So you picked your paint color – great job! Now it’s time to pick your paint sheen. Let’s talk about the best paint finish for every room in your home!
Picking paint colors is hard enough – but once you get to the paint counter you still have to pick which paint you want (brand/type) AND what sheen you want.
Spoiler alert: I almost always opt for eggshell.
Some people are perplexed by this. Don’t you have kids? Pets? Don’t you want… satin?!
I think that a lot of this goes back to older paint, when flat paint would literally wipe off if you scrubbed it.
But anyway, I am getting ahead of my self. Let’s talk about paint sheens and which is right for each room in your home.
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. It 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.
Paint finishes + hiding wall damage
A huge consideration in wall finish is the appearance of texture or dings in the surface of the walls.
Glossier paints reflect more light, right? So, if there is a ding, you will notice more that light is being reflected at an angle instead of straight back at you like a flat wall.
So, glossier paints draw more attention to dings and texture in the walls compared to flat finishes.
In that way, an eggshell finish is MUCH better for textured or dinged walls than satin finish paint (or anything glossier).
The best paint finish for every room
Here are my favorite paint finishes to use by room in your home.
I would use eggshell in every interior room, unless you have textured walls in which case I would use flat or matte paint.
Hallways are usually high-traffic rooms that get a lot of wear and tear. For that reason, many people say use semi-gloss paint. However, I prefer a high-quality scuff defense style paint in an eggshell finish.
Bathrooms and kitchens
My favorite paints for an eggshell paint finish with mildew resistance:
- 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
I like a semi-gloss paint for trim work. Trim is smooth so it won’t have the imperfections that semi-gloss shows off of drywall. It helps it hold up to lots of heavy wear and tear. Plus, this provides textural contrast with the drywall!
Cabinetry is handled a lot, so a semi-gloss or glossy finish is best. However, I think that high gloss finishes show too much dust and fingerprints, so I stick to semi-gloss.
Doors are also handled a lot, so I stick to semi-gloss paint. Be sure to use an outdoor UV protected finish for exterior doors or the color will fade!
I use a flat finish for ceilings. The only exception is if I want to paint the ceiling the same color as the walls, then I will use the same eggshell finish on the ceiling.
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.