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Q When purchasing paint, I've been asked if I want flat, high gloss, satin and even a low Sheen finish. What do these terms mean, and does it really make any difference what kind of finish I have?


Those terms refer to the sheen or gloss level of the paint, and, yes, it does make a difference which one you use. The sheen or gloss level simply means the degree of light reflectance of the paint. The terms you mention are ones that various manufacturers use to describe the shininess of their products. The following chart explains what each term means, and where paint with that type of gloss should be used. Your local Dulux paint retailer also can recommend the type of gloss you need for your particular paint project.

High Gloss (70+ on a 60 degree gloss meter)

  • Where to Use - For kitchen & bathroom walls, kitchen cabinets, banisters & railings, trim, furniture, doors, door jambs & windowsills.
  • Comments - More durable, stain resistant & easier to wash. However, the higher the gloss, the more likely surface imperfections will be noticed.

Semigloss (35 to 70 on a 60 degree gloss meter)

  • Where to Use - For kitchen & bathroom walls, hallways, children's rooms, playrooms, doors, woodwork & trim.
  • Comments - More stain-resistant & easier to clean than flat paints. Better than flat for high-traffic areas.

Satin or Silk (Range overlapping low sheen & semigloss) - Similar characteristics to Semigloss & