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Types of Paint Finishes

There are various types of interior paints in the hardware store, but which one is the most appropriate for the project at hand? Choosing the correct paint the first time around will prevent unsatisfactory results and the unnecessary hassle associated with having to re-paint all over again.  The best type of finish chosen will largely depend on the type of surface being painted, however having a thorough understanding of the differences between paints can lead the way to painting success. Different types of paints are measured by their level of sheen with paints ranging from no sheen at all to a maximum level of sheen.  There are a few important things to keep in mind when considering paint finishes and ways to choose the right paint for the best outcome.


Flat paint leaves a smooth coating that does not have a reflection.  It is best suited for ceilings.  Flat paint is notorious for showing dirt and finger prints so it is not recommended for walls or high traffic areas.  It can reveal imperfections that are in walls and can leave marks on walls when it is cleaned.  Flat paint is generally best used in rooms that will not be exposed to humidity or moisture such as bedrooms or living rooms.  When dried, this paint is very porous and tends to retain moisture more, so there is a high likelihood that mildew can grow on this type of paint if left unattended.  Flat paints are the least costly of all the paint alternatives. 


Eggshell paint has a faint sheen and it is a great choice for walls, even though it will show some dirt for highly trafficked areas.  For instance, if there are children in the home who will leave fingerprints this paint may not be the best option.  In general, this finish is a great choice for bedroom walls and hallways. 


Satin paint is a very popular choice.  It is very easy to clean and leaves a lovely “satin” like appearance that is visually appealing.  This paint is perfect for any room within the home.  This middle-range alternative is a great choice for an attractive shine that offers just enough reflection to not accentuate dirt or other imperfections. 

Semi gloss paint - Types of Paint FinishesSemi-gloss

Semi-gloss paint does have a slight sheen.  This paint is great for trim such as doors, bathrooms, kitchens and crown molding.  Semi-gloss paint is a very durable alternative that can be easily cleaned and maintained.  The shine of a semi-gloss paint is subtle and largely water and stain resistant. 


Glossy paint has a very high shine level and is the most reflective of all the paints.  It is best suited for special projects such as furniture and trim such as crown molding, doors and windows.  A good rule of thumb to remember is that the glossier the paint finish, the easier it is to wipe down and clean.  A glossy finish is very durable and can resist stains and dirt build up faster than flatter finishes.  Since glossy finishes are the most reflective they tend to accentuate imperfections more.  So previous repairs, cracks and dents in the wall will be more obvious. 

Chalk Paint

One last type of paint is chalk paint, which is a specialty paint that creates a chalk board surface when dry.  This paint can be written on for a number of various projects to include furniture refinishes and even accent walls that the entire family can enjoy by writing messages to one another.     

All of these finishes are available for interior and exterior paint jobs.  Always remember to test the paint before completing a large project.  Test a small area first by priming it, applying one coat, letting that coat fully dry and then applying a second coat and letting that coat fully dry as well.  This will provide the best indicator as to whether or not that paint finish is the right option for the project. 

Choosing the correct paint is a matter of trial and error.  A trained professional can be hired to take much of the guess work out of which finish is the best for the project.  A skilled house painter in New Jersey is a great starting point for expert tips, tricks and insights into the types of paint that are available on the market. 

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