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The best paint finish for trim

Painting your trim? You have to pick a paint color – and a paint finish! Let’s talk about the best paint finish for trim!

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 trim paint sheens. Trim has to be repainted sometimes, often when you paint the room, and the sheen is just as important as the color.

Be sure to check out my favorite white paint colors!

Types of paint finishes

The types of paint finishes for walls are (from SHINIEST to least shiny):

  1. glossy
  2. semi-gloss
  3. satin
  4. eggshell
  5. matte
  6. flat
paint sheens for every room


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!

Check out my complete guide to paint sheens.

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 trim


Trim is often high-traffic, on door frames and windows and other places that get touched often. You want a durable, wipeable paint finish.

Personal style

High gloss paint can look super glamorous, while more matte finishes have a more casual or even boho vibe.


Glossier finishes will show more fingerprints, smudges, and mess than less glossy finishes.

the best paint finish for trim

The best paint finish for trim

The best paint finish for trim is semi-gloss.

Best sheen for trim

Semi-gloss paint finishes are durable, cleanable, and look pristine. This makes them perfect for trim work.

If you want an ultra modern look – with more flat/non-intricate molding – glossy paint can work as well for a lacquered look. Just know they will be harder to clean!

Is semi-gloss or glossy better for trim?

I prefer semi-gloss paint for trim. I think it shows slightly less fingerprints and mess compared to glossy paint. However, both are totally fine options and glossy looks great in ultra-modern spaces! If you don’t have kids or pets (or have a maid) – super glossy is great!

Still not sure what paint color to choose?

paint color formula square mockup

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.

Learn more about the Paint Color Formula here!

The best way to sample paint? Samplize!

Get peel-and-stick removable and reusable paint samples here!

Paint color Planner mock up

Thanks for reading!

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