Confused about your paint finish options?

The most exciting, and often the most difficult choice in all of interior design is picking out the paint. Picking a color is hard enough, but the choosing the right texture can be even more challenging.

You know it when you see it: the perfect color to make a bland space really pop to life. Then the time comes to pick a sheen. Satin, matte, flat, gloss, eggshell—with all the options out there, how are you supposed to choose? This guide is meant to explain the style and practical differences between the common paint finishes for interior use.

Matte and Flat Paints


A matte paint gives walls a luxurious, velvety finish. Walls finished in matte have almost no shine to them. The softer appearance of a matte paint lends itself well to accenting natural wood trim or rooms with antique lacquered furniture.


  • Warm, luxurious appearance
  • Hides imperfections in the painted surface
  • Works well in rooms with direct sunlight
  • Easy to touch-up, blend repairs into the finish


  • Not durable. Wear near handrails/switchplates can leave shiny spots.
  • Soft texture catches and holds more dirt than other finishes.
  • Not easy to clean. Spills and stains are difficult to remove without damaging the finish.

Where to use matte paints

Matte finishes are perfect for studies, home libraries, formal dining rooms, or other spaces where a luxury appearance is important and there is low traffic. Matte can be used on ceilings for a subtle contrast with satin walls. Because they are so easy to touch up, matte paints are also ideal for rental properties or that Airbnb suite you are converting your attic into. 

Satin, Pearl, and Eggshell Paints

Satin and eggshell refer to a variety of sheens that reflect some light, but are still soft enough to avoid a reflective wet-gloss look. The finish is more vibrant than flat paint.


  • Easy to maintain. Most satins are washable with normal household cleaner.
  • Durable. Satin will hold up to high traffic areas like entranceways and staircase walls.
  • Slight shine can make color more vibrant.


  • Requires a lot more painting preparation. Any imperfections, like nail pops or dings in the drywall, will be very noticeable.
  • Touch-ups are hard to blend into the existing finish.
  • Off-white eggshell is the stereotypical contractor’s paintwork. Not ugly, but bland and lacking character or style.

Where to use satin paints:

Satin paint works best in living rooms, bedrooms, or other high traffic areas where a durable but softer finish is desired.

High-Gloss and Semi-Gloss Paint

These paints provide the most durable and shiniest finish. Semi-gloss is bright and vibrant. High-gloss leaves a surface with a deep reflective shine. Both stand up to spills, wear, and traffic extremely well.


  • Makes a bold statement.
  • Most vibrant colors possible
  • Stand up to spills and stains
  • Extreme durability
  • Easy to clean
  • Sleek, modern appearance.


  • Requires obsessive detail during surface prep. When used on a wall, the surface must be mirror smooth, as every imperfection will be glaringly obvious.
  • Almost impossible to match repairs without repainting whole section of wall.
  • High-gloss can be overpowering in smaller spaces or under direct lighting.

When to use gloss paint:

Gloss paint is traditionally applied to trim around doors and windows. Special gloss enamels exist specifically for these applications. Heavy-use areas like kitchens and bathrooms can benefit from high gloss paint as an alternative to more traditional tile splashes. Infant playrooms will also hold up much longer if finished in semi-gloss.

Combining Paint Finishes

Don’t limit yourself to a single finish. Many rooms can benefit from a combination of finishes on different parts of a room.

As a general rule, paint should be one finish away from the surface it borders. This is done so paint there is a clean visual transition from one finish to the other. Flat-finished walls with high-gloss trim create a visually jarring effect and draw attention away from furnishing or wall art.

To bring visual interest to a room, a ceiling could be finished in matte, the walls in satin, and the trim in semi-gloss to create contrast with harmony between the different surfaces.

Choosing the Right Home Painters

Whether it’s one room or an entire home, refinishing a space takes a painter who understands your vision and how to bring that our in the final product. A professional painter can recommend finishes for your space, and perhaps even suggest a great new look you never knew was an option. For painting needs in South Jersey, contact Pizzazz Painters at 609-702-8200. With over twenty years of experience, they can find the finish to make your painting project look its best.