Painting your bathroom? You have to pick a paint color – and a paint finish! Let’s talk about the best paint finish for a bathroom!
Picking paint colors can be tough enough, but then you have to pick a paint finish too?!
I remember my first time buying paint, when the Lowe’s paint desk asked me what sheen I wanted I stared at them slack jawed. I truly had no clue.
I’ve learned a LOT since then about paint colors AND sheens.
Today I want to talk about bathroom paint sheens. Bathrooms have a bit of a complicated sheen-story, so let’s dive into it!
Be sure to check out my favorite bathroom paint colors!
Types of paint finishes
The types of paint finishes for walls are (from SHINIEST to least shiny):
High gloss paint is very glossy and almost reflective. It is not used for walls but more for cabinets or furniture where you want a super glossy enamel look.
Semi-gloss paint it what is traditionally used on trim and doors. It has a lot of resin in it and that makes it more durable for high touch areas.
Don’t use semi gloss paint on walls – it will show every ding or dent and the glossiness looks weird on walls!
Satin has a mid-amount of gloss to it. That gloss comes from extra resins mixed in, making it more scrub-able. The satin sheen has traditionally been used for high traffic areas for that reason.
Eggshell is the perfect all purpose interior wall paint finish. It has a slight sheen to it but is not at all glossy.
Eggshell paint provides a soft luster and an easy finish that is beautiful but is not the star of the show. Unlike a glossy paint, no one is going to come in and say WOW that paint sheen huh.
Eggshell lets the color be the true star!
Matte paint is offered by some paint brands. It is a flat finish that gets a slight protective film as it dries. This makes it more cleanable than flat paint.
Flat wall paint has zero shine to it. It feels chalky to the touch, which makes me cringe personally.
If you have a lot of dings, bumps, or texture to your wall, flat paint will help to disguise it.
Flat paint traditionally is not washable. It has no protective coat, so scrubbing it will take off the paint! If you want to go flat, look for a brand marked as washable or scrubable!
What determines the sheen of a paint?
Paint sheen is determined by the chemical make up of the paint. Glossier paints have more resins and less pigment in them.
For this reason, glossier paints need more coats of paint – each coat has less pigment. Pair this with the paint being more expensive to begin with, and glossy paint can get pricey quickly!
Paint finishes + cleanability
Historically, it has been said that the glossier the paint, the easier it is to clean. And sure, I get it, shiny lacquered surfaces are less absorbent than rough or matte ones.
And it is true, higher sheen paints have less pigment and more “binders” – which is basically a resin that makes the paint harder and shinier – and therefore super durable.
But here is the truth: modern paint in premium brands is all formulated to be durable and scrubbable and easy to clean.
Now, if you buy the very cheapest version of the cheapest brand of paint, this might not be the case.
But anything of quality will be cleanable and durable.
Personally, we prefer to use the Behr Scuff Defense line of paint. I have 2 toddlers and 2 pets and I have 0 scuffing or scratches on my eggshell walls. I wipe them with a magic eraser without issue.
Most paint brands have an equivalent paint – or their traditional formulas are built with scrubbing technology.
So, the sheen of paint no longer has too much to do with clean-ability and is more about appearances and looks.
Factors to consider when choosing paint for your bathroom
Bathrooms are going to have a lot of humidity and moisture. Of course, half bathrooms won’t have this, but for the purpose of this article we will assume your bathroom has a tub and/or shower.
This moisture can lead to mold and mildew, so you want a paint that is mold and mildew resistant.
However, don’t pick an exterior paint – while they are moisture resistant, they contain chemicals that are not safe in inclosed indoor spaces. Stick to interior paint!
Bathrooms are often high traffic areas, especially if you have kids or pets. You want a durable, wipeable paint finish.
If you have flat or textured walls, that can effect the best paint sheen for your bathroom.
The best paint finish for a bathroom
The best paint finish for a bathroom, is the same finish I suggest for all interior walls: eggshell.
Best sheen for bathroom walls
A lot or people will say that the best sheen for bathroom paint is satin or semi-gloss. I disagree with this opinion.
While historical eggshell paint might have not had enough resin in it to be moisture resistant, that is just no longer the case. A high quality paint will stand up to moisture and traffic.
In my first condo, I painted the bathrooms semi-gloss because the paint desk told me to. Let me tell you – it looked terrible. The walls were smooth drywall, but they looked bumpy and uneven with that sheen of paint.
The fact that people are telling homeowners to paint their walls semi-gloss is also boggling to me. This paint has a lot of glare to it and would look bizarre on the walls. Plus, its more expensive and takes more coats than less glossy paint, making for a much pricier project.
Look for a premium paint that is mildew, scrub, and stain resistant. Every brand has a line of paint that meets this criteria!
My favorite paints for an eggshell bathroom paint finish:
- Behr Ultra Extra Durable Eggshell Enamel Interior Paint & Primer (what we used for our entire current home)
- Sherwin-Williams Showcase Eggshell Tintable Interior Paint + Primer
- Benjamin Moore Aura Bath and Spa Paint
- Valspar Ultra Eggshell Ultra White Tintable Interior Paint + Primer
- Zinsser Latex Acrylic Interior White,Eggshell
Best sheen for bathroom ceiling
I am shocked at the number of experts who recommend satin paint for a bathroom ceiling. Just… no. Do not do it. You want a flat, matte, or eggshell finish on the ceiling. I personally prefer flat paint on the ceiling for no sheen.
Look for a paint that is designed to be mildew resistant. This includes:
- Zinsser Ceiling Flat Bright White Ceiling Paint and Primer
- Sherwin-Williams Flat White Ceiling Paint and Primer
- Behr Premium Ultra Pure White Ceiling Flat Interior Paint
Check out all of my articles on paint sheens!
- My complete guide to paint sheens
- Satin vs Eggshell paint: which is right for you
- The best paint finish for every room
- The best sheen for interior wall paint
- The best paint finish for a bathroom
- The best paint finish for a bedroom
- The best paint finish for the living room
- The best paint finish for dining rooms
- The best paint finish for kitchen walls
- The best paint finish for hallways
- The best paint finish for kitchen cabinets
- The best paint finish for doors
Still not sure what paint color to choose?
My Paint Color Formula ebook walks you through the painless process of expertly testing paint swatches to ensure you have the perfect color for your home.