Choosing the Right Sheen

July 23, 2021
Picking the right sheen is the first step

Choose a sheen that reflects your creative vision. Carthage Hardware will help you get there.

Read more below to find information and tips for how to make an informed decision.

Sheen Options

A sheen is a certain “look” the paint has once it dries. Some paints have a shiny, polished finish, while others have a smoother finish and then others have a more muted finish.

A paint’s sheen, or “finish”, also refers to the surface texture the paint creates when it adheres as well as how much light bounces off of the painted surface — both of which can dramatically affect the way your eye perceives the color.

Here’s an overview of sheen options:


Provides a smooth, uniform look — an ideal choice for the more formal rooms in your house, such as living rooms and dining rooms. Flat or “matte” finishes get their name from the lack of reflection from the painted surface. This is one of the benefits of a matte finish, because it helps hide surface imperfections, such as dents, nail holes, or patches. It is also a good choice for ceiling painting. Flat finishes often require fewer coats than semi-gloss and gloss paints and also are easier to touch up because there is less contrast between the touch-up paint and the rest of the painted surface.


When in doubt, an Eggshell finish is always a safe bet. It has a soft, washable look that works well in living rooms, family rooms and hallways. It gets its name from its distinctive effect that gives a painted surface the texture of an eggshell when viewed at an angle in the light. Eggshell finishes are low-gloss, but more reflective than flat sheens. Eggshell also is more easily cleaned than a flat finish and is more durable.


Satin finish paints are probably the most commonly used finish, on both interior and exterior surfaces. As with eggshell, this finish is good for high-traffic areas like kids’ rooms, hallways and family rooms. Satin finishes resist mildew effectively and are easier to clean than flat or eggshell finishes, and can be wiped down or scrubbed lightly. On exterior surfaces, satins are ideal for painting siding that is in good to excellent condition. Outside surfaces painted with satin paint also shed water effectively and don’t fade quickly from the sun. They are also a good choice for painting trim and shutters.


This finish is more reflective than satin, but is not as shiny as gloss. Semi-gloss and gloss finishes both provide walls with a shiny appearance and brighten a room’s appearance. Off-whites and pale shades of lighter colors are punched up and made brighter by the glossy effect created with these finishes. They are ideal for use in areas with high humidity such as bathrooms and kitchens, particularly semi-gloss, because of its high moisture resistance. They are also the easiest to clean (with light scrubbing or wiping), compared to other finishes.The downside to a gloss finish is that it shows almost every imperfection on a wall or ceiling.


This finish has the highest level of reflection. Perfect for use on doors, cabinets, molding and trim that is washed often. Outside, gloss is good for door jambs, window casings and shutters. Semi-gloss and gloss sheens often require more coats than less glossy paint finishes and they often require more preparation, such as sanding.

Experiment with different sheens and color palettes at Carthage Hardware's Color Center at 119 East 3rd Street!