Choosing an Interior Paint Finish: Sheen and Gloss 101

Put the finishing statement on your paint colour of choice by selecting a sheen that enhances the look of the surface. Sheen, or paint finish, is a measure of how much light reflects off a painted surface, resulting in gloss—or a lack thereof. Consider some of the common sheen uses listed below, or break from tradition and get creative with sheen. While some types of paint finishes may work better in certain areas than others, Benjamin Moore’s legacy of innovation ensures that our portfolio of products delivers premium performance across the sheen spectrum.

Common Sheen Uses

Sheen and Gloss 101

Sheens and glosses range on a scale from no shine to high shine. Different levels of sheen can affect how colours appear and add dimension to rooms. While there are many different types of sheen, you are most likely to see the below seven key interior Benjamin Moore paint finishes during your painting journey.

7 Key Interior Benjamin Moore Paint Finishes

Choosing an Interior Paint Finish
Entryway ceiling painted with Waterborne Ceiling Paint Ultra Flat (508).

1.  Flat Paint

Flat paint is a term for a finish that does not reflect light, resulting in no sheen at all. This lack of reflection allows more paint pigment to come through, is more forgiving of flaws and allows for excellent hide, creating a uniform surface. Waterborne Ceiling Paint (508) is the flattest paint Benjamin Moore offers; with its ability to mask imperfections, it offers a flawless finish and is an ideal choice for ceilings and very low-traffic areas.

Similar sheens you may see in our portfolio are ultra flat or ulti-matte. These are close to flat in that there is very little sheen, but you may find slight differences between the three. Your local Benjamin Moore retailer can help you determine the sheen you need.

Use caution when considering flat paint in high-traffic areas that require frequent attention. Stains are harder to remove from low-sheen paint, and constant rubbing or cleaning can result in burnishing.

Choosing an Interior Paint Finish
Bedroom walls painted in Silver Fox paint colour with Regal Select Interior Paint – Matte (548) finish.

2.  Matte Paint

Matte finish is nearly as shine-free as flat, again providing excellent hide and depth of colour, with slightly more durability. Regal® Select Interior Matte (548) is a professional painter favorite for its ease of application and smooth feel after drying. Matte finish paint also withstands frequent washing, even when applied in busier areas like hallways and family rooms.

A matte look lends a luxurious touch to many interior spaces, including bedrooms and dining rooms. Bathrooms and areas that are exposed to more moisture can be painted in a matte finish using Aura® Bath & Spa (532), which was designed to achieve exceptional durability, colour retention and mildew resistance in high-humidity environments.

Choosing an Interior Paint Finish
Hallway wall painted in Mink paint colour with Aura Interior Paint – Eggshell (524) finish.

3.  Eggshell Paint

Eggshell finish, perennially popular with professional and DIY painters alike, has a low-sheen reminiscent of flat or matte, but it is infinitely more durable than its namesake.

Widely available in a variety of Benjamin Moore interior paints, eggshell (and its comparable—but not exact—sheen sibling, low lustre) provides an easy-to-clean, nearly shine-free finish, suited for most areas of a home, including family rooms and hallways. While it reflects more light than flat or matte finishes, its soft glow casts colours beautifully, especially in Aura® Interior Eggshell (524), our most premium paint, a great choice for your most-loved spaces.

Choosing an Interior Paint Finish
Laundry room walls painted in Solitude paint colour with Regal Select Interior Paint- Pearl (550) finish.

4.  Pearl Paint

A pearl finish is a medium gloss that maintains high durability. Both beautiful and easy to clean, a pearl finish lends dimension to trim while being optimal for walls in high-traffic areas. Regal® Select Interior Pearl (550) has a finish that can be used everywhere from wainscoting to doors, and offers mildew resistance for high-humidity areas.

When choosing this finish, make sure you follow manufacturer’s application tips and paint carefully, as paint with a pearl sheen is more susceptible to showing lap marks and other painting flaws.

Choosing an Interior Paint Finish
Living room doors in Black Satin paint colour with Aura Grand Entrance Satin (147) finish.

5.  Satin Paint

Often confused with other finishes, the difference between eggshell and satin paint is that satin delivers a higher gloss, while offering better stain resistance and durability than lower sheens, including eggshell.

Satin paint is ideal for areas that crave definition. Use its distinctive lustre to highlight windows, shutters, trim and even interior doors. For front doors, where architectural details like beveling and paneling are customary, consider Aura® Grand Entrance Satin to achieve a rich, lustrous look that evokes a look of elegance and luxury.

Also, in this category is soft gloss paint, which, while not an exact match for satin paint, offers a similar higher-gloss, better-durability finish.

Choosing an Interior Paint Finish
Kitchen trim and mantel painted in Silver Satin paint colour with ADVANCE Interior Paint – Semi-Gloss (793).

6.  Semi-Gloss Paint

The luminous look of a semi-gloss paint is perfectly suited to highlight the architectural details of your home and create dimension on millwork, trim, and doors. Semi-gloss is available in most Benjamin Moore interior paints, but we especially love the look of ADVANCE® Interior Semi-Gloss (793); it cures to a smooth, furniture-like finish, and its glossy look makes it one of the best paint finishes for kitchen cabinets.

Kitchen walls, trim, cabinets and door painted in Marine Blue paint colour with ADVANCE High Gloss (794).

7.  High Gloss Paint

Offering a mirror-like finish, high gloss sits on top of the sheen chart. This finish, offered in some paints such as ADVANCE® High Gloss (794), is extremely durable and offers elegant shine. It is easy to clean, stain-resistant and will add a stunning look to doors, trim, and even a high-traffic kitchen.

Many interior designers (and adventurous homeowners) like to experiment with high gloss paint in unexpected areas, such as the ceiling or an accent wall. Keep in mind, however, that high gloss paints require careful application and preparation best left to a professional painter. If you’re committed to a DIY-approach, practice your technique and prime any surfaces to ensure they are even and clean prior to paint application. Since a gloss finish reflects light and can accentuate blemishes, avoid using it on areas that are not completely smooth.

If you’re stuck on sheen, ask your local Benjamin Moore retailer to recommend the best finish for your project.

When it comes to premium paints and stains for your home interiors and exteriors, Benjamin Moore has set the standard for excellence.

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