From matt finish to eggshell paint, here is your guide to understanding how to pick the right types of paint finishes for your home interior and exterior.
Adding happy colours in your home by painting your walls, ceilings, or even furniture pieces can powerfully transform the overall look of your space and uplift your mood.
Before embarking on this exciting adventure in the vast world of paint colours, it might be worth taking time to understand the different paint finishes you will need for your home renovation.
This is because the same paint colour might look very different based on the surface area you are painting, the area traffic level, and the paint sheen you have opted to use.
Before you start applying paint on your walls, trims or doors, read on to learn about the most common types of paint finishes, which one works best for different surfaces, and how they impact your overall room paint colour, texture, and maintenance.
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What Are Common Paint Finishes?
1. Flat & Matt Paint Finish
A flat and matt paint has more pigment than any other paint finishes. With a less than 10% sheen level, a flat and matt finish tends to have a rich velvet-like texture, is non-reflective, and easily absorbs light. This paint finish hides small surface imperfections well. Think about it as the concealer of paints!
A matt emulsion is generally good for low-traffic areas of your home and where the surface is uneven. This paint type is an ideal paint for walls and ceilings of a formal living room, dining room or office.
However, a flat and matt paint finish is less washable and difficult to keep clean. This may not work well for you if you have very energetic kids running around with their hands full of peanut butter or crayons.
A unique finish worth mentioning in the matt paint category is chalk paint, a hugely popular paint finish for furniture upcycling.
As the original creation of paint brand Annie Sloan, water-based chalk paint has a typical 2% sheen level. The specialised paint lends a unique dead flat appearance to dry surfaces and is ideal to create chalky, distressed, and shabby chic looks.
To increase the paint texture durability, people tend to apply special waxes or sealers, helping to create patina and give it a vintage-inspired feel.
2. Eggshell Paint Finish
Eggshell paint finish appears slightly velvety and soft and tends to have a relatively dull sheen level of around 20% or more that is likened to the shell of an egg.
It gently bounces light around the room and can withstand stains and fingerprints better than a matt paint finish.
Used on sills and frames, skirtings and window surrounds, eggshell paint has a smoother appearance, is more durable and easier to wash than matt paint finish. However, eggshell paint has a lesser ability to conceal surface imperfections compared with matt finish.
Acrylic eggshell paint finish is also a good option for decorating walls and ceilings due to their lower volatile organic compounds (VOC) content.
An eggshell finish is suitable for family rooms, bedrooms, hallways, and entryways.
3. Satin, Silk and Soft Paint
A satin finish has a pearl-like sheen and is slightly more reflective than eggshell paint. The paint finish is traditionally used as an alternative to gloss for trim and is a great paint for woodwork.
Silk and soft sheen paint finishes are generally used for walls in moderate to high traffic areas such as kitchen and hallways in light of their shinier and more washable characteristics. They have a good resistance to steam.
They also work well for moderate to high traffic areas such as children’s rooms, family rooms, bathrooms, moulding and millwork, and interior doors.
4. Gloss Paint Finish
Semi-gloss, high gloss and super gloss paint are highly reflective and tend to bounce light around the room. Their high sheen level at about 90% makes gloss paint easily washable.
Semi-gloss paint is sometimes compared to a satin finish, but it has a higher sheen level than the latter. This means that semi-gloss paint makes it a lot easier for light to travel in your space than satin finish or eggshell paint.
High gloss and super gloss paint have a rich, liquidy sheen of a lacquer-like finish. Their mirrored effect can help brighten a dark room when cleverly applied. High gloss and super gloss are commonly used on trim or to create a feature wall.
The downside of gloss paint finish is that it highlights surface imperfections. It is also a difficult paint to apply. Consider using it in small doses and properly prepare the surface you need to cover with this paint texture beforehand.
5. Masonry Paint Finish
Masonry paint is a paint finish specifically designed for use on exterior walls whether they are made of stone, concrete,brick, plaster, lime and cement render, or pebble dash. Due to the surfaces being outside, masonry paint has to perform better than regular interior paints.
Additionally, masonry paint helps protect exterior walls from weather, pollution and general wear and tear and help care for your property.
Masonry paints are primarily available in smooth and textured finishes. Weather durability is an important factor when choosing masonry paint for your home.
- Smooth masonry paint finish has a matt and soft texture and is fairly easy to keep clean.
- Textured masonry paint is formulated with aggregate that gives a lightly textured finish to the paint, which is great for covering imperfections on exterior walls.
Acrylic masonry paint, exterior limewash, and silicate masonry paint are some of the most common types of masonry paint you will find on the market.
Due to its plastic content, acrylic masonry paint is an affordable paint finish that is easy to apply on freshly plastered exterior walls and on previously painted surfaces. It is ideal for a quick refresh on previously painted, modern properties.
The downside to this paint finish is its low level of breathability. This makes it difficult for the water vapour to pass through the painted surface, keeping it trapped in the walls, eventually leading to flaky, cracky paint.
Exterior limewash is a traditional paint that incorporates lime putty. It is applied in different layers to offer breathability and a protective coating to surfaces. Exterior Limewash supports the release of water, enabling it to evaporate back into the air. This means your painted exterior surfaces are far less likely to erode over time.
Exterior limewash masonry paint is used over traditional building materials such as lime render, older properties, listed buildings, and heritage properties . This paint finish needs reapplying every few years and can become dusty and unstable. It may not be a practical option for some householders.
Mineral based silicate masonry paint is another highly breathable, durable and weather resistant paint finish similar to that of limewash . This makes it suitable for older properties, conservation projects and lime render. A chemical reaction with the mineral substrate enables the paint and primer to become part of the painted surface to maximise its high durability and weather resistance. It tends not to flake off and doesn’t need reapplying every few years.
Which Paint Finish Is Best?
A number of key factors enter into play when choosing your paint finish
Surface Traffic Level
Pick your paint finish based on how you use the different rooms in your home. For example, a flat and matt paint finish will work well on low-traffic areas such as ceilings and walls of a formal living room or a formal office. On the other hand, eggshell paint is great for family rooms, bedrooms, hallways, and entryways.
Paint finishes are classified in terms of their level of shine, from a dead flat finish to very shiny super-gloss finishes. Consider how the level of sheen you are selecting will enhance the surface area you are painting . Remember that the higher the paint sheen the more visible the surface imperfections.
Decide whether you want to conceal or highlight surface imperfections to create a specific decor style for your home from smooth to textured paint finishes. For example, if you are going for a rustic country kitchen decor style or an industrial decor style, slight surface imperfections highlighted by a little shiny paint finish will add depth to your space.