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What Gloss or Sheen Should You Pick?

A guide to choosing sheen…but a warning…not all paints have equal grades of sheen.

Eggshell? Flat? Satin? Pearl? Semi-gloss? Help!

Paint geeks will tell you gloss ≠ sheen. Meh. It does enough. They are just measured with light bounced off at different angles. Paint companies care. Me? Nah. See ‘geek’ at the bottom.

The old days…

Your parents HAD to do this: Semi-gloss or high-gloss had to go in kitchens, bathrooms, high-traffic areas, and kids’ rooms.

Today…there’s chemistry…

Do whatever you want!

Paints are more washable now. For the last 20 years, designers I work with have had customers use eggshell finish…EVERYWHERE.  Kitchen, bath, bedroom.

Eggshell has some sheen to be washable but is also soft like flat…somewhat.

See below how top-quality flats are very washable…not all paint companies have this, though.

Today quality paints are almost as washable as the glossies from yesterday.

See below what I do: so easy.

How to choose the gloss/sheen

Shows reflection of each paint gloss: Ben Moore. This sample sheet shows Gloss, Semi-Gloss, Pearl, Low Lustre, Eggshell, Matte, and Flat.
  • More light, more imperfections show, go flatter.
  • More contrast: use flats and semi-gloss to make highlights stand out.

You mainly must think of the lighting of the room. Think of your high school’s high-gloss walls. Yick.

Children? Stay with eggshell and above. Most flats are harder to clean…but…

These days top quality paints’ flats and mattes are somewhat cleanable. See below.

Gloss trim adds class

  • Adding gloss to trim and doors helps to bring out the depth of the finish of the low-sheen wall.

What I do:

I keep a small amount of paint in a glass or metal jar. Plastic breathes enough to dry it out.
I keep a small amount of paint in a glass or metal jar. Plastic breathes enough to dry it out.

I use flats throughout my house (no snot-nosed brats around). I do use top-quality paints, but I rarely clean…

I just touch up.

Messy? No.

See this very short post on how to master the 5-minute paint touch-up.

Hurry before the guests get here and see your spots!

Washable flat paints:

Today the top brands have done the chemistry homework:

  • Benjamin Moore’s interior Aura is the most expensive, but its flat line is very washable
  • Sherwin-Williams Emerald and Duration Home are the same

What to look for on the label

Flat, matte, some eggshells
Satin, low luster, some eggshells, velvet
Semi-gloss, pearl

Warning: Not all eggshells are the same

If you touch up with the same color in eggshell from one line of paint, IT WON’T MATCH THE SAME COLOR in eggshell in another line like BM’s Regal.

Chart of the range of gloss in paint
Chart of the range of gloss in paint

They divided the gloss up differently if they offer more choices.

Example…Ben Moore’s:

  • Eco spec has 4 divisions: flat, eggshell, pearl and semi-gloss
  • Regal has 5: with Pearl between eggshell and semi.

So it’s all shifted and the eggshell of one is shinier than the other.

Gloss info for paint geeks:

Gloss is reflected light measured at a 60-degree angle and sheen is measured at an 85-degree angle. They reflect light off a sample into a sensor.

More light, glossier paint.

Not all paints have both measures. So you see? We don’t need to care. We just need our wall to look nice.

Let me know your thoughts below. I see them every day.

Different colors show sheen/gloss differently
Different colors show sheen/gloss better also

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