What Sheen Should I Use?

This question comes up quite a bit in our industry. If you are inexperienced with paint, terms like sheen can be thrown around a lot without you understanding what they really mean. Well, today we will break down what you need to consider when choosing a sheen for your paint job. We will cover some basic terms, as well as how to determine which sheen is best for you. 

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If you don’t work with paint regularly, you may not even know what a sheen is. The sheen is the light reflective value in the paint. The higher it is, the glossier and shinier the paint will be. In lower-end paints, it can also be a protective coating, but most high-end paints are already plenty durable. 


Before we dig into which sheen is right for you, let’s go over the different kinds that are available.

Flat – A flat paint has no sheen. As such, there is no gloss to it. A flat finish has a softer look, which makes it a great option for ceilings, living rooms, master bedrooms, or anything where you want the wall to fade into the background. Lower-end flat paints have a tendency to burnish, though. Burnishing occurs when you scuff the paint and it leaves a shiny mark on the surface. 

Matte/Eggshell – This is the most popular sheen for home painting. These finishes have a low amount of sheen, giving them a slightly glossy look. Matte is great for low-traffic areas of the home. This is the middle-of-the-road option for painting your home.

Satin – Satin finishes are great for high-traffic areas, but they don’t make the walls overly glossy. Since it has a higher sheen, you may be able to notice some imperfections in your walls that are otherwise hidden by flat and matte finishes.

Semi-Gloss – A semi-gloss finish has quite a bit of shine to it, but it’s also far more durable than the sheens below it. This is great for high-traffic areas or anywhere where durable paint will be useful. This includes doors, baseboard trim, chair rails, and crown molding. 

High Gloss – This finish has the most shine to it, which can look great on certain surfaces like your front door or house exterior (however, high-gloss isn’t always available depending on the product).


In lower-end paints, the sheen offers a level of protection against damage and moisture, but that isn’t necessarily the case with high-end paints. The formulas for premium paints are already quite durable, and even high-end flat paints can be cleaned with soap and water. 

So if you get premium paint, which sheen is best for you ultimately depends on what look you are trying to get. However, here are some general guidelines to think about.

For interior trim, we always recommend using semi-gloss to help with washability, and the added sheen on interior trim produces a nice aesthetic.

As for walls, there are several sheen options available depending on the desired look and product selection. When deciding on the desired look for wall sheen, you must consider the state of the drywall and drywall framing. If there are several drywall imperfections, especially in areas with lots of natural light, using a flat or matte finish will help hide the imperfections. 

If the drywall is holding up nicely, then using a satin finish would work well. Flat finishes will cover the imperfections better, but if you want a glossier aesthetic you will want to use a higher sheen.


Lastly, product selection matters when discussing sheen. For example, if Sherwin Williams is the brand Heritage chooses for an interior wall project, the Sherwin Williams product choices would be Emerald, Duration, or SuperPaint. Due to their thicker millages, both Emerald and Duration have Flat, Matte, Satin, & Semi-Gloss available as sheen options. However; SuperPaint only has Flat, Satin, and Semi-Gloss obtainable.

And that’s everything you need to know about selecting a sheen. To learn more about paint selection, check out our blog post on the colors of the year from all the major paint brands. If you are considering painting your cabinets, read our blog on why the color white is a popular choice. If you are ready to get some work on your home, fill out the form below and we will schedule a free estimate. 

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