Aug 20, 2013

Paint Finishes 101're ready to paint!  You have the color selected and the supplies but don't know what finish you need on the walls in each room.  Manufacturers don't all sell the same sheen paint, but here's my handy guide that you should be able to match to the brand you like.

Matte or flat work well
in this dining area.
Flat is the ideal choice for interior ceilings.  It doesn't reflect light - it has NO sheen - so hides small wall imperfections.  My ceilings are only about 15 years old, but I see nail heads at the drywall seams.  Older homes often have more.  Although it is very easy to touch up - you don't see the touch up area -the porous surface of flat and matte finishes does make them susceptible to stains, scuff marks, and moisture damage. For rooms with a lot of traffic, I don't recommend either of these finishes.  It's great for walls - other than kitchen - in a home with adults, since children mar walls and they won't stand up to frequent cleaning.   In modern style homes, flat wall finishes and glossy furnishings is a beautiful combination.  Matte is a newer finish with a tiny hint of luster that improves the ability to clean it and it is also easy to touch up.  Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams have matte finish paints that clean up beautifully from fingerprints, dog stains, and occasional wall bumping. Many people don't like sheen finishes on deep colored walls, since they reflect light, and matte is an ideal choice. 
Matte and Satin sheens in
stripe finish
This is lower sheen similar to that of a chicken's eggshell. It's the most frequently specified paint for active families since with its slight hint of shine, eggshell keeps its color and shine when a quick cleaning is needed. Because of this, Eggshell is appropriate on virtually all interior walls.  I've cleaned furniture scuffs, dog paw marks, crayon, and other stains from eggshell finishes with good results. Even light colors clean well without damaging the finish. Touch up will need to be done at some point, so do so with a feathering technique; the area you touch-up will show a slightly higher sheen.  I recommend doing an area larger than the 'spot' and 'feather' it out so you don't create distinct lines.

Satin is smooth and velvety with a higher level gloss than eggshell.   This sheen hold up to cleaning and light scrubbing.  Since new acrylic paints are so durable, I use lower sheens for walls and typically use satin sheen on woodwork, unless the home's classic style calls for higher levels.  Satin is great for accent walls, faux effects, and can be used in kids' rooms, kitchens, bathrooms, and hallways. The downside is that touch ups are always visible, so when needed, re-paint a whole section of wall.

This has a low luster shine that is glossier than satin. Great for woodwork and trim, satin needs to be applied carefully since you will see your brushstrokes and any errors you make.  It's no longer true that rooms that are exposed to water, steam, or splashing need this sheen. Current acrylic paint formulations allow for use o Many traditional interiors use gloss finishes on woodwork, but today, lower sheens are preferred. Since it's the most reflective finish, it's commonly used to add a dramatic or formal look to cabinets, trim, and furniture.