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When it comes time to repaint a room, most people get caught up in the color choices and forget about the second, and equally important, decision they have to make: what kind of sheen is right for this room? The amount of gloss in a paint can make a huge difference in the feel of a room and the way the color appears under light. Here are some tips to help you pick the right finish for you and your home.

The Kinds of Finish

  • High Gloss–has 85% shine or higher. High gloss paints are good for highlighting special architecture like crown molding, cabinets, and window frames.
  • Gloss–has 70-85% shine. This is the ideal sheen level for clean-ups to high traffic areas of your home, like cabinets, trim, and doors.
  • Semi-Gloss–has a 35-75% shine. Semi-gloss is perfect sheen if you are looking to compromise between functional and bright. Because it’s easy to wipe down and clean, window sills, trim, and other woodwork are common places for semi-gloss paint.
  • Satin–has a 25-23% shine. More sophisticated than the flatter sheens, a satin finish will give you a cleanable surface while still hiding blemishes like filled-in nail holes. Ceilings, trim, doors, and walls in high-traffic rooms (think kids’ rooms and kitchens) are good choices for a satin paint.
  • Eggshell–has a 10-25% shine. With its light shine, eggshell makes an excellent choice for walls that won’t need a lot of cleaning.
  • Matte–has a 5-10% shinie. Matte finishes can only tolerate light, infrequent cleaning, but their deep, bold colors make for dramatic statements. If you’re painting a room that won’t get dirty, matte can be an outstanding choice.
  • Flat–0-5% shine. Walls painted with flat paint are difficult to clean but successfully hides the many cracks, pockmarks, and other flaws in old walls and ceilings. Popular locations for flat paint are closets, ceilings, and home offices.

Things to Consider

Are There Imperfections in the Surface?

High gloss paint is not idea for surfaces like walls, that a lot of imperfections. That’s because higher gloss finishes reflect more light and make it easier to spot bumps and scratches. If you’re painting a surface likely to get a lot of wear and tear, opt for a lower gloss finish.

How Much Traffic Does the Surface Get?

In other words: do you think you’re going to want to clean this surface often? If the answer is yes, choice a finish with a mid-level of gloss.

Are You Painting a Large Surface or a Statement Area?

Are you painting the kitchen walls or the cabinets in a formal living room? If you’re working on something like trim, molding, or doors, consider a higher-gloss finish to make these areas stand out. Similarly, if you’re imaging a dramatic statement wall in a formal room, a high gloss paint is a good choice. If you are painting surfaces that should feel calmer or will suffer more use, consider the mid-level glosses that will clean well but create a calmer backdrop.