The Right Paint Finish for Every Space

by Rachel Lyon, Editorial Director for Direct from the Designers™

Color is just the beginning—have you thought about what paint finishes you want to use in your home? While experts have their recommendations for every room, you might opt for something else depending on your unique circumstances. Here’s what you need to know about the most common paint finishes, so you can make the right decisions!

Benjamin Moore White Heron OC-57

The ceiling and stairs in this image look like noticeably different shades of white, but they’re actually the same color—White Heron OC-57 from Benjamin Moore®—in different finishes. Ultra-flat Waterborne Ceiling Paint and satin-finish ADVANCE® Interior Paint prove just how much sheen influences what you see!

Flat & Matte Paint

Flat and matte paints come in on the least reflective side of the spectrum, portray colors faithfully, and help hide imperfections to produce more visibly uniform surfaces. While some use the terms flat and matte interchangeably, there is a difference—flat paint has practically no sheen, while a matte finish has just a touch. This means flat paint does not reflect light, while matte paint subtly diffuses light and may look glowy in some conditions.

Designed for lower traffic areas, both of these finishes are most often used on ceilings, where a low-sheen finish won’t reflect and draw attention up. If the idea of a flat background that allows your furnishings to pop appeals to you, be aware that low-sheen paint lags behind other finishes when it comes to durability. A matte finish can be wiped clean if necessary, but it’s difficult to remove stains from a flat finish, and rubbing it will often mar the surface. Use flat paint on walls only where the risk of damage is low, like in closets and adult bedrooms where kids aren’t likely create their own murals. If you’re concerned about durability and cleaning, no worries—an eggshell finish will suit you fine!

Benjamin Moore Natura Interior Paint

This calming bedroom features Natura® Interior Paint in eggshell, with Metropolitan AF-690 for the lower wall panels and Barren Plain 2111-60 up top. Natura® comes in thousands of colors and is certified asthma & allergy friendly® (learn more here) with zero VOC emissions, so it’ll definitely help you sleep easier, too!

Eggshell Paint

Also considered a low-sheen finish, you can’t go wrong with eggshell paint. It reflects slightly more light than the options previously covered, and its gentle glow is welcome in any room of the house. It’s also easy to work with—whether you hire a professional or decide to do it yourself, eggshell paint goes on evenly. And as it dries down to its namesake texture, it cures to a finish able to withstand more than its lower sheen relatives, in terms of wear and tear and what you can do to clean the walls safely.

Eggshell paint is preferred for living rooms, dining rooms, and bedrooms—where life happens, but the stakes aren’t too high. It is also arguably the most popular paint used in homes, so if you’re not sure how to compare these finishes, use eggshell as your starting point.

True Value EasyCare Ultra Premium Interior Paint

Trim is best painted in a higher sheen finish like satin or semi-gloss, because they highlight architectural features better and are known for their durability. EasyCare® Ultra Premium Interior Paint from True Value® Paint makes a great choice—it comes with a lifetime warranty, is twice as scrubbable as other products, and three finishes including satin hold an asthma & allergy friendly® certification!

Satin Paint

You can really start to see the shine once you get into satin paint. For that reason, it’s not usually recommended for walls in main living areas, but for accenting trim and providing durability where needed. Also, you should be aware that the color of the paint can appear to shift as it reflects more light—be sure to get swatches in the right finish so you aren’t surprised by the difference!

A satin finish is often employed in the kitchen, because it protects walls from splatters and cleans up easily. You might also consider using it for an entry or mudroom, or perhaps in a playroom or the kids’ bedrooms. Satin paint falls in the middle of the road in terms of reflectance, so it can help brighten these smaller spaces without looking like too much. Just remember that trim should be a step above the walls around it in terms of sheen to effectively reflect light—that way, it can highlight windows, doors, and moulding and millwork beautifully!

Benjamin Moore Carter Plum

Look at the reflections on the walls of this bathroom—that’s the mark of a true high-gloss paint! ADVANCE® Interior/Exterior High-Gloss Paint cures to a hard, furniture-quality finish and is more than durable enough for bathrooms. If you like this color, it’s Carter Plum CW-355, a lovely hue for moody, traditional aesthetics.

Semi- & High-Gloss Paint

Think of semi-gloss like satin, but more—it reflects more and is more durable. It makes a good trim and cabinet accent—especially if you’ve selected a satin finish for the rest of the room—and can stand up to the challenges of high traffic and humidity areas like kitchens and bathrooms. If you want even more, look into high-gloss paint, but be aware that it lives up to its name; it reflects like you probably haven’t seen before and is best used only in situations where extreme durability is necessary, or you want to make a bold statement.

If you like a good DIY project, you should know that glossy paints are less forgiving than low-sheen paints. We recommend leaving them to the professionals who can do them justice, because inexperienced applications will stand out for the wrong reasons. On a similar note, the wall surface should be immaculate, because the gloss will draw attention to imperfections. Take your passion for DIY elsewhere!

When it comes time to choose paint for your home, check out Benjamin Moore® and True Value® Paint! They both have a range of lines for interior and exterior applications, and you’ll find they stock all of the finishes covered here as well as a few others. If you're concerned about VOCs and other allergy triggers, you'll be happy to know they have asthma & allergy friendly® certified products that deliver the performance you want without the emissions you don't. Connect with their experts who can help you make the perfect selections for every room based on your particular needs and design goals!

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