Cheat Sheet: Paint Finishes


Painting is one of the easiest and inexpensive ways to make a big change or impact in your home decor. In a day or weekend, you can get a whole new look by changing a wall color.

One question we get all the time is about paint finishes and which ones to use where. While there are no hard and fast rules, there are key qualities that each finish has that can help you decide what you would select for your specific project.

Every paint brand has a variety of names they call their finishes but, we will try to give you the generic for each to help guide you.

It’s hard to illustrate paint finishes in photos so we will just cut to the chase:


Highest sheen, very high durability, easiest to clean, shows surface imperfections.

Typical applications: kitchens, door and window trim, furniture, high-impact statement walls/rooms


High sheen, high durability, easy to clean, shows surface imperfection.

Typical applications: kitchens, bathrooms, cabinets, trim and molding


Nice, lustrous finish that can seem velvety, high durability, easy to clean, good for high traffic areas, shows application flaws like roller marks and brush strokes

Typical applications: hallways, family rooms, kids rooms, foyers


Flat finish with a low sheen, medium durability, can be hard to clean, good for lower traffic room and gathering places, covers wall imperfections well.

Typical applications: living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms


Matte finish, light absorbent, low to medium durability, gets dirty easily and is hard to clean without removing paint or the finish, great for ceilings, best for covering wall imperfections

Typical applications: ceilings, adult areas that are low-touch

Some people look for a beautiful place, others make a place beautiful.
— Hazrat Inayat Khan

Happy Painting!