is between matte (or flat) and satin paint sheens.

Eggshell paint reflects more light than matte to produce a low luster. This low luster pulls out more of the paint’s color than a flat sheen and it gives the room a soft glow. Because eggshell paint has a slight gloss, it is easier to maintain than matte or flat paint.

Sheen

Sheen, or gloss, is the quality and amount of reflected light off of a surface. Higher sheens are shinier. When there is a greater proportion of resins in the paint, the paint has more sheen or gloss.

When and Why to Use Eggshell Paint

If any paint sheen can be called universal, it would be eggshell. Along with its closest sibling, satin, eggshell is the one to pick if you have to use it for the walls on nearly every interior surface. In fact, except for the ceiling, no surface is wrong for eggshell sheen paint.

Eggshell paint sheen works especially well for walls in bedrooms, living rooms, hallways, offices, and finished basements. It can even be used in higher traffic spaces such as kitchens and bathrooms or children’s rooms, though satin is a more durable choice.

Flat paint is the most popular ceiling surface as it doesn't have reflective qualities. Even so, if you'd like your ceiling to have reflective qualities, eggshell paint would be the best sheen for this.

For high-impact surfaces such as door frames and window trim, you'll get better results by using glossier paint such as semi-gloss or even high gloss. Still, if you'd like to avoid the high-gloss look on casing and trim, eggshell sheen paint would be an alternative.

Benefits of Using Eggshell Paint

Eggshell paint isn't so reflective that it shines a spotlight on surface flaws. Eggshell paint applies easily and cleans well.

Conceals Surface Flaws

Greater reflectivity in a paint sheen highlights flaws on the surface. High gloss paint shows every imperfection. The more matte the paint sheen, the better it is at hiding bumps, grooves, and pitting. The only paint that is better at hiding surface flaws than eggshell is true matte paint.

Easy Application

Lapping is a problem that occurs when applying paint. Adjacent rows begin to show because they overlap each other. The glossier the paint, the worse the problem.

Eggshell is just flat enough that lapping would be less noticeable. To prevent lapping, keep a wet edge by rolling paint from the wet to dry areas. This will produce a smooth, uniform appearance.

Greater Cleanability

One downside of matte paint is that it can only be cleaned lightly with a damp sponge. Eggshell paint has just enough gloss to it to prevent stains from soaking in. Also, burnishing is a problem with matte paint. Burnishing happens when the paint is rubbed too much and takes on a lighter color. Eggshell’s light gloss prevents or disguises burnishing.

How Eggshell Paint Differs From Satin Finish

Although satin and eggshell paints are often used interchangeably, there are some key differences that make a difference in the look and feel painting with them achieves.

Greater Matte Sheen Than Satin

Eggshell has a slightly duller sheen than satin. It is a difference that is hard to discern with the bare eye, until the two are placed next to each other. Then it becomes apparent that satin sheen has just a bit more gloss than eggshell. But how much exactly?

The painting term PVC, which stands for pigment volume concentration (not the plastic PVC), describes the ratio of color pigments in a paint to its binders.

Lower PVC numbers mean that a paint is glossier. Eggshell and satin sit side by side with their PVC numbers, satin running about 30- to 40-percent and eggshell at about 35- to 45-percent.

So, satin sheen paint is 15- to about 30-percent glossier than eggshell paint.

Lower Cost Than Satin

Many factors affect the cost of paint and sheen is one of them. Glossier paints are more expensive than flatter paints. You can feel the difference simply by lifting the cans. There are more of the solid binders in the glossier paints than in the flatter paints.

Eggshell paint is a little less expensive than satin paint. This slight difference in cost makes itself apparent when you buy multiple gallons of paint to coat many rooms or an entire house.

Slightly Less Durable Than Satin

As you move from flat paints to glossy paints, you also move the needle from less durable to more durable. More of the resinous binders in paint form a tighter seal and shell than paints with less binders.