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Paint Sheen – The Ultimate Guide

Paint sheen is almost as important as color. While expanding your painter’s palette, don’t forget to consider the gloss level of the finish. It’s important that you match the sheen to the purpose and function of the space.

Different Types of Paint Sheen

Paint finish terminology is not standard in the industry. Unless you intend to create a patchwork look with varying sheens, stick to one brand or let ProTEK Painters help you choose.

Paint sheen is a measure of pigment (color) to the bonding agent (adhesion). Sheen is also a gauge of durability. So which type of paint finish should you pick for your painting project?

Paint Sheen Chart

Paint Sheen Flat Paint for Bedroom - Gray - ProTEK Painters, Newton MA 400x300


This non-reflective paint has very little sheen. On the plus side, it is a very forgiving finish. Most times you can complete the project with a coat or two. It is also known for its tendency to hide small flaws and damage in your walls.
Matte Paint Sheen - Bedroom - Gold - ProTEK Painters Newton MA 400x300


Matte can be very similar to or the same as a flat finish, depending on the brand. Generally, Matte is a low-luster finish that could be a bit easier to clean than flat. Check with the paint manufacturer or ask ProTEK Painters for guidance.
Eggshell paint sheen finish - Foyer - Beige and White - ProTEK Painters Newton MA


Eggshell strikes a nice balance between durability and coverage. More vibrant than the last two, better at hiding imperfections than those following. Eggshell and Satin finishes are very similar.
Satin Paint Sheen Finish - Dining Room - Red Orange - ProTEK Painters Newton MA 400x300


Most common for the high-traffic interior spaces, satin finishes have slightly more shine than eggshell. They are also a little more durable and easy to clean. Satin is a good middle-of-the-road sheen choice.
Semi Gloss Sheen Finish - Kitchen - Cream White - ProTEK Painters Newton MA 400x300


More resistant to scuffing, marking, dirt, and grime, this is a good paint finish for cabinets, trim, high moisture areas, and the exterior of your home. Semi-gloss stands up well to rigorous and repeated cleaning.
High Gloss Paint Finish Sheen - Exterior Yellow and Green - ProTEK Painters Newton MA 400x300


The shiniest of all sheens, Gloss reflects a lot more light than the others. It's good for doors, windows, and some trim. Generally, we recommend semi-gloss over high-gloss.

Which Paint Finish is Right for You?

Living Rooms and Offices

Apply an eggshell paint finish to these rooms. Unless your guests love to run around touching the walls. Then you might want to take the gloss up a bit.

Family Rooms and Dens

Satins belong here. If the room sees only gentle use, you can use an eggshell.

Foyers and Hallways

Satins are perfect for these high traffic areas.


You are going to spend a great deal of time cleaning your kitchen. Do yourself a favor and think of the time saved in cleanup over the higher cost for more shine. A semi-gloss and sometimes high gloss are your best kitchen choices.

Dining Rooms

In general, paint this room with an eggshell. If the room sees use often, upgrade to a satin. If you have small children, you may want to consider going to a semi-gloss.


Another high traffic, regularly cleaned area, this is the perfect room for semi-gloss.

Bedrooms (Adults)

Flat or matte sheens work well here. They help mute the light, allowing for a better night’s sleep. They also reduce the prep work needed on the surfaces.

Bedrooms (Children)

Use a satin. This protects the walls, especially when you must wash off crayon marks and such. When the kids grow into teenagers consider switching to a matte.

Garage and Work Areas

This could go either way. Flat paints hide the nicks and scratches while reducing reflections from lighting in the space. Semi-gloss will increase the ambient glow if you intend to perform precision work in the area.


Semi-gloss is your best choice outside - unless you love repainting.

In-Between Sheens

Paint manufacturers have created their own terminology for levels of sheens. For instance, both Benjamin Moore and Sherwin-Williams offer a Pearl sheen - but they are different finishes for different purposes.

The luster or gloss of exterior paint can vary from brand to brand as well.

Get in touch with the pros at ProTEK Painters for paint sheen consultation on both interior and exterior painting projects.

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