Paint

Which Exterior Paint Sheen Should You Choose for Your Home?

While trying to figure out what color to paint the exterior of your home, you should also carefully consider which exterior paint sheen to use. We get asked this question quite often, proving that it’s not such an easy decision to make.

Let’s take a look at what paint sheens are available and what factors you should take into consideration.

What is Paint Sheen?

Paint sheen is simply the gloss level of paint. The higher the gloss level, the shinier or more reflective it will look. The different levels or categories of sheen are flat/matte, eggshell/satin, semi-gloss, and gloss. Flat having no shine, and gloss being the shiniest.

Different sheen levels can make the color look different and reflect light in different ways. Glossy to flat are on totally different ends of the shine spectrum and look completely different.

Flat/Matte Finish

We always choose a flat or matte finish when painting the exterior of a house and also most walls and ceilings on the interior. For the exterior, we don’t like to have any shine at all because it tends to give the surface a plastic-like appearance.

We also think a flat exterior paint sheen, especially on masonry, creates more of a timeless look. That’s why we went with Sherwin Williams White Duck in flat for all of our exterior brick and trim on our current house.

Surfaces that have a sheen are easier to clean, but matte surfaces are not impossible to clean as I often hear people say. We’ve had no issue at all cleaning the outside of our homes when they start to look a little dirty. Rinsing with a water hose or pressure washer has always worked like a charm.

One of our favorite designers, Studio McGee, also chose to use flat on the exterior of her new home. She used Benjamin More White Dove in flat for all of her exterior brick, siding, and trim.

Credit: Studio McGee

Eggshell/Satin

Eggshell or satin is the perfect sheen if you don’t want overly glossy, but want just a little sheen. This is what we prefer to use in areas with moisture, such as our bathrooms. The slight amount of sheen helps protect against watermarks being left on your walls.

Another place we like to use satin is on our interior trim and millwork. The slight amount of shininess creates a nice contrast with walls in a flat finish.

This sheen will also make the surface a little slicker making it easier to wipe down and clean in these areas where dust tends to build up.

Another thing to consider with a satin or eggshell finish is that the color of the paint will appear a bit richer compared to the same color in a matte or flat finish.

Keep in mind that shinier finishes will also show more imperfections. This should be taken into consideration if you are planning on doing your own painting, as roller and brush marks will be more visible.

So what about on the exterior? Again, we personally do not like any shininess on the exterior of our homes, but this is the finish that many people prefer as it makes it a little easier to keep the outside of their house clean.

Semi-gloss and Gloss

Semi-gloss and gloss paints are highly reflective and very “shiny”! In my opinion, these sheen levels should only be used on interior trim, doors, and millwork – surfaces that get a lot of wear and tear.

In our current home, we chose semi-gloss for all the items I just mentioned. Since we used the same color on walls and trim, we let the sheen of the semi-gloss paint create a bit of contrast between the two.

So should you use a semi-gloss or gloss finish on the exterior of a house? I say absolutely not! I’m typically not so dogmatic about design decisions, but I think using such a shiny paint on the exterior, would make your home look like it is made of plastic.

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20 Comments

  • Reply Lisa

    I was told by Lowe’s, that I couldn’t get a flat exterior paint. We used Sherwin Williams pure white on our exterior brick. They said exterior doesn’t come in flat.

    September 19, 2020 at 3:37 pm
    • Reply Henry

      Hi Lisa. That is very odd. Sherwiin Williams offer all kinds of exterior paint that comes if flat.

      September 19, 2020 at 3:46 pm
  • Reply Betsy Herrick

    Love your home! Would you mind sharing your roof color choice?

    September 19, 2020 at 4:21 pm
    • Reply Henry

      Thanks! It’s Owens Corning Onyx Black.

      September 20, 2020 at 1:42 pm
      • Reply Shannon

        How do you keep the brick so clean and white at the base where the mulch/dirt/rainwater border the home?! Our white brick here in NC takes a beating with the red clay.

        September 22, 2020 at 3:01 am
        • Reply Henry

          We have pine bark mulch all around our house. It prevents any mud from splashing up on the brick. The key is to not have any exposed dirt against your house.

