Types of Paint Sheen

What are the different types of paint sheen available? Why should choose one over the other depends on what and where you’re painting.

Let’s review the most important differences between the types of paint sheen and see which one is best for your painting projects.

types of paint sheen
I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.

Types of Paint Sheen Quick List

Here are the 6 types of paint sheen finishes for your interior:

  • Satin
  • Semi Gloss
  • Eggshell
  • High Gloss
  • Flat/Matte

Types of Paint Sheen : What are the Different Types of Paint Sheen Explained


Satin paint is a flat paint finish meaning it doesn’t reflect much light so it’s not shinier than semi-gloss. Satin paint is perfect for using on walls in rooms, hallways, and ceilings with lots of natural light. If you need to hide uneven walls, patches, or general imperfections, satin paint is the way to go.

Satin paint is a low gloss almost velvety paint finish that is great for walls, ceilings, and hallways. Satin paint finish hides imperfections on walls like uneven areas, patched areas, and holes.

Rooms with natural light look best when painted with a satin finish because sometimes reflected light from semi-gloss paint creates an uncomfortable glare when light shines on it.

Satin paint is cleaned by using hot water and some dish soap. Satin paint doesn’t clean up as easily as the semi gloss, or high gloss paint sheens.

Whatever paint finish you have, us a sponge and don’t press too hard, or you risk leaving marks in the paint finish.

No matter what paint finish you have, never use a magic eraser on your walls. It actually strips a thin layer of paint off your walls and will leave a dull mark where you scrubbed.

Semi Gloss

Semi-gloss has a glossy like finish and reflects much more light, making it look shiny as the light bounces off of it. Semi-gloss is more durable and easier to clean than satin because of its glossy finish. It’s ideal to use in high traffic areas. Be careful though, semi-gloss will show imperfections in walls like uneven areas.

Semi-gloss has a shiny finish and will show these things much more than the flat finish of a satin paint. Exterior paint needs to be super durable to withstand the elements like rain, snow, sun, heat, wind etc. Semi-gloss is glossy and will also make your exterior surfaces easier to clean.

Semi-gloss is king for trim work like baseboards, doors, and window trim in any room of your house. Even use it on your vanity. These surfaces are in high trafficked areas and might take some abuse.  It’s durable and super easy to clean.  

You’re not going to want to use this finish for spraying paint on your walls though.   Semi gloss will show more random imperfections on your walls, which doesn’t look very professional. If you plan on using semi gloss you will have to spend more time preparing your walls and removing imperfections.

Semi gloss is between eggshell and gloss paint.  It dries with a sheen that reflects light and looks shiny.  I find it looks cleaner and adds a touch of class to a room.  This paint finish will draw the eye to the area and brighten up the room.   

Industry standard lists its’ paint sheen at anywhere from 20 to 59%. 

Join our Email List for Tips and Tricks!

Semi gloss paint is a bit easier to clean than satin paint.  That’s why we recommend it for high moisture and trafficked areas like your kitchen or bathroom even trim, doors, and closet doors.   

You can wipe the grease and hand prints right off semi gloss without too much issue.  

Using a soft cloth or sponge, add a small amount of dish soap to hot water and rub your problem area until gone.    

If that doesn’t work you can try a solution of 1 gallon cold water and 2 cups of ammonia.  Ammonia is toxic so use a respirator, latex gloves and ventilate your room.  


An eggshell paint finish is exactly that.  When you look at an eggshell, the surface is not shiny and doesn’t reflect light.  Eggshell paint has an approx 5-19% sheen to it so it looks flat or low luster.  

As eggshell paint dries on your surface, it leaves behind a smooth, matte (non shiny) finish.

Because eggshell paint isn’t very durable, you’ll need to take care when cleaning the surface.   

You can’t scrub hard or use abrasive cleaners or you’ll end up with discolored and faded areas. 

Best to use all natural solution such as hot water and vinegar with a soft clean cloth.  You can also try hot water with a small amount of dish soap. 

Use your judgement, but you might want to just retouch the problem area and call it a day. 

High Gloss

High gloss paint is a type of paint that has a very shiny and reflective finish. It’s made with a high amount of binders and resins that create a hard and durable surface that is resistant to scratches, scuffs, and stains.

