Paint Sheens

When selecting a paint, color is not the only factor that must be considered. The sheen, or luster, of the paint will have a large impact on the final appearance, durability, and washability. The most common sheens available are flat (or matte), satin, eggshell, semigloss, and gloss. Each level has pros and cons.

Unfortunately there are no specific industry standards regarding sheen levels. One product’s semigloss may have a sheen level comparable to another product’s satin.

Flat paints are the most porous, and therefore hold dirt and stains more readily. These products should not be used in areas that may require frequent cleaning or will be exposed to higher levels of contaminants, such as exterior surfaces. The benefit of flat paints is the ease of touching up.

Satins and eggshells are comparable in sheen level. Less porous than flats, these products provide good washability and are more resistance to stains and dirt accumulation.

Semigloss and gloss paints provide the greatest washability. Because of the hardness and slickness of the finish, dirt and stains are easily removed. In general, higher gloss paints are also more scratch resistant.

While higher sheen paints generally provide greater durability, they do have drawbacks. Defects, such as “dings”, scratches, and repairs, are amplified as the sheen level increases. Consequently, using a higher sheen paint may result in greater durability, but can also result in a less attractive surface (unless extensive repairs and preparation is performed).

The final sheen level of a product is determined by the air temperature and humidity during drying, and the application method. Touching up a paint with sheen often results in a sheen level different from the surrounding area. This is most apparent when viewing the surface from an angle.

Unfortunately, the pros and cons of each sheen level often requires a trade off. The benefits of washability must be weighed against the difficulty of touching up. Ultimately, the exposure and use of each surface must be considered when selecting the sheen level that will provide the best long-term benefits.