Different Types Of Paint Finishes (When & Which To Use?)

After choosing a type of paint and color for your project, you’ll need to pick a finish. The finish you pick determines how dull or shiny the painted surface will be. There are 5 types of paint finishes to choose from; Flat, Eggshell, Satin, Semi-Gloss, and High-Gloss finishes.

In this post, we discuss each of these finishes to discover their properties and where to use each of them. Let’s dive in.

1. Flat/Matte

A flat or matte paint finish has no sheen and is popular for its dry and colorful appearance. It is commonly used in low-traffic areas of the home because it’s not as durable as other finishes.

Since flat finishes have no sheen, there is no reflection on the painted surface when the paint dries. Also, they have the most pigments or color, making it easy to hide blemishes on the surface.


Matte finishes are ideal in the bedroom, roof, home study, and other areas of the home that aren’t exposed to stains, dust, or dirt. This is because they aren’t durable enough to withstand heavy use or constant cleaning.

You should use it if you want a dull appearance on your wall and when you are working on large surfaces because it gives the most surface coverage. They also give the most colorful finishes so they can be used for creating murals, art, and designs.

You shouldn’t use it on your building exterior or kitchen walls because it will get ruined by stains and the elements (sun, rain, dust, snow).


  1. They have the best coverage and can be used on wide and large surfaces.
  2. Dry and colorful finish.
  3. Easy to apply and they dry fast.
  4. Matte finishes hide blemishes and imperfections like nail holes and scratch marks perfectly.
  5. Cheaper than other finishes.
  6. Fast dry time.


  1. Not durable and shouldn’t be used for outdoor surfaces.
  2. Hard to clean. Stains often come off eventually but with some paint too.

2. Eggshell

Eggshell finishes have the lowest sheen of any finish. It has a flat but slightly lustrous appearance, like that of a chicken egg.

It is known for its mildew resistance and is common in areas of the home that don’t experience a lot of bumps, stains, and scratches. The finish gives good coverage on wide surfaces and is easy to apply.


You should use it for low to medium-traffic areas in the home. This includes the hallways, bedrooms, living rooms, and dining rooms. You can also use an eggshell finish if you want a slightly lustrous appearance on your walls.


  1. Easy to wipe and clean
  2. Easy to apply.
  3. Good coverage on wide surfaces.
  4. Resists stains better than a flat finish.


  1. It isn’t ideal for exterior surfaces
  2. It is hard to touch up the finish later.

3. Satin

Satin finishes have more luster or sheen than matte and eggshell finishes. It is common for its pearly appearance and velvety (soft) texture on walls.

It is commonly used on moderate-traffic areas of the home like wall and door trims, dining rooms, bedrooms, and living rooms. The finish also has a degree of moisture-resistance thanks to the presence of gloss in its formula. It is easy to wipe and clean, and it dries fast.


You should use it when working on bedrooms, dining areas, and other moderate-traffic rooms in the home.

Since it resists stains better than matte and eggshell, you can use it on door and window trims and baseboards that will be exposed to dust.


  1. It is more durable than an eggshell finish.
  2. It can be used in moderate-traffic areas of the home.
  3. Satin finishes have a degree of moisture resistance.
  4. It is easier to clean and has good stain resistance.
  5. It has more color than semi-gloss and high-gloss.


  1. It reveals application errors like brush marks when dry.
  2. Satin finishes don’t hide blemishes on the surface. Nail holes, dents, and scratch marks will be obvious when it dries.

4. Semi-Gloss

The semi-gloss finish has the second most luster of all paint finishes. It’s common for its stain resistance, sleek appearance, and durability. It is great for rooms that deal with a lot of moisture and stains like kitchens, bathrooms, and bedrooms.


You should use it if working on surfaces that will experience moisture, stains, and friction. These include your bedrooms, kitchen cabinets, bathrooms, and garage walls.

You can also use it on outdoor furniture and building exteriors because it is durable and can withstand harsh exterior environments.


  1. Durable and tough.
  2. Moisture-resistant.
  3. You can use it on outdoor surfaces.
  4. Great on decorative furniture thanks to its shiny appearance.
  5. Easy to wipe and clean. You can even use cleaning solvents without it coming off.


  1. It reflects light so it won’t hide imperfections or application errors on the surface.
  2. It has more luster than pigments so they don’t give a colorful finish.

5. High-Gloss Finish

The high-gloss finish has the most sheen of all finishes. It is popular for its ultra-reflective appearance and high durability on surfaces. When dry, it forms a glossy finish that is moisture-resistant and prevents water from penetrating through.

Its glossy finish also prevents other types of paint to be applied over it. So, you should use it as the final coating (unless you want to apply a sealant over it).


High-gloss finish is great for areas that experience a lot of friction, stains, grease, and moisture. Your kitchen and bathroom cabinets, rooms, exterior walls, garage walls, and kitchen walls will all look great with a high-gloss finish.

Asides from the aesthetic value, it is also easy to clean. All you need is a clean cloth and cleaning solution and you are good to go. You can even wash the finish with a soft sponge without the paint coming off.


  1. It’s durable and can withstand heavy wear and tear.
  2. Moisture-resistant.
  3. Easy to wipe and clean. It is also stain-resistant.
  4. You can use it on outdoor surfaces.
  5. Its shiny appearance is perfect for decorative objects and wall frames. It gives a luxurious appearance when dry.


  1. It is super reflective and will reveal imperfections like scratch marks and dents on the surface.
  2. Stains are easily noticed on the glossy surface.

Best For Room Type:


The best finish for your bedroom is an eggshell. You’ll enjoy its slightly lustrous appearance and since it will not be exposed to stains and moisture in the bedroom, it would be easy to clean and maintain the finish.

Living Room

The best finish for the living room is satin. If the living room surface is uneven or jaded, you should use an eggshell finish since it will hide imperfections and blemishes on the surface.

Building Exterior

The best finish for an exterior building wall is high-gloss. This is because it can withstand the harsh exterior environment without suffering any damage.

Also, high-gloss finishes are waterproof so rainfall, dew, and snow wouldn’t affect your painted surface. It is tough enough to withstand dust and greasy stains. At night, its reflective appearance will make the building exterior look shiny and luxurious, especially when light bounces off the finish.

You can also use a semi-gloss finish on building exterior and outdoor furniture. The finish is also tough and stain-resistant.

You shouldn’t use matte and eggshell outdoors because they aren’t tough enough to withstand harsh exterior conditions. Also, they absorb stains and are tougher to clean.

If you must use matte or eggshell finish outdoors, ensure to protect it with a topcoat like exterior-grade polyurethane.

Final Words

In summary, there are five paint finishes you can choose from and each of them has its distinct features. You should consider what you need from the finish before you pick. If you want a dull or slightly lustrous appearance, you can go for an eggshell or flat finish.

Satin and semi-gloss have more luster and will give you more shine and protection than a flat or eggshell. High-gloss is the shiniest and the most durable.

You should remember that the more luster a finish has, the more durable it will be and low luster means it will have more paint pigments and color when dry.

Tony Adams
Tony Adams

Tony is a professional painter and an author of DIY Geeks. Tony has completed over 1,000 painting projects for his clients. It's safe to say he knows what he Is talking about,

Eral Kadrija

Eral has a passion for home renovation and repair. Over the years, he has bought, renovated, and sold 7 old homes. Using his experience from different DIY projects he created DIYGeeks.

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