Before selecting your colors you'll need to decide on the best paint finishes or sheens (gloss level) for your walls and other surfaces.

From satin to semi-gloss each room or piece of woodwork can in some cases require contrasting shininess on the surface depending on your specific circumstances.

Below you will find descriptions for each type of paint finish and the finish that works best for the job at hand.


Paint suppliers can, in some cases, have their own specific finish or sheen names. Even so, most of the sheens below will be familiar to you.

If in doubt ask your paint supplier for assistance selecting paint finishes or gloss levels.

Whenever possible I have tried to mention any alternate sheens that I may have come across in the past.

The list below consists of the most popular sheens and their intended application. Each finish is also in order of lowest to highest gloss level.

Whether your selecting bathroom paint colors or clear coating baseboards you should,with the help of the list below, find a sheen or shine level that's best for the work being done.

    Residential ceilings, some new home construction and low traffic areas (including master bedrooms, or dinning rooms etc).

  • Flat paints work well to hide wall imperfections and blemishes but tend to be more difficult to clean and seem to attract dirt easier.

  • With that said, paint manufacturers are constantly coming up with better and better flat finishes. My guess for the future is that a flat finish will become more popular than an eggshell. Flat paint finishes also help darker colors have a more consistent look.

    Eggshell is a general purpose sheen. A high quality eggshell finish can be applied to almost every residential situation.

  • Those of us who are a little older can still remember when eggshell was a very popular paint color (off white of course). Nowadays, eggshell refers to a specific paint finish.

  • Eggshell has just enough of a shine to make it easier to clean than a flat finish. I use an eggshell finish for almost all of my interior residential painting projects. I have even used eggshell as my finish when applying kitchen and bathroom paint colors.

    Satin can be a paint sheen but is usually a gloss level used in clear coating raw, stained or painted wood.

  • Satin clear coat, no matter if it's lacquer or a water based type Varathane is by far the best sheen to use over wood (in my opinion anyways).

  • Satin is easier to use than a gloss coating and better for cleaning than a flatter finish.

  • Satin paint finishes on the other-hand as opposed to a satin clear coat have a somewhat shinier sheen level than eggshell paints and work best in higher humidity situations where semi-gloss is undesirable. Pearl paint finishes are also recommended when one is painting a bathroom or kitchen area.

    High traffic areas (or surfaces) in the home such as kids rooms, bathrooms and kitchens tend to hold up better with a semi-gloss sheen.

  • If you have smaller children, rooms with very high humidity or lots of traffic going through your home then semi gloss is the sheen for you.

  • When selecting paints though, do keep in mind that it's best to apply less gloss type finishes than more. Reason being is that gloss paint finishes tend to enhances wall imperfections.

  • Gloss coatings can also leave more roller or brush marks after drying.

  • I find that the optimum place to use semi-gloss is on painted wood trim such as doors and window frames made of a product called MDF etc.

    Best for Commercial and industrial use where very high traffic and cleanliness is of the utmost concern.

  • A high gloss paint is not the best sheen for residential projects, even so, I have seen such finishes, applied to floors, a child's room and on trim work with success.

  • Even though one can paint on a nice looking gloss sheen with practise, they are the most difficult to apply. I advise whenever possible to avoided high gloss finishes unless you have first acquired a certain amount of painting skills.


Eggshell in general is the most all-purpose finish to use when painting.

Semi- gloss finishes are in most cases reserved for high traffic areas or rooms with excessive humidity.

If you prefer to apply an eggshell finish to your kitchen or bathroom you should have few problems though. Do read the bathroom paint color page (especially under the sheen heading) before doing so though as issues like wall staining can occur when room humidity is a concern. Also, be sure to apply a top quality product whenever possible.

For those who are interested in color blocking or a wall striping technique you might want to try different sheen's such as an eggshell along with a semi-gloss on the same wall. Multiple finishes can add an elegant effect to all of your painting techniques.

  1. Mix different sheen's of the same paint type mixed together can give you the unique finish that you might be looking for.

  2. New homes should (in most cases) never be painted in a semi or gloss type finish (see below for the reason why).

  3. Oil (alkyd) based paint finishes seem to have more of a shine than latex ones do even though they may share the same sheen name.

  4. Waterborne's and modified oil type products tend to have a glossier finish than regular latex, especially eggshell.

  5. Exterior products, can be less (or more) shinny than interior coatings )depending on the brand name of the paint).

  6. Ask your paint dealer what a velvet or silk finish is equivalent to (e.g. satin in some cases can have almost the same look as pearl).

Higher gloss levels mean more intense tones, hues or shades and are excellent when it comes to durability or ease of wiping up. Semi-gloss sheens on the other-hand work best when applied to a bathroom or kitchen area.

When it comes to paints with little or no gloss they are simpler to apply, look more elegant, hide wall imperfections and usually touch up better than gloss type paint finishes. Hence the above suggestion for not using gloss paints on new homes. Newly filled seams, or screw (nail) holes, along with other wall demarcations tend to be enhanced when gloss paints are used especially when new walls are concerned.

In closing use this color selection page to assist you with finding the easiest ways to choose those tones, hues, or shades that you might be looking for.

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