Choosing the Best Finish for Your Wall Paint – MasterClass

Choosing the Best Finish for Your Wall Paint – MasterClass

Dec 27, 2023

When it comes to painting your walls, choosing the right color is just the beginning.
The finish of your paint can have a significant impact on the final look and feel of your space.

Whether you’re going for a smooth and polished look or a more textured and matte finish, understanding the different types of wall paint and finishes is essential.

In this article, we’ll explore five popular finishes, helping you make an informed decision for your next home improvement project.

So before you head to the paint store and unleash your creativity with brushes and rollers,
let’s dive into the world of wall paint finishes.

Understanding Different Types of Paint Finishes

When it comes to painting your walls, choosing the right paint finish is just as important as selecting the perfect color.

Different types of paint finishes can greatly impact the overall look and feel of a room. Here are five common types of paint finishes and their characteristics:


Gloss paint finishes are known for their high shine and reflective quality. This type of finish is highly durable and resistant to stains and moisture, making it a great choice for high-traffic areas like kitchens and bathrooms.

Gloss finishes are also easy to clean, as dirt and grime can be wiped away with a damp cloth. Additionally, the reflective nature of gloss finishes can enhance the brightness and appearance of a room.


Satin paint finishes have a smooth, velvety appearance that falls between a gloss and matte finish. This type of finish is versatile and works well in most rooms, including living rooms and bedrooms.

Satin finishes are known for their durability and resistance to mildew, making them a popular choice for areas that may be exposed to moisture, such as bathrooms. Satin finishes are also relatively easy to clean and can withstand light scrubbing.


Eggshell finishes have a subtle sheen that resembles the surface of an eggshell, hence the name. This type of finish provides a smooth and elegant appearance and is often used in living rooms, dining rooms, and bedrooms.

Eggshell finishes offer good durability and are resistant to staining and fading. They are also fairly easy to clean, although they may not tolerate heavy scrubbing as well as gloss or satin finishes.


Flat or matte finishes have no shine or gloss and create a smooth, non-reflective surface. This type of finish is excellent at hiding imperfections on walls and ceilings, making it a popular choice for older homes or spaces with less-than-perfect walls.

Flat finishes are commonly used in bedrooms, formal dining rooms, and adult living spaces. While flat finishes are not as durable or washable as gloss or satin finishes, they provide a soft and sophisticated look to any room.


Semi-gloss finishes offer a subtle shine and are a popular choice for trim, doors, and cabinets. This type of finish is highly durable and resistant to moisture and stains, making it ideal for high-traffic areas and surfaces that may require regular cleaning.

Semi-gloss finishes can also reflect light, which can make a room appear brighter and more spacious.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Finish

When selecting a paint finish for your walls, there are several factors to keep in mind. These factors can help guide your decision and ensure that you choose a finish that suits your needs and preferences:


Consider the durability of the finish and whether it can withstand the wear and tear of daily life. High-traffic areas or rooms frequented by children and pets may require a more durable finish, such as gloss or semi-gloss, while low-traffic areas may be suitable for a matte or eggshell finish.

Ease of Cleaning

Think about how easy it will be to clean the painted surfaces. Finishes with a higher sheen, such as gloss or satin, are generally easier to wipe clean, while flat or matte finishes may require more gentle cleaning methods.


Consider the overall look and feel you want to achieve in the room. Gloss finishes can create a bold and sophisticated look, while matte finishes offer a softer and more subtle appearance. The chosen finish should complement the style and decor of the space.

Application Method

Different finishes may require specific application techniques, so consider whether you are comfortable with the recommended method. Some finishes may require more coats or additional steps, such as sanding or priming, before application.

Room Lighting

Take into account the lighting conditions in the room. Glossy finishes can reflect light and make a room appear brighter, while matte finishes can absorb light and create a more intimate atmosphere. Consider the natural and artificial lighting in the space when selecting a finish.

By considering these factors, you can choose the best paint finish for each specific room in your home.

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Choosing the Best Finish for Different Rooms

Each room in your home serves a different purpose and has unique characteristics, so it’s important to choose the right paint finish to enhance the space. Here are some guidelines for selecting the best finish for different rooms:

Living Room

The living room is often a central gathering space, so a versatile finish like satin or eggshell is a good choice. These finishes provide durability and moderate sheen, making them easy to clean and maintain. They can also accentuate the architectural details and create an inviting atmosphere.


The kitchen is a high-traffic area that is prone to stains and moisture. A durable and easy-to-clean finish like gloss or semi-gloss is recommended for kitchen walls. These finishes can withstand frequent scrubbing and protect against splatters and grease.


In the bathroom, where moisture and humidity are common, it’s important to choose a finish that can withstand these conditions. Gloss or satin finishes are ideal for bathroom walls, as they are resistant to moisture and stains. They can also brighten up the space and give it a clean and polished look.


