Paint Sheen Levels, Paint Selection Guide, Washable Paint Types, Kitchen and Bath Paints, Satin and Semi-Gloss Paints

The term sheen refers to the degree of shine or luster in the paint. Paint can be usually be ordered in the following levels:

  • Flat
  • Matte
  • Low-sheen/Low lustre
  • Velvet
  • Eggshell
  • Satin
  • Semi-gloss
  • Gloss
  • High gloss

The catch is sheen from one company may not match the sheen from another… even when they are labeled similarly. It can be tricky to select the right one for your project, so here are some helpful guidelines:

When selecting paint, always ask to see the sheen chart, which is something every paint store will have on hand. Some paints are only offered in a few levels, while other lines come in a vast array of options.

Kitchen, Bath and High-Traffic Areas

I recommend you stick with a bit of luster in the kitchen and the bathroom because flat paint can take on water stains. Also, if your home is bustling with children and pets, you may want to select paint with a bit of shine, which makes it easier to clean.

For these higher traffic areas, I recommend a washable flat, low-sheen, velvet, eggshell or satin sheen.  The lower the shine, the better it will look, so ask your painter or the paint store which is the lowest sheen up from flat in the product line you have chosen. Many times, it will be satin or eggshell.

Flat is Beautiful

A flat sheen will always minimize the imperfections inherent in any surface, which makes flat ideal for most walls other than kitchen and bath.  If your lifestyle is such that you don’t expect a lot of clean up on the walls, I recommend a flat sheen for the most beautiful finish.

Semi-Gloss Shows Everything – Proceed with Caution

I never recommend using a semi-gloss for walls, even in a bathroom, because high sheen results in more light reflection and that means greater visibility for any imperfections on the wall.

Trim with Satin

For woodwork or trim, I prefer a satin sheen. Because baseboards and trim tend to take some abuse, satin enamel won’t accentuate the imperfections but will allow for easy clean-up because it dries to a hard surface. Important: NEVER use wall paint on woodwork. If the woodwork is in exceptional condition, then a semi-gloss can be a suitable choice as well.

So, now you’ve got the scoop on sheen.

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