Paint finishes

Every Type Of Paint Finish & Where To Use Them

Photography, Eymeric Widling


Paint finishes

Know what type of paint finish to use and where in your home with this handy cheat sheet.

Besides having clearly different visual qualities, paint finishes exist for different purposes. Here’s a foolproof cheat sheet to take with you when you are buying paint.

Flat Paint Finish

  • Pros: Because it reflects little light, a flat finish is good for concealing imperfections and has a classic old-world feel.
  • Cons: Arguably the most delicate of the bunch, flat-finish paint is difficult to clean and will show every scuff and fingerprint.
  • Where to use it: A low-traffic area, or on the ceiling.

Eggshell Paint Finish

  • Pros: This has some of the low-sheen qualities of a flat finish, but is a bit easier to care for.
  • Cons: It’s still difficult to clean and marks easily.
  • Where to use: it Almost any room, barring kid-heavy zones.


Semigloss Paint Finish

  • Pros: Reflects a significant amount of light and is easy to clean.
  • Cons: Reveals every imperfection in your walls, every brushstroke, and the frequent “orange-peel finish” of a roller brush.
  • Where to use it: It's ideal for doors, trim, casework, bathrooms, and kitchens. Make sure walls get a good skim coat first


  • Pros: Often thought of as an old-school finish, if done in the right pigments and gloss, it can look modern and sleek. Wears well because the tinting runs through, so scratches and dings don’t show. Higher gloss finishes wipe clean.
  • Cons: Labour intensive; best left to a professional. More difficult to paint over.
  • Where to use it: Anywhere you want a finish so special and deep, it elevates the very integrity of your wall.

HIGH GLOSS Paint Finish

  • Pros: A spectacular finish in rooms that are flawlessly skim coated. Less expensive than real lacquer (sometimes I can’t tell the difference).
  • Cons: Expensive to execute well. This looks best lightly sanded between coats, and often requires six or seven turns with the brush to achieve an ideal, lacquer-like finish. The prices of the darker paint colours can be shocking.
  • Where to use it: Rooms that beg for drama and need to be set apart with almost special-occasion distinction, such as dining rooms, entry halls, powder rooms, and libraries.

Special finishes
I believe there’s always room for a little extra artistry: lacquer, strié, sponge, stencil.





Excerpted from Black and White (and a bit in between) by Celerie Kemble. Copyright 2011 by Celerie Kemble. Excerpted with permission by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.





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Paint finishes