skip to Main Content
Selecting A Paint Finish: Best For Interior House Painting

Selecting a Paint Finish: Best for Interior House Painting

When it comes to interior house painting, selecting what color you want isn’t your only decision. An additional thing to consider would be the sheen/finish that works best, and what colors set the right mood, not just what you like the most. We’re going to discuss the different types or categories of paint finishes/sheens to choose from in order to help guide you to the best choice. It’s not just the gloss, but what shows imperfections, what is best for moisture, what is easier to clean and other desired or unwanted consequences.

Things to Consider

Quality: Paints that are considered high-quality paint have higher pigment levels and more resins which allow the paint to cover better and are more durable. We did a deeper dive into paint quality in a previous post: Buying Quality Paint Worth the Money? (Click to learn more)

Ease of Cleaning: In short, the higher gloss the easier it is to clean. That simple.

Family/Kid-Friendly: As previously stated, the higher the gloss the easier it is to clean. However, the highest sheens/gloss tends to be reserved for accents such as baseboards, window trim, doors & frames, and railings, for example. Generally speaking, the middle of the road glosses are more common for the walls with families that have children, such as Satin or Semi-Gloss with semi-gloss being slightly more durable and washable than satin.

Surface/Room to be Painted: While you can paint anything any gloss, some are just better suited for different surfaces. Most choose a lower gloss for walls (matte, eggshells, satins and semi-gloss in some cases), flats for ceilings and higher glosses (semi-gloss, gloss, and high-gloss) for trim and doors. Higher gloss paints are not only more durable than lower gloss paints, but they also bring more attention to the eye as well as highlight imperfections in the surface the most which are why trim is more than often a higher gloss paint.

Types of Finishes

There are several basic categories of paint finishes that are determined by their chemistry and glossiness. Some manufacturers may offer specialty finishes such as Low Luster, Pearl, Velvet, etc. but 98-99% of paint sold is the basic finishes we’re going to cover. One note to remember would be the higher the gloss/shininess the more resin, fewer pigments, and more durability. Likewise, the lower the gloss the less resin, higher pigments and less durability.

High-Gloss paint reflects a lot of light whereas flat doesn’t reflect much if any light. Below are typical finishes that you will find at the paint store or offered by your professional interior painters.

  • Gloss / High-Gloss
  • Semi-Gloss
  • Satin
  • Eggshell
  • Flat / Matte
  • Primer
  • Water-Based Paint
  • Oil-Based Paint

Gloss / High-Gloss


    • Commonly used for accents, Gloss and High-Gloss provide the most reflection/highest sheen levels.
    • The glass-like finish is ideal for woodwork like cabinets, trim and doors.
    • When used right, it can really make things/surfaces/areas in the room pop.
    • Easy to clean and durable.


    • This finish can be used on walls for interior house painting, however, due to its shininess and attention it brings, it also highlights imperfections.
    • Takes the longer to dry between coats than lower sheen paint finishes.
    • It can require more than 2 coats to make it look right.
    • Sometimes requires extra prep time like sanding the surfaces.

Gloss/High-Gloss paint finish is a popular choice for these interior areas:

    • High-traffic areas
    • Cabinets
    • Molding
    • Baseboards
    • Interior Doors and Frames
    • Window Trim
    • Railings



    • Semi-gloss finishes are shiner than satin but not as shiny as gloss or high-gloss.
    • Gives a nice smooth sheen and brightens up a room.
    • High resistance to moisture and fingerprints.
    • More durable and easier to clean than lower gloss finishes with a light scrub or wipe.


    • Because it is shiny, it will show blemishes and imperfections on the walls and ceilings.
    • It can take longer than lower gloss paints to dry between coats.
    • Extra prep can be needed (like sanding) because it will highlight imperfections on the surface.
    • Sometimes difficult to look right with just two coats, so the quality of the paint is important.

Semi-Gloss paint tends to work well with:

    • Windows and Window Trim
    • Cabinets
    • Molding and Baseboards
    • Interior Doors and Frames
    • Railings
    • High-traffic areas
    • Kids’ bedroom walls, if you like the shiny look.
    • Kitchen and Bathroom walls, if you like higher sheen.



    • It provides a softer more elegant sheen than higher gloss finishes and covers well.
    • The most common finish for interior house painting, especially for young families with children.
    • Resistant to mildew and fading making it easier to clean than lower gloss paints.
    • More durable and easier to clean than lower gloss paints, but not as easy as higher gloss.


    • Not as durable as semi-gloss and high-gloss finishes.
    • Because it still has a middle of the road sheen, it will still show imperfections on the walls in the right light.

Satin is one of the best home interior painting finishes for:

    • Basements
    • Kitchens and Bathrooms
    • Laundry Rooms
    • Bedrooms and even children’s bedrooms
    • Family Rooms, Dining Rooms, and Hallways
    • Home Office
    • Can work with trim in some cases, depending on the quality of paint.



