The variety of sheen levels for paint offer results to suit not only different tastes, but also to perform different tasks.

GLOSS  Sheen level 85-100%

Gloss paints have a very reflective surface. They are ideal for areas that are prone to high traffic that attract dirt, finger-marks, and grease, as they are easy to clean.

Because the full gloss paint has such a high reflective finish, surfaces to be painted must be prepped to an exceptionally smooth finish, as the gloss paint will highlight any surface imperfections.

High gloss, however, is too much shine for interior walls. And like wearing Lycra, high gloss shows every bump and roll, so don’t skimp on prep work.

SEMI-GLOSS  Sheen level 31-59%

Semi-gloss paints tend to be much more popular for both interior and exterior woodwork. They have less glare than a gloss finish. Also, water-based acrylic and water-based enamels are both user-friendly with easy clean up.

Water-based enamels, although generally used for doors, windows and trims can also be used for walls in wet areas such as Laundries or Bathrooms, as they are easy to wash down. As with the gloss paint, the reflective value of the paint will expose flaws in the surface, so thorough prep work is required prior to painting.

Good for rooms where moisture, drips, and grease stains challenge walls. Also great for trim work that takes a lot of abuse.

Semi-gloss acrylics are ideal for all exterior woodwork, such as weatherboards or bargeboards. They are unsuitable for opening windows. When paint surfaces touch, to stop them sticking, the water-based/ water-borne enamel paints are required.

SATIN Sheen level 3-19%

Has a yummy lustre that, despite the name, is often described as velvety.

Low sheen satin finishes are more stain resistant than flat paints, but less so than gloss or semi-gloss.

They are the most popular for interior wall finishes and give a subtle warmth and depth of colour. They are good for all general areas. Sometimes they are used on ceilings, but they will highlight any surface imperfections and are tricky to use on large ceilings.  It is possible to use low sheen water borne enamels for woodwork, although finger-marks will show easily.

Its biggest flaw is it can reveal application flaws, such as roller or brush strokes. Touch-ups later can be tricky.

FLAT- MATTE Sheen level under 2%

Flat paints are the best for concealing any surface imperfections as they diffuse light, which makes them a good choice for ceilings. Less so for walls, as they are not easy to clean and readily show scuffs and finger-marks.

Rule of Thumb:

Flat paints could be described as – Wipeable

Low Sheen Acrylic Paints could be described as – Washable

Semi-Gloss/ Satin/ Gloss Acrylic Paints could be described as – Scrubbable

If your paint colour is dark and rich but you do not want a super shiny effect, step down at least one level on the sheen scale. That is because the darker and richer the paint colour is, the more tint it has, which boosts sheen. Ditto if you are painting a large, sun-washed, or imperfect wall. The higher the sheen, the more defects will show.

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