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.

Dining Room with green ceiling, crown moldings and gray walls

Photo by M. Marceny, The Color Concierge

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.

Monochromatic bathroom with BM Pale Oak ceiling and walls.

Photo by M. Marceny, The Color Concierge

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.

Hearth with Vermont tile and BM Simply White Satin sheen

Hearth with Vermont tile and BM Simply White Satin sheen – Photo by M. Camilli, The Color Concierge

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.

Black den with Paris Prints and puppy.

Den with BM Onyx, Eggshell – Photo by M. Camilli, The Color Concierge

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.  

Girl's room with BM Abalone

Girl’s room with BM Abalone, Eggshell. Photo by M. Camilli, The Color Concierge

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.

Classic Kitchen with white painted cabinets

Kitchen Cabinets, satin sheen. Photo by M. Camilli, The Color Concierge

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!

Living room with SW Extra White paint

Trim, walls and paint are all SW Extra White. Photo by M. Camilli, The Color Concierge


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.

Home exterior with BM Ashwood moss and BM Tulsa Twilight

Boulder home with Eggshell Exterior – Photo by M. Marceny, The Color Concierge

Front doors look amazing with semi-gloss or glossy paint.  Back doors can be Satin or Semi-Gloss.

BM Redstone back door with semi-gloss paint

Back door, BM Redstone, Satin – Photo by M. Marceny, The Color Concierge

The Verdict

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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Paint sheen guide.

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