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The In’s and Out’s of Paint Sheen

Paint comes in a variety of sheens. Sheen refers to gloss, a measure of specular reflection, which is an optical property calculated using the Fresnel equation:

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… Yeah, we’re scratching our heads, too.

Let’s try again.

Paint Sheen Basics (Take Two)
Flat (matte), eggshell, satin (silk), semi-gloss and high-gloss – these are all sheens, arranged from dullest to shiniest. The Golden Rule: The higher the sheen, the higher the shine, durability and cost.

Customer caution: Know that satin paint from one company might resemble the eggshell paint of another.

Flat Sheen: A Character Profile
Flat paint is an unappreciated outlier. It has all the shininess of tree bark and is usually stuffed away in the ceiling. It is a bear to clean, absorbing water, attracting dirt and soaking up the visual energy of a room.

Yet its benefits are legion. Flat paint absorbs light, hiding nail holes, oily fingerprints and surface imperfections. A chimpanzee could roll on a coat – it has the most pigment of any sheen – and the result would look mawwvelous. It can be locally repainted without the wall looking like a patchwork quilt.

High-Gloss Sheen: A Character Profile
High-gloss paint, on the other hand, is a drama queen. It demands a smooth and properly primed surface. It prefers high-quality brushes or woven foam rollers. It is best applied using several thin, even coats given plenty of time to dry. It is not easily touched up once cured and, in general, is a fickle finish.

But high-gloss paint can enliven a dark place or create a three-dimensional effect. It can be washed, dusted or scrubbed with minimal impact: Cinderella’s paradise.

Conventional Sheen Selections
Conventional wisdom states that matte and eggshell paints ought to be used for ceilings and low-traffic walls. Satin paint is a one-size-fits-all finish. Semi-gloss paint is often found on bathroom walls and kitchen cabinetry for its moisture resistance. High-gloss paint is usually reserved for interior trim and front doors.

Sheen Secrets and Troubleshooting
• “Flashing” occurs when a coat of paint doesn’t have a consistent sheen. This usually happens when you overspread the paint or use a cheap roller.
• You can mix and match sheens! Blend eggshell with satin for a Goldilocks hallway paint. Decorate a bedroom with stripes of the same color but different sheen.
• High-gloss oil-based paints boast the best durability and are great for sparkling front doors.

These tips and tricks are social mores, not imposed rules. So if you want to slather your ceiling with high-gloss paint for that “wow!” effect, then we applaud you. We’ll even do it for you. At Stephens Painting, we’ve been serving the Dallas-Fort Worth area for more than 30 years.

To solve a Fresnel equation, however, you’re on your own.7c02f6243699a8be4dd67eb0791fb7a4