Pass on the flat finish if you’re planning on painting your kitchen, bathroom, or kids’ bedrooms. Why? It doesn’t clean well. You’ll actually have to paint over grubby fingerprints, grease splatters, and more if you want those messes to disappear.
The flat finish, however, is a sophisticated and luxurious finish. It works well for interior walls (that won’t be frequently touched) and ceilings. It’s also a good choice if you have noticeable surface imperfections because it creates a low-reflecting surface — diminishing the appearance of imperfections.
Eggshell provides a low luster (think of the low sheen of an actual eggshell), so it works well for decorative finishes. It can be cleaned easier than a flat finish, especially if you purchase a paint like Sherwin Williams Super Paint or Duration Interior. This paint is durable and won’t wash away when you wash your walls. Some cheaper paints don’t hold up to washing.
Satin gives more of a sheen, creating a smooth and velvety look. It’s also washable. While it can be washed, it can’t be roughly scrubbed. Use satin in your hallways, on doors, on woodwork, in bedrooms, and in dining rooms.
Semi-gloss adds a small shine to your room. Because it holds up to scrubbing, it’s a good choice for wet rooms, like kitchens and bathrooms. Take caution, however, as imperfections in the wall may be highlighted by a semi-gloss surface.
Semi-gloss also works well on doors, baseboards, and trim. Sherwin Williams ProClassic Semi-Gloss and Sherwin Williams Solo Semi-Gloss is a good choice for millwork. And because semi-gloss dries extremely hard, it’s also great for woodwork, which tends to get beaten up.
High-gloss is shiny, stain resistant, and very scrubbable. It’s great for wood surfaces, like trim, doors, and cabinets. It can also work in bathrooms and kitchens (especially the backsplash) because you can easily clean food splatter and fingerprints off this finish. It’s also a great choice for banisters and railings.
As a shiny paint, high-gloss does reflect light, making imperfections more noticeable so it isn’t typically recommended for walls.
Water-Based or Oil-Based?
Yet another decision. Once you’ve determined the best finish for your project, should you choose water-based paint?
A water-based enamel is most often a safer choice than oil-based when you’re painting an interior wall. Water-based paints carry less of an odor and they are easier to clean up (which you’ll appreciate as you paint inside your house!). In addition, water-based paints have low VOCs, dry quickly, and wear better throughout the years.
Oil-Based is popular for glossy doors, woodwork, furniture, and even floors. It creates an attractive gloss and has a hard, durable finish. In addition, it provides good leveling of the paint, meaning the brush strokes create a smooth finish.
If your surface has already been painted with oil-based paint, a water-based paint may not stick over it. If you want to use a water-based paint there, wash the surface before roughening it with sandpaper. This makes it clean, dry, and dull — and will help to prevent peeling when you paint the water-based paint on it.
Taking the time to make decisions about paint finishes and oil- or water-based paints will ensure you pick a paint that will hold up to your lifestyle, keeping your home beautiful for years to come.