What Are the Different Paint Finishes?

When you’re pursuing a painting project for your home, the possibilities can seem overwhelming. Between having to choose a color, finish, and method, the process can become drawn out and much more difficult than necessary. Instead of stressing, read our guide on the different paint finishes and their advantages and disadvantages. It will take some of the confusion out of the process and help you decide which one is the perfect fit for your project.

Paint Basics

When it comes to paint, the sheen of a paint finish refers to the level of glossiness present, while the paint finish refers to how the paint appears after it’s applied and dried. It’s important to note that paints with a high percentage of gloss give a wall a shiny and smooth finish that will reflect light similarly to how a mirror would. Paints that have a low percentage of gloss, on the other hand, give a wall a more solid appearance that causes light to dissipate in a multitude of directions. Knowing this will be important as you go on to decide on the color of paint that’s right for you.
It’s also important to note that, depending on where you live and whether the home painting job is interior or exterior, the color of the paint can determine how warm or cold your rooms feel. Light-colored, shiny surfaces such as white and yellow are more reflective, making it so that your walls absorb less heat. In contrast, darker colors such as navy blue and black tend to absorb heat, making the surface warm and thus heating up a room.

Gloss Finishes

High Gloss

Consisting of 70 to 89 percent gloss, high gloss paint is extremely shiny and smooth. The slickness of this finish makes it easy to clean so if you’re painting spaces that are highly prone to dirt and dust, this paint is your best option. Thanks to its easy-to-clean ability, homeowners will often use this finish on the trim and doors of a room rather than walls or furniture.
Unfortunately, while great against dust and dirt, this finish isn’t as resistant to the already existing blemishes in your walls. While applying, it effectively covers the space, but it will also show every bump, roll, and crack in the surface you’re covering. High gloss paint is also thought to be too shiny for interior walls, so it’s recommended for those who want durable protection for an exterior paint job.


Semi-gloss paint is slightly less concentrated than high gloss with only 41 to 69 percent gloss. Similar to a high gloss, this finish is also easy to clean. With slightly less of a shine, semi-gloss is better for indoor paint jobs. Due to its durability, it’s recommended to use this finish in places that frequently need cleanings, such as kitchens, bathrooms, and utility areas.

However, this finish also shares high gloss’s disadvantages. Because of its shine, it will easily draw your attention to the imperfections on your walls. In order for the surface to look smooth and even with any type of gloss paint, you must carefully prep the area (you’ll need to fill in all holes and cracks, and sand them down) before the paint is carefully applied. Avoiding streaks is crucial to keeping an even sheen.

Now that we’ve covered the advantages and disadvantages of gloss finishes, we can move on to the different paint finishes that don’t result in a shiny appearance.

Non-Gloss Finishes


There are advantages and disadvantages to non-gloss paint finishes as well. Eggshell finishes have one of the lowest possible gloss levels, at 10 to 25 percent, while still being washable. Eggshell, as its name suggests, is a no-shine finish with very little luster to it. While this paint isn’t as durable as the higher gloss products, it covers wall imperfections very well and works on walls that don’t get a lot of bumps or scuffs. Some examples of where to use this type of paint include dining rooms, living rooms, master bedrooms, and halls.
With all this said, however, eggshell paint finishes aren’t as durable as others. While they do hold up well on walls and can handle the occasional cleanings, they are extremely susceptible to scuffs and marks from the occasional bump or scrape. So, if you have children that like to roughhouse, this may not be the paint for you. Frequent mishaps will definitely appear with this paint, and as a consequence, diminish the overall appearance.


This finish is a little thinner than eggshell with a 26 to 40 percent gloss content. As such, it has a slightly more noticeable sheen after it’s dried. Its sheen appears more pearl-like, rather than egg-like, and is more versatile in the manners in which it’s used. Also, since it’s a bit easier to clean, this is generally the paint finish you’ll see in high-use rooms such as the children’s rooms, kitchen, and bathroom. It’s also commonly used on kitchen and bathroom cabinets.
The downside to this finish is in the application. Once it’s applied and has dried, it’s very difficult to touch up without it being apparent where you added the additional paint. It’s for this reason this paint can be a bit tricky to use; you may want to hire a professional to apply it to ensure that you’re getting the best possible results.


When individuals think of a home painting project, the paint that they’re usually thinking of is a flat finish. Because it reflects very little light and has a very solid appearance, this finish is the go-to product for concealing the blemishes in your walls. Due to the smoothness of this paint, many homeowners utilize it in family-oriented areas such as dens and living rooms.
However, while this paint provides a deep, rich color, it shows markings very easily. The smallest scuff can become very noticeable because it has no more than 4 percent gloss; this makes it very difficult to clean once it’s dirty. Due to its easily stainable nature, you can also find this finish on ceilings and places that receive less traffic.


Very similar to flat finish paint, people are able to differentiate matte by the fact that it contains slightly more gloss—5 to 9 percent—and is, therefore, more washable than flat. This finish is also a bit more resistant to markings, so it works best for those that want to better protect the high-traffic areas of their home while still getting the rich, velvety color this product provides.
Unfortunately, though matte is better to clean than flat, it can still be difficult to do so. Frequently cleaning this finish can wear it down over time, giving it a faded appearance and causing the sheen to appear patchy in spots along the wall.

If you still find yourself struggling with the different paint finishes available on the market and how you want to approach your painting project, don’t worry. Bear Mountain Custom Painting’s qualified experts are here to answer all of your questions. Our main goal is to foster trusting relationships between our Atlanta house painters and our customers, and it’s our passion to provide you with painting jobs that you’ll love.