Paint Sheen Guide for Your Home

When you are painting your home there are so many different choices that make it daunting – I’m here to help! Maybe you’ve already found the perfect paint colours, but now you need to pick a paint sheen! Sharing all that you need to know about paint sheens and what sheen to use on what part of your house.

Please note that this post contains affiliate links.

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

View of bedroom with two windows on the far wall with cream curtains  around them. Walls are painted white dove by benjamin more. Bed in the middle of the space with white sheets and beige muslin blanket. Two armchairs by the window with a side table. Eggshell paint used in this bedroom.
Shop the bedroom: Rug, Armchairs, Accent Table, Curtains, Throw Blanket, Lamps

What is a paint sheen?

A paint sheen refers to the glossiness or shininess of a paint finish. Different sheens will produce varying levels of reflection when applied to a surface and can affect the overall look and feel of a painted space.

Breakfast nook in kitchen with shiplap walls in chantilly lace in eggshell finish with big square field painting above. Medium wood table with two chair and L shaped bench seating.
Shop the Breakfast Nook: Art, Picture Light, Table (similar), Pillows from H&M

The different types of paint sheens:

The perfect sheen of paint for your home will depend on your personal preferences and the specific room or area you are painting. Here are some general guidelines to help you choose:

Flat

Flat paint has a matte, non-glossy finish which makes it ideal for covering walls and ceilings as it won’t reflect light, helping to conceal any imperfections. It’s also a great pick for easy touch ups and can be wiped clean without losing its finish. However, it’s not as resilient as higher sheen paints and may not be suitable for areas that will receive a lot of wear and tear or regular cleaning.

Use: Ceilings. Walls in low-traffic spaces.

Matte

Matte paint sheen is similar to flat paint sheen in that it provides a non-glossy, non-reflective finish. This makes it a great choice for walls and ceilings as it won’t reflect light and can help to conceal any flaws in the surface. Additionally, like flat paint, matte paint is also very easy to touch up and can be wiped down without losing its finish.

Use: Walls in low-traffic spaces such as Living Room, Dining Room, and Bedroom

Victorian fireplace with white mantel and left bookcase to the left built-in to angled roof line. Walls in Chantilly lace matte finish. Still life floral art above fireplace, and bookcase filled  with books, art, pots, french horn, basket. Purple and white floral rug on the ground layered over jute rug.
Shop my Office: Floral Rug, Jute Rug, Art, Picture Light

Eggshell

Eggshell paint sheen gives walls a slightly glossy, eggshell-like appearance. It’s a popular choice since it’s more resilient and easier to clean than flat paint, while still providing a soft look that isn’t too shiny.

Use: Walls in mid- to high-traffic spaces such as Living Room, Dining Room, and Bedroom.

Satin

Satin paint sheen gives your walls a slightly glossy, soft and velvety finish. It’s more durable than eggshell and great for high-traffic spaces because it’s simple to clean.

Use: Walls in high-traffic spaces such as Bathrooms, Kitchens, Hallways, and Kid rooms.

Breakfast nook view into kitchen with natural cream cabinets in kitchen with shiplap walls in chantilly lace in eggshell finish with big square field painting above. Medium wood table with two chair and L shaped bench seating.

Shop the Breakfast Nook: Art, Picture Light, Table (similar), Pillows from H&M

Looking for details on the paint colours in my home? Read about them here.

Pearl

Pearl paint sheen is somewhere between a satin and a semi-gloss sheen and it is more durable and easier to clean than paints with a flat or matte finish.

Use: Walls in high-traffic spaces. Trim, Doors, & Cabinets.

Semi-Gloss

Semi-gloss paint sheen offers an attractive, bright shine that is a bit less reflective than gloss paint. It is a great option for trim, doors, and windows as it can handle regular wear and tear. Plus, due to its resistance to moisture and mildew, semi-gloss paint is also a great choice for walls in areas with higher levels of humidity. And one of the biggest benefits of semi-gloss paint is that it is more durable and easier to clean compared to paints with a flat or matte finish.

Use: Bathroom Walls, Trim, Doors, and Wainscotting.

Bathroom with sea pearl coloured walls in semi-gloss paint finish. Freestanding tub with wood stool beside, still life flower photo above tub and window to the right with cafe curtains.
Shop the Bathroom: Art, Stool (similar), Light, Cafe Curtains (DIY pinch pleated), Rod (Rub n Buffed), Rings

High-gloss

If you’re looking for durability and easy cleaning, you’ll love high-gloss paint sheen! Not only is it the most durable and easiest to clean of all the paint sheens, but it’s also a great choice for trim, doors, and windows. And, since surfaces such as kitchen and bathroom cabinets are subject to frequent cleanings, this paint sheen is ideal! Just bear in mind that it’s not as forgiving when it comes to touch-ups, as brush marks and other imperfections will be more visible on a high-gloss surface.

Use: Trim, Doors, Cabinets, and Wainscotting.

