How to Choose the Right One?

Familiarizing yourself with the different types of paint finishes is the best way to ensure you choose the right one for your paint project. Whether you’re painting walls, trim, cabinetry, or even your home’s exterior, there’s a paint finish designed to perform best in each scenario. Duller paints look great on walls, while glossier paints work great for trim, but what else differentiates numerous paint finishes?

Below, we’ve broken down each type of paint finish, explained what it’s best for, and where you shouldn’t use it.

What Is a Paint’s Sheen?

A paint’s sheen is its level of light reflectivity, which is measured in PVC, or pigment volume concentration. The lower the PVC, the glossier the paint’s sheen will be. Here are the PVC ratings for the five most common paint sheens:

Paint Finish  PVC Range  PVC Average
Gloss  0-15%  7.5%
 Semi-Gloss  15-25%  20%
 Satin  30-40%  35%
 Eggshell  35-40%  37.5%
 Flat  40-80%  60%

Flat Paint

Flat paint is the dullest paint sheen. It’s a go-to paint for those looking to cut down on light reflectivity, such as in a bright room or on walls with many imperfections. Because of its supremely low light reflectivity, flat paint is the easiest paint for beginners to work with, as it hides common paint mishaps like runs, lap marks, and orange peel.

Flat paint should never be used for high-traffic areas or on objects that see high use. Additionally, flat paint can’t stand up to frequent cleaning or moisture exposure.

  • No light reflectivity
  • Hides imperfections and mistakes very well
  • Difficult to clean
  • Good for low-traffic areas
  • Easy to work with


Many ceiling paints are flat. This helps to hide imperfections on ceilings, which are notoriously difficult to finish smoothly.

Eggshell Paint

Eggshell paint has more light reflectivity than a flat paint, with a sheen similar to that of the surface of an eggshell. Eggshell is a gold standard for interior wall paint, as it offers enough durability without too much gloss. This is perfect for bedrooms, hallways, closets, living rooms, and entryways, as they benefit from more durability than flat paint but don’t require a finish as durable as satin. Eggshell’s mid-level sheen makes it a popular paint finish for home exteriors.

Like flat paint, eggshell paint can’t stand up to frequent wipe-downs or areas with regular moisture exposure, such as kitchens and bathrooms.

  • Low light reflectivity
  • Hides imperfections and mistakes
  • More durable option than flat paint
  • Easier to clean than flat paint
  • Good for low- to mid-traffic areas
  • Easy to work with
  • Good for exterior use


Different paint sheens can totally change how a given paint color looks inside your home. So, when getting paint samples, consider getting different sheens to see which you like better.

Satin Paint

Satin paint is less reflective than semi-gloss paint, making it the glossiest paint option to still see regular use on walls. While you don’t often see satin paint used on walls in bedrooms, closets, living rooms, entryways, and hallways, you may find satin used on kitchen walls, bathroom walls, or any area that sees frequent cleaning and moisture exposure.

Satin paint is much more durable than eggshell and flat and can stand up to moisture exposure and frequent cleaning, but high-use areas and objects will benefit from using semi-gloss paint instead of satin paint.

  • Average light reflectivity
  • Shows imperfections and mistakes
  • Good durability
  • Easy to clean
  • Good for mid- to high-traffic areas

Semi-Gloss Paint

Semi-gloss paint is a high-sheen paint reserved for areas that need high durability, such as trim, doors, and cabinetry. Semi-gloss paint has long been a standard for these areas, as it can withstand more abuse than duller paints and offers a sheen level that creates a visual accent to the surrounding walls.

Semi-gloss shouldn’t be used on large flat surfaces like walls and ceilings, as it’s far too reflective.

  • Long lifespan
  • High sheen
  • Highlights imperfections and mistakes
  • Very durable
  • Very easy to clean

High-Gloss Paint

High-gloss paint, sometimes simply called gloss paint, is the most reflective paint that’s commonly used. Gloss paint isn’t used for most interior surfaces unless the surface is intended as an accent or it sees a lot of use, such as a piece of furniture.

Gloss paint is incredibly shiny and shouldn’t be used on interior walls. Unless you intend to accent a certain object or create a distinct visual contrast, semi-gloss is a more popular option.

  • Long lifespan
  • Superior shine
  • Highlights imperfections and mistakes
  • Great for accent pieces
  • Ideal for areas of high-use


  • The best paint finish for most interior walls is eggshell, as it’s more durable than flat paint, but not as reflective as satin paint.

    However, flat and satin are still great options for interior wall paint. Flat paint will work well for walls in low-traffic areas where low light reflection is a must, while satin works great for walls that demand high durability.

  • Paint professionals use several different paint finishes, choosing the appropriate paint finish for the surface they’re painting.

    For interior walls, flat, eggshell, and satin are popular choices, as they hide imperfections well. For trim, doors, and cabinetry, semi-gloss and gloss are chosen due to their higher durability.

  • High-gloss paints are the toughest paint finish. Their high sheen gives them excellent durability and makes them easier to clean, allowing them to perform well in high-traffic areas.

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