Design 101 this month has been dedicated to helping our readers find the perfect paint color.  Now you’ve got your colors, but before you head off to the hardware store you’ll need to consider the finish.  Matte?  Glossy?  Somewhere in between?  Below are some tips to help you decide!

Picking a Finish


Flat finish, also known as matte, has the least amount of shine.  It doesn’t reflect any light, therefore its a great choice to hide imperfections in your wall like cracks or uneven surfaces.  If you have textured walls, a flat finish is also a good option as it will go on smoothly over a rough surface.  Sounds great for every surface of your room, right?  Not quite.  Flat paint is the most difficult to keep clean, so it’s not the ideal choice for areas that get a lot of traffic, moisture, or spills like the kitchen or bathroom.  We like a flat finish in living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms, and ceilings.

 Matte Walls

Matte Walls

Even in white, a flat finish can hide wall imperfections (Regan Billingsley Interiors)


Eggshell finish is generally a good “go-to” finish.  It has slightly more sheen to it than flat, but its by no means shiny.  Think of the slight luster of an eggshell. The finish will resist stains better than flat and can be cleaned with a wet rag.  We like an eggshell finish in bathrooms, kitchens, mudrooms, and kid’s rooms.

 Eggshell Walls

Eggshell Walls

Eggshell walls have the slightest sheen (Regan Billingsley Interiors)


Satin paint has a bit more gloss, giving it a smooth and velvety look.  It’s a great choice for high-trafficked areas as well as woodwork because it’s easy maintenance.  It’s made to hold up to cleaning and light scrubbing.  We like a satin finish for windows, doors, and trim, but it can also be used for walls where you need a more practical finish, such as a kid’s bathroom.  You can wipe away little fingerprints, toothpaste, and soap scum with a wet rag.  Just keep in mind that because satin has a sheen it will draw attention to imperfections in the walls like cracks or bumps.

 Eggshell Bathroom

Eggshell Bathroom

A satin finish is a durable option for kid’s bathroom walls.


Semi-gloss is tough paint, all about durability.   Over time it will show less wear than other finishes and can easily be wiped or scrubbed clean.  But it also reflects even more light, so you’ll want to correct any surface imperfections before you paint or they will be really noticeable.  We like a semi-gloss finish for kitchen cabinets, bathroom vanities, and furniture.  It can also be used on woodwork you would like to highlight, such as intricate moldings, built-ins, and fireplace surrounds.



Semi-gloss is a good option for painted kitchen cabinets (Regan Billingsley Interiors)


High gloss paints are the most reflective, and their shiny finish will dry looking similar to enamel or plastic.   Although a glossy finish isn’t typically used in interiors, if applied correctly it can create a dramatic and formal look.  Like other finishes with a sheen, glossy paint will highlight any surface imperfections, so you’ll want to sand and prepare surfaces carefully. We like adding a little glamour to a room by applying a glossy finish to the walls.

 Steve Grambell Lacquer Walls

Steve Grambell Lacquer Walls

High drama created by Steven Gambrel

Oil or Latex?

Once you’ve determined your paint finish, you’ll need to decide if you want to use oil (alkyd) paint or latex (water based) paint.  Oil and latex paints aren’t finishes, rather, they refer to what the paint is made of.  You can have any of the finishes listed above in either oil paint or latex paint.

For most interior projects, latex will be the way to go. It dries quicker, cleans up with water, and has a much less offensive odor while wet.  We like latex on interior walls, moldings, trim, and ceilings.

Oil based paint dries slower, giving off a strong smell which can be tough to take. However, it does have advantages.  Oil based paint provides a smooth and durable finish that is more resistant to scratching, fingerprints, and stains.  It sticks to surfaces better.  So, if you can take the smell, we like oil for surfaces that will get a rougher treatment such as doors, window trim, and floors.

We think both latex and oil have their place, but we would be remiss if we didn’t point out that latex paint is more environmentally friendly.  We believe in a happy and healthily environment, both inside and outside of the home.

Happy Painting.

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