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Home & Lifestyle

5 Different Types of Wall Paint and Finishes

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Nov 8, 2020 • 3 min read

If you’ve chosen a new paint color or palette for your home-improvement project, you may feel like you’re ready to head to the paint store. But before you do, there’s one more step to choosing your paint—the finish. Paint comes in a number of finishes, and you’ll need to know which finish is the best choice for your project before you can break out the brushes and rollers.



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5 Types of Wall Paints and Finishes

There are five types of paint finishes, categorized by their reflectiveness:

  1. Flat/Matte: Flat paints (also called matte paints) have the least amount of shine. They provide the most coverage of any other paint and require fewer coats to cover imperfections like nail holes. While they’re great for coverage, they’re the least durable type of paint and will be damaged if treated with cleaner, so they’re best used in low-traffic areas, like dining rooms, and surfaces that won’t be touched much, like ceilings.
  2. Eggshell: Eggshell finishes are a very popular paint finish. They’re slightly more lustrous than flat paints (with the delicate low sheen of an eggshell), they still cover imperfections, and they’re more durable than flat finishes (though still not quite as durable as satin or gloss finishes). Eggshell paints are great for places with low or medium traffic, like living rooms, hallways, and entryways.
  3. Satin: Satin finishes are the most common interior paint finish. They have a velvety sheen and are easier to clean than flat and eggshell paints, which makes them a great choice for high-traffic areas like kitchens, playrooms, family rooms, bathrooms, and laundry rooms. (Before you use a satin paint, be aware that their sheen unfortunately is more apt to reveal brush strokes, making touch-ups slightly tricky down the line.)
  4. Semi-gloss: Semi-gloss paints are shiny and reflective. They’re extremely durable and mildew-resistant, so they’re best used in rooms that get a lot of wear and tear or moisture, like kids’ rooms, kitchens, and bathrooms. They’re also great for trim. As a glossier finish, they will show imperfections more than less shiny paints.
  5. High-gloss: High-gloss paints are the shiniest paint finish of the bunch. They’re also the most durable and washable, so they can handle daily scrubbing. Consider this family of paint for doors, trim, and cabinetry. In addition to being an interior paint, high-gloss can also be used as an outdoor detail as well, on things like shutters. However, prep work is important when using this finish—it can show many imperfections when applied incorrectly.

What to Consider When Choosing a Paint Finish

Before you head to the store and pick out a finish, there are a few things you should keep in mind to help you find the right paint:

  • Traffic. Perhaps the most important thing to consider when choosing a paint finish is the amount of traffic that your room will endure. Busy rooms like kitchens and playrooms will benefit from more durable finishes like satin and semi-gloss, while calmer rooms like dining rooms can get away with eggshell or even flat paints.
  • Paint sheen. Paint finishes are categorized in terms of their luster, from no-shine flat finishes to very shiny high-gloss finishes. The shininess of each finish will affect the amount of light that they reflect back into the room, so if you want to try to help brighten a dim place, a slightly higher-gloss finish will do better than a matte finish.
  • Surface imperfections. The more reflective a finish, the more it will show surface imperfections in the thing you’re painting. If you want to paint a wall that has lots of nail holes or patches, you may want to consider a less glossy paint—it will help mask those blemishes and keep the wall looking smooth.
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