Different Paint Finishes Explained - Matt the Painter

Different Paint Finishes Explained

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Different Paint Finishes Explained

Different Paint Finishes Explained

Paint comes in different finishes and the one you choose will determine how the room looks after it is painted. The finish can also be called the sheen and it is how much light the paint reflects from its surface. There are five different finishes including high gloss, semi-gloss, satin, eggshell, and flat or matte. Take a look at how these finishes differ from one another.

High Gloss

High gloss paint will have the highest sheen. It reflects light and it is often used on doors, cabinets, molding, and trim. It can be used outdoors on shutters and window casings to accent these features. It is the most durable and stain-resistant of all the finishes, and it is easy to clean. However, it will highlight imperfections on the surface.


Semi-gloss paint will give the surface a shiny appearance. It will also show off imperfections on the surface it covers. It is not as shiny as high gloss paint but it still reflects a lot of light. This type of finish can resist moisture so people paint bathrooms and doors with it. It is also easy to clean. Semi-gloss paint is another option for cabinets, moldings, trim, and doors because it is easy to clean. If you use white semi-gloss paint, the areas you paint will have a brighter appearance because they reflect light.


Satin finish has a soft sheen and it has a shine that is similar to a pearl. It is the most commonly chosen finish because it works well both indoors and outdoors due to its resistance to mildew and fading. It is easier to clean than lower-gloss paints but not as easy as a semi-gloss or high gloss finish. People commonly use it in the laundry room, bathrooms, and kitchens.


Eggshell finish is also very popular because it has a soft, smooth finish with a low sheen. It adds just enough brightness to hallways, entryways, family rooms, and living rooms. It resists stains better and is more washable than flat finishes.

Flat or Matte

Flat finish is also known as matte finish. This type of finish is smooth and it does not reflect the light at all. It will do the best job of any finish at hiding imperfections including a recent patch or a nail hole. You do not need to use as many coats of flat paint and it is much easier to touch up. It works well in low-traffic areas and on ceilings. You can clean flat paint but you should only use a damp sponge with water. Many cleansers will damage it.


Primer isn’t a finish but it is an important part of painting. It is used as a base to even out the surface before you paint it. It will create a uniform area so that the paint will adhere to the surface more easily. Primer should be applied before you use your paint, regardless of the finish you choose.

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