What Paint Sheen To Use For Interior Doors, Cabinets, Walls, Ceiling, Etc.

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Last updated on February 28th, 2024 at 11:19 am

Wondering what paint sheen you need for each item you plan on painting in your house? Well, look no further because I have your answer!

Paint sheen is chosen based on how easily the item needs to be cleaned and whether any imperfections need to be hidden or not. Use a flat paint sheen on ceilings. Use satin paint on kitchen and bathroom walls. Use eggshell or satin paint on all other walls. Use semi-gloss paint on interior doors, trim, baseboard, and cabinets. Use gloss paint on exterior doors, metal, and exterior wood.

Now that we’ve got the basics out of the way, let’s break into the details a little further so you can easily pick the correct paint sheen for your project.

Let’s dive in!

Quick Navigation: How To Choose A Paint Sheen For Your Paint Project

  1. When To Use A Flat Paint Sheen
  2. When To Use An Eggshell Paint Sheen
  3. When To Use A Satin Paint Sheen
  4. When To Use A Semi-Gloss Paint Sheen
  5. When To Use A Gloss Paint Sheen
  6. Other FAQs About Choosing A Paint Sheen
  7. Final Thoughts

When To Use A Flat Paint Sheen

A flat paint sheen is the least reflective sheen you can choose. This sheen is the hardest to clean because it does not have a slippery surface.

That means dirt, dust, and other grime do not wipe away as easily, and actually are more likely to smear into the wall if you do try to clean it.

Flat paint is the best at hiding imperfection, though. The lack of reflection in this sheen makes cracks, dings, and other flaws harder to see.

A flat paint sheen is best used when painting ceilings and furniture that will have a topcoat also painted on.

Paint Ceilings In A Flat Sheen

Ceilings are best painted in a flat sheen for two reasons:

  1. Ceilings aren’t touched regularly, so they don’t need to be easily wiped down or cleaned
  2. Ceilings often have cracks or general unevenness that need to be hidden

In general, ceilings are extremely hard to finish without any imperfections.

Part of this is because all the work is done with your arms over your head (very tedious and tiresome).

And part of this is because as the house settles, the ceiling will naturally show hairline cracks.

The lack of shine in flat paint is perfect for hiding/minimizing these imperfections.

There are a few other rules you need to know before painting a ceiling. To see what they are and ensure you’ll do the best paint job, check out my article here.

Paint Furniture In A Flat Sheen (If A Topcoat Is Applied)

Using a flat paint sheen to refinish furniture can be an excellent option as well.

Often, furniture is painted with chalk paint (which is paint that has a flat finish).

The benefits of using this type of paint on furniture are:

  • Coats easily (the paint is thick and requires fewer coats than other types of paint)
  • Fairly durable
  • Can apply a topcoat without sanding first (because the paint doesn’t have a slick surface that would prevent the topcoat from adhering well)

Although if you use a flat sheen on furniture, then you will also have to apply a topcoat.

The paint alone will be extremely hard to clean (not ideal for furniture that is touched and used a lot).

But if the flat paint on the furniture has a topcoat (even one with a matte finish), it will make cleaning easier and make your paint job last much longer.

My side table has a flat paint sheen on the left and a matte top coat on the right.

When To Use An Eggshell Paint Sheen

An eggshell paint sheen is the second least reflective paint sheen you can use.

The slight reflective/slick surface of an eggshell paint gives you a nice mixture of slight wipe-ability and will mostly still hide imperfections.

MORE FROM CHRISTINE  Rules For Painting Ceilings: What To Do & What Not To Do (+ Pictures!)

The best places to use an eggshell paint finish are on bedroom, living room, hallway, or laundry room walls.

Paint Bedroom & Living Room Walls In An Eggshell Sheen

Painting bedroom, living room, hallway, and/or laundry room walls in eggshell are beneficial for two reasons:

  1. These rooms won’t see any food or dirt splatter (so they shouldn’t need to be wiped down as frequently)
  2. Walls tend to show imperfections over the years as well and this paint will help minimize their appearance

Unlike the ceiling, your walls tend to get touched fairly frequently, so you want a slightly more slick surface so you can clean off the random fingerprints when they will inevitably occur.

