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 interior walls!
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 eggshell paint and if it might be right for your interior walls, too!
What is eggshell paint?
Eggshell is a sheen of house paint. Sheen measures the amount of shine on the finish of a paint. An eggshell sheen is almost matte with just a subtle sheen to it – like an egg’s shell.
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).
Be sure to check out these tips on preventing Paint Bleed Through!
What is eggshell paint used for?
Eggshell paint is great for walls, ceilings, and furniture.
Eggshell paint is my #1 go to finish for walls in your whole home. I love it for high traffic areas like bedrooms, hallways, living room, kitchen, dining room, family room, and anything in between.
It is traditional to use a flat or matte finish on ceilings. However, eggshell paint works too. I particularly like this look if you are painting a room all white (or very very light off white) and wall the walls and ceiling all one cohesive color (and finish).
We use eggshell paint on a lot of our furniture makeovers! You can actually then top it with a polyurethane top coat in an eggshell, satin, or semi-gloss finish!
What is eggshell paint NOT great for?
I prefer to use a semi gloss paint finish on doors and trim. This contrast in sheen is what they eye is used to seeing. It is “normal” for trim and doors to reflect light a bit more. Plus, doors especially are handled a lot, and need the strongest possible paint.
If you have a super high-moisture area – like a bathroom or kitchen – you might prefer a glossier finish that would repel water and resist moisture. This being said, I use eggshell in all of our bathrooms without issue.
Finally, if your walls are very textured, I would not use eggshell paint. Stick to matte or flat finish.
When should you use eggshell paint?
I suggest using eggshell paint on interior walls when you have flat, untextured walls.
Where should you use eggshell paint?
You can use eggshell paint on any interior walls including bedrooms, living rooms, hallways, bathrooms, and kitchen.
Is eggshell paint washable?
Yes, modern eggshell paint is washable. Buy a quality paint and it will stand up to scrubbing, too!
What is eggshell paint vs satin?
Eggshell paint is less glossy than satin. Satin will have a definite higher sheen to it, while eggshell has a much more subtle luster. Some brands of paint group eggshell and satin paint together as “low luster” or “low sheen”.
Eggshell paint is also more forgiving than satin paint. The gloss in satin will show more brush strokes and imperfections in the paint, which eggshell paint disguises more.
Additionally, eggshell paint is usually a few dollars less per gallon compared to satin paint!
Is matte or eggshell better?
Matte paint is a popular option for wall paint as well. I prefer matte paint if you have a textured wall. However, for smooth drywall, I prefer the slight luster of an eggshell paint finish.
Is it better to use eggshell or flat wall paint?
Flat paint is perfect for textured walls or walls with lots of blemishes, dents, dings, and damage to it, as it disguises the texture. However, in most cases, I prefer an eggshell finish for all other walls.
Why is my eggshell paint shiny?
Eggshell paint does have a bit of a shine to it. If it is getting direct light you will see a reflection or bouncing of the light. If you hate that, go flat!
Do you need a primer with eggshell paint?
Sheen doesn’t really effect if you need a primer, it’s more about if you are painting over a dark color with a light color. Primer is generally cheaper and gives better coverage than paint + primer in one, so if you are painting light over dark, do a coat of primer first to cut down on coats and save some cash!
What sheen for walls?
99.9% of the time, I believe that eggshell is the best paint finish for walls. It looks beautiful, is cleanable, and will help to hide minor damage or wear to the wall.
Can I use satin paint on walls?
I strongly urge you not to use satin paint on walls. It is too reflective and will give you a glare, plus it draws attention to any imperfections on the wall’s surface. Eggshell is the best sheen for interior walls.
Eggshell paint is fabulous. It is the perfect balance between flat (disguising flaws in the wall) and glossy (cleanability and beautiful sheen). It is my top choice for interior walls and in my humble opinion the best interior paint sheen!
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.
The best way to sample paint? Samplize!
Thanks for reading!
Morgan is passionate about home decor and paint colors. She has been sharing DIY home decor tips since 2012 at CharlestonCrafted.com. From there, she learned to love paint colors, and the Paint Color Project was born in 2022!