Types of Paint and Sheen | Pretty Handy Girl

How to Pick the Right Sheen and Types of Paint

How to Pick the Right Sheen and Paint Type | Pretty Handy Girl

Welcome to Paint Week everyone! This week we’ll be giving you the best tips and tricks for painting your home and beyond. Yesterday we learned How to Pick the Perfect Paint Color!

Paint Week - 5 Lessons to Perfect Your Painting Skills

If you missed any of paint week, here’s the recap:

You finally decided on a paint color, but now you are utterly confused by all the types of paint available in the hardware store. How do you know which paint to use for your specific project? Picking the right paint the first time will save you the hassle of having to repaint in a year or two. Today, I’ll be covering How to Pick the Right Sheen and Types of Paint.


The sheen refers to the shine reflected off the paint when it is dry.

Paint Sheens | Pretty Handy Girl

  • Flat – No reflection. Flat paint is perfect for ceilings where you want the color to be smooth and flat. The ceiling is the only place I recommend using a flat paint. If painted on a wall, the flat paint will show dirt and finger prints very easily and it is much harder to clean without leaving a mark.
  • Eggshell – One step above flat, this paint is a little easier to clean, but it also has very little reflection. If you have uneven or textured walls, eggshell paint will show less imperfections. Eggshell is a good choice for a bedroom or living room, but if you have kids I recommend moving on to a satin finish.
  • Satin – This is your middle of the road sheen. It has a very slight reflection. Satin is relatively easy to clean for an occasional mark or finger prints. It is an excellent choice for any wall in your home. Satin can also be used on trim and moulding, as long as you opt for a higher quality paint.
  • Semi-gloss – True to the name, this paint has a slightly glossy appearance and does have a reflection. Typically this paint is reserved for trim, doors, or wet locations like a bathroom or laundry room. It is also an excellent choice for furniture and cabinets because it can be wiped off easily.
  • Gloss – A high shine makes this paint durable and easy to clean. Gloss is typically reserved for windows, doorways, trim and furniture. Once dry, this paint is resistant to dirt, grease and grime. However, if you have any imperfections, gloss paint will accentuate them.

Types of paint:


  • Interior – Just as it says, this paint is strictly for interior paint projects.
  • Exterior – This paint is specially formulated to stand up to the weather outside. This makes it a perfect choice for your home’s exterior or repainting a garden bench or other outdoor items.
  • Latex – A plastic or acrylic water-based paint for both interior or exterior usage. Latex paint dries much faster than an oil paint and it is easy to clean up with soap and water.
  • Oil – A strong paint once it hardens. Oil paint takes a long time to dry and even longer to cure. In the past, oil paint was used on kitchen cabinets, doors, trim and other locations that take a beating.  With the development of newer and stronger paints, oil tends to be a dying breed. Oil paint must be used in a well ventilated area and can only be cleaned with turpentine or mineral spirits.
  • Alkyd – An oil paint that has an additive mixed in to speed the drying process. This paint has the durability of an oil paint but without the extremely long wait time. Use in a well ventilated area.
  • Low or Zero VOC – The newest addition to the paint family are low and/or zero VOC paints. These paints have been specially formulated to almost completely eliminate harmful Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). A good choice if you are concerned about safety for the environment and your family. Clean up consists of water and soap.


It is important to use a primer before you paint bare wood, unless you are using a chalky paint (a specialty paint). If you aren’t sure what type of paint you will be painting over, it is a good idea to use a primer. Nothing is worse than painting latex on top of oil-based paint and having the newly painted layer peel right off. Definitely use a primer over stained wood.

Updating a Knotty Pine Nightstand | Pretty Handy Girl

A water-based primer is the best for you and the environment, but it might not be strong enough to seal knot holes,  mahogany stains,  and an oil-based paint. For those tasks, opt for a shellac-based primer like Zinsser BIN Primer. All primers help prep the surface, blocking any potential residue, and allowing the surface to accept the new paint.

