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Paint Sheen, What is it?

In the world of paint, the word sheen is used interchangeably with gloss.  Both terms refer to the amount of light reflected or scattered from the surface.  Some common terms for the level of sheen include flat, matte, eggshell, satin, silk, semi-gloss, and high gloss.  These terms are not standard and different paint manufactures may not use the same terms for their paint finishes.  For the purpose of this discussion, we’ve separated the sheens into 3 groups.

The first group is the flat or as some manufactures call the finish a matte finish.  Flat paints are a valuable design tool when use correctly.  Because they are the most non-reflective, flat paints tend to conceal imperfections and flaws of the wall surface.  In a visual sense these paints tend to smooth a rough or blemished wall surface.

The second group is the satin or eggshell finishes.  These finishes reflect a little more light than the flat paints, but not as much as the semi-gloss or high gloss finish.  These paints have a little more warmth and give the appearance of more depth.  In contrast to the flat finish, the satin or eggshell finish will show more of the imperfections of the wall surface.  From a maintenance perspective they are more resistant to stains and are easier to clean.

The last grouping is the semi-gloss or gloss finishes.  These finishes reflect the most light, draw the eye, and create depth.  They are commonly used on an accent wall and on interior doors, trim around ornate glasswork, and door or window trim.  These high gloss paints can be used to brighten dark spaces.  Under most common lighting conditions, a combination of a semi-gloss sheen and a light colored paint is an optimal technique to brighten dark spaces. Because these high gloss finishes reflect the most light you should avoid using these paints in areas of excessive glare.  Also keep in mind that the gloss finishes will highlight the wall’s imperfections.