Paint Finishes Explained

Matt, gloss, satin, eggshell, silk, sheen? These can all be very confusing for the novice DIY’er & can leave you scratching your head in the paint aisle at B&Q.

The majority of paint for interior walls & ceilings is emulsion which is basically water based & dries white quickly. Others include oil based (gloss) & chalk (think Annie Sloan for upcycling).

The finish of the paint plays a vital role in the feel of the room. For homeowners with children & pets it’s also really important to consider the durability of the kind of paint you chose to decorate with as unless you want to spend every other weekend touching up scuffs then it’s best to go with something practical. Generally speaking, the higher the sheen, the more robust the paint.

When it comes to paint finishes you see in most DIY shops, it is basically all about the ‘sheen’ level (so how shiny they are). 

Here’s my explanations –

  • Matt is the most flat paint you can get & is the most popular type. It’s usually my paint finish of choice as I like the dull, simple finish it gives as well as not reflecting light so I find it gives off a true colour rather than looking different at different times of the day or rooms. The least robust finish but I personally don’t find it much of a problem. 
  • Eggshell resides in-between matt & the mid-sheen paints below. The clues in the name ‘egg shell’ as to the type of look it produces. Slightly tougher finish than matt but less shiny than satin & silk. It’s also brilliant for woodwork & is what I used when doing my bathroom cabinet & kitchen unit makeovers as it can be very durable. I also used exterior eggshell for my front door. This is also perfect for front doors as long as its EXTERIOR eggshell. Our front door at our old house was F&B exterior eggshell ‘Vert de terre’ (also the same colour as in our hallway & the panelling in our downstairs WC) & our new house we’ve used F&B ‘Manor house grey’.

  • For a mid-sheen look go for satin or silk. Usually silk is for walls & satin for woodwork. They look slightly polished & can reflect light….it also makes them wipeable for when those grubby little hands grace your walls, or worse, the dreaded crayon attack. The only downside is that because it reflects light, it does show up imperfections on the walls so unless you have newly plastered walls it may not be the best paint of choice. This is the typical ‘kitchen & bathroom’ paint you see as it protects against moisture.

  • Gloss is the most shiny finish which is designed for woodwork not walls as it is an oil based paint (meaning brushes are a complete pain to wash but see my decorating tips blog post for the best ways). It is mainly in paler colours as it reflects the most light. Think skirting boards, door frames, dado rails & so on. 

Just remember that the beauty of paint is that it’s temporary. If you don’t like the finish then it’s relatively easy to change your mind so if you go for the wrong finish, don’t panic too much.

Have you guys tried out chalkboard paint? It’s perfect for childrens rooms  & upcycling too!

Love, Charlotte x