Paint Brands:

Types of Paint and Sheen | Pretty Handy Girl

There are many brands of paint out there. I’ve tried most of them. At this point in time, I stick to Benjamin Moore, Sherwin Williams and Valspar. I am a big proponent of “you get what you pay for”, so when it comes to painting, I like a high quality paint. When Pretty Handsome Guy and I painted the guest room in our first house, we made all the mistakes a new homeowner could make. We bought cheap paint. We didn’t know how to roll on the paint and we secretly both disliked the color. One of the biggest problems we had was roller marks. We learned that cheap paint can leave roller marks and often requires many coats for a full coverage. A higher quality paint will have better coverage, resulting in fewer coats of paint. Finally, a good paint will be much more durable and easier to clean without showing scuff marks.

This is what I use in my home:

Benjamin Moore Yellow Highlighter Painted Interior Doors | Pretty Handy Girl

Ceilings: Valspar Ultra Brilliant White Flat Ceiling Paint

Walls: Benjamin Moore Aura or Sherwin Williams Cashmere in Eggshell or Satin finish

Trim, Windows and Doors: Benjamin Moore Advance or Sherwin Williams Pro-Classic in Satin or Semi-Gloss finish

Next time you are buying paint, this should help you make the best choice based on your painting needs.



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11 replies
  1. Lee
    Lee says:

    Hi Brittany!

    Thanks so much for posting this. I’m trying to get up the nerve to paint my office (hubby dearest has always done all our painting in the past) so articles like this are so very helpful.

    I have a painting related question for you. I’m hoping you might have some insight to my problem. My house was built in 1978 and it has the dark stained hollow core doors and dark stained trim still in most of the house (bedrooms and office). Would it be possible to paint the doors white or another color and not have them look terrible or cheap? I’m not sure what was used to make them the dark color so I’m not sure what I can use to cover it up. I hope this makes sense and thanks for any advice you can offer!

  2. Marcia Banach
    Marcia Banach says:

    Great post, thanks! I have found through trial and (some major) errors that I do get what I pay for in paint. I stick to Benjamin Moore these days, as I do a lot of chalk painting, and it has never let me down. I can also use it as regular latex paint with equal success. (Not to mention my incredibly knowledgeable Benjamin Moore store owner who always manages to bail me out when I do something dumb…)

  3. Cindy Brooks
    Cindy Brooks says:

    I’ll second the preference for Sherwin Williams paint! We used SW inside and out when we built our home in 2007. I primed the drywall and then did two coats on all the walls. It still looks fresh and clean. We just purchased a second home and I’m busy painting all of the interior (new trim and doors, too). Again, I’m using SW in a completely different color palette and it’s as beautiful as I’d hoped!

  4. BizzyPsychic
    BizzyPsychic says:

    Hi Brittany:
    First, TY for your time & effort with your blog. I’ve followed you for awhile and have gotten lots of useful tips & info.

    I just had to chime in about VALSPAR paint and my big disappointment using some for my bedroom walls recently, and that disappointment is with the sheen and “feel” of the paint (once well dried for many months, so you know.)

    I’ve used Sherwin-Williams Satin finish in a number of areas in my home. Lovely paint to apply and the Satin finish IS truly “satin.” But, for a variety of reasons, I decided to use Valspar (my first time) in my bedroom and chose their Satin finish.

    Right off I noticed that application of the Valspar wasn’t quite as smooth flowing (don’t know how else to explain it) as the S-W paint. But worse … their Satin is really like a semi to almost high gloss. Yuck-O!! And about as annoying/disappointing is the actual feel of the paint – if you touch my walls, the paint feels “rubbery.” My S-W painted walls have a lovely delicate satin look and there is no “rubbery” feel of the paint.

    There was no mistake in the cans of Valspar I purchased – they were labeled Satin. What bothers me most is the cheap looking, high gloss surface now on 3 of my bedroom’s wall. May I mention I used an accent color on the 4th wall – an S-W Satin finish paint. So it is very easy to compare the quality and sheen between the two brands.

    FWIW, I would highly suggest that anyone using Valspar ask for their Eggshell if you want a “satin” finish – but of course test it out in a small area to make sure. While I have not personally tried their Eggshell, I will bet you a nickle that that finish is closer to what one would expect if wanting Satin.

    In the future, I’ll spend the few extra dollars and ALWAYS purchase Sherwin-Williams paint, as to me they really have a lovely, superior product (no – I don’t work for them nor am compensated by them to say all of this!).

    Just my 2-cents, perhaps your mileage may vary. 🙂


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