How to Select a Paint Finish

When choosing a paint for your latest project, the decisions don’t end with color. The finish you choose is just as important.  If you are unfamiliar, “finish” (or sheen) refers to the amount of shine the paint will have when it dries. Below is a list of all paint finishes available in Benjamin Moore Paints. These are listed from the least amount of sheen (flat) to the highest amount of sheen (high gloss).  A flat paint has no light reflection and each sheen will gradually show more reflection the further you go across this list.

Flat → Matte → Eggshell → Pearl → Satin → Semi-Gloss → Gloss → High gloss

walls-castleton-mist-hc-1aura-flat-stair-wainscot-castleton-mist-hc-1-aura-semi-gloss-chairs-coral-essence-2007-40-advance-semi-gloss
Walls Castleton Mist (HC-1) Aura – Flat.  Stair Wainscot Castleton Mist (HC-1) Aura – Semi-Gloss.  Chairs Coral Essence (2007-40) Advance – Semi-Gloss

What is the difference?

There are many different factors to keep in mind when choosing a sheen.  As the sheen increases, so does the durability of the paint.  However, with more light reflecting off of the surface, any imperfections (such as filled nail holes or other patches) will become more visible as well.

Flat – No sheen at all.  This paint is perfect for ceilings or other areas where there is likely to be little to no foot traffic, like the inside of a closet or a master bedroom. Due to it’s porous surface, if flat walls are scuffed or dirty they need to be touched up with new paint as cleaning will only damage the paint further.

Matte – With little to no sheen, this is a great alternative to flat because it can be spot cleaned while still appealing to those who like the appearance of a flat paint.  A great option for bedrooms, offices, dining or living rooms with light to moderate traffic.

Eggshell – The most common option, this finish has only a slight amount of shine. There is enough shine to allow for washing yet it is dull enough to downplay most imperfections on the wall.  A great option for children’s bedrooms, hallways, or any area with moderate to heavy traffic.

Pearl – A finish with slightly more shine than a typical eggshell.  A great sheen for those who are looking for a velvety finish for their walls or for those with children and pets who would like extra protection against dirt and scuffs. Perfect for hallways, children’s bedrooms, or mudrooms.

Satin – A high shine finish that offers outstanding protection against surfaces that are hit hard with dirt and grime.  A great option for kitchens, this paint makes cleaning things like grease or other sticky substances a breeze.

Semi-Gloss/Gloss/High Gloss – These finishes are most common on trim, cabinetry, and accent pieces like furniture.  A very durable finish, it is perfect for places that will see heavy foot traffic, like baseboards, or will be heavily used, like tables or dressers.  However, it’s high shine makes any defects extremely noticeable and would look best on brand new pieces.

char-brown-2137-20-advance-satin
Cabinets  Char Brown (2137-20) Advance – Satin.

What paint should I use in a bathroom or other humid area?

In places like a bathroom or basement where humidity causes concern for mold, semi-gloss paint used to be the go-to answer.  The high shine made it extremely durable and a great solution for places like these.  However, as the matte look becomes increasingly popular in interior design, paint companies have had to keep up with the demands of their customers.  Benjamin Moore offers Aura Bath & Spa, a matte finish paint specially formulated with antimicrobial technology to prevent the growth of mold and mildew.

breath-of-fresh-air-806-aura-bath-and-spa-matte
Walls  Breath of Fresh Air (806) Aura Bath & Spa – Matte.

What is best for touchup?

Lower sheens will touchup better than higher sheens.  However, it is important to make sure that you are touching up with the exact same finish that the wall was originally painted with.  If the wall is painted in an eggshell and touched up with a matte, the difference will be noticeable. Additionally, some manufacturers may call their sheens by a different name, despite the finish being the same.  For example, a can of Sherwin Williams Satin finish will have the same amount of shine as Benjamin Moore Eggshell finish. If the walls were painted by a previous homeowner and you are unsure of what the finish is or you have a left over gallon of paint, visit a Babel’s or National Lumber location and speak to one of the Benjamin Moore Paint Experts on staff.  They will be able to provide ways for you to determine which sheen is on your wall and which paint is best for your project.

walls-af-300-dinner-party-aura-egshell-trim-chalk-white-2126-70-aura-grand-entrance-satin
Walls Dinner Party (AF-300) Aura – Eggshell.  Trim & Door  Chalk White (2126-70) Aura Grand Entrance – Satin.

Whether your project is interior or exterior, Benjamin Moore offers a product designed to perform to the needs of your space.  If you still are having trouble deciding on a finish, the best way is to see it for yourself in person.  Visit any of Babel’s or National Lumber’s 13 locations, consult with one of our Benjamin Moore Paint Experts, and be amazed when your walls look just as great on Day 1,000 as they did on Day 1.

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