Use the Right Finish or Your Paint Won’t Last!

Color911 Paint Cans Amy Wax

Choosing the right paint to use for any project is of utmost importance!


Would you like an understated look for your home? Perhaps you would like colors that are bold and colorful. When you are choosing paint colors, make sure you are choosing the right paint. While you are choosing the right colors, you need to choose the right paint finish for your design to be successful!



Paints come in several different sheen levels. That means the surface of the paint can be completely non-reflective or flat, to very shiny meaning a gloss finish. There are lots of options in between as well. Let me show you the benefits and challenges of using one finish over another!


Reflective Paint


The shinier paints have a striking look, and they can look slick and polished. This surface tends to be a little more formal. The beauty of this paint finish is that you can use a darker color, and the reflective quality of the paint adds luminance giving the color more life. The shiniest surface would be a lacquer, which can be the perfect choice for a front door, or even painted furniture. With any finish that has a shinier surface, be aware that it will reflect any imperfections. Any blemishes, scratches or unlevel areas will show up using the reflective paint finish.

The shinier paints also seal the surface so that it is a little more protected from the wear and tear of everyday use.


I recommend using a paint with somewhat of a sheen to it for trim moldings. Every home whether it is modern or traditional, uses trim of some kind. That is generally where there are more fingerprints or scuffs. On the casing of a doorway or on the wooden molding on a window or door, are surfaces that what will show more use. I like a paint finish that has a reflective finish even if it is a low-level satin finish. The paint will wear better and require less maintenance.


Low-Level Sheen Paint


Different companies will carry different products with different names. For one company the Satin finish is equivalent to the Pearl finish in another company. Every store will have samples of what each finish looks like, and I highly recommend checking that out.


The low-level sheens can be used in a variety of ways. As I referred to earlier, it is advisable to use a low level sheen on woodwork that will be collecting fingerprints. This is a good choice for where you have a lot of use. The less shiny paints also can be used in creative ways!


Paint with the low level sheen, is best used in areas that are perfect so the paint does not show off any imperfections. I love adding a subtle sheen to a ceiling. In a formal space like a dining room the luster on the ceiling will reflect everything from candlelight to the colors of the room. Using this finish will add more shimmer to a space and it will sparkle when the lights are dim.


A finish of paint that has a pearl-like finish can also be used to enhance the sense of formality. Use the finish when the walls or trim are perfect and you will find it adds just the right amount of shimmer and shine to a room.


Flat Unreflective Paints


The flat or matte finish paints will hide any number of sins on your walls! Flaws on your walls or ceiling will disappear when you use a flat sheen level. Without having any highlights or shadows, the flat finish can make even the bumpiest wall look great! A flat finish cannot be scrubbed like the shinier paints, but this paint finish is the easiest to touch up with a little paint. The flat finish is what I recommend for some colors, and for walls that will not need to be washed or cleaned. A matte, which is also known as washable flat, gives you the subtle beauty of a flat finish, with the washability of the more reflective finishes.


Because it is not as easy to wash on the spot, I generally look for places that you will not need to wash the surface such as ceilings or walls in quieter rooms. The flat finish will absorb any imperfections, and show off the color with no highlights or shadows.


Quality Painting Requires and Quality Paint


There’s also the matter of painting properly in the first place. There are lots of excellent instructional videos online. Time spent learning how to paint is not wasted. Nor is hiring a painting professional with good references.


People tend to stick to tried and tested formula when it comes to paint. If there is a finish you feel most comfortable with, continue that finish from room to room. Bathrooms and kitchens will require their own product. With water and steam in the air, be sure to ask for a paint that will be not water stain, as it can add an unwanted patterning to the surface of your walls.


My advice is to think about the best finish for your room while you are choosing your colors. Think also about how the room will be used and who will see it, then take your colors into consideration. Be prepared for slight changes in tone when you get the paint onto the walls. Reflective finishes might add more luminance and lighten a color just slightly. Flat paint might appear true to the color, but will soak up the light, which will effect your color choice. Choose your finish carefully and make sure you sample any paints that you will be using. The right finish can make or break your design, give it the time to get it right!






About the Author: Amy Wax

Amy Wax, creator of Color 911®, is an artist and experienced color consultant, recognized for her expertise in the world of color and design. Fifteen years ago, Amy created Your Color Source Studios, Inc. a company specializing in the architectural application of color. Amy has received numerous awards for her color expertise.

Learn More About Amy

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