For bedrooms, comfort and tranquility are key. A matte or eggshell finish is a popular choice, as it can create a soothing and cozy environment. These finishes also hide imperfections well and provide a soft and elegant appearance.

Children’s Room

Children’s rooms often require extra durability and ease of cleaning. A semi-gloss or satin finish is recommended for walls, as they can withstand wear and tear and resist stains. These finishes are also easy to wipe clean, making them suitable for busy play areas.

Consider the specific needs and functions of each room when selecting a paint finish, and don’t be afraid to mix and match finishes throughout your home to achieve the desired look and functionality.

Matching Finishes to Different Surfaces

In addition to considering the type of room, it’s important to match the paint finish to the surface you will be painting. Different surfaces have different characteristics and may require specific finishes for optimal results. Here are some guidelines for matching finishes to different surfaces:


Drywall is a common surface for interior walls and ceilings. Most paint finishes are suitable for drywall, but flat or matte finishes are often preferred for a smooth and even look. This type of finish can best hide minor surface imperfections.


Masonry surfaces, such as brick or stone, require a specialized paint finish that can adhere properly and withstand weather conditions. Semi-gloss or gloss finishes are commonly used for masonry, as they provide good durability and moisture resistance.


When painting wood surfaces, it’s important to consider the natural grain and texture of the material. Satin or semi-gloss finishes are often used for wood surfaces, as they offer good durability, ease of cleaning, and a subtle sheen that enhances the natural beauty of the wood.


Metal surfaces, such as doors or railings, require a finish that can provide both protection and aesthetic appeal. Gloss or semi-gloss finishes are commonly used for metal, as they offer excellent durability and resistance to rust and corrosion. These finishes can also create a sleek and polished look.

When painting different surfaces, be sure to use the appropriate primer and follow any manufacturer recommendations for surface preparation and application techniques. This will help ensure the best possible adhesion and longevity of the paint finish.

Special Considerations for High-Traffic Areas

High-traffic areas of the home, such as hallways, entryways, and staircases, require special consideration when choosing a paint finish.

These areas are more prone to scuffs, marks, and dirt, so it’s important to select a finish that can withstand frequent cleaning and maintain its appearance. Here are some tips for choosing finishes for high-traffic areas:


Hallways often experience heavy foot traffic and are prone to scuffs and marks. A satin or semi-gloss finish is recommended for hallway walls, as they offer good durability and can be easily wiped clean. These finishes also reflect light and can make a narrow hallway appear brighter and more spacious.


Entryways are the first impression of your home, so it’s important to choose a finish that is both durable and aesthetically pleasing.

A semi-gloss or gloss finish is commonly used for entryway walls, as they can withstand heavy use and are resistant to dirt and stains. These finishes can also create a welcoming and polished look.

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Staircases endure a lot of wear and tear, especially on the walls adjacent to the steps. To protect the walls and keep them looking fresh, a durable finish like semi-gloss or satin is recommended.

These finishes can resist scuffs and stains, making it easier to maintain the appearance of your staircase.

By choosing the right finish for high-traffic areas, you can ensure that your walls stay clean, fresh, and attractive even with daily use and activity.

Using Different Finishes for Accent Walls

Accent walls are a popular way to add visual interest and character to a room.
By using a different paint finish on an accent wall, you can create texture, highlight architectural features, or add visual interest to your space. Here are some ideas and techniques for using different finishes on accent walls:

Creating Texture

If you want to add depth and texture to an accent wall, consider using a textured paint finish. Textured finishes, such as sand paint or Venetian plaster, can create a unique and tactile look.

These finishes can be applied with specialized tools or techniques to achieve the desired texture, whether it’s a subtle stucco effect or a dramatic raised pattern.

Highlighting Architectural Features

An accent wall can be used to highlight architectural features, such as a fireplace, built-in shelves, or a unique wall design. By choosing a different paint finish for the accent wall, you can draw attention to these features and make them stand out.

For example, using a glossy finish on the accent wall can create a reflective surface that enhances the shine of a fireplace or the sleekness of built-in shelves.

Adding Visual Interest

An accent wall can also be used to add visual interest and create a focal point in a room.

By choosing a bold color and a glossy or metallic finish for the accent wall, you can create a striking contrast with the surrounding walls. This can draw the eye and create a sense of drama and excitement in the space.

When selecting a finish for an accent wall, consider the desired effect and the overall style of the room.

Experiment with different finishes and techniques to achieve the desired look and make a statement with your accent wall.

How to Prepare Walls for Different Finishes

Before applying any paint finish, it’s important to properly prepare the walls. Proper preparation ensures that the paint adheres well and results in a smooth and even finish. Here are some steps to prepare walls for different finishes:

Surface Cleaning

Start by thoroughly cleaning the walls to remove any dirt, grease, or dust. Use a mild detergent and warm water solution to gently wash the walls, and rinse with clean water. Allow the walls to dry completely before proceeding.


