Choosing the right color is usually the main consideration for homeowners when applying new paint. Fair enough. After all, the paint colors you choose will dramatically affect how a room looks and feels. But color is only part of the story of residential painting. Paint can also be separated in terms of sheen. Sheen, or finish, refers to how reflective or glossy the paint looks after it’s dried.

This might not seem like a big deal at first, but the paint sheen you choose, much like the color, determines the overall aesthetic of a room. Different sheens also have important functional implications. How do you choose the right sheen for your home’s interior rooms? Here are some things to consider.

Types of Sheen

Before we go further, let’s briefly list the five types of sheen in degrees of reflectiveness. From low to high, these are: flat, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss, and gloss. A flat finish doesn’t really reflect light at all, absorbing it instead. Also known as matte, flat paint doesn’t look all that different in various light sources. Eggshell is a slight step up from flat in terms of glossiness, and satin is right in the middle. Once we get to semi-gloss, the paint is pretty reflective. You’ll be able to see a bright light reflected pretty clearly in this finish. Finally, a gloss sheen is the most reflective finish, commonly seen in industrial settings.

Now that you know the five main sheen options available, let’s break down their advantages and disadvantages based on four major attributes: durability, cleanliness, cost, and aesthetics.


The sheen you choose isn’t just about appearance. It’s also about longevity. When interior painting, you want to invest in paint that will hold up over time, especially in high-traffic areas like kitchens and family rooms. The more glossy a finish, the more durable it actually is. In other words, high-gloss paint can take much more of a beating than flat or eggshell paint.

Areas that don’t see heavy traffic, like bedrooms and dining rooms, might not need the added durability of glossy paint. For these areas, flat or eggshell finishes are common. Some businesses, however, may hire commercial painting services to apply high-gloss paint in certain work areas to ensure the highest level of protection and durability.


Cleaning painted surfaces regularly is crucial to maintaining a beautiful interior – and the easier it is to clean, the better. Sheen makes a difference in this arena as well. The more glossy the paint, the smoother its finish, and therefore the easier it is to clean. Flat and eggshell finishes have rougher textures, requiring a bit more effort to scrub. And because these low-gloss finishes are less durable, there is always a risk of damaging the paint when cleaning.


Whether you like doing it yourself or would rather hire professional painters, you want to keep your costs low without sacrificing quality. Because high-gloss paint is more durable than lower grades, paint does get a bit more costly as you climb the sheen ladder. In general, each increasing step costs about an extra couple of dollars per gallon. This might not sound like much at first, but the cost can add up when several gallons are required to cover your interior.

Aesthetic Preference

With all of the practical implications out of the way, the last thing to consider is how the paint looks once it’s dried. As with choosing colors, this is completely preferential. Some homeowners might love the way semi-gloss paint looks in their kitchen, and others might prefer a flatter finish. Whatever you prefer, keep in mind that the level of sheen also determines the visibility of imperfections on the surface. Glossier finishes reveal more of a surface’s flaws, while matte finishes tend to hide them. Knowing this can also help you decide which sheen to choose.

If you’re still not sure which sheen is right for your various rooms, ask your painting services for advice. In addition to painting and repairing homes and businesses, All American Painting Plus helps homeowners and business owners choose the right colors and finishes for their needs. To learn more about all that we do, give us a call at (703)-620-5563!