Selecting The Right Paint Finish For Your Project

You’ve spent weeks or months agonizing over selecting a paint color only to realize that you have another decision to make. What finish do you want your paint to have? The finish is important because the paint finish or sheen that your finished paint project has is just as important as the color selection. Paint comes in all types of finishes, a flat or matte finish, a pearl finish, eggshell finish, semi-gloss finish, and high-gloss finishes. Depending on the brand of paint that you are using, those finishes could be called by numerous other names and can be broken down into different finishes.

For instance, Benjamin Moore has a flat finish and an eggshell finish. Somewhere between that falls their pearl finish, slightly less sheen than the eggshell, somewhat more sheen than the flat. All of these various finishes can be used to create a different result. If I wanted a wall to have a more velvety look and texture, I would choose something with less of a sheen. If I were painting a room filled with new custom cabinetry, I might opt for more of a sheen in my finished paint. The cabinets will reflect more light and give you a much different result and a flat or finish paint.

broken floor tile
Add rich color.

So how do you know where to start in the selection of a paint finish?
Here are a few tips:


What are you painting? If you are painting trim in a room and you want to wash it, you would choose a paint finish with more of a sheen, as flat paint finish will not easily wipe down without creating marks or scuffs.


In what condition are your walls or other items that you are painting? This is a crucial question when painting your walls because just about any paint finish can be used on a wall and will create a different look. However, when you use some of the glossier finishes, they usually work best on a wall with a limited amount of imperfections. If you’re going for a sleek high gloss finish, that finish will not give you the desired results if your walls are bumpy, rough, and imperfect. That high gloss will only highlight those imperfections. However, if you do have an older wall and it’s not in excellent condition. You’re not going to skim coat and improve the condition of those walls. It’s best to go with a flat or matte finish as it will not have a reflective quality, and it will hide those imperfections much better than a higher gloss finish.


What is the desired look? When I choose a paint finish, it’s usually part of preparing an overall design for a client. Every decision that goes into a room is made very deliberately, whether it be wall color and paint finish or the trim on a sofa, or the smallest detail on the window treatment. Everything is planned to come together to create an overall desired result. When I’m looking at a paint finish, that decision is not independent of all of the other finishes that I’m choosing for the room. Suppose my space has a lot of flat finishes. For instance, a velvet-textured sofa or heavier fabrics, I might want to break up the look of that with a higher gloss on my trim. Depending on the look I’m going for, the condition of the trim, and the type of trim used. I ask myself, do I want it to stand out, or do I want it to take a backseat to some of the other elements in the room?

As you can see, the decision for a paint finish is just as important as any of the other choices that you make for your space.

Until next time,

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