In the painting world, very shiny translates to very durable. High sheen can take a lot of abuse and a lot of scrubbing. The lower the sheen, the silkier the effect; but, like silk, scrubbing will damage it.
High gloss: The most durable and easiest to clean of all paint sheens, high-gloss paint is hard, ultra-shiny, and light-reflecting. Think appliance-paint tough. High gloss is a good choice for area that sticky fingers touch—cabinets, trim, and doors. High-gloss, however, is too much shine for interior walls. And like a Spandex dress, high gloss shows every bump and roll, so don’t skimp on prep work.
- Practical application: kitchens, door and window trim
- Durability: very high
Semi-gloss: Good for rooms where moisture, drips, and grease stains challenge walls. Also great for trim work that takes a lot of abuse.
- Practical application: kitchens, bathrooms, trim, chair rails
- Durability: high
Satin: Has a yummy luster that, despite the name, often is described as velvety. It’s easy to clean, making it excellent for high-traffic areas. Its biggest flaw is it reveals application flaws, such as roller or brush strokes. Touch-ups later can be tricky.
- Practical application: family rooms, foyers, hallways, kid’s bedrooms
- Durability: high
Eggshell: Between satin and flat on the sheen (and durability) scale is eggshell, so named because it’s essentially a flat (no-shine) finish with little luster, like a chicken’s egg. Eggshell covers wall imperfections well and is a great finish for gathering spaces that don’t get a lot of bumps and scuffs.
- Practical application: dining rooms, living rooms, libraries
- Durability: medium
Flat or matte: A friend to walls that have something to hide, flat/matte soaks up, rather than reflects, light. It has the most pigment and will provide the most coverage, which translates to time and money savings. However, it’s tough to clean without taking paint off with the grime.
- Practical application: adult’s bedrooms and other interior rooms that won’t be roughed up by kids
- Durability: medium-low
More fun sheen facts
- Dark, richer paint colors have more colorant, which boosts sheen. If you don’t want a super-shiny wall, step down at least one level on the sheen scale. Ditto if you’re painting a large, sun-washed or imperfect wall.
- Adding sheen also adds price: Valspar Ultra Premium eggshell costs $32, satin $33, and semi-gloss $34.