Paint Sheen 101

For both practical and aesthetic reasons, the finish of a paint makes a difference in durability and looks. Most paint companies carry paints in five basic sheens, from flat to high gloss.

High gloss paints are the bad boys. The higher the gloss, the harder the finish. This is the most scrubbable and mar-resistant paint. Available in both oil and latex paints, this is usually the best choice for metal fencing and architectural accents. Often used in high-traffic areas. Because it's so highly reflective, it will reveal every tiny surface imperfection in stark detail, and it will glaringly reflect light. In homes it is best used for smaller areas and accents.

Semi-gloss paint is a better choice for residential trim and walls. Still very durable and washable, it won't reveal surface flaws to the extent that high-gloss paints do. An excellent choice for interior doors and trim, cabinets and exterior trim. It s also commonly used in kitchens and bathrooms because it is quite water resistant. A quality semi-gloss paint is 100% acrylic, and for most applications this outperforms oil based paints.

Satin paints have a softer sheen than the higher glosses yet are still washable and fairly durable. Many people are using satin throughout the house because it's practical and cures to a nice soft gloss. It won't glare like the higher sheens under direct lighting, and it is generally available in both interior and exterior products.

Eggshell, just as it sounds, has a velvety soft sheen, like an egg. This is good for walls but a poor choice for doors and trim. It is usually only found in interior paints, although a good exterior flat paint is much like an interior eggshell finish. This finish imparts a richer glow than flats in low light, and you can still wash it down without marring the finish.

Flat paints have come a long way. A regular high-quality flat is fine for low-traffic areas, bedrooms, or if you just like the look and don t have to worry about frequently cleaning off fingerprints. Flat is also good for exterior siding, although it's a bit more likely to attract dirt and grime over the years.

Another thing to consider is that the sheen of the paint will affect color appearance. Generally, the higher the gloss, the more punch and depth deeper colors have.

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Primers are not designed to cover dark or intense colors. I have seen this advice given so often on Internet bulletin boards and even in magazine articles. I imagine the primer industry loves it, but if you read the labels on just about any can of primer, nowhere will it suggest this as a purpose.

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