So you want to paint your living room, but you’re not quite sure where to start. There are so many different factors involved: color, budget, tools for the job, etc. We have a secret to tell you: there’s another one--paint sheen.

paint-sheenA paint’s sheen refers to how shiny it is, or inversely, how much shine it lacks. You can still choose that classy Gothic statement color for your living room, but you also need to consider the appropriate sheen. Sheen isn’t just about visual aesthetic, it should also be chosen based on durability. The more shiny a paint is, the more durable it is, and the less shiny it is, the less durable. Let’s get right  into it before you get overwhelmed with all the decisions.

Flat (aka Matte)

Flat paint is the least durable but has the most coverage. Because it lacks shine, it absorbs light rather than reflecting it. Cleanup is more challenging than with the other sheens and it’s very likely that scrubbing will take some paint off, so it might be a good idea to keepaint-sheen2p a can of your chosen paint handy for touch-ups. Flat paint is best used in low-traffic areas, such as parents’ and guest bedrooms.


Grab an egg out of the fridge and take a peek at it. That in essence is “eggshell” in sheen form. Think matte with a little bit of shine. Every bit you climb up the sheen ladder comes with a bit more durability, so we’re talking a little less effort required for cleaning it. Eggshell is a great paint for bedrooms, living and dining rooms.


Satin is a rung up on the Ladder of Sheen. Sounds super exquisite, right? What if we told you that with that step up in sheen came an improvement in your paint’s durability? Super exciting. With satin, cleanup is as easy as a damp sponge. So easy your kids can put it on their chore list. Winner winner, chicken dinner. Satin is ideal for hallways, living rooms, and just higher traffic areas in general.


Semi-gloss is pretty up therepaint-sheen3on the scale of shininess. It’s great for baseboard trim, kitchens and bathrooms. So paint this picture with us. You’re cooking your great-grandmother from Sicily’s famous sauce that comes highly requested from your partner and the munchkins. The heat is on medium-high when your little asks how to round to the nearest hundredth. In that 28-second time frame, the sauce bubbles and splatters on the wall behind the stove. This is the exact scenario you want semi-gloss paint for (or to download and have back splash installed ASAP--shameless plug). With semi-gloss paint, wiping up splatter is a breeze. Even dried-on splatter will come off with a little elbow grease, and it won’t even take any paint off with it!


Glossy paint is basically your accessory paint. Think floor trim, door trim, window sills, cabinetry, etc. Items/areas that get super high use need this sheen of paint. If you went lower than semi-gloss you would drive yourself crazy with the cleanup. Just because you can do anything doesn’t mean you want to spend unnecessary time and effort doing anything.

Whew! We’ve just taught a short lecture on paint sheens. Who knew there was so much to learn about the topic? We’ve given you tips on different uses, durability levels and examples of where to use each type of paint sheen. These aren’t strict guidelines, though, and as with every undertaking in adulthood there is room for tweaking. If your walls are covered in texture--that hideous semi-popcorn-like stuff that was bred in the 70’s--then you might want the flattest of the flat of paint, as it hides textural imperfections way better than shinier sheens like satin. Also, we are of the opinion that flatter paint look more elegant. If you think so too, there are options for you, such as Benjamin Moore’s Matte Aura Bath & Spa paint. This goes against what we told you previously, but that’s because technology moves with the times and Benjamin Moore clearly understands our need for beauty and practicality.

Speaking of technology, if you are looking for a painter or any other type of home improvement professional to help you with your project, we’ve got you covered.