What Kind of Paint Finish Do You Need?

Paint finishes are named according to how much gloss they contain. To make it simple, think of the names as marking points on a scale of how shiny the paint is; high-gloss being the most reflective and flat being the least. Some paint companies use variations of these names, but the sliding scale remains the same. Each level of gloss has its own advantages, however subtle the difference between them is. Some work better in some rooms than others and some are more compatible with certain surfaces than others. Here we’ll help you decide which paint finish is right for your Washington DC project.


The flat finish contains no gloss, so does not reflect any light. The lack of a polished surface can make it difficult to clean, so while impractical for walls and places that require regular washing, a flat finish is perfect for ceilings of any room. The lack of reflectivity reduces light scattering and makes for a smooth, even surface. A flat finish can also be used to conceal the imperfections of a rough surface.


With just a touch of gloss, an eggshell finish makes cleaning easier. Eggshell is great for living areas that receive contact (particularly from grubby little fingers) such as hallways and bedrooms. For additional low maintenance, combine an eggshell finish with high-pigment colors to conceal the smudges and incidental messes that can be expected with children’s bedroom walls. The low-gloss finish is soothing and light-absorbing enough to create a peaceful night-time environment. An eggshell finish is also perfect for a relaxing dining room ambiance.


A touch shinier, and once again easier to clean. A satin finish is perfect for high traffic living areas and may be a better substitute for hallways where both pets and children have a tendency to mark walls. It's also great for family rooms, TV rooms and lounges with a lively ambiance. A satin finish can be used to bring more light into a room and add sparkle to the coloring of the walls. With this choice of paint, imperfections such as pits, dents and raised bumps do tend to show up a little more, so a smooth surface is optimal.

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The high shine of semi-gloss makes it great for use on window frames, window sills and other living room and bedroom trim. The high impermeability of a semi-gloss finish makes it ideal for places where hygiene is a priority, such as bathrooms and kitchens. Semi-gloss presents an easy to clean surface for extra tough areas such as bathroom and kitchen cabinets. This finish is also extremely durable and creates a visible shine where light strikes the surface.


Gloss is the shiniest, most durable finish which is also easiest to wash, making it excellent for heavy duty elements like baseboards. The high contrast between gloss and flat finishes makes gloss excellent for bringing out certain architectural features against a matte background. Such features may include moldings, door frames and doors. The highly reflective, almost glass-like surface of gloss means that it’s seldom used as a wall paint, as tiny imperfections become extremely noticeable. Instead it is usually reserved for small, highly detailed or well-polished features, or small wall areas in bathrooms and kitchens.