And like your ceiling, as the house settles over time and general wear-and-tear happens throughout the house, the eggshell finish (with its fairly minimal reflective surface) will help mask those flaws.

If you think your walls will be touched fairly frequently (especially if you have children or pets) or if you want to save money/time, then I recommend you paint these rooms in the satin paint sheen that is discussed next.

When To Use A Satin Paint Sheen

A satin paint sheen is the middle-most reflective paint sheen. If you can’t decide what sheen to use on an item you are painting, then satin is usually the safest bet.

Satin paint is slick enough to make wiping up messes relatively easy but still has a low enough reflection to help minimize smaller imperfections.

The best times to use a satin paint sheen are when painting bathroom and kitchen walls.

Paint Bathroom & Kitchen Walls In A Satin Sheen

Bathroom and kitchen walls are best painted in a satin sheen because:

  • Food and dirt are commonly splattered/sprayed in these rooms
  • They are the two most frequently occupied rooms
  • They can still have minor imperfections on the walls like any other room

No matter how clean you keep your house, food or dirt will inevitably get on the walls in these rooms. So having shinier paint on the wall will help make cleaning these tiny messes a breeze.

This paint sheen isn’t the shiniest either, so it will mask imperfections a little more than a semi-gloss or gloss paint will, but significantly less than an eggshell or flat paint will.

This paint sheen also can be used on your other walls (such as in the bedroom, living room, hallway, and laundry room) as we discussed previously.

Those rooms will have walls that will probably need to be wiped down at some point as well, and this sheen will make that task so much easier.

Plus, having all of the rooms in the same paint sheen and color makes painting go by so much faster (less clean up and switching of colors/sheens) AND it saves you tons of money because now you only need one type and color of paint, not several.

This is how we painted our house and it saved us a significant amount of money and time.

We were able to buy 11 gallons of the same paint and only have one color to worry about if we ever need to do minor touch-ups.

When To Use A Semi-Gloss Paint Sheen

A semi-gloss paint sheen is the second most reflective paint sheen.

This sheen is extremely easy to wipe down/clean, but will prominently display imperfections.

In general, if there is a wood item in your house that needs to be painted, then you will want to use a semi-gloss finish.

The wood won’t have imperfections like the walls or ceiling will, so a shinier finish that can be easily cleaned makes these items much easier to maintain over the years.

Semi-gloss paint is very slick and durable, so it makes it excellent for interior doors, trim, baseboard, cabinets, and furniture.

Paint Interior Doors In A Semi-Gloss Sheen

Interior doors are touched frequently and are made of wood, so there won’t be many imperfections.

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Using semi-gloss paint will give the doors a shiny, smooth, and bright finish while keeping them easy to clean.

For tips on how to paint interior 6-panel doors fast, check out my article here.

Paint Trim & Baseboard In A Semi-Gloss Sheen

Trim & baseboards are also touched frequently and made of wood, so a semi-gloss sheen is best for them.

Trim & baseboards see a lot of wear and tear, so you want to make sure you properly prepare them for paint.

To see how to get the most durable finish on baseboards and trim, check out my article here.

Paint Cabinets In A Semi-Gloss Sheen

Cabinets should be painted in a semi-gloss paint sheen because they will frequently see fingerprints and food splatter.

Cabinets are also made of wood (or wood-like laminate), so there aren’t imperfections that need to be hidden.

The cabinets just need to be easily cleaned and durable during their lifetime.

To learn how to paint bathroom cabinets like a pro (kitchen cabinets would use the same process), check out my article here.

Paint Furniture In A Semi-Gloss Sheen

Furniture that won’t have an additional topcoat should be painted in a semi-gloss or gloss sheen.

Furniture sees a lot of fingerprints, dropped or spilled food, and water rings from cups sitting on them, so the shinier the surface, the less damage the item will see over time.

Regardless of the paint sheen you use on furniture, a topcoat is recommended to give it the most durability.

Since furniture sees so much wear and tear, this option will help your paint last the longest.

When To Use A Gloss Paint Sheen

A gloss paint sheen is the most reflective paint sheen you can use.

Gloss paint sheens are the easiest to clean and wick off the most water.

Since gloss paint is the shiniest paint sheen, it is not recommended on any item that has prominent imperfections. Metal and wood tend to have minimal flaws, so it is best used on these two surfaces.

