Picking the right paint color can already be overwhelming. Add in selecting the correct sheen or finish and well, you might just walk away and live with what you have. It’s OK. I’ve got you and will break it down…plus give you a handy guide to help you own your paint project like a boss!

You know I love the power of paint and say over and over what a relatively inexpensive game changer it can be. A question I get when I specify a paint for a project is “what sheen do I use for my _______________? (fill in the blank with baseboards, walls, cabinetry, etc.)

So let’s break it down shall we?

There are five basic sheen types:

  • Flat/Matte – This has no shine and absorbs light. It can look dull but also be dramatic in the right setting like a bedroom. Can be harder to clean so use in low traffic areas. Great for ceilings.
  • Eggshell – Easier to clean with a slight reflective, low lustre look. Can be used on most walls except kitchens and bathrooms.
  • Satin – Most popular sheen as it can be used in most applications for walls, doors, trimwork, etc. A little more shine and easy to wipe clean. It is my go to sheen for most of my paint projects.
  • Semi-Gloss – Medium high shine and easy to clean. Reflects light but will also cause any imperfections to show more. Great for places where moisture may be like kitchens, bathrooms and laundry rooms, as well as trim work and doors.
  • Gloss – Very shiny and reflective. If you want some drama or to showcase an architectural detail, gloss or lacquer paint is the one to use. Prep your surface to hide those imperfections cuz this paint will show them all!
  • * A note about matte paint. It has come a long way and most brands offer this in a paint that is easier to clean now. It looks great in a bedroom or on a fireplace.

Here’s the guide that you can save or Pin for your next paint project!

By Design,


Paint 101 – Using the Correct Paint Sheen for Walls, Doors, Trim and Cabinets

Interior Design

Approachable, elevated interior design in Northern California.

Michele by design interiors