How to Choose the Right Paint Sheen for your Projects

Thanks for sharing!

Purchase paint with confidence by learning how to choose the right paint finish for your projects. 

I always breathe a sigh of relief and do a happy dance when I finally choose a paint color for a project.  I excitedly enter the store and ask the helpful paint lady (or man) to mix me up a can.  But with a simple question, I realize I have one more decision to make.

“And what sheen would you like that in?”

Oh, dear.

I’ve stood in stores and asked so many questions, I’ve gathered some tips in that department.  But, lest I lead you astray, I’ve done some additional research for you today.

How to Choose the Right Finish for Your Paint Project

Determine the “sheen” you desire as the end result.

Paint finishes come in a variety of sheens (or levels of “shiny-ness”) ranging from flat (no sheen) to glossy (high sheen).

Each paint company has its own sheen names for their particular paint line and will carry a  sample sheen guide for you to refer to.  I encourage you to ask them lots of questions, and they’ll guide you through the process.

Consider these important factors when choosing a paint sheen:

The main factors that you’ll need to think through are the look and function of the project you are working on.

  • Do you want it to be shiny when finished?
  • Do you need to be able to wipe it clean?
  • Is in in a high traffic area?
  • Is it in a humid room like a bathroom?

Examples of Different Types of Paint Sheens and where they are used.

FLAT Paint

This is most often used for ceilings.

It is definitely not a high traffic area with lots of finger prints to scrub off!:)  It is a powdery finish that hides imperfections well.

Blue painted ceiling

{Source –ceiling color Benjamin Moore Gull Wing Gray. Walls are Revere Pewter.}


This is what I used for the walls in the office.  It is has good scrub ability, but still has quite a soft, flat finish.  It, too, hides imperfections incredibly well.  The walls in this room have many imperfections, but the paint finish masks it well.

chimney from desk

{Wall Color: Benjamin Moore Gray Cashmere}


These are 2 more sheens that are on the “shiny-er” side.  Pearl is less shiny than semi-gloss and can be used in rooms or areas that need to be scrubbed often.  If you are painting a bathroom, consult the paint store as to which product they’d recommend for an area that has more moisture.  They often have formulas specific for bathrooms and kitchens.

palladian blue bathroom

{Source : Walls Benjamin Moore Palladian Blue.  Beadboard Mountain Peek White}


Semigloss is used often on trim.  It’s shiny-er and more durable.


This is super-shine!  I’ve seen it in pictures used for doors or floors.  It can be used to make a definite decor statement, but will highlight any imperfections in the surface.

High Gloss Miles Redd 07

{Source from this great article on high gloss}

It’s also worth noting that you can use different sheens to achieve a completely different look for your projects.

glossy stripes

This striped wall is done by painting stripes in exactly the same color but a higher sheen.

I hope this helps you as you choose a paint sheen for your project.  If you’ve missed any of the previous Fresh Start paint posts I’ve done in the past few weeks, you can find them by clicking the links below:

My 1st DIY Experience

Creating Color Flow from Room to Room

Practical Paint Prep Tips

Once again, I’m grateful to Benjamin Moore for the opportunity to transform one of our own rooms (you can see it here).


Although this post has been generously sponsored by Benjamin Moore, the opinions and language are all my own, and in no way do they reflect Benjamin Moore.


Thanks for sharing!

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