Choosing the Right Paint Finish For Your Room

Choosing the Right Paint Finish For Your Room

We have all been there. Standing at the counter of the paint store, holding our carefully selected paint swatch… confident that we have perfectly matched the paint to the color of the piping in our new sofa. Then the confidence evaporates when the store clerk asks which paint finish we are using. We hem – we haw. Oh, I don’t know, just give me semi-gloss, we say. And then we get home and are appalled to find that our newly painted living room walls are practically shiny, showing every possible drywall flaw. Aagh!

To avoid paint disasters such as this, it helps to learn the difference between the plethora of paint finishes that are available today. These include everything from your basic flat matte finish, to a high gloss, to a half-dozen more in between. Here goes.

Matte Finish. Also known as flat paint, a matte finish has the least amount of shine of any paint finish. Because it does not reflect the light, it is extremely useful when your walls are old and have accumulated a lifetime of bumps, cracks and other imperfections. But the downside of a matte finish is that it is the most difficult to clean. If you have small children and pets, matte paint can be a real chore to keep clean. You will probably find yourself repainting rather than washing off marks and scuffs.

Eggshell Finish. One step up from matte, an eggshell finish also has a very low reflective quality, but it is a smidgen more forgiving when it comes to cleaning. In instance where you have old walls and young children, an eggshell finish can offer a sort of compromise between showing imperfections and wash-ability.

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Satin Finish. A satin paint is formulated to hold up in higher traffic areas and can be a good choice for kids rooms, bathrooms, hallways and other areas that require frequent wall washing.

Semi-Gloss. A semi-gloss finish is the preferred paint finish for baseboards, doors and other trim in your room, such as chair rails and picture framing. These areas take a beating from the vacuum and general foot traffic, so semi-gloss paint makes frequent cleaning a breeze. This paint lays on easily and offers a silky smooth finish, but it requires a bit more prep work since any surface imperfections are going to be highlighted by the reflective quality of the paint. Semi-gloss paint does not offer the same level of sophistication as matte or eggshell finishes and is rarely used on full walls.

Gloss. A high-gloss paint finish is rarely used for interior finishes, because it results in a highly-reflective finish that shows each and every wall imperfection. The high-gloss finish is akin to an enamel, so it is sometimes used for cabinets or trim in very contemporary interior designs, but is rarely used in general interior paint schemes.

Choosing the right paint finish is easy when you know what you are looking for. So the next time you find yourself standing at the paint counter with a color swatch in your hand, you can confidently order “a satin wall finish for a balance of coverage and durability, paired with a semi-gloss trim finish for increased wash-ability.” The paint clerk will be impressed with your knowledge of paint finishes, and you won’t have to wear sunglasses to ward off the glare in your newly painted living room.

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