Everything You Need to Know About Selecting a Paint Finish

Trying to figure out how to choose paint finish for your next renovation? These tips & tricks are tried and true!
Everything You Need to Know About Selecting a Paint Finish! How to pick the right paint finish for each renovation project, the difference between paint finishes like high gloss, eggshell, satin, flat

If there’s one part of renovating a home that is challenging, it’s selecting paint. We’ve already covered my entire process for choosing paint color. But today it’s all about sharing my experience and how to choose the right paint finish! High gloss, semi-gloss, eggshell — what does it all mean?! If you’ve often wondered if you’ve made the right selection while standing at the paint counter, know you’re not alone in trying to determine the best paint finish for your project. Here’s a helpful guide all about how to choose a paint finish for every room in your home!

How to Choose Paint Finish (My Ultimate Guide!)

There are several options to choose from, but making the right selection for the right room is what it’s all about. Here’s a quick and easy breakdown for you, organized by room!


The kitchen is often the most used room in your house outside of the bathroom. It sees a lot of traffic and, if you have kids and pets, probably it’s fair share of messes. This means that you want to select a paint finish that will be durable and long lasting. You need to be able to clean it and have it not rub off the walls over time. 

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The rule of thumb when it comes to paint finishes is this: the higher the sheen, the higher the shine and the higher the shine, the more durable it is. That’s why it’s recommended to go high-gloss or semi-gloss in the kitchen. 


Bathrooms aren’t quite as cut and dry. If it’s a bathroom that is used by kids and the whole family on a daily basis, then you’ll likely want to go with the kitchen rule. High or semi-gloss paint that will hold up to scrubbing and cleaning. That’s what we did for our guest bathroom, just in case!

If it’s a powder room that’s really only used for guests or the occasional use, then you can go a bit more decorative. Satin finishes are easily cleaned for those that get a little more use. If it rarely gets used and you want it to just look nice, then an eggshell finish might be a good choice as well. 

Family Room, Den and Living Room

Family rooms often see a lot of traffic, but not as many messes as a kitchen. The walls don’t typically need cleaned. You might go with the age of your children on this one as well. If they are hard on the walls, a satin isn’t too shiny, but it holds up to cleaning and high traffic. 

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If your household is more laidback and your walls aren’t getting a lot of traffic, then you can go with an eggshell, matte, or flat finish. The selection can be made more on your choice of décor and style. The same is true for a formal style living room that might only get used on special occasions, during holidays, etc. 

Dining Room

Your paint finish selection in your dining room will again be based on your family and lifestyle. If you have kids and dinner time can involve accidents or messes, then you’ll probably opt for an easy to clean satin finish. If your family is older or you don’t have any kids and it’s just you and your significant other, eggshell is a great choice. Eggshell finishes are clean and smooth. It’s a great finish for low-traffic areas. 


Low-traffic bedrooms are idea for flat or matte finishes. They provide high-pigment coverage while offering a nice aesthetic. You might go with something a little tougher for kid’s rooms though, like a satin. 

More to Consider when Picking a Paint Finish

Outside of the individual rooms, you’ll also want to choose the right finish based on the colors you choose and how shiny you want the walls to be. So, let’s look at each finish individually. 


As mentioned, high-gloss is one of the most durable. It’s not only great for high-traffic areas, but window and door trim as well. It can also be used on cabinets and architectural details. However, high-gloss may be too shiny in some colors and it will definitely show painting flaws. High-gloss paint just isn’t very forgiving when it comes to brush strokes, so you’ll have to be diligent in your painting prep and the actual application.

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Semi-gloss is the next level of durability. It is great for kitchens, bathrooms, trim, cabinets and chair rails. It’s also great for any areas that take a lot of abuse or accumulate grease or moisture. Saying that, it can also show brush strokes and other painting errors in certain colors. Semi-gloss also pairs well in a room with glossy finished furniture or appliances. The semi-gloss sheen reflects light making a smaller room feel larger.


Satin, or some call it pearl, is one of the most popular sheens and can be used in a variety of rooms with high durability. It’s great for halls and kid’s rooms as well as any room that might be prone to dirt, stains and moisture. The luster can be described as velvety without too much shine. Be careful with dark colors and painting technique, however. It is known to show roller and brush strokes and touch-ups can be difficult. Satin is great for high-traffic walls, trim, doors and cabinets.


Eggshell isn’t quite satin but it’s not flat either. It has just enough luster to it that it is great for low-traffic areas. It also covers wall imperfections. 

Everything You Need to Know About Selecting a Paint Finish! How to pick the right paint finish for each renovation project, the difference between paint finishes like high gloss, eggshell, satin, flat

Flat or Matte

Flat and matte are great for interior walls that aren’t going to be roughed up. The durability is quite low and it can be rubbed off quite easily. It is super easy to paint though and provides the most coverage. Because they aren’t shiny, they soak up light rather than reflect. Flat is also great for ceilings because it makes a room feel larger.

Think About the Color

If you’re choosing colors that are dark and rich, you won’t want to choose a super shiny finish. The richer the color, the shinier it will be, so a good rule of thumb is to step down a notch on the sheen scale. This is because rich colors have more colorant in them. If the area you are painting has defects, that’s another reason to not go too shiny. The higher the sheen, the more the flaws will show. If price is an issue, also keep in mind that the higher the sheen, the higher the cost is by a few dollars as well. 

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Can’t decide or not sure which sheen is best for your room? You can always get sample sizes in your selected colors and paint them on the wall to see which one you like the most. This is also a great way to choose colors in general. That way you don’t commit to a whole gallon until you’re sure!

You can also combine different sheens in a room for a unique look. Eggshell on the walls paired with semi-gloss on the chair rail and doors for instance, creates a luxurious look in the right colors and lighting. This combination is often used in dining rooms and living rooms for an upscale feel.

Everything You Need to Know About Selecting a Paint Finish! How to pick the right paint finish for each renovation project, the difference between paint finishes like high gloss, eggshell, satin, flat

And don’t forget: Proper Preparation and Application Matter!

No matter what sheen you choose, proper painting prep is key. The difference between nice smooth walls and streaky ones is preparation. Depending on the surface you’re painting, you may need to use a primer first. Also, the shinier the paint, the thinner the roller you will want to use than with flat finishes.

In some instances, painting with a brush or roller is not always the best choice. If you want a more professional look, you might consider spraying instead of rolling. Plus, it cuts your painting time in half. With spraying, you will need to diligently tape doors and windows and cover everything in plastic, but the extra prep may be worth it for the more professional results!

I hope this guide to choosing the right paint finish helps you in your next renovation!

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Behind The Blog

Joanna Hawley-McBride is a Pacific Northwest-based social media strategist, content creator, and former textile designer. Joanna is the founder and editor-in-chief of Jojotastic, a lifestyle blog focused on Joanna’s work-in-progress cabin, finding the best pair of underwear through #UnderwearThesis, and empowering women to explore nature — all in her signature unfiltered style. Her work has been featured in Domino, CNBC, and Eating Well.

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