DIY Corner: Paint Sheen 101

Posted in: I'm Moving, Home Decorating

charlie sheenNow that you’re all set on choosing the PERFECT paint color thanks to last week’s handy top 10 tips, let’s chat sheen. Paint sheen, not Charlie Sheen, that is. Paint sheen is how shiny you want the surface of the newly painted wall or ceiling to be. Sheen affects ALL paint jobs as it is a factor in every single brand, color or store you buy paint from. For example, you have decided on desert tan for your new dining room. Now you have to decide if you want flat, eggshell, or semi-gloss desert tan. The color will stay the same in each of those options, however, the amount of shine the wall has after it is painted is up to the sheen. Thanks to the advice from a professional painter, here’s all things paint sheen in easy to understand terms:Picking Paint Sheens

There are 3 major categories of SHEEN.

  1. Semi Gloss
  2. Eggshell
  3. Flat

March '14-003
Semi-Gloss is just like it sounds, glossy! If you get your favorite paint color in a semi-gloss finish, you will have a shiny finished space.

–          Easiest to maintain and keep clean because you can wipe it down

–          Great for high traffic areas because it can be wiped down with ease

–          Shows imperfections on walls or ceilings after it has dried (bumps in the drywall, old patchwork, etc.)

–          Used on trim or in kitchens/bathrooms because of its ability to be cleaned

March '14-002

Egg-shell has a bit of a shiny-ness to it, however, the amount of shine is significantly less than semi-gloss. It is said that if you hold an egg at an angle in a well-lit area, the amount of shiny-ness (or sheen) that reflects off of the egg is approximately the same as the eggshell paint sheen…. Hence the name! (You just never know what you’re gonna learn over here on the HireAHelper blog!)

–          Eggshell can be wiped down sparingly, not as easily maintained as semi-gloss

–          More washable than flat paint, less washable than semi-gloss

–          Hides some imperfections in drywall

–          Offers a low level sheen

–          Best for low traffic areas because of its lower ability to be cleaned

March '14-001

Flat finish is just how it sounds…. Flat. There is NO sheen to the paint and the light is absorbed into the color rather than reflected as a sheen.

–          No sheen whatsoever

–          Can’t be cleaned, will show evidence of cleaning attempts after the fact so be careful! (ie. marks, smudges, cleaning product left on the wall, etc.)

–          Great for hiding imperfections in drywall (walls or ceilings)

–          Used mostly on ceilings or in very low traffic spaces

–          Perfect for walls that aren’t patched perfectly or that have blemishes

Semi-gloss, eggshell or flat finish? Now, that is the question. Once you decide on which finish is best for you, pick up your paint color in that sheen and get to work! If you think you’re somewhere in between these three basic levels, there are a few more varying degrees of sheen that you can also decide on. But for rookie homeowner’s like us, the more basic the better! Bring on the drop cloths…


  1. Sam

    Is there a sheen that’s best for bathrooms?

    1. Casey and Bridget @ DIY Playbook

      Great question, Sam! Because bathrooms are high traffic areas where the walls are exposed to moisture from the shower, drips, hairspray residue, or general wear & tear… semi-gloss is the way to go. Semi-gloss can be wiped down and maintained far easier than the other two.

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