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How to choose a paint sheen

A paint’s sheen, also known as its finish, is its level of gloss or shine. Generally speaking, flatter finishes tend to hide imperfections better and glossier finishes tend to be more durable.

There are no industry standards for the names or levels of sheen, so they can vary from brand to brand, but all paint companies do share the specular gloss of their finishes, a measurement of the surface's power to reflect light, within their technical information. So although the names may vary, you can determine the kind of sheen a paint will have based on the percentage noted: the closer to 0%, the lower the sheen. And if you’re stumped, Waters & Brown is here to offer you advice!

Here are some general pointers for sheens and their uses:

Interior paint

Flat (0-5% sheen)
Ideal for less-than-perfect surfaces, low-traffic areas, and places where lack of gloss is desired, such as ceilings.

Matte (5-15% sheen)
For walls with imperfections and low-traffic areas.

Eggshell (15-25% sheen)
The most common wall finish, a balanced sheen that hides some imperfections but is easy to keep clean.

Satin (25-45% sheen)
Most commonly used for trim and high-traffic walls. Durable and easily washable.

Semi-gloss (45%-65% sheen)
Used for trim, doors, and cabinets. Very durable.

Gloss (65%-85% sheen)
A mirror-like finish, often used for doors, furniture, cabinets, and accent areas.

Exterior paint

Flat (0-15% sheen)
Used for shingles and siding, especially in areas with imperfections.

Low Luster (15-25% sheen)
Used for shingles and siding.

Satin (25-45% sheen)
Used for trim and doors.

Semi-gloss (45-65% sheen)
Used for trim and doors.

Gloss (65-85% sheen)
Used for doors, shutters, and accents.