Save this helpful diagram for later:

Text on graphic reads: Paint Sheens a guide. Flat: ceilings and walls in lower traffic spaces. Matte walls: living room, dining room bedroom. Eggshell walls in high traffic spaces. Pearl walls in high traffic spaces. Trim, doors & cabinets. Semi-gloss bathroom walls, trim, doors, and wainscotting. High gloss trim, doors, cabinets, wainscotting.

PRO TIP: When painting a space choose the same colour for the walls, ceiling, and trim BUT in a different sheen. This ensures the space looks cohesive but the change in sheen gives the illusion that is it slightly different.

Living room walls with panel moulding painted in white dove in flat pain sheen. Photo of right of Victorian fireplace with wood table and ottoman underneath with case on top with faux branches. Double arm shaded wall sconce above the table.
Shop the Living Room: Ottoman, Sconce, Branches

Best Sheen for Trim

Choosing the right paint sheen for trim depends on the specific needs of your project and your lifestyle. The three main types of sheen for trim are Pearl, Semi-Gloss and High-Gloss.

Here are some factors to consider when choosing a paint sheen for trim:

  • Durability: Trim is subjected to more wear and tear than walls, so paint with a higher sheen, such as semi-gloss or high-gloss, may be more durable and easier to clean.
  • Paint Finish: If you want a sleek, modern look, high-gloss paint may be the best choice. If you prefer a softer, more subtle finish, a satin or semi-gloss paint may be a better option.
Floral wallpaper bathroom in green with pink. Natural cream board and batten in lower half of wall in pearl sheen. Two pieces of art framed on wall in gold. Toilet to right of photo, sink beside.
Powder Room Details

Best Paint Finish for a Bathroom

When decorating the bathroom, glossy or semi-gloss paint is a great choice. It’s especially durable and easy to clean, two very important qualities in this high-moisture space. Not only that, but it also resists mould and mildew growth better than matte or eggshell finishes. So if you want a long-lasting paint job, glossy or semi-gloss paint is the way to go!

If you like the matte or eggshell look, you can certainly use it in your bathroom, however, you’ll need to put in extra effort to keep the walls clean and dry. Just bear in mind that it may need a bit more maintenance to keep it looking great.

In my bathroom, I had an issue above the shower where the paint was peeling. This is in part due to the fan not working as well as it should. I was able to sand and patch this area of the ceiling and then I used a bathroom primer specifically to resist mould and mildew. Then, I used tinted bathroom paint that was a gloss finish to repaint the ceiling.

Living room with white dove in flat sheen paint. Large window and stained glass above with red, blue, purple, yellow and blue. Light grey sectional sofa and wood coffee table. Frame tv on the wall with white flower field. Brass amed shaded sconce above.
Shop the Living Room: Sconce, Sofa, Throw Pillow, Rug

Best Paint Finish for Living Room

For a living room, it’s usually preferable to choose a paint with a satin or eggshell finish. This type of paint has a slightly shiny effect which is more durable and easier to clean than a flat or matte finish – perfect for a living room that sees a lot of activity. Additionally, a satin or eggshell paint can help prevent the build-up of dirt and grime, which is often a concern in a busy space.

If you love the look of a flat or matte finish for your living room wall, no problem! Just remember to take extra care to keep it dust and fingerprint-free. It may need a bit more maintenance to keep it looking its best, but it’ll be worth it in the end.

Want to get all of the details on our kitchen reno? Learn more here.

Breakfast nook view into kitchen with natural cream cabinets in kitchen with shiplap walls in chantilly lace in eggshell finish with big square field painting above. Medium wood table with two chair and L shaped bench seating.

Shop the Breakfast Nook: Art, Picture Light, Table (similar), Pillows from H&M. Kitchen details and paint colour.

Best Paint Sheen for Kitchen

For your kitchen, it is recommended to choose a semi-gloss or satin paint. This kind of paint has a glossy finish that is strong, easy to clean and able to tolerate moisture and a lot of foot traffic. A semi-gloss or gloss paint will also prevent the growth of mould and mildew, along with being capable of withstanding regular cleanings.

If you have a backsplash in your kitchen above your countertop, you don’t have to stress as much about moisture and dirt, so an eggshell finish should work fine. But if you don’t have a backsplash, then I’d suggest using a higher gloss finish.

Kitchen Ceiling Paint Sheen

It is generally best to use paint with a flat or matte finish on the ceiling. These types of paint have a non-reflective finish that is good at hiding imperfections and will not produce a glare when the light is on.

Best Paint Sheen for Kitchen Cabinets

The sheen of paint that you choose for your kitchen cabinets can have a big impact on the overall look of the space. Here are a few options to consider:

  • Pearl Finish: This finish has a medium sheen and is a good all-around choice for kitchen cabinets. It is easy to clean and is resistant to stains and scratches.
  • Semi-gloss and high-gloss finish: This finish has a very shiny and reflective surface, which can make a bold statement in a kitchen. However, it is more prone to showing fingerprints and scratches and may be more difficult to touch up.

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