What are the different types of paint finishes?

What are the different types of paint finishes?

  1. Matte/Flat: The least shiny types of paints are flat paints and matte paints. They offer the most coverage and require fewer coats to cover imperfections. 
  2. Eggshell. A very popular paint finish is eggshell. These slightly lustrous paints can hide imperfections slightly better than flat paints (with their delicate low sheen).
  3. Satin. There are many types of paint finishes for interior walls, including satin and matte. Its velvety sheen and ease of cleaning set it apart from flat and eggshell paints.
  4. Semi-gloss. Shiny and reflective paints are semi-gloss. Their durability and mildew resistance make them ideal for outdoor use.
  5. High-gloss. paints are the shiniest paint finish.

Renovating and redoing a room or walls and ceilings of your home can be a lot of fun, but it also comes with a lot of decisions. You have to pick suitable paint, and this involves so much more than just the color of the paint you like.
There are different kinds of paint and paint finishes, and you can learn all about these in the following guide.

Why Paint Choice Matters

You may be wondering why you need a full guide on choosing the right paint. Besides their different paint colors, paints also come in different types and finishes. For house painting, paint types include water-based paints, oil-based paints, acrylic paints, and latex paints.

Each of these has different properties, in terms of how it dries, how durable it is, and which rooms it might be more suitable. Some paints are best for interior walls, while others are suitable for exterior walls.

Another important property of paint is the finish, and we are going to look into what this means and what the options are in great depth. For now, it is enough to say that the paint finishes, such as whether it is glossy or not, affect the final look.

The various finishes are also more suitable for some walls than others. For these reasons, we are going to give you all the information and tips you need to know about which paint finish is suited for where and what the advantages of each are.

If you choose the wrong painting finish for your application, this can cost you time, money, and energy. You should rather get all the information and research done first, so you pick the right paint.

What are the different types of paint finishes?

Before we dig into the topic of types of paint finish, you must have a clear understanding of what paint finish is. Quite simply, paint finish or sheen refers to how much light a paint cant reflect from its surface.

Paints with a sheen can therefore reflect light, and these are the flat or matt types of paint. On the other hand, those paints without sheen do not reflect light but absorb it instead. These are the semi-gloss and gloss paints.

They are easy to spot because of their characteristic bright and shiny finish. Each category of paint sheen has its own perks, and you are going to see this as we look at each of them in turn.

The chemical composition determines the sheen. The more resin there is and the less the amount of pigmentation in a paint, the glossier the types of paint. When pigmentation is high and resin levels are low, the paint has a flatter finish.

When trying to choose the best paint for a particular room you might like to work on with oil or water-based paint, you should think about how you want to use the space and what you want the room to look like at the end.

Try mix two different sheen styles when you are looking for something in-between

You can find a wide variety of sheens when you are using oil and latex paints. While most paint finishes can be used in any room, you need to find a resilient option for high-traffic areas such as dining rooms and living rooms in your home.

It is also good to think about things like how best to clean various wall options and which ones are less ideal when there are painting imperfections.

Before you apply interior paint, you may well need to use a primer. This can help prepare the wall surface for the paint and can help give better results.

Depending on which resource you use, you might get varying classifications on the number of unique paint types and paint finish types.

In this well-researched guide, we have compiled a comprehensive list of the main four paint finishes based on our expertise and a range of trusted resources we have gathered.

Let us start with the lower sheen options of flat or matt and satin or eggshell. After that, we can move into the finishes with more sheen, which are gloss and semi-gloss.

Flat or Matt

Flat finish or matt finish has the least sheen of all available types of paint finishes(less than 10%), and this also makes it the least reflective paint sheen available. It has the highest pigment level, and this comes with some great applications as a concealer of imperfections.

How it looks: This paint is non-reflective, and because it soaks up light, it can also hide bumps on the wall quite well.

How it feels: This finish has a velvety texture.

Where it is used: Matt paint is commonly used on walls, ceilings, and where the surface is not even. For upcycling furniture like wooden desks, chalky matt paint is popular.

Cleaning notes: Flat or matt paint is not always the easiest to clean. So, you might want to avoid busy places like family rooms.

Other points to note: Matt paint offers great paint color depth and is a standard choice for walls.

Satin or Eggshell

In this category, we have four similar paint sheens: eggshell, satin, silk, and soft sheen. These all have a sheen level of around 20%.

How it looks: These paints have a dull shine like an eggshell, but there is some reflection from these paint sheens.

How it feels: The finish is more smooth than matt.

Where it is used: These paints can handle the demand of high-traffic areas such as bathrooms and kitchens. Silk and soft sheen are the go-to finishes for hallways and kitchens. When decorating walls and ceiling, acrylic eggshell paints are a good choice. Another major application is on trims, skirting, and window surrounds.

Cleaning notes: These paint sheens are more wipeable, so the surface is easier to clean.

Other points to note: Satin or eggshell finishes have good durability and resistance to steam.

What Is the Difference Between an Eggshell and a Satin Paint?

A satin finish is slightly glossier than eggshell and is, therefore, more reflective of light. An eggshell finish is more often used in everyday spaces such as bedrooms, while satin is perfect for humid bathrooms and dark rooms because it is easier to clean and has slightly higher durability.


The next paint sheen available is semi-gloss and is a great midway option that is easy to live with.

How it looks: Semi-gloss is a sleek and attractive finish. It is shinier than the satin finish and has a special radiance.

How it feels: You can expect a smooth feel.

Where it is used: We recommend semi-gloss for busy traffic areas with high moisture such as bathrooms and kitchens in your home. It also works great on trim and crown mouldings as an accent.

Cleaning notes: This surface is smooth and very easy to clean.

Other points to note: Semi-gloss is a shiny paint finish with high durability. If you choose this high sheen option, you may not be able to conceal imperfections as easily.


Gloss or high-gloss paint can have as high as 90% sheen. It is available for both exterior and interior use, we like to use gloss paint on exterior wood. If you get water-based or acrylic gloss finishes, these have less sheen than a solvent-based or oil-based alternative.

How it looks: Gloss paint is very light-reflecting. It makes a great statement and can be considered a specialty finish.

How it feels: It feels smooth.

Where it is used: You may use this high gloss option to make your doors, cabinets, and furniture stand out. It can also be used as a specialist hygienic coating in commercial kitchens.

Cleaning notes: This paint is the easiest to clean and wash whether it is a wall, trim, or another surface.

Other points to note: This shiny choice of paint has the highest durability, but it does show imperfections. Painting with this smooth option is not the easiest thing to do.

Which Finish Is Best?

By now, you can see how many types of paint finishes there are. Each option has its own pros and cons, so you have to figure out the best choice with this in mind.

The location and size of the room have an impact on the final finish, so your paint choice must consider these.

Once you know where you want to paint, the final look you are going for, the merits and demerits of each option, and the budget, you can choose wisely.

You can ask a paint expert to help or request for paint samples before you choose the final paint.


In this guide, we discussed the basics on the available sheen types. Choosing the right paint color and finish for the walls and ceilings in your home takes a bit of time and research.

It can help you to first picture what you want each room to look like at the end. Talk to an expert, look for pictures, and find out what high-quality paint colours and finishes are available.

There is much to learn about choosing various types of paint finishes and color. You can ask for a sample color for your walls prior to choosing the best option to use. You may well decide to do the painting yourself, like others do.


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