How to Choose Your Paint Sheen

January 5, 2020

Choosing the right paint sheen for your project is almost as important as getting the right paint color – ALMOST. 🙂 Paint comes in a variety of sheens ranging from no shine at all to very shiny paint. As a general rule of thumb, you want your walls to blend into the design of your space. When you apply a sheen that is not appropriate for the space, it can be quite distracting to the eye. Today I am breaking down how to choose the appropriate paint sheen for your next paint project!

Once you choose the proper paint sheen, check out my full tutorial on how to paint a room like a pro.

Paint Sheen Options:

  • Flat
  • Matte
  • Eggshell
  • Satin
  • Semi-gloss
  • High Gloss

Flat or Matte Sheen

Flat is most commonly used on ceilings. It can be recommended for other low traffic areas like bedrooms, but honestly, I only use it for ceilings. It has low to no luster (shine) which is great for hiding imperfections but it is difficult to clean and can even remove the paint when scrubbing off dirt. Funny story, when we bought our first home in Denver, I had no idea what the appropriate sheens were and used a semi-gloss for our ceiling! It was definitely shiny and reflected light whenever pictures were taken!

Flat paint sheen to high imperfections
Clark & Aldine
Paint sheen cheat sheet
Budget Friendly Nursery


The eggshell sheen reflects a little more light than the flat sheen and is slightly more durable. Eggshell is recommended in low traffic areas like bedrooms, living rooms and dining rooms.

Eggshell paint sheen


Satin is slightly more light reflective (shiny) than eggshell. This is my preferred sheen for most home paint projects. It is the most durable sheen without being too shiny and holds up really well in households with kids and pets. I used the satin sheen on my kitchen island and backsplash – it looks fantastic and blends in with the other factory made cabinets.

Satin paint sheen
Kitchen Makeover


Semi-gloss is my go to sheen for all trim and doors. It has just enough shine to make a space feel really sharp. The added shine makes it easier to clean. Doors and baseboards are high traffic areas that will need to be wiped down frequently. The satin sheen is also frequently used on ceilings in bathrooms rather than flat. The durability holds up better with moisture and steam.

Semi-gloss paint for trim and high traffic areas
Master bathroom renovation

High Gloss

Young House Love

The high gloss sheen is exactly how it sounds – super shiny! Use this sheen in high traffic areas and spaces frequently need to clean. I often use high gloss paint for my trim in rental properties.

This sheen is making a comeback with design trends and is being applied to look like lacquer. Basically take all of the basics I shared with you above and throw it out the window! I love this high gloss trend – it is super fun and brings drama to your space. YoungHouseLove tried out this trend on their doors and the high gloss definitely adds more flair! I think that is where I would feel safe trying out this new trend to start at least. 🙂

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