Understanding paint "sheen" - Great Lakes 1-800-PAINTING
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Understanding paint “sheen”

What is sheen?

To make things simple, sheen is the shininess of the paint. The higher the sheen, the more durable the paint will be. Paint sheen and verbiage will vary with each manufacturer  – flat being the lowest amount and gloss being the highest. Not only does the sheen matter with the appearance of a painted surface, but it also determines the ease of cleaning.


Typically a sheen chart will follow this order:


Flat is great for areas where you are concerned about imperfections. Ceilings are a great place to use flat paint. In fact the flatter the better. Because of the way the light hits a ceiling, especially a large flat ceiling, any flaw will show up on even a semi bright day. The flat paint, because the light doesn’t bounce off it wont show the flaws as much as the other sheen. This holds true for walls that have flaws or texture from repetitive painting

Flat paint is hard to wash. There are a few on the market that are so if you are going to use flat (often referred to as matte) make sure you buy one that is washable or don’t take this route


This category also includes satin and pearl and has a huge range of shine levels, from almost flat to almost semi-gloss so know what you need and how shiny the paint will be when it’s dried
Eggshell is by far the most used sheen in residential homes.


It used to be that all kitchens and bathrooms needed semi-gloss as it was the only paint that was really washable but that is no longer the case

It’s bright… when the light hits it it shines, so for a dark room it can make it seem brighter. Because it casts light back it’s a good choice for trim. Put it on a window, when the light comes through it amplifies the light a bit and makes the space seem brighter.

It is not forgiving for those flaws… the light will catch and bounce on the hills and valleys of a wall and dents, roller marks etc will stand out like a sore thumb. You really want to have good walls to put semi-gloss on them

Typically gloss is like a piano finish… very very shiny and not used in residential painting much at all . There are some exceptions to this in terms of floor paint etc but mostly not mainstream.



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