What Type of Paint Finish Should I Use?

Choosing new interior paint for your home is often an exciting prospect – until you get to the store and have to pick the perfect color from a seemingly infinite number of options. How do you know which one is right for you? One way to narrow your search is to choose the type of paint finish you’d prefer first.

The type of finish you pick can affect how long the paint itself lasts. The primary rule to follow when choosing paint finish types is “the greater the shine, the more durable the finish.” From matte paint with no shine to high-gloss, high-shine finishes, each type of interior paint finish has a specific job and decorative purpose you should consider before making your final decision.

Types of Paint Finishes

Use this guide from the experts at ServiceMaster Clean® to take the guesswork out of choosing between different types of house paint finishes and find your perfect match.

Matte or Flat Finishes

A matte or flat paint finish offers the most coverage because it has the most pigment. The increased coverage can save you time and money in the painting process since you need less paint to achieve its full effect. Both matte and flat finishes soak up more light than they reflect, but a matte finish will be slightly more reflective than a flat finish. Grime can be tougher to remove, so you’ll have to be more careful while cleaning matte or flat walls to avoid stripping the paint.

When to use: With lower durability, matte and flat finishes are recommended for walls and rooms that won’t be disturbed by children or pets, such as offices, studies, master bedrooms and ceilings.

Satin Enamel

Satin finishes look velvety and have a luster that is both durable and easy to keep clean – a good choice for highly trafficked rooms and areas. Touch-ups can be trickier, since the luster in the paint reveals brush strokes and roller flaws if applied incorrectly. The shine of satin enamel can be used to complement or enhance other decorative features, like carpeting or artwork.

When to use: Satin is ideal for hallways, foyers, kids’ bedrooms and family rooms due to its higher durability.

Eggshell Enamel

Eggshell is the middle ground between matte and satin paint finishes in terms of durability. These paint finishes have a little luster but essentially offer a flat effect similar to a chicken’s eggshell. Eggshell enamels are great at covering imperfections and work well in areas that don’t see many scuffs or bumps.

When to use: Eggshell enamel is recommended for living rooms and dining areas that see a moderate amount of activity.

High-gloss Enamel

High-gloss is undoubtedly the easiest kind of paint finish to clean and the most durable. As the name implies, high-gloss enamels result in a reflective, ultra-shiny surface. The amount of shine these finishes produce highlights every imperfection on a painted surface, making them a poor choice for interior walls. Application of high-gloss enamel also requires the most prep work.

When to use: As the most durable finish, high-gloss is only recommended for indoor use in small areas that get touched all the time, like trims, doors and cabinets.

Semi-gloss Enamel

A step down from high-gloss enamel but still highly durable, semi-gloss paint finishes are best used in areas of the home that are susceptible to grease stains, drips and moisture. Unlike high-gloss, a semi-gloss enamel finish can be used to cover walls, especially in areas that see a fair amount of abuse.

When to use: Semi-gloss paints are durable and easy to clean, making them ideal for areas of the home that see moisture, grease or lots of activity, including bathrooms, kitchens, playrooms and mudrooms.

Deciding on the right type of interior paint finish for each room you plan to refresh before picking the color can make it easier to find a paint that looks good and will last. Once you have the paint down, read our tips on how to choose the best carpet colors for your home and put the finishing touches on any room you’re remodeling.