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Types of Painting Finishes

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Painting finishes are one of the best ways to add that “final touch” to the walls and ceilings in your home. They transform an otherwise dull-looking wall into one with definition. There are many options to choose from when picking out the best painting finish for your specific needs, and it is important to understand the advantages and disadvantages of each. Listed below are the five main finish types:

  • Matte or flat
  • Eggshell
  • Satin
  • Semi-gloss
  • Glossy

Matte or Flat

Matte or flat finish is the most commonly used interior wall finish. This surface, when dry, does not reflect any light, which is perfect for camouflaging small imperfections like bumps or cracks. While some of the modern matte paints are marketed as being washable, it is still a good idea to keep extra paint on hand after the job is done in case you need to touch up an area.


Eggshell paint has a finish exactly like an eggshell—with a low and but subtle sheen if you look at it from an angle. Similar to a matte finish, eggshell finishes are a good choice for living room and bedroom walls and are more durable for cleaning than matte finishes. However, eggshell paint is not the best choice for high-traffic areas.


Satin paint finishes have a very smooth, almost velvety look to them. This kind of finish is more often used for window and door trimmings, or areas where eggshell paint would be perfect but are too well-trafficked to hold up to consistent cleaning, since satin paint is generally engineered to be scrub-resistant.


Semi-gloss paint is most commonly used on things such as doors, trim, and kitchen cabinets. This finish has a subtle shine and is very easy to clean. However, before applying a semi-gloss finish, it is important to carefully prepare your surface (sanding, cleaning), as this finish makes can easily draw attention to any flaws in the painting surface.


A glossy finish is nearly reflective in nature, and the finished product has a sheen quite similar to plastic or enamel. Glossy paint is rarely used in home interiors, though it can have a dramatic effect on cabinets, trim, and furniture in formal settings. Glossy finishes amplify any imperfections in the paint surface, so extreme care is necessary when prepping the surface for painting with high gloss paints.

When it comes to selecting the best type of painting finish for your specific needs, it can be helpful to consult with a professional contractor. He or she will be able to give you the detailed benefits and detriments of each finish and help you pick out the best finish for your home.

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