Which Paint Sheen or Finish Should You Use On Interior Walls and Trim?

What paint sheen or finish should I use on my interior walls and trim? This is one of the most common questions that we come across. As if choosing a paint color isn’t hard enough, it’s also important to choose the right finish. There are always so many decisions when it comes to building and remodeling and this is one of many that you may not know the answer to. The answer may vary from person to person, but I will share with you our preferred paint sheens and why we use each of them.

Different Types of Paint Finishes

First, let’s explore your options in a little more detail.


The flat sheen is a low sheen, non-reflective finish that soaks up direct light. It hides minor imperfections and is great for low-traffic areas. It is normally easier to apply than most finishes.


The matte sheen is a non-reflective finish that absorbs light also instead of reflecting it. It hides minor imperfections and is great for low-traffic areas.


The eggshell finish is a soft, velvety appearance that is good for moderate traffic areas. It is a soft, smooth finish that is a little easier to clean than a matte finish.


The satin finish is more of a pearl-like appearance that is great for higher traffic areas and rooms with more moisture such as a bathroom or laundry room. It is very similar to an eggshell finish.


The semi-gloss sheen is a sleek, radiant appearance that works great when used on cabinets, trim, and high moisture areas.


The high gloss sheen is a very shiny, glass-like appearance and is great for high used surfaces.

Things to Consider

There are several factors to consider before choosing a paint sheen. The first thing I would think about is whether you have younger children and what you are actually painting. Most people and experts recommend a higher gloss paint or at least an eggshell finish for anyone who has younger children. This will help with the cleaning aspect as we all know it will get dirty with kids.

Our Preference

Henry and I probably go against what most people would say or do, but keep in mind we have older children now. We always do a flat or matte finish on all walls and ceilings while using satin or semi-gloss on the trim and doors.

Semi-gloss trim with flat walls

We prefer a flat or matte finish on walls because it complements our style of design. We normally use a lighter color of paint for the interior walls and love the fact that the matte finish doesn’t reflect light leaving the eye drawn to the design of the room, not the imperfections of the walls or ceiling. We also feel like it has a softer more subtle appearance.

Contrary to what we have been told about a flat or matte finish being hard to clean, we have found it to be the opposite. I have always been able to use a rag with a little water or even a magic eraser to get most scuffs or dirt off the wall.

As I mentioned above, we always use either satin or semi-gloss on moldings and doors. To me, I think this comes down to personal preference. I do think you need to have some sheen on these elements, but we prefer a more subtle sheen. Anything more than semi-floss seems way too shiny for me.

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