P.S. If the metal you want to paint does have significant stretches, dents, or holes (such as a steel front door that’s damaged), then check out my article to repair the metal before you paint it.

Gloss paint is best used on metal items or any item that will be outside such as exterior doors (metal or wood), gutters, fences, decks, wood trim around windows and doorways, and outdoor furniture (metal or wood).

Paint Exterior Doors In A Gloss Sheen

Exterior doors (metal or wood) see a ton of water, dirt, and sunshine. Because of this, they get dirty easily and need to propel water away from the house.

The extremely slick surface of gloss paint wicks the majority of the water away with ease and makes wiping down the door a breeze.

It also is must more durable than other sheens of paint to stand up to the exterior elements.

To learn how to easily paint a front door without removing it, check out my article here.

Paint Gutters In A Gloss Sheen

Gutters are another exterior, metal item that benefits from the slick surface of gloss paint.

Gloss paint adheres well to metal and lets water easily slide down it making it perfect for gutters that see a ton of water and dirt.

If your gutters are in relatively good condition, but you just don’t like the color, then I recommend painting them as we did!

The ugly brown gutters no longer matched our gray room and gray siding, so we painted them white. And what a difference that made for less than $100!

To see our gutter painting tutorial, check out my article here.

Paint Exterior Wood Or Metal In A Gloss Sheen

Any wood or metal item that sits outside for long periods of time should be painted in a gloss paint sheen to repel water, clean easily, and be more durable from the outside elements.

Trim around windows and doorways, fences, decks, railings, and outdoor furniture all will last longer if they are painted in high-quality exterior gloss paint.

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Other FAQs About Choosing A Paint Sheen

Here are some other frequently asked questions about paint sheens to help you know exactly when to use each sheen for best results!

Does Paint Sheen Change The Color?

The sheen of paint you choose slightly changes the paint color. The shinier the sheen, the more vibrant the color looks. For example, white paint looks whiter when light is reflecting off of it (and other colors look lighter as well compared to the same color in a flat or eggshell sheen).

Which Is Shinier, Satin Or Semi-Gloss?

Semi-gloss is shinier than satin. Semi-gloss paint reflects light more than satin making it easier to clean, but displays imperfections more prominently than a satin sheen.

Which Is Shinier, Satin Or Eggshell?

Satin is shinier than eggshell. Satin paint reflects light more than eggshell making it easier to clean, but displays imperfections more prominently than an eggshell sheen.

Can You Use A Roller With Satin Paint?

A roller can be used with satin paint and will not leave behind a texture. A paintbrush can leave behind a texture if it is not rolled over with a roller prior to the paint drying. The shiny surface of satin paint highlights imperfections more than a flat or eggshell paint sheen.

Final Thoughts On Paint Sheen Uses

There you have it!

The sheen that you choose makes a big difference in the durability, looks, and ease of cleaning of the item you are painting.

So it is important that you use the proper sheen for your project to get the most desirable and professional finish.

Hopefully, this guide helped walk you through what the best sheen is for you to use.

Catch you in my next post!

The Best Paint Supplies I’ve Used

Wooster Shortcut Angle Sash Paintbrush (2-Inch)

This is my all-time favorite paintbrush because it is so lightweight! The short handle takes the pressure off your wrist and creates an extremely comfortable grip, so you can paint longer without feeling the weight on your wrist. I use this paintbrush on 99% of my paint projects. You can find this paintbrush here on Amazon.

FoamPRO 164 Fine Finish Roller (4-Inch)

If you want the least amount of paint texture left from a roller (such as on metal or furniture), then this is the best roller you can use. The fine finish in the foam leaves the tiniest bit of texture that can easily be sanded between coats to get a finish almost as good as a sprayed finish. You can find this awesome foam roller here on Amazon.

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By Christine

Christine is a blogger and DIYer who tackles home renovation and decorating projects alongside her husband, Adam, for their personal residence and rental properties. Although she successfully tackles large renovation projects to avoid expensive contractor fees and bring her vision to life now, her path to success was not easy.

Go here to read her story,  From a Clueless First-Time Homebuyer To A Confident DIYer Creating Her Dream Home One Project At A Time.

DIY With Christine is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.