Flat, Satin, Eggshell…Oh My! How to Pick a Paint Sheen

Picking out a sheen may be the last thing you want to do after you’ve exhausted yourself with picking out *the* perfect color, but don’t leave this stone unturned. Sheen and make or break your project.


  • Paint

Different projects call for different sheens of paint. Depending on the traffic in the room, what kind of surface you’re painting, or how easily it might need to be cleaned would determine what choice is best. Sheen is also great for when you want to get really creative.

In a nutshell, paint sheen equals gloss level. The higher the gloss, the shinier the appearance and easier it is to wash. Here is a little breakdown of the different sheens available and how you might want to use them:

No shine. At all. Like none.
Great for hiding imperfections (those dents and scrapes you’re either too lazy to fix or your landlord is).
Better for low-traffic areas because it stains easily and is just straight up not easy to clean.
Great for ceilings (except use a glossier sheen on bathroom ceilings to repel water), it gives it a softer look and doesn’t call attention to the ceiling.

I love this name.
Just a hint of gloss.
Great for living and bed room walls.
Better for low traffic areas because it doesn’t take abuse well and like flat, is more difficult to clean.

Great for almost any room.
Repels moisture and is made to take abuse (perfect for kids’ bedrooms and kitchens).
Try it out on your cabinets or trim, it’s sturdy enough for it, but most prefer a semi-gloss on their woodwork.

Super great for trim and cabinets in both kitchen and bath.
Very durable and easy to clean.
Choose a mildew resistant paint for bathrooms.

Extreme shine.
Easiest to clean, but you need to do your prep work to get all the benefits.
Great for furniture when you want a lacquered look.
Perfect for outdoor use on furniture and doodads.

A couple of last things to consider when choosing sheen…all those rules I just gave you? You don’t have to follow them. For example, I love flat paint. I use it on all of my walls. I have to do touch ups quite a bit (or ignore the stains, that’s easier), but I like my walls to fade away and flat allows me to do that.

Secondly, have fun with sheens! There are a lot of great ideas on Pinterest for combining sheens on one project, like this and this for example.

Happy sheen hunting!


2 comments on “Flat, Satin, Eggshell…Oh My! How to Pick a Paint Sheen

  1. Hi Sally, I have acquired two wood rockers and a pretty rough condition oak bench seat, no back. What is the best way to go on these, if I want them to decorate for outdoors, as far as paint n seasoning it for the outdoor elements? I would appreciate any n all ideas. Thanks

    1. Hi Marie! Great question. If they’re in really rough condition, I would make sure you do your prep work – sanding, removing old stain/paint etc. so your paint will be sure to adhere to the furniture. I’d also recommend WeatherAll Exterior paint and primer in one. It is an extremely sturdy exterior paint and comes in all sheen levels. It can also be tinted to any color. Be sure to email a picture when you’re done and happy painting!

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