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Which Paint Sheen to Use?



 If you’re new to painting or selecting paint, then you might be overwhelmed by the many different options you have. From the various paint stores to the endless product lines in each one, you have some decisions in front of you.

 

One of things you need to decide is which paint sheen to use. But how do you choose a sheen, and what are the options? What even is paint sheen in general?

 

What is Paint Sheen?

Paint sheen has to do with the “shininess” of the paint. Scientifically, it’s the measure of how much light is reflected by the paint at a certain angle. For us consumers, paint stores provide names for sheens in their paint lines. These names are mostly interchangeable between companies, however actual GU’s (Gloss Units) will vary not only between companies, but between their own product lines. Most people would never be able to know the difference, so don’t sweat it unless you are a high-luxury designer/coordinator.  As long as you know the basics, you should be good to pick the right sheen for your space.



How many Paint Sheens are There?

Although there is no set number, here’s our take on the basics:

 

·      Flat

·      Matte

·      Eggshell

·      Satin

·      Semi-Gloss

·      Gloss

·      High Gloss

 

*Ordered from lowest sheen to highest sheen.

 

Which Sheen do I use?

In the end, it all comes down to preference. However, there are certain guidelines that exist to help you pick a sheen that will best suit you and the space you are putting it in. Medium/higher sheens such as satin to high gloss are better equipped to handle high-traffic areas that could require more abuse and cleaning. They’re shinier finish is more readily-available to handle dings, scuffs, etc. These higher sheens are also a great way to accent your home. Using them on trim, cabinets, wainscoting, accent walls, etc. can provide these surfaces with the extra “pop” you may be looking for.

 

So why ever use the lower sheen paints? In terms of preference, some people may prefer a less reflective surface. For example, a room with a large amount of natural lighting may look too bright with the addition of a higher sheen. A lower sheen will look more natural and feel less intense. Lower sheen paints also have the advantage of hiding imperfections on surfaces. Due to the lower reflectability, sheens such as flat and matte won’t highlight bumps and divots nearly as much as satin and semi-gloss (this is a reason why many ceilings are painted flat white).

 

This chart provided by Sherwin Williams depicts where they recommend certain sheens be utilized.



 

As you can see, there are quite a few other sheens listed than we mentioned above. Some of these sheens are specific to Sherwin Williams, and some are shared between companies. In the end, if you need to be exact, you can always reference a guide such as the following to know the true GU's for each product and sheen.




 If you’re in any doubt as to which sheen to select, you can always ask a painter or interior designer what they recommend since they work with and around these products all the time. Hopefully this article gave you the knowledge and confidence to pick the sheens of your next project!

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