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Tips for Choosing Paint Finishes

A Guide to Picking Interior Paints


Tips for Choosing Paint Finishes
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Color is rarely an easy decision, but when it comes to painting a room, it's only half the story. Once you decide on your color, you still have many steps to go before purchasing your paint. Now you must journey through the land of paint finishes and decipher such terms as latex, acrylic, oil, primer plus paint, low VOC... and the list goes on an on.

If you need help with color choices, start here. If you simply want to understand the differences in all of the paint finishes available, what paints work best in what spaces, and what all of these paint terms mean, read onward, brave DIY soldier!

Paint Finishes & Sheens
Here's what you need to know about finishes. Most paints fall under these general categories.

Flat Flat paint has no sheen, and some flat finishes may even appear a bit chalky. Flat paint tends to be better at hiding imperfections in a wall, which is why it is typically used on ceilings. Flat paint does tend to bruise or scuff easily and is harder to clean (even if it says "washable"), so it isn't great for high traffic areas or areas where there is a lot of moisture - for example in kitchens or baths. Flat paint is a common choice (especially in rental properties) because it is usually the least expensive finish, but it is not always the best choice for the walls in your home.

Matte Depending upon the manufacturer, matte can simply be a fancy term for a flat finish, but some matte paints I have used do have a slight sheen (even though they do say flat enamel on the can... see how this can be confusing???). Talk to your paint mixologist and try samples. Matte paint is typically considered flat, but test it first. You may be surprised.

Eggshell Somewhere between a flat paint and a satin lies eggshell. If you can imagine the slight sheen of a true egg's shell, you can visualize this paint. This is a great choice for someone who may want a flat look but still would like a little more durability. Fine for all wall surfaces except high humidity areas like the bathroom, eggshell makes a good choice as a standard paint finish. It is also perfect for low-traffic areas like bedrooms.

Satin Finish Satin finish paint has a smooth, velvety look with a bit more gloss than eggshell. It is fairly durable and easy to clean, so it is often used as a wall paint in kids' rooms, kitchens, or bathrooms, or in areas which get a lot of traffic, like a hallway. It is also often used on trim work and molding.

Semi-Gloss Semi-gloss works great in highly humidity place such as garages, kitchens and baths. Easy to clean and formulated to resist moisture, semi-gloss is also often used on windows and doors, trim work and cabinetry. Semi-gloss will give you a nice shine without being too glitzy, though damaged or rough surfaces will be highlighted by semi-glosses' effects.

Gloss Gloss finishes mimic the look of an enamel, and are super easy to clean and very durable. Gloss paints protect and highlight trim work, cabinetry, doors and molding. They also greatly highlight surface imperfections, so proceed with caution. Though not typically used on walls, a glossy finish is becoming more popular for a dramatic look in contemporary settings. Gloss paint may be a great choice when painting furnishings or home decor.
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