Paint Sheen 101

You’ve found the perfect paint color, you’ve hired a professional painter, and you’re ready to get started… but you’re stuck trying to determine the correct sheen. The wrong finish could mean repainting the space, so we’ve created a quick guide to help you select the perfect sheen.

What is paint sheen?

Sheen is the glossiness of a paint finish. It’s the level of gloss, or shine, in your paint. The sheen can also affect the color. For example, flat paint absorbs more light and can make a color look lighter or slightly chalky while a gloss paint will absorb light making the color appear darker.

High Gloss

  • Highly reflective with lots of shine

  • Most durable of all paint sheens and easy to clean

  • Great for surfaces that receive a lot of wear and tear - such as trim, and doors

  • Shows a lot of imperfections - proper prep work is a must!


  • Moderate shine, but not as reflective as a high gloss sheen

  • Durable and easy to wipe clean

  • Suitable for areas that need protection from moisture or grease, such as bathrooms and kitchens

  • Most common sheen selected for trim (chair rail, baseboards, crown molding), cabinets and doors

  • Shows wall imperfections


  • Nice luster with a velvet-like appearance without the reflective qualities of gloss sheens

  • Durable and fairly easy to clean

  • Good choice for high traffic areas, such as hallways and corridors

  • Can reveal application imperfections, such as brush strokes and roller marks.


  • Little luster; sheen lies between satin and flat

  • Not as durable as satin

  • Hides imperfections well

  • Great for areas that receive little abuse, such as dining rooms or private offices

  • Most common sheen selected for interior walls


  • Little to no shine, no reflectance; absorbs light to produce a flat overall appearance

  • Great coverage

  • Difficult to clean without removing the paint

  • Hides wall imperfections

  • Low durability (*note: some paint retailers now offer a performance matte sheen)

  • Suitable for ceilings, accent walls

After reading this guide, you might be surprised to hear that our favorite paint sheen for interior walls is a Flat Sheen. It creates a beautiful soft, almost suede affect for walls. It portrays color in such a striking and soothing way that it’s worth the extra maintenance required. Many of us repaint our interiors every ten years anyway so why not choose the sheen based on aesthetics instead of cleanability? We say, go for it!