    • Eggshell finish is one of the most popular sheens because it provides a soft low sheen and elegant finish just like an eggshell (hence the name).
    • Great for low-to-mid traffic areas.
    • Covers very well and does not show imperfections in the walls as much as satin and higher gloss paints.
    • Resistant to some minor stains and scuffs and more durable and washable than flat or matte paints.


    • Not as durable or washable as higher gloss paints.
    • Although it is a good paint for many rooms, it may not be durable enough for small children.
    • Not resistant to moisture as satin or higher-gloss paints, so using eggshell paint in bathrooms and kitchens are not recommended.

Using an eggshell finish is best for interior house painting in the following areas:

    • Bedrooms (except for small children).
    • Living Rooms
    • Family Rooms
    • Hallways
    • Home Offices



    • Very uniform and smooth finish making a popular choice for interior house painting.
    • Flat and matt paint finishes are only slightly different, with matte finishes having a touch more sheen than flat.
    • While you can use Matte finish on the ceilings, Flat paint is the standard finish for ceilings.
    • Little to no shininess/gloss which makes it ideal for walls that have some imperfections that you do not want to be obvious such as patches and nail holes.


    • Difficult to wash and not very durable.
    • Easy to scuff/mark up.
    • Not suitable for walls in homes with small children.
    • May need to touchup regularly because it is easy to scuff, so keep some leftover paint.

Flat and Matte paint finishes work best for formal areas such as:

    • Living Rooms
    • Dining Rooms
    • Ceilings
    • Bedrooms (except for small children)
    • Any room where you’re not worried about messing up the paint.

what gloss for what room


  • Primer paints should be applied prior to painting surfaces that have never been painted or surfaces previously painted with darker colors and you’re changing color.
  • Some surfaces can really soak up paint like a sponge and using a primer helps to even out the surface your painting and use less paint.
  • Some primers are specialized for covering stains and preventing those stains from bleeding through to your new paint.
  • Using wood primers on raw wood to help prevent the wood from bleeding into the paint.
  • Pay attention to the label on the primer and make sure it’s the correct primer for the surface you intend to paint such as drywall, plaster, masonry or raw wood.

Water-Based or Oil-Based Interior Paint

The base of the paint is another decision you may need to make. Hopefully, we can break down the differences between water-based paint and oil-based paint to help you decide on what is best for your situation.

Water-Based Paint

In short, the vast majority of paint you see today in home interior painting is a water-based paint. These paints are easy to use, cover well, and take the least amount of time to dry. Some of the benefits of using water-based paints include:

  • Mildew control
  • Toxic emissions are low
  • Easy cleanup
  • Dries quickly
  • Flexible and crack-resistant
  • Can be used on most surfaces
  • Fades the least in sunlight

In the event you choose or need to paint over oil-based paint with water-based paint for any reason, you’ll need to make sure to prep the surface correctly. We recommend that you thoroughly wash the surface and rough it up using a medium to smooth grit sandpaper prior to painting.

Furthermore, in situations where an oil-based paint would traditionally be used, but for some reason you’d like to or need to use water-based paint, utilizing “waterborne alkyds” or “waterborne enamels” could be an option. See your local paint supply store or ask a professional painter if you have any questions on what paint is best for your circumstances.

Oil-Based Paint

Known for their rich and durable finish, oil-based paints can be applied to most surfaces and is common with many historic homes, commercial painting, and industrial painting applications. Oil-based paints cover and level out like glass and are very durable, but it takes much longer to dry than water-based paint.

If you decide to use oil-based paints, use caution, wear a respirator and make sure it’s well ventilated since these paints release very strong fumes and can make you sick. Also, after using oil-based paints and it’s time to clean your brushes and other tools, it cannot be cleaned with water but instead you must use turpentine or another solvent. Because of this, many governments have increased regulations on oil-based paint, so check with your local paint supply store or professional painter for availability and what is best to use in your situation.

With all this in mind, there are benefits of oil-based paint which include:

  • Beautiful gloss finish
  • It’s resistance to moisture making it ideal for kitchens and bathrooms
  • Durable, hard finish
  • Covers and levels very well

Hiring a Professional Interior House Painter in Indianapolis

If you’ve been putting off your painting project and are looking for a professional for an interior house painting estimate, consider Legacy Painting! Our experienced team of Indianapolis Painters can take care of it for you.

Legacy Painting proudly provides interior house painting and exterior painting services for your residential, commercial, or industrial property in and around Indianapolis, Westfield, Carmel, Greenwood, Plainfield, and the surrounding donut counties.

For questions about our services or to request an interior house painting estimate, Call (317) 426-7228

Back To Top