So, you’re at the paint store, standing in front of 146 shades of cream, trying to decide exactly which one will work best with your floors. Just when you finally think you’ve found the perfect paint, Ice Milk, you start to realize you have no idea what sheen to paint. You ask someone in the store and they quickly respond, “My house is all flat and I love it!” But will you? Chances are a big, fat NO! Let me tell you why, as I explain to you the wonderful world of paint sheens!

The average paint brand makes a few basic sheens. Some have a few extras thrown in for good measure. The very basics are:

FLAT                EGGSHELL                 SATIN                SEMI-GLOSS                HIGH GLOSS

Benjamin Moore makes –     PEARL

It falls in between Eggshell and Satin.

As a designer I NEVER recommend Flat paint to a client for anything other than the ceiling, which automatically comes in Flat, unless you order something other than ceiling paint to paint your ceiling. Don’t- because they make Ceiling specific paint to make your life easier- just tell them it’s for the ceiling and what color you want.

Flat paint is dull and lifeless on a wall, no matter what color you use. Worse than that, it’s far too difficult to wipe clean. Walls get dirty very easily- finger prints, rubs against it, dirt marks, grease, kids and pets. Any paint with a sheen ( a bit of shininess) makes it easier to wipe off. Obviously the shinier, the easier… but that doesn’t mean your walls should all be glossy.

The next sheen is Eggshell and well, it actually resembles the outside of an egg’s shell. It has little to no sheen. It’s one step above a flat. It used to be the most popular sheen, because most people, other than designers, didn’t really understand many others. It has a slightly better clean-ability than flat, yet still is a bit difficult to clean with a sponge rubbing back and forth or using many cleaners, which can possibly stain or remove the pain.

Satin is my favorite sheen of paint. It has a nice shine to it without being too in your face shiny, like good old semi-gloss, which is what we used to specify for every kitchen and bathroom in America back in the day, because it’s all we had. Satin is extremely durable and offers a strong, wipe-able surface to make cleaning your walls a breeze! I specify Satin for all of my client’s walls throughout the home. It makes things easy for my painter and easy for my clients when they are buying their own paint.

Semi-gloss and Gloss or High Gloss are rarely used in homes anymore, unless on trim or accents. I love the contrast of using Satin on the walls and then semi-gloss on any trim work throughout the house- meaning the baseboards, casings ans window sills. High Gloss is only really used for an ultra-modern look. You find it on super shiny cabinets or furniture, but rarely on walls, because it takes many coats to get it looking perfect and it takes a very long time to dry.

Combining a low sheen, such as Eggshell or Satin and a high sheen, such as Semi-Gloss or Gloss on one wall in the same paint color, can create a beautiful wall. Use the combo to make stripes or patterns. Have fun with the tone on tone look.

That’s pretty much it. Now you know the basics of paint sheens. Try these tips in your home. If you need help selecting paint colors, I do whole home paint consultations for just $350.00. If you need me to select 5 paint colors or less, I do that for just $250.00. I provide you with a Color Selection Sheet with all color names and numbers, including any notes for each room. You also get the paint swatches for each color and I can even mark the walls for your paint contractor. I save a copy of your Paint Selection Sheet, should you ever lose yours or need to refer back to a color. I have plenty of references from extremely happy clients. Reach me at 347-262-5713 or check out my website at

Painting 101- What sheen do I use?

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