The interior paint sheen “factor” is basically how shiny the paint looks after application is complete. Keep in mind that paint sheens are not standardized and may vary slightly from brand to brand. Most paints fall into one of four categories:
Flat: Flat paint (often referred to as matte) is the most non-reflective and is better at hiding imperfections (bumps, dents, nail heads, etc.). However, a flat sheen paint will show marks, scuffs, and stains more easily, and begins to show wear quicker than other sheens. While flat sheen surfaces can also be harder to clean, there are newer scrubbable flat paints that are tougher and, therefore, easier to clean.
Satin: Sometimes referred to as eggshell, satin paint has a light luster sheen to it and is more durable than flat. Satin sheen paint is the most popular paint for interior wall coverage. It can also be used to paint trim next to a flat sheen wall to show contrast.
Semigloss: Semigloss paint has a higher gloss than satin, and has a tougher skin than flat or satin paints. It’s also easier to clean, but has just enough shine to begin to show surface imperfections.
Gloss: Gloss paint is the hardiest of them all, and its high sheen makes it look similar to enamel. It can take abuse and a hard cleaning, but the high sheen makes surface imperfections clearly visible.
Interior Paint Sheen Tips
Ceiling Paint: A flat sheen paint is recommended for ceiling coverage because it hides imperfections well and is not subject to abuse marks like the other surfaces. Paint formulated specifically for ceilings is thicker, less prone to show spatter, yellowing, and also dries faster.
Wall Paint: Most homeowners prefer a satin sheen paint for wall coverage. You may want to consider a flat sheen paint if your walls have some serious imperfections that would be more obvious if you used higher sheen coverage.
Trim Paint: Trim paint for doors, windows, and moldings should be at least one shade glossier than the wall paint. Using a semigloss sheen on the trim gives a better visual presentation, and adds more interest to the design scheme. Additionally, higher sheen gloss gives more physical protection to these areas.