If you are thinking about painting a wall, table, cabinet or almost any other surface in your home, you could save yourself time, energy, grief and money by understanding paint finishes and the difference between them. This knowledge will help ensure that your finish not only looks the way you want but also cleans easily and holds up well.

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Flat finish, also referred to as matte finish, has no reflective quality to it and has the highest amount of color saturation. This makes it ideal for concealing imperfections. Unfortunately, flat finish is also the hardest to clean so use it in rooms that don’t require heavy cleaning, such as a living room or bedroom. A child’s bedroom is another story entirely! Flat paint is also a key ingredient to make chalk paint, which can transform a nondescript piece of furniture into a real conversation piece. Just be sure to seal your new treasure with flat polyurethane or wax.

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I think of eggshell as a creamy looking finish. It’s not a true matte finish and cleans up a little easier than matte, and it hides imperfections better than a semi-gloss or gloss finish. Eggshell is well-suited for a living room, dining room, or bedroom.



Satin has more reflexive qualities than flat or eggshell and therefore will clean up quite nicely but won’t conceal quite as much. This finish is popular in hallways or on stairways where that you need to wipe down more frequently but doesn’t require heavy cleaning.

TIP: Skimping on cheap paint to save a buck usually doesn’t pay off. It can lead to the aggravation of multiple coats that still don’t cover very well, and cheaper paint won’t hold up well after multiple cleanings. In most cases, a little more money up front means a better investment with a lot less frustration and a better outcome with a longer life.



Woot! Woot! This durable finish is the go-to for high-moisture areas like kitchens and bathrooms. Because of its high sheen, clean-up is much easier and it’s on your walls for the long haul. This means it’s also an ideal finish for door trim, window trim, and moldings. Keep in mind that it will not cover up dings and dents nearly as well.



High-gloss is a great choice if you want your surface to stand out. It’s highly reflective with almost a glass-like sheen. On the downside, in my opinion it’s the most difficult finish to apply because of its thick consistency and long drying time. High-gloss will do next to nothing to hide imperfections, but its durability and clean up qualities make it a great choice for certain applications. If you find a one-of-a-kind flea market coffee table you want to refinish and use, go high-gloss. Wipe off spills with a damp cloth. No problem. It’s also a perfect finish for an accent piece you really want to feature with shining highlights.

BONUS: My favorite homemade chalk paint recipe (and believe me, I’ve tried many!)

·       3 parts flat paint

·       1 part Plaster of Paris (available in discount stores and home stores in the paint department)

·       Enough water to dissolve your Plaster of Paris

·       Put plaster in a container and dissolve with water, stirring well

·       Add your paint and stir, stir, stir to mix it all together

That’s it! What a great way to use up old paint you may have around…not that I do. Ha! I’ve used this recipe many, many times and have never been disappointed with the end result.

Now that you have the confidence to choose the right paint finish, what will you do next to love where you live?