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Choosing The Right Paint Finish | Cannon Painting

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Velvet, Pearl and Satin

Velvet, satin, semi-gloss, pearl, or high-gloss. Sounds like a sexy ad campaign, doesn’t it?

Manufacturers use terms like this to describe interior paint sheens. And while the terms vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, there are some basic consistencies that can help you figure out which is best for your project.

To help bring clarification, the Master Painter Institute (MPI) developed gloss and sheen standards by category. The MPI’s goal is to make clear what has always been for some, a semi-transparent set of standards.

The lowest amount of gloss or shine is the ‘flat’ finish with 0-5% gloss. What this means is paint that will reflect very little light and is the perfect solution for hiding imperfections in walls and ceilings. However, it is not recommended for high traffic areas since it is hard to clean. On the other hand, touch ups are easy so be sure to keep extra paint on hand. Add another 5% gloss and you have a ‘matte’ finish — some brands may market this paint sheen as ‘velvet’ or ‘suede.’ It is a tad more reflective and slightly more scrubbable. Bedrooms, closets and dining rooms are fairly easy bets for flat and matte finishes.

A traditional ‘eggshell’ finish is next with 10-25% gloss. This finish can actually be likened to the characteristics of a true eggshell. It has a nice low sheen and a bit easier to clean but will still mark if scrubbed with too much enthusiasm. Probably not a wise choice for kids rooms. ‘Pearl’ or ‘satin’ finishes provide more shine than eggshell just as an actual pearl will reflect more light. This finish is used in high traffic areas, so kitchens, bathrooms, hallways and bedrooms are a good fit. 

‘Semi-gloss’ paint reflects a lot of light with 35-70% gloss and is easy to clean. Typically used for doors, trim, and cabinets, it is also used quite often in bathrooms. Many families with small children will also use semi-gloss paint in hallways namely because of the ease of cleanup. A word of caution though, the glossier the finish the more the imperfections in your walls become obvious.

When you really need to bring drama to a room or an architectural feature, choose a ‘high-gloss’ paint. With 85% gloss and up, this highly reflective paint will offer real zing and durability.

Most importantly, when choosing a paint contractor for your next project or shopping for paint at your local home improvement store, tell them what you’re looking to achieve and ask for sample finishes. You don’t have to settle for less than exactly what you need.


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