Understanding Paint

Why You Should Take a Shine to Sheen

Why You Should Take a Shine to Sheen

Many do-it-yourself painters spend hours selecting the perfect paint colors, but give far less thought to the sheen they’ll use. Paint sheen affects not only the initial appearance of a paint job, but also its long-term performance. It’s important to carefully consider your options when choosing a paint.

For tips on where to use sheens, from flat to gloss, continue reading.

Happy Painting,

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Debbie Zimmer
Editor
dzimmer@dow.com

Leading paint brands come in as many as six different levels of sheen, which is basically a measure of the reflectivity of the paint once it’s applied. Flat paint is the least reflective, followed by increasingly “shiny” options like matte, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss and – shiniest of all -- high gloss.

If the condition of your walls is impeccable, you can choose any level of sheen your eye desires. But if you have sloppy sheetrock, uneven surfaces, or otherwise imperfect walls, be aware that paint with a higher sheen will make these defects more apparent, while a coating with less sheen will help conceal them.

There’s another aesthetic aspect of sheen: The shinier the paint, the more it will reflect light, rather than absorb it. So, if you want to brighten your surroundings without inflating your electric bill, consider using wall paint with some significant sheen – trading up from a flat paint to, say, a semi-gloss coating. The difference will be apparent.

Some of the reasons sheen level is important have to do not just with the appearance of your paint on day one, but rather, the way it will look years later.

Paints with higher sheen are tougher, more durable, more mildew resistant, and more stain-resistant than those with a flat or matte finish, so they’ll hold up better over time. If the room you are painting is heavily used, it’s wise to select a wall paint from the glossier side of the spectrum.

Kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry rooms are clearly candidates for semi-gloss, or even high gloss wall paint; so, too, are rooms that are frequented by guests, children, or pets. On the other hand, walls in lesser-used spaces such as not often used living rooms or spare bedrooms will likely hold up well even with flat or low-sheen paint.

Should they ever become soiled, glossier paints are much easier to clean. High gloss and semi-gloss paints, in particular, will easily give up fingerprints and many other common stains with just light scrubbing. As a result, they’re ideal for use not just on walls, but also on windows, doors and baseboards.

So, when the counterperson at the paint store asks which sheen you’d like, don’t brush off the question – reflect on your needs. In many ways, the sheen level of the paint you choose is every bit as important as the color!

To learn more about paint sheen and interior painting, visit the Paint Quality Institute online at blog.paintquality.com.

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