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How to Determine What Sheen of Paint To Use

Paint comes in many different sheens and can be confusing to a first time painter. Paint ranges from flat, matte, eggshell, satin, pearl, semi gloss, and high gloss. Different paint sheens are used for different surfaces and areas of the house. Here are a few tips to help guide you in picking the right paint sheen for your project.


    • 1

      Determine the location where the painting is to be done. Any place where there is water present such as bathrooms or kitchens should be painted with a higher sheen mildew resistant paint, like eggshell or anything above that. This also makes it easier to clean and less vulnerable to staining. This holds true for high traffic areas as well such as stairways or children's bedrooms where the walls are touched frequently. If you plan on painting a living room or media room you will want to use a flat paint. Flat will provide you with the richest, truest, color. Anything with a sheen to it reflects light when viewed on an angle and changes the original color slightly. Ceilings should also only be painted in flat. Anything with a shine to it tends to make imperfections more visible when it's on the ceiling.

    • 2

      Determine the material of the surface to be painted. All drywall can be painted with any sheen, but when you are painting wood or trim, you will want to use a semi or high gloss sheen for accent.

    • 3

      Figure out what method of application you will be using. A brush is most common for do-it-yourselfers but can leave brush marks when painting with semi or high gloss sheens. Most of the woodwork you see in these high glosses is sprayed on by a spray gun. It's impossible to get it perfect with a regular brush. So if you are going to use a brush, I would suggest using a lower sheen paint to eliminate any brush strokes.