High gloss paint is typically used on surfaces that require a high level of durability and water resistance, such as doors, trim, cabinets, and furniture. It can also be used on metal surfaces to protect against rust and corrosion. It’s also much easier to clean with simple soap and water than more porous paint sheens like eggshell, satin, or flat/matte.

The shiny finish of high gloss paint reflects light and gives surfaces a polished and modern look, but it can also highlight imperfections and make walls or ceilings appear uneven. It’s important to note that high gloss paint requires careful preparation and application to ensure a smooth and flawless finish.


Flat paint, also known as matte paint, is a type of paint that has a very low sheen or gloss level. It has a smooth, velvety finish that absorbs light rather than reflecting it, which gives it a soft and subtle look.

Flat paint is ideal for covering walls and ceilings in areas where high durability is not required, such as bedrooms, living rooms, and dining rooms. However, because flat paint has a porous surface, it can be more difficult to clean than other paint sheens and can show marks or stains more easily. We prefer to use flat on ceilings only, or an eggshell because those areas are not trafficked and won’t need more than a dusting to clean them.

Flat paint is also not recommended for high-moisture areas, such as bathrooms and kitchens, because it’s more prone to mold and mildew growth due to it’s porous surface. It’s important to note that some brands offer flat paint with added durability and washability, making it suitable for certain high-traffic areas.

What Type of Sheen is Best for Which Room Paint Sheen Chart

Which paint sheen to use in which area can be confusing. You want to pick the perfect paint sheen for every surface the first time. You can also wonder what paint sheen is best for a wall, trim, doors, cabinets etc. Check out this handy infographic from House Logic that explains it all.

It’s important to keep in mind that different paint brands may have slightly different formulations, so always check the manufacturer’s recommendations for the best sheen for your specific surface or project. With the right paint sheen, you can achieve a beautiful and functional finish that will stand the test of time.

What is the Best Paint Sheen for Your Bathroom

In general, it’s a good idea to choose a paint that is specifically designed for bathrooms or high-moisture areas. These paints are formulated to resist mold and mildew, and have better water-resistance than standard paints.

The best paint sheen for your bathroom depends on your personal preferences and the specific needs of your space. Here are some general guidelines to help you choose:

  • High-gloss: This sheen is the most durable and water-resistant, making it ideal for bathrooms with high humidity and moisture. It’s also easy to clean and maintain. However, high-gloss can be too shiny and reflective for some people’s taste.
  • Semi-gloss: This sheen is also durable and water-resistant, but has a less shiny finish than high-gloss. It’s a good compromise between durability and appearance, and is easy to clean.
  • Satin: This sheen is a popular choice for bathrooms because it has a subtle sheen that adds some depth and interest to the walls without being too reflective. It’s also easy to clean and maintain.
  • Matte/Flat: This sheen is not typically recommended for bathrooms because it is not as water-resistant or durable as the other sheens. However, if you really prefer the look of a matte finish, you can use a bathroom-specific matte paint or add a clear coat of water-resistant sealant to protect the walls.

What is Gloss Paint Sheen Used For

Gloss paint sheen is typically used for surfaces that require a high level of durability and are subject to heavy wear and tear. This is because gloss paint has a hard, shiny finish that resists scratches, scuffs, and stains. Gloss paint also reflects more light than other sheens, giving surfaces a bright, shiny appearance.

Another advantage of gloss paint is that it’s easy to clean and maintain. The hard, smooth finish allows dirt and grime to be wiped away easily, and the glossy surface resists water and moisture.

However, gloss paint is not always the best choice for every surface or project. Its high shine can be too reflective for some people’s taste, and it can highlight imperfections in walls or ceilings. It’s also not recommended for textured surfaces, as the gloss can emphasize the texture and create an uneven appearance.


In conclusion, understanding the different types of paint sheen is important for achieving the desired look and functionality of your painted surfaces. Each sheen has its own unique properties that make it suitable for different areas of your home or office.


What is the difference between gloss and semi-gloss paint sheen?

Gloss paint sheen has a highly reflective and shiny finish that is very durable and easy to clean, making it ideal for surfaces that experience heavy wear and tear. Semi-gloss paint sheen, on the other hand, has a slightly less shiny finish that is still durable and easy to clean, but offers a more subtle appearance.

Semi-gloss is a popular choice for walls, trim, and cabinets because it strikes a balance between durability and aesthetics. Ultimately, the choice between gloss and semi-gloss comes down to personal preference and the specific needs of your project.