What are the Differences in Paint Gloss Types

Anthony Redd

Paint Gloss

The level of shine, or sheen, in paint affects how much light it reflects. This influences how the painted surface looks and feels, as well as its durability and how easy it is to clean. Understanding the different levels of shine can help you pick the right paint for each project in your home. It’s important to choose the right paint sheen to get the best finish for your project. Knowing the differences in paint sheen can significantly change the look of your space. High-gloss paints reflect more light, making colors appear brighter and more vivid. They are great for areas that need frequent cleaning, such as kitchens and bathrooms.

On the other hand, matte or low-gloss paints give surfaces a more muted look. They are ideal for hiding surface imperfections and are often used on ceilings and walls in living spaces. Between these extremes, there are several other types like eggshell and satin which provide a balance between sheen and durability. Knowing when to use the right paint finish can save you time and money while giving you the look you want. Experimenting with different sheens, such as high-gloss and matte, can create depth and interest on your walls. Make confident choices by understanding these basic differences in paint finishes.

Guide to Paint Gloss Types

Sheen Levels and Their Uses

Gloss TypeSheen Level (%)CharacteristicsCommon Uses
Flat/Matte0-10No shine, hides imperfections well, but less durable and harder to clean.Ceilings, low-traffic areas, walls with imperfections.
Eggshell10-25Low sheen, subtle luster, more durable and washable than flat paint.Bedrooms, living rooms, dining rooms.
Satin25-35Smooth, velvety finish, good durability and washability.High-traffic areas like hallways, family rooms, children’s rooms, trim.
Semi-Gloss35-70Noticeable shine, highly durable and washable, reflects light.Kitchens, bathrooms, doors, trim, cabinets.
High-Gloss70-89Shiny, reflective finish, most durable and easiest to clean, but shows imperfections.Doors, trim, cabinets, furniture, accents.
Gloss90+Highest shine level, mirror-like finish, highly durable and washable, but difficult to apply evenly and shows imperfections most prominently.Decorative accents, furniture, specialty applications. Not recommended for large surfaces due to the difficulty of application.

Choosing the Right Gloss

Consider these factors when selecting a paint gloss:

  • Durability: High-traffic areas need more durable paint (semi-gloss or high-gloss).
  • Washability: Choose glossier finishes for areas prone to dirt and grime.
  • Light Reflection: Glossy paints reflect light, making rooms feel brighter and more spacious.
  • Surface Imperfections: Flatter finishes hide imperfections better.
  • Ease of Application: Flatter paints are easier to apply than glossy ones.

Understanding Paint Sheens and Finishes

Paint sheens and finishes impact how light interacts with a surface. Different levels of sheen have unique properties and are suited for specific uses.

Defining Sheen and Gloss Levels

Sheen and gloss indicate how much light a paint surface reflects. Glossy paints are very shiny because they reflect a lot of light. In contrast, matte and flat paints reflect little light, giving them a smooth look.

Gloss Levels:

  • High-gloss: Extremely shiny; most reflective.
  • Semi-gloss: Moderately shiny; reflects a fair amount of light.
  • Satin: Soft sheen; less shiny than semi-gloss.
  • Eggshell: Low sheen; subtle gloss.
  • Flat/Matte: No shine; least reflective.

Gloss and sheen affect not just appearance but also durability and ease of cleaning. High-gloss and semi-gloss finishes are more durable and easier to clean, while flat and matte finishes are better at hiding surface imperfections.

Comparing Paint Types and Their Uses

Different paint sheens are suitable for different areas. High-gloss paints work well in high-traffic areas that need frequent cleaning, such as kitchens and bathrooms. They enhance the brightness and can make colors appear more vibrant.


  • High-gloss: Kitchens, bathrooms, doors, trim.
  • Semi-gloss: Cabinets, furniture, moldings.
  • Satin: Living rooms, bedrooms, dining rooms.
  • Eggshell: Hallways, family rooms.
  • Flat/Matte: Ceilings, low-traffic areas, walls with imperfections.