If the walls have any rough spots, imperfections, or old paint that is in poor condition, sanding may be necessary. Use fine-grit sandpaper to smooth out the surface and remove any loose or peeling paint. Sanding also helps promote better paint adhesion and ensures a more even finish.


Before applying the final paint finish, it’s often recommended to apply a coat of primer. Primer helps create a smooth and consistent surface, improves paint adhesion, and can help hide any stains or discolorations on the walls.

Choose a primer that is suitable for the specific type of paint finish you will be using.

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for each step of the preparation process and allow sufficient drying time between each step.

By properly preparing the walls, you can ensure that the paint finish will adhere well and provide a long-lasting and professional-looking result.

Tips for Applying Different Finishes

Each paint finish may require specific application techniques and tools to achieve the best results. Here are some tips for applying different finishes:

Brushes vs. Rollers

For a smoother and more even finish, brushes are often recommended for water-based paints in gloss or satin finishes.

Synthetic bristle brushes are usually the best choice for water-based paints, as they provide good control and coverage. Rollers, on the other hand, are typically used for applying paint to larger areas, such as walls or ceilings. They can provide faster coverage but may not yield as smooth of a finish as brushes.

Techniques for Smooth Application

To achieve a smooth and even finish, it’s important to use proper painting techniques. For example, when using a brush, start at the top and work your way down, applying light and even pressure.

Use long and steady strokes in one direction to minimize brush marks. When using a roller, apply the paint in sections, working from top to bottom and overlapping each stroke slightly for better coverage.

Avoiding Drips and Streaks

To avoid drips and streaks, it’s important to apply the paint in thin and even coats. Avoid overloading the brush or roller with too much paint, as this can result in drips and an uneven finish. If you notice any drips or streaks, gently brush or roll over them while the paint is still wet to blend and smooth them out.

By using the appropriate tools and techniques for each finish, you can achieve a professional-looking result and ensure that the paint goes on smoothly and evenly.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing a Finish

When choosing a paint finish for your walls, it’s important to avoid common mistakes that can lead to disappointing results. Here are some mistakes to avoid:

Not Considering Lighting Conditions

Lighting plays a crucial role in the way paint colors and finishes appear in a room. It’s important to consider the natural and artificial lighting conditions in the space when selecting a finish.

Glossy finishes can reflect more light and make a room appear brighter, while matte finishes can absorb light and create a more intimate atmosphere.
Take into account the direction and intensity of the light sources to choose a finish that complements the lighting conditions.

Forgetting About Surface Imperfections

Different types of finishes can highlight or hide surface imperfections on walls. Flat or matte finishes are excellent at hiding minor blemishes or unevenness, making them a popular choice for older homes or walls with imperfections.

On the other hand, glossy finishes can accentuate any imperfections and may require more preparation and smoothing of the surface.

Assess the condition of the walls and address any imperfections before choosing a finish to ensure the best possible result.

Ignoring the Purpose of the Room

Each room in your home has a unique purpose and atmosphere, and the paint finish should reflect that. For example, a glossy or semi-gloss finish may be suitable for a kitchen or bathroom, where durability and ease of cleaning are important.

In contrast, a matte or eggshell finish may be preferred for a bedroom or living room, where a softer and more elegant appearance is desired. Consider the function and mood of the room when selecting a finish to ensure that it suits the space.

By avoiding these common mistakes and taking the time to consider important factors, you can choose a paint finish that enhances the overall look and feel of your space.

Cost and Budget Considerations

When selecting a paint finish, cost and budget are important factors to consider. Here are two cost-related considerations:

Price Differences

Different finishes have different price points, and it’s important to factor this into your budget. Generally, gloss and semi-gloss finishes tend to be more expensive than flat or matte finishes.

Higher-quality brands and specialty finishes may also come at a higher price. Consider your budget and the overall cost of the project when choosing a finish.

Long-Term Durability vs. Initial Cost

When weighing the cost of different finishes, it’s important to consider the long-term durability and maintenance requirements.

While gloss and semi-gloss finishes may have a higher upfront cost, they often offer greater durability and ease of cleaning, resulting in lower maintenance and touch-up costs over time. Consider the long-term value and the expected lifespan of the finish when making your decision.

By considering cost and budget along with other factors, you can choose a paint finish that meets your needs and provides the best value for your investment.

In conclusion, understanding the different types of paint finishes and considering factors such as durability, ease of cleaning, and appearance can greatly impact the success of your painting project.

By choosing the best finish for different rooms, matching finishes to different surfaces, and considering special considerations for high-traffic areas, you can achieve the desired look and functionality in your home. With proper preparation and application techniques, you can apply different finishes smoothly and avoid common mistakes.

Cost and budget considerations should also be taken into account when selecting a paint finish. By following these guidelines and being creative with your paint finishes, you can transform your space and create a beautiful and inviting environment.