The right paint sheen can make or break your home paint project. The most frequent question we get from our blog subscribers is which paint sheen to use.
Think of it this way – start with the shiniest sheen near the floor, and work your way to a flat ceiling. Flat sheens hide imperfections better than glossy sheens, so if your walls are not perfect, choose a sheen that is less shiny.
Ceilings – Flat Sheen
Ceilings should have a flat sheen because it hides imperfections, and some contractors aren’t as careful because most people don’t look at the ceilings regularly.
Years ago, standard practice was bathroom ceilings with semi-gloss or glossy paint because of the high humidity. Modern bathrooms have better ventilation, and modern paint chemistries are much stronger today. We can get away with flat sheens without issues.
In some cases we specify the same color and sheen for the ceiling and walls. In the master bath below, the ceiling and walls are Benjamin Moore Pale Oak with an eggshell sheen. The ceiling looks much different because of the horizontal surface.
Walls – Mid-Sheens
We recommend an intermediate sheen such as eggshell because of best balance between practicality and looks. An eggshell sheen can look like jewelry for your walls.
The shinier the walls, the easier to clean. Flat paint hides imperfections and glossy paint shows everything. Semi-gloss and high gloss are too shiny for walls. However, most people never wipe their walls. Just saying.
The choice should be somewhere in between. If you have kids and pets, and eggshell finish is easier to clean. If you are empty nesters with an immaculate home, I like flat because it looks so velvety.
Most manufacturers call their medium sheen Eggshell. The only exception is Sherwin Williams, which calls their medium sheen Satin. When mean a medium sheen, we say eggshell.
Trim, Cabinets, Doors, Baseboards, Crown Molding and Millwork – Shinier
For an updated look, we always recommend a satin trim, with slightly more gloss than eggshell. A second choice would be Semi-Gloss. The only time we use Glossy is for exterior front doors.
Monochromatic Paint Palettes
If you are painting the same color for trim, walls and ceiling it can look beautiful. Just paint trim satin or semi-gloss, walls eggshell and ceilings white. Since the light is reflected by the sheens, each surface will look different. This is one of my favorite looks!
I recommend a mid-sheen for exterior trim, garage doors, walls and wall shingles for durability with a good mid-grade paint. We painted our house with Benjamin Moore BEN exterior paint. It looks pristine seven years later even though the weather conditions are extreme in Boulder, CO.
Front doors look amazing with semi-gloss or glossy paint. Back doors can be Satin or Semi-Gloss.
The right sheen choice will make or break a paint project. Use flat for ceilings, medium sheens for walls, and Satin for a modern look with trim and doors. ALWAYS test your paint colors.
Don’t forget to test your paint colors! Check out “Learn to Test Paint Colors Like a Pro“.
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