Interior Paint 101 – Paint Basics

So you’ve decided you want to paint.  AND you’ve decided to DIY it.

Beyond color, this one thing is most important to keep in mind when you head down to your local paint store…. SHEEN.

Paint chips

Paint Basics – All About Sheen

Sheen is all about light reflection.  The less sheen paint has the less light bounces off of it. That can be a good thing in a very bright room or in a room that should be calm & relaxing like bedrooms.

On the other hand, it can be not so great in high traffic areas or homes with kids and/or pets.  Why?

Less sheen = less stain-resistance.

First & foremost, think about your lifestyle. Who spends the most time where & how.  Then read on to help you decide what kind of paint finish to choose.

In general, paint sheens are classified as “High-Gloss,” “Semi-Gloss,” “Satin”, “Eggshell” and “Flat.”

Gloss is the toughest.  It’s easy to clean, which makes it a good choice for high traffic areas, or items like kitchen cabinets & even furniture.

High-gloss oil-based paints have been traditionally used for baseboards, trim, & cabinets.  In the past they were notoriously hard to work with so usually, DIYers would stay away.

But now manufacturers are coming up with more innovative products like Benjamin Moore Advance with the durability of traditional oil-based paint, but easier to use, clean up, lower odor & more environmentally friendly.

Semi-gloss paints are also durable and easy to clean but don’t reflect as much light as high-gloss.

Both are good for baseboards & trim, cabinets, furniture, kitchens, bathrooms, and other high traffic or high-humidity places.  Both will also show every little thing on the surface more than other sheens so surface prep is really important.

Satin offers a good combination of easy-clean and moderate sheen.  It’s pretty much the best of both worlds.  This is my finish of choice for almost all rooms, excluding kitchens and baths.

Eggshell is a smooth, low-sheen finish that has less sheen than satin that’s great for living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms, and dens.

Eggshell is about as low as I will go on the sheen scale.  You can still hide imperfections with a high-quality paint & it still brings some dimension to the walls.

Flat paint is non-reflective so light doesn’t affect it much if at all.  It hides imperfections well and seems to spatter less when applied.  Honestly, I rarely if ever use flat paint.  There’s no good way to clean it & it looks dull bringing no interest or depth to the wall at all.  But that’s just me – some people swear by it.  It’s all about personal taste.

And then there’s ceiling paint, which is just what it sounds like.  I think people either forget or don’t realize that ceiling paint can be any color, not just white.  So if you are renovating or considering repainting, have some fun with your ceilings too.

I think people either forget or don't realize that ceiling paint can be any color. Show your ceilings some 💖 too.Click To Tweet

Final thoughts

There are “standards” about what type of paint finishes should be used in specific areas but there’s no “paint police”.

If you want to paint the ceiling in your bedroom a lacquered Navy, GO FOR IT.  My picks – Benjamin Moore Blue Grotto or Sherwin-Williams Naval.  As long as the walls are in tiptop shape, the finish will reflect more light and give the room added dimension.

Benjamin Moore Blue Grotto

Whether you DIY or hire a contractor, make sure you either know what you want or ASK plenty of questions – your contractor, local store associate, decorator or color consultant should be glad to help you make sense of it all.

Paint color fan deck

Of course, you could also just drop me a line or leave a comment or question below.  I’d be happy to help.

Enjoy!

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About me

I love food & wine, paint & power tools.
I am a creative introvert, programmer turned decorator, wife and mom, & mental health advocate.
I am the decorator owner of Xtraordinary by Design. My mission – rid the world of builder beige & furniture sets.

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