Paint Finishes: The basics

Some of you may know it and some might be totally unaware of it: Paint comes in different finishes depending on the look one wants to achieve and the material it is being applied upon. So before you head out to buy paint do your research and know what you need to get. Today I’ll cover interior paints since this is what most of you will use.

Mat Paint (also called Flat Paint): Mat paint is the Number 1 choice for painting walls. With a sheen level under 5%, it provides a beautiful, chalky/powdery finish reminiscent of ancient homes, and a depth of color ideal for living spaces. Even strong colors are somehow softened as this finish absorbs light rather than reflecting it. Mat is therefore an ideal choice for walls with small defects who will go rather unnoticed upon being painted. Though gorgeous, mat paint is somehow less durable than paints with a higher sheen level as it is often not washable and can mark quite easily. Therefore manufacturers have now developed mat paints with a slightly higher sheen (anywhere between 5 and 10%) specifically formulated for higher traffic areas like hallways or children rooms, as well as for rooms subjected to humidity like kitchen and bathrooms. The aspect difference is only so noticeable and the advantages are quite high compared to classic mat paint.


Eggshell Paint: Eggshell is a paint finish typically used for wood, woodwork and metal. It’s higher brilliance (around 20%-40% sheen) and durability makes it an ideal paint for high usage areas, like doors, door frames, plinths, kitchen and bathroom cabinets to name a few. Resistant and washable it is the perfect choice for painting wood or metal furniture. Being shinier than mat paint it demands a good preparation of the surface as defaults with be more visible reflected by light.


Full Gloss: As it’s name states it this paint is all about shine! With a sheen level between 90% and 95% it reflects a lot of light. It has historically been used for woodwork and metal and you have probably seen pictures of English house doors painted in vivid full gloss colors. In the recent years full gloss has been quite “en vogue” with renowned interior designers like Miles Redd and Steven Gambrel who have used it for entire living spaces. Applying full gloss on walls creates a striking and dramatic effect that is not for the faint-hearted but the outcome can be really spectacular. Applying high gloss on walls demands craftsmanship and excellent support preparation as this type of finish shows every defect.


To conclude this post just those two facts:

1-Matter finishes are less durable and therefore tend to be reserved for walls. Some manufacturers have however flat finishes for woodwork for those who want to recreate something older looking. You just need to be prepared to repaint a little more often.

2-A color will evolve depending on the finish you use. The shinier the finish, the darker the color will seem to be. Mat finishes absorb light and the colors appear therefore to be somehow muted down.

With this in mind you should be able to make the right decisions for your next project. If you have questions don’t hesitate to contact me !

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