How to choose a paint finish

Painter applying paint finish to the eaves of a house.

When we decide to paint, most of us think COLOR.  Yet, one must also consider how to choose a paint finish.  Color helps us show off and make things more appealing. Paint color can help make the furniture, rugs, drapes, gardens, and even the historic white picket fence blend in, stand out, accentuate its features or simply to make a ‘wow’ statement.  Before you paint, consider how you will choose the paint finish or level of sheen.

There are a wide array of paint finishes available. The subject can often become confusing, as each paint manufacturer often use different terms to describe the same finishes. They often use terms like:

  • flat / matte
  • velvet / satin
  • eggshell / pearl
  • low sheen
  • semi-gloss
  • gloss / high gloss

Aside from the look the various finishes will give, each finish or sheen has definite pros and cons. Selecting the correct sheen helps achieve the look you want and will increase the life of the job.

Flat Paint Finish

Flat and matte finishes are the most cost efficient, are easy to touch up, tending to hide any imperfections of the surface that is being painted.  If you want to hide imperfections like small cracks, try Crack Fix.   Because a flat or matte finish does not refract light, so it produces little to no reflection. Running your hand over a flat finish feels dry and slightly chalky. A flat finish is often considered contemporary and modern.

This finish’s porosity does however lead to a number of disadvantages when compared to higher gloss finishes.  A flat paint finish can chalk relatively easily and tends to collect more dirt.   When dirt does get on a flat finish, it tends to smear and not come off well at all.   It is porous which could cause problems in damp or wet areas with a high likelihood of mildew growth.  Overall, flat paint finishes are very difficult to clean.

Gloss Paint Finish

Gloss finishes are at the other end of the spectrum. High gloss finishes reflect more light, are very tricky to touch up, and highlight imperfections on the surface. Gloss sheens are extremely smooth to the touch. They are also stain resistant, easy to clean, and provide a durable surface.


Velvet, Satin, Eggshell, Pearl Paint Finish

Velvet, satin, eggshell, pearl, and low sheen finishes are a happy medium between the two options mentioned above. They reflect a medium amount of light. Touching up your interior paint, though not as easy as with flat finishes, is not very difficult.  Imperfections are covered up to a certain degree.
The surface feels slightly waxy when touched and is relatively easy to clean.

Here is a guideline of paint finishes to use on common surfaces.

  • Exterior siding and walls – flat, satin or semi-gloss
  • Exterior doors, shutters, gutters or trim – semi-gloss or high gloss
  • Masonry or block – satin or semi-gloss
  • Wood siding – flat or satin
  • Aluminum, steel, vinyl or fiber cement – satin

No matter how you choose your paint finish, Mad Dog Primer is the best primer to use for prepping the surface.

MAD DOG PAINT PRODUCTS are made with WeatherSmart™ Adhesive Technology

  • Permanently flexes and breathes, as the substrate expands and contracts with heat, humidity and cold weather
  • Helps finish coats retain sheen and color 2 to 3 times longer than traditional primers
  • Bonds like glue
  • Permanently prevents peeling and cracking
  • Locks down and stabilizes all worn and weathered surfaces
  • Resists mold and mildew
  • Promotes top coat adhesion for longest lasting paint durability
  • Reduces prep & labor by 20%
  • Cleans up with soap & water
  • Eco Friendly formula
  • Low odor, Super Low VOC

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