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Matte Finish vs. Satin and Gloss: A Guide to Paint Finish Types

You've chosen your interior paint colors, and now it's time to pick the finishes. You should consider both style and practicality when making this important decision. By using this Guide to Paint Finish Types, you will be well on your way to a fresh coat of the right paint on your walls.

Matte and Flat

These paint finishes deliver a smooth, subtle look and show little to no sheen when dry, as they absorb light.

Pros: Matte and flat finishes cover imperfections in surface and application, making either a great choice for ceilings as well as for walls in the bedroom, dining room and living room. You can easily touch up this finish.

Cons: In general, they hold dirt and prove difficult to clean, because cleaning can actually remove the finish. Some manufacturers, such as Behr, Sherwin Williams and Benjamin Moore, make scrubbable versions that allow for easier cleaning. Do not use in bathrooms, the kitchen or a kid's room.

Recommended rooms/surfaces: living room, dining room, bedrooms, ceilings, family room and hallways.


This silky, smooth paint finish actually retains its pearl-like sheen when dry.

Pros: A satin finish reflects more light than matte and stands up well to washing. Use in high-traffic areas such as bathrooms, the kitchen and a kid's room as well as on trim and molding throughout the house.

Cons: This finish does not hide imperfections in surface or application; any touch ups will stand out.

Recommended rooms/surfaces: Family room, playroom, laundry room, kitchen, bathrooms, dining room, kid's bedroom, trim and doors.

Semigloss and Gloss

These paint finishes reflect the most light of any when dry, providing a bright sheen.

Pros: Semigloss and gloss finishes prove durable and scrubbable, with semigloss offering high resistance to moisture. Use in the kitchen and bathrooms as well as on trim and molding throughout the house.

Cons: These finishes show every single imperfection in surface and application, requiring additional prep work and sanding to create a smooth surface. Touch ups of this finish also will stand out because of the difference in sheen.

Recommended rooms/surfaces: Kitchen, bathrooms, cabinets, hallways (semigloss), trim and doors.

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In addition to choosing a paint finish that falls into one of these types, you also can combine types to create the perfect finish. Before meeting with your professional painter, pull together the following information:

Description of each room to be painted - Simply note kitchen, bedroom, etc., but be sure to note dual uses for rooms, such as a garage entry also used as a laundry room.

Amount of traffic each room gets - Rank them from low to high.

  • Required clean-ability/ maintenance - Do you regularly scrub your walls and perform touch ups, or would you prefer to leave all painting to the professionals.
  • Budget - The cost of finishes vary within type and also by manufacturer. Know what you want to spend, as it will affect the finish recommended.

Your professional painter also will take into consideration the construction of your home. If your builder left behind imperfect taping or porous joint compound between drywall panels, a flat or matte sheen will be the best solution. On the other hand, if your builder created smooth surfaces that remain so today, a paint finish with a high level of gloss will be an option.

When you're ready to paint your home-interior painting and/or exterior painting-be sure to contact your local Five Star Painting and click here for a free estimate.

Homeowner choosing paint colors

Specializing in exterior and interior painting, on residential and commercial projects, Five Star Painting provides local businesses and homeowners across the country with highly-skilled, trustworthy, and fully insured and licensed painting professionals who provide superior craftsmanship. Utilizing a myriad of paint options and finishes, combined with flawless customer service, Five Star Painting strives to provide a stress-free home improvement experience for its customers. Our brand is also part of Neighborly, a community of home service experts. For example, once you get a fresh coat of paint, you may notice your floor needs a face lift too. Schedule a professional carpet cleaning with our fellow Neighborly brand, Rainbow International.