Painting Possibilities: Finding the Right Finish

The prospect of selecting a paint often entails dedicated deliberation and a drawn-out decision-making process. From choosing the right type of paint to pinpointing the precise color that will best suit a space, a series of steps is involved. While often saved for last, finding the right finish is just as important. Faced with five finishes to choose from, the options can be overwhelming, and one would be aptly advised to understand the uses and benefits of each.

Gloss Levels

Gloss describes the amount of light that is reflected from the surface of the paint and it is determined by the paint’s ratio of resins and pigments. Higher gloss paints have less pigment volume concentration with a larger ratio of resins, while lower gloss paints have a larger proportion of pigments with a lower ratio of resins. A paint’s particular gloss level impacts not only the appearance and aesthetic of its application but also its durability, as high gloss paints hold more resistance to stains and moisture.

Five Different Finishes

It is important to keep in mind that the language used to describe paint finishes tends to vary from one brand to the next, but all are available for both water and oil-based paints. Selecting the ideal finish should integrate practical considerations—including usage and performance expectations—with vital visual cues such as lighting. “Low gloss and lower sheen finishes will help to hide flaws, especially in interiors, and when a space has plenty of natural light,” says Rick Watson, director of product information and technical services at Sherwin-Williams. For areas like ceilings or hallways, a flat or very low gloss or sheen finish such as matte will work well. A high gloss finish could be used as a tool to accentuate architectural features in a space. Low gloss has a popular aesthetic appeal and due to advancements in coatings technology, we now have flat and matte finishes that are washable and resist stains.” Thus, each different finish offers its own set of strengths for unique applications.

Flat finishes feature more pigment than any other, with a non-reflective sheen that will soak up light while conveniently concealing surface imperfections with great success. However, flat paints are not ideal for high-traffic areas as they are the most difficult to clean.

Eggshell is a common choice that is celebrated for being easy to clean while also holding the ability to hide imperfections. Its velvety veneer has only a hint of gloss but is still able to subtly reflect light.

Satin sits in the middle of the spectrum, leveraging greater light reflection when compared to eggshell, while also appearing less shiny than semi-gloss. It is well suited for areas that host high amounts of traffic as it can easily hold up to cleaning.

Semi-Gloss is regarded for its radiance and ability to accent other finishes. With a slightly glossy appearance and subtle shine, it is durable and resistant to stains, but its heightened sheen enables existing imperfections to be seen more easily.

High Gloss has a highly reflective appearance that conveys a contemporary aesthetic. Delivering on durability and stain-resistance, it is very easy to clean. However, its high reflection has the propensity to magnify surface imperfections and blemishes more than most.

To find the right paint finish, an understanding of the unique advantages of each type is necessitated. Combining a consideration of performance expectations with aesthetic aspirations, the careful weighing of these factors will point towards the finish that best suits a specific space.

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