A Quick Guide To Wall Paint Sheens

A Quick Guide To Interior Wall Paint Sheens

A Quick Guide To Interior Wall Paint Sheens

If you’re picking out a wall paint colour at the shop, one of the questions we will ask is how shiny (or not) you prefer your paint to be – flat, matte, or eggshell. The decision will depend on the type of room you are painting and your lifestyle. Not sure which sheen is right for you? My quick guide is below.

FLAT: Flat paints have no shine and have almost a chalky appearance. This type of paint is best for ceilings, where you want to minimize glare, and low traffic areas like bedrooms. Flat finish paints will minimize surface imperfections so they are a good choice for old or rough walls. This finish is not the best choice for high traffic areas or if you have an active lifestyle with pets or children. TIP: In dark colours like navy or charcoal, a flat paint may burnish – or turn shiny over time – where it is touched a lot. This happens frequently around light switched.

MATTE: This is by far my favourite and our most popular paint sheen. Since this is a relatively flat finish that CAN be washed clean, it’s the most versatile and can be used in almost any room. Because it is not very reflective it also does not highlight minor wall imperfections so it can be used on both rough and smooth walls.

EGGSHELL: The best way to describe this type of sheen is a waxy glow. An eggshell finish has a slight slippery feel which is easy to keep clean. Use this finish for high traffic areas like kitchens, hallways, or mudrooms. It’s also great for keeping the walls clean with pets or young children. TIP: Remember that “eggshell” refers to the sheen and not the colour. Eggshell paints can be made in any shade.

In the categories above there are also specialty finishes if you have a specific issue with your walls. For example, Benjamin Moore Aura Bath & Spa is a matte finish that is designed to resist mold and mildew in warm damp spaces. Benjamin Moore Scuff-X is especially formulated for the ultimate in durability in extremely high traffic areas.

Years ago the only type of paint that could be washed clean was very shiny finish like a satin or a semigloss. However, these paints not only highlighted every patch, crack and bump on the wall, they also gave homes an institutional, almost clinical, feel. Paint technology has come a long way and these days the updated formulas are durable, washable but flatter and softer. Satin, semigloss and gloss paints are a lovely contrast on woodwork, doors, cabinets and furniture.

Remember that rules are made to be broken! If you love a shiny wall – go for it. There are plenty of stunning designs that feature a high gloss ceiling. Not sure which finish is right for your home? Just ask! Stop by the shop or send us an email.

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3 Responses to “A Quick Guide To Wall Paint Sheens”

  1. Mainsail Bermuda

    Thanks for this article – very helpful.

    Does this advice apply to interiors only?

    What about Bermuda exteriors?

    I used a ‘high performance’ exterior matte paint on our house a couple of years ago and very much regret not insisting on something more fade resistant, durable and washable. It needs repainting – what should I use for long-lasting easy-to-maintain results?


    • Rowe Spurling Paint Company

      Thank you for visiting and for your comment. Often when exterior paint fades it can have a lot more to do with the colour than with the paint. Our exteriors take a lot of abuse from the sun, salt and wind. Brighter colours are achieved with paint tints that universally do not stand up to the elements. This is especially true of yellows, peaches, vibrant pinks and bright blues. A higher quality paint with a better resin will resist peeling and cracking but in those colours will fade regardless. Also, sometimes people confuse lime burn with fading paint. Lime burn shows up in white patches on the wall. When paint fades it does so uniformly.

      For exterior, the most common sheens are flat, which is better for older homes which may have rougher textures, patches and repairs, and low luster. A low luster finish is better for homes that are on the road side or have a lot of landscaping as this finish is easier to keep clean.

      I hope this helps! If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to reach out.

  2. Mainsail

    Thanks for responding. It is a relatively new build (2011) and the colour is light blue/gray. It is definitely fading rather than lime luster. A durable low lustre or semi gloss seems to be what we need. I think I’ve seen a similar finish on buildings at Mizzentop.
    Ta, C:


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