The Ultimate Guide to Paint Finishes

Flat, eggshell, semi-gloss, or gloss? Here’s what you need to know about using them in your home.

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Here’s what you need to know about four main paint finishes—flat, eggshell, semi-gloss, and gloss—and the best bets for where to use them in your home, along with a few more stand-out paint ideas. Remember: There are no set rules for how certain paint colors look in each finish; that decision is totally up to you!

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Flat Paint

Flat Paint

Flat finish is also known as matte finish and has the least amount of shine. Because it doesn’t reflect light, it’s the best choice to hide any imperfections like bumps or small cracks on walls. It also goes on smoother over rough surfaces, so it’s a good option for textured walls. Keep in mind, flat paint a little harder to keep clean, so it’s not recommended for high traffic areas like the kitchen or bathroom.

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Eggshell Paint

Eggshell Paint

You can’t really go wrong with eggshell finish on your walls. Sometimes called satin finish, eggshell has slightly more luster than a flat finish, but you won’t be left with shiny walls. It also resists stains better than flat and can be wiped with a wet rag. Eggshell finishes are often used in bathrooms, kitchens, kids’ rooms, and other high-traffic areas.

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Flat Paint

Flat finish is also known as matte finish and has the least amount of shine. Because it doesn’t reflect light, it’s the best choice to hide any imperfections like bumps or small cracks on walls. It also goes on smoother over rough surfaces, so it’s a good option for textured walls. Keep in mind, flat paint a little harder to keep clean, so it’s not recommended for high traffic areas like the kitchen or bathroom.

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Eggshell Paint

You can’t really go wrong with eggshell finish on your walls. Sometimes called satin finish, eggshell has slightly more luster than a flat finish, but you won’t be left with shiny walls. It also resists stains better than flat and can be wiped with a wet rag. Eggshell finishes are often used in bathrooms, kitchens, kids’ rooms, and other high-traffic areas.

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Semi-Gloss Paint

Semi-gloss is tougher than eggshell, so it will show less wear. It reflects even more light when dry, though, so if there are any imperfections on your walls before you paint, they’ll stand out. Semi-gloss stands up the best to water and cleaning so it’s a good choice for a kids’ bedroom or bathroom. This finish is also often used for trim, doors, and furniture.

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Gloss Paint

Reserve gloss paint for window and door trim. It’s also a great choice for furniture, because of its hard and shiny finish. Want a glam look? Try using glossy paint on the walls!

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Oil-Based Paint vs. Latex-Based Paint

Alkyd (or oil-based) and latex paint aren’t finishes. Rather, these terms refer to what makes up the paint product: oil or water. For most interior paint projects, latex—or water-based paint—is ideal. Latex dries quickly, cleans up easily with water, and doesn’t have a strong odor. Alkyd dries slower and give off a strong smell. The plus to using alkyd paint is that it provides a smoother, almost hard enamel-like finish that resists scratching, fingerprints, and stains. This type of paint tends to stick to its surface better, so it’s a good choice for rougher surfaces, furniture, and even floors.


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