Paint Finishes

✯ This site uses affiliate links – full disclosure


Confused about which paint finish is right for which room and which area?


Well, here’s a super simple, easy guide to help you figure it out in less than 3 minutes. A little further down is even a paint finish chart you can use as a reference guide.


If you’re just coming fresh off one of the other paint articles here, you might already have some ideas on which color is the right one for the look you are trying to achieve.


For extra credit you may already even have your swatches picked out and hung in different areas on different walls and you know – ALL. THE. LIGHTING. CHANGES. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, please go read this white paint post.


Trick question: You know the color you want to buy, so you’re ready to buy your paint now, right?


Answer: No.


The good news is you’re getting close, the bad news is there are still a few critical decisions left before you hit the hardware store.


One of these decisions is the finish that you will choose for your paint and which finishes you want for which areas.


Trim & Accent Areas


First things first, you may have decided on a color for your main walls, but you still need to decide on the color for your trim and baseboards… and molding, if you have it.


Even if you opt for the same color used on the walls, you will use a different sheen (probably a semi-gloss) on trim and often times the trim color is a bit lighter than the wall color.


IF you are using white for your wall color, you might not have the option for a lighter trim unless you are selecting a darker shaded white. If your white can’t go any lighter, you will opt for the same color but a different sheen for the trim and accents.


After you have picked your main wall color, spend some time figuring out how you want to paint the trim and other accent areas.


I know – wasn’t choosing ONE color hard enough, let alone, 2 or more?


Now, let’s make that headache even worse with throwing another element into the mix – the finish – also known as “sheen”.


Sheen – Not Charlie or Michael


Sheens as in paint reflectiveness.


The next decision in the sea of decisions is what type of sheen you need, and for which areas and rooms.


The nice thing here is that there are some basic guidelines you probably want to follow, or at least be aware of. These guidelines should make your decisions about paint finish easier.


You’ll want to go semi-gloss or gloss on trim or any architectural aspects you want to highlight and where you get more finger traffic since gloss is easier to clean than flat.


Bedrooms and low-traffic areas can take a flat or matte finish and shouldn’t get too dirty, but if you are rough on your walls and let the kids play in your bedroom, go for a satin or eggshell finish.


Kids rooms, hallways, family rooms should use a satin finish as it is durable and easy to clean.


Bathrooms and kitchens will typically use satin or semi-gloss because these repel grease and dirt much better than the more absorbent finishes.


Here is a guide you can use to figure out which type of finish you want:

paint finishes


Here again, you might want to do a test patch with sample paint before investing in your full amounts to make sure the finish looks the way you desire.


If you are completely unsure on which finishes would work best, you are probably safest going with eggshell for the walls and semi-gloss for trim and accents.

Textured Walls


If you are going to be painting textured walls, make sure you opt for a thick napped (deep-pile) roller and use a thick paint.


If you want to accentuate the pattern / texture, you will opt to use a satin or semi-gloss paint sheen.


Ceiling Sheen


Typically, your ceiling will use flat or eggshell for the sheen. You do not want this paint to be highly reflective or it might draw the wrong attention towards the ceiling.


Putting it Together


With this newfound knowledge of paint finishes and sheens – you should have all the info you need to get started with your paint job(s).


My hope for you is that you experience the joy that is the transformation that paint can offer – your whole space can look brighter or more dramatic with just a few, inexpensive purchases and a little elbow grease.


Don’t be afraid to try it – HAPPY PAINTING!!