The subtle luster of satin and eggshell makes them ideal for living spaces where a balance of durability and appearance is needed. Matte finishes, with no shine, are perfect for ceilings and walls in low-traffic areas.

Practical Considerations for Different Gloss Levels

Choosing the right gloss level for paint involves considering factors like where it will be used, how durable it needs to be, and how easy it is to maintain. Different gloss levels can impact both the look and feel of a room.

Identifying the Best Areas of Use

High-gloss paint is extremely shiny and stain-resistant. It is ideal for areas that see a lot of traffic or moisture, like kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry rooms. This type of paint works well on trim, cabinets, and doors due to its durability.

Semi-gloss paint has a softer shine but is also easy to clean. It suits utility rooms, doors, and trim. It can be an option for family rooms and dining rooms where there is moderate traffic.

Satin paint gives a pearl-like finish that is good for bedrooms, dining rooms, and family rooms. It balances appearance and durability, making it suitable for both low-traffic and high-traffic areas.

Matte or flat paint shows fewer imperfections and is ideal for ceilings, bedrooms, and low-traffic areas where scrubbing isn’t a common concern.

Balancing Durability and Aesthetics

In high-traffic areas, durability is key. High-gloss and semi-gloss paints are tough and scrub-resistant. They are perfect for rooms with a lot of activity and where cleanliness is important.

For areas like bedrooms and dining rooms, a satin finish provides a good mix of durability and aesthetic appeal. It offers enough shine to be interesting but is not as reflective as gloss paint.

In spaces where texture or imperfections might show, a smooth matte finish can help hide flaws. This type of paint is less about durability and more about creating a calm, smooth look.

Maintenance and Longevity

Gloss and semi-gloss paints are highly washable and stain-resistant. They are great in places where grime and fingerprints are an issue. Scrubbing these walls won’t damage the paint, extending its life.

Satin paint is easier to clean than matte but not as durable as gloss. It requires gentle cleaning to maintain its look, making it a good middle ground choice.

Matte paint is the least durable but easiest to touch up. This makes it excellent for ceilings and areas that don’t need frequent washing. A touch-up with matte paint will blend easily, keeping the room looking fresh without needing a full repaint.

Frequently Asked Questions

Paint gloss levels can change how a room looks and feels. This section answers common questions about different types of paint finishes, their best uses, and their characteristics.

What are the common types of paint finishes?

Paint finishes include flat, matte, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss, and high-gloss. Each has a different look and feel. Flat and matte finishes have little to no shine. Eggshell and satin have a bit more luster. Semi-gloss and high-gloss offer a shiny and reflective surface.

How do the gloss levels of paint affect its appearance?

High gloss levels make surfaces look shiny and bright. They reflect a lot of light and can make colors appear more vivid. Low gloss levels create a softer, more subtle look. They do not reflect as much light and can make a space feel cozier.

What are the best environments to use different paint sheens?

High-gloss paints work well in kitchens and bathrooms. They are easy to clean and handle moisture well. Eggshell and satin finishes are good for living rooms and bedrooms. They offer a balance of durability and looks. Flat and matte finishes are often used in low-traffic areas or ceilings.

What are the characteristics of low sheen paint?

Low sheen paints, like flat and matte finishes, reflect little light. They hide wall imperfections well. They give a smooth, soft look. These paints are harder to clean than glossier options. They can wear down faster in high-traffic areas.

What factors should be considered when choosing a paint gloss level for interior walls?

Consider room usage and light conditions. High-traffic areas like hallways benefit from semi-gloss or satin paints. These finishes are more durable and easy to clean. Low-traffic areas can use flat or matte paints for a cozy look. Consider the amount of natural light. A glossy finish can brighten up a darker room.

How do exterior paint gloss types differ from interior types in terms of durability and maintenance?

Exterior paints face more wear and tear from weather. High-gloss and semi-gloss exterior paints are more durable and withstand harsh conditions. They are easier to clean. Interior paints do not need to handle extreme weather. The focus is more on the look and feel inside the home.