Which Shine is the Right Shine?

shiny paint

Paint comes in a very wide spectrum of colors, and that's what people usually think about when choosing a paint. But let’s talk about shine: How much and where? Color and shine actually matter when it comes to painting your house. It's not just about aesthetics (although that's most of it).

Experienced painting contractors advise that if your walls are very bumpy and have plaster patches all over them, it is best to go with a flat paint. Color matters here, too, because some paints don't look good in a flat finish — browns, for instance. Very light colors look good in flat finishes. Meanwhile, some colors look bad in a high paint sheen; red and yellow come to mind here. In fact, most dark colors don't look their best with a high sheen.

Perhaps that’s part of the reason for the increasing number of gradations in paint sheen now available to consumers. Reds and browns look good in matte finishes, which has a shine somewhere between flat and eggshell. Most dark colors look good in this finish. Medium-depth colors go well in an eggshell. Remember: When using any finish in paint, the darker the color, the more it will shine. While light-colored eggshell paint finishes might be barely perceptible, their darker cousins will appear almost garish in comparison. (When using dark or intense colors, think about accenting a wall here or there with them.)

When considering where to use which sheen, remember that high-traffic areas, including bathrooms and kitchens, should get a paint with more sheen. But you need not choose semi-gloss; eggshell will do in bathrooms and kitchens. Moldings are usually painted semi-gloss, but they don't need to be unless you’re trying to highlight them. Remember: Old, beat-up moldings will look even worse in semi-gloss finishes, so tone it down and go with eggshell.

Shine has a purpose beyond being pretty: it's protective. Your walls will maintain their attractive appearance much longer if you apply a paint with sheen rather than one without. They will be washable, too. Since most people like to change colors every 3 or 4 years, this should not be a deciding factor. Flat finishes are the easiest to resurface when it’s time to repaint. Paints shinier than eggshell should be primed first, unless they are being resurfaced in a flat finish.

These are things your local paint store people are unlikely to share with you. It could save you a great deal of extra work knowing about sheen ahead of time. Any painter worth his or her salt can answer all your questions regarding paint. After all, we have our hands in it.

For more "insider" painting tips, contact a professional painter.

This article was updated November 30, 2017.

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