Monday, December 24, 2007

Selecting the Right Paint Sheen

Selecting the ideal sheen or gloss level for an interior or exterior paint job involves both aesthetic and practical considerations. From an aesthetic standpoint, a degree of sheen or gloss is useful in creating visual interest, particularly indoors. From a practical standpoint, the right sheen or gloss can help to extend the life of the paint job, whether it be an interior or exterior application.
Most brands of paint come in at least four levels of sheen. "Gloss" paints, as the name implies, have the highest light-reflective characteristics. Then in declining order of sheen, are semigloss paints; eggshell, satin, or low lustre paints, and flat paints. Both latex and oil-based paints are available in different sheen levels.
"Gloss" paints, often called "high gloss" finishes, have a highly reflective appearance. These are the toughest, most durable and most stain-resistant types of paint. They are easier to clean than paints with less reflectiveness. So they are ideal for areas exposed to heavy traffic or heavy use- especially where fingerprints or grime are common.
Because of their highly reflective appearance, however, gloss paints tend to highlight surface imperfections. As a result, if your walls or woodwork are marred or irregular, you might want to select a paint with lower sheen level.
Both latex and oil-based gloss paints are sometimes referred to as "enamels". By way of comparison, latex enamels have several advantages: They dry more quickly, resist yellowing, and have better mildew resistance, making them ideal for bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms. On the other hand, high quality oil-based enamels are harder, have greater abrasion resistance and, in some cases have a slightly higher gloss.
"Semigloss" paints have a slightly glossy appearance that is not as highly reflective as that of gloss paints. They offer good stain resistance and are easy to clean, so they are a good choice if you have young children. Most expert agree that the highest quality semigloss paints are 100% acrylic latex paints, which also come in enamel grades.
Regardless of the same, these paints have a sheen level lower than semigloss, yet more lustrous than flat paints. ("Satin" or "low lustre" paints sometimes have a slightly higher sheen than "eggshell" finishes.)
Paints in this category tend to impart ab appearance of greater warmth and depth to surfaces than do flat paints. They also resist stains better than flat paints, although not as well as semigloss and gloss paints.
"Flat" paints are non-reflective, so they tend to conceal surface imperfections better than paints with higher sheen levels. If your walls are dented or rough, this type of paint is a good choice. Likewise, flat paints are a good choice for ceilings, because of their low reflectivity.
Flat paints also are invaluable when painting over new drywall where the tape job is not carefully sanded or where very porous joint compound has been used. In these cases, flat paints can help make surfaces look smooth and uniform. For new construction or repair work where unpainted drywall or joint compound is involved, an interior primer is recommended so that the new paint will have the best uniformity of appearance.
One thing to keep in mind: In some instances, you may have trouble removing stains from flat finishes. They non reflective surfaces have a porous texture, which can trap dirt and make cleaning difficult when compared to paints with higher sheen. So it is wise to use flat paints only in areas that do not tend get soiled.
For more information go to

Resource from A Step-by-Step Guide How to Paint. Paint & Decorating Retailers Association.

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