Choosing Paint Sheen
Besides choosing your painter and choosing your colors there is one other consideration that plays an important role in how happy you will be with your paint job. That one thing is sheen.
Here are some guidelines:
Flat or Matte: The least durable and scrub-able sheen but If you want a saturated, velvety wall, a flat finish will make your heart sing. A favorite among designers and painters for the depth of color, this is not the best choice if you have a high traffic area with kids and animals. A matte or flat finish will also hide drywall imperfections better than any other sheen.
Rich. Velvety. Saturated. Depth. Conceals.
Eggshell: One step up from a matte finish, eggshell gives good color saturation and still has a soft look but gives you the ability to wash the wall. If you have kids or animals and will be doing a lot of cleaning this is a good choice. It can be used in the kitchen and the bathroom and withstand moisture and frequent cleaning. Much like the sheen of an eggshell (hence the name), the sheen is so subtle that most times you have to look at the wall from an angle to see it. This is also a favorite among designers and painters. An eggshell finish will show slighty more imperfections than a matte or flat.
Subtle Sheen. Soft. Saturated. Washable.
Satin: This sheen has a shine to it. It is more durable and can stand up to more traffic and scrubbing. Satin can be used on walls throughout the house, though most frequently in kitchens and baths because of the moisture since satin and higher sheen paints resist moisture far better than paints with less sheen. There was a time that satin was the lowest sheen used when you wanted durability. (However, if you have your heart set on the more velvety, soft finish, there are products out there that will give you the wash-ability option in a matte or eggshell finish.)
Due to its durability and scrub-ability and because it will hide more imperfections than semi-gloss, I specify satin for doors, trim and baseboards in homes, especially if we are re-painting trim or doors that have been painted before.
Light Reflective. Durable. High-Traffic. Scrub-able.
Gloss: This is the most durable and scrub-able paint sheen. It is also the most reflective which means it will highlight and show every little imperfection. This should be used on walls or ceilings only if you have a level 5 drywall finish. (A Level 5 finish is perfectly smooth-the highest degree of quality in drywall finishing). Under the right conditions it can be beautiful. A high-sheen paint reflects light, much like a mirror, making the color seem more vivid and bright.
Durable. Scrub-able. Vivid. Bright. Highlights. Reflective.
So what sheen should you use? Here are my preferences:
Walls: Flat, matte or eggshell throughout house. Eggshell or satin in bathrooms or kitchens.
Ceilings: Always flat or matte. (Unless in the kitchen or bathroom.) Anything higher than matte will show imperfections. A shiny ceiling can be beautiful but only if you have a level 5 finish. Side note: You may sometimes see track homes that definitely do not have a level 5 finish and yet the ceilings have a shine to them. This is not something they have done with design in mind; instead this is done because it is more cost effective for the builder to have the painter do the same sheen on both the walls, the ceiling, the doors and the trim. It takes less prep, less time and therefore keeps the costs down.
Trim, baseboard, doors: Satin for residential, semi-gloss for commercial. It is easily cleaned and the light reflectiveness of these sheen's highlight the architectural details.
One last thing to note, sheen are not universally exact. Each paint manufacturers differ so be sure to check with your local paint store as you decide what to use.
Whether you are choosing colors or choosing sheen, keep in mind the most important rule; you will be the one living with it, so choose what makes you happy! If you would like our professional opinion, give me a call.
Jennifer Smith is a Certified Architectural Color Consultant in Albuquerque, NM.