          September 24, 2020 at 3:18 pm
    • Reply Donna Daniel

      What color black is on your exterior?
      I’m about to have the wood trim on my house painted. I would love to have the brick painted white but I’m scared it won’t look good! My roof line is chopped up but it is low pitched. Wish I could send a picture to see what you think.

      October 10, 2020 at 8:18 pm
  • Reply jen

    Any opinion on doing matte black interior doors? I really don’t want a glossy sheen. But I am not sure if it’s a bad idea to do doors in a flat or satin finish?

    Have you ever done this or researched this?

    September 19, 2020 at 10:35 pm
    • Reply Henry

      I wouldn’t recomend using a matte or flat finish on doors, especially in a dark color. In our office we have flat dark walls, and we love them, but you can’t touch them without leaving a mark. Doors are constantly touched, so this is why I think it would be a bad idea.

      September 20, 2020 at 1:45 pm
  • Reply Janice at Sawdustsisters

    These might be dumb questions but I know nothing about exterior paint so here it goes 🙂 did you paint the existing shingles? What about soffit and fascia? Did you paint or replace? What about rain gutters? My brick is about the same color as your before pic and I’m afraid to have it painted and have the white color look terrible in contrast with the existing items I mentioned. Thanks for writing this post! Very informative.

    September 20, 2020 at 3:22 pm
    • Reply Henry

      Hi. This was a new construction, so everything was new. The shingles are Owens Corning Onyx Black and all of the soffit, fascia, and brick are painted in Sherwin Williams White Duck. Gutters are just black. Hope that helps!

      September 24, 2020 at 3:04 pm
  • Reply Nicole

    Hello! Beautiful home. We are doing a similar looking exterior on our home remodel. Can you tell me if your window trim is flush with your batten or if there is a slight reveal so that it is a touch more deep than the batten. I am in a pinch to decide on this as my wood order is going in. Thanks!

    September 21, 2020 at 9:54 pm
    • Reply Henry

      Thanks! Our windows stick out past the trim just a bit – maybe 1/16 of an inch.

      September 24, 2020 at 3:07 pm
  • Reply Karmen

    We have a cedar home that the original color was a gray stain. We are looking at sherwin Williams solid color stain. Can you also use paint on a cedar house?also what sheen on gutters and facia do you recommend?

    September 22, 2020 at 2:33 am
  • Reply Pat crawford

    Hello… Can you Please tell me if the first home picture above is yours and/or if that is the White Duck color on the house? Also, could you please tell me what color the trim is? I would really appreciate it, as we are in the process as we speak! Love your blog here… nice job! thank you

    September 23, 2020 at 5:21 pm
    • Reply Henry

      Yes, that is our house. The brick and trim are both painted with White Duck.

      September 24, 2020 at 3:15 pm
  • Reply Amy Gonzalez

    Hi – you mentioned you’ve used both satin and semi-gloss on interior doors/trim work on different houses. Which one did you prefer? I recently did a new build and the doors must be glossy. I hate it! Way too shiny and they were sprayed so to me they look like actual can spray painted doors and it’s just very noticeable to me. I’m repainting the whole house from a grey to SW pure white to brighten things up because I went way too dark on the floors, so was going to just do flat on the walls and a less glossy sheen on the doors/baseboards. Just seeing if you preferred one sheen over the other for those. Do you also paint the ceiling the same color white as you do for the walls? Thanks for all the posts you guys do! I love your house and design style and that room you made with the bed was amazing!!

    September 24, 2020 at 3:52 am
    • Reply Henry

      Thanks! I would say we like both semi-gloss and satin equally. Semi-gloss is just a bit shinier than satin. We almost always paint the ceiling the same color as the walls.

      September 24, 2020 at 3:23 pm
  • Reply Michele

    What exterior white color is the best color and do you use a different color white for trim?

    September 24, 2020 at 3:41 pm
  • Reply Jim Strzechowski

    Hello , Did you also use flat on your siding?

    October 11, 2020 at 2:17 am
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