Gloss, Semi-gloss, Low Sheen, or Matte, what finish should I choose?

Colour or tone is not the only factor that determines the overall appearance of your home. There are various levels of gloss (or sheen) that must also be considered when painting, as each level have different impacts on the way the paint behaves and looks.  The level of gloss refers to the amount of light the paint finish reflects; glossy surfaces reflect lots of light and thus appear smoother, shinier and glass-like to the eye, whilst flatter finishes appear drier and rougher due to the lack of reflection. Gloss levels vary in intensity and thus, are used in different situations and environments to achieve certain aesthetic outcomes. For example, as colour is perceived by the eye by the reflection of light waves, gloss can also change the way a colour appears as it alters the amount of light reflecting on a surface. Gloss is also important as it can influence the durability of the paint, as generally glossier finishes have greater stain and moisture resistance. The five main gloss levels that you should be aware of when considering your next paint job are: Gloss, Semi-Gloss, Low Sheen, Matte and Flat.

Gloss

Gloss finishes are very shiny and smooth and easy to wash down and thus, are commonly used in areas that require lots of cleaning such as kitchens, bathrooms, doors, cabinets, wardrobes etc. Although its easy-clean trait is quite attractive, there are important reasons as to why we don’t paint the entire house with a glossy finish. Firstly, as glossy finishes are highly reflective, lighting systems render it too intense and bright for it to be used on most walls and ceilings. Secondly, glossy finishes tend to highlight imperfections on the surface, which is why it should be used cautiously.

Semi-Gloss

Semi-Gloss (like gloss finishes) are quite reflective and smooth, and are also surfaces that are easy to clean, however, as the name suggests they are slightly less intense in shine. Semi-gloss finishes are used in similar situations to gloss finishes, as it is can be used in interior or exterior areas of the house to protect high-contact areas from gradual wear and damage.

Low Sheen

Low Sheen finishes are not as reflective as semi-glossy or glossy, however, its cleaning properties are just as great. Although this finish can still highlight application imperfections (such as brushstrokes), it is commonly used for walls in heavy-traffic areas such as hallways, bedrooms and living rooms. It’s durability is quite similar to glossier finishes, making it quite suitable for use outdoors with timber or concrete finishes.

Matte and Flat

Flat or Matte finishes are quite similar in appearance, both being quite rough and dry as they do not reflect light but rather diffuse it. However, matte finishes are only slightly glossier than flat finishes, although it is quite difficult to distinguish with the naked eye. Due to their rougher properties, flat and matte finishes are quite difficult to clean and thus, should be applied to surfaces that are unlikely to become dirty. A great benefit of using flat finishes however, is its ability to conceal surface imperfections (unlike glossier finishes). These finishes are very commonly used on ceilings, bedrooms, living rooms and hallways, however they should most definitely not be used in bathrooms or kitchens.

Overall, gloss levels plays an important role in the aesthetic outcome of a interior or exterior paint job. It is important to consider factors such as light, traffic, room-use when considering which finish to apply to a room. If you are unsure about which sheens are appropriate for your home, contact a painting professional to help you out. As it is saves you time and money in the long run to seek help first rather than make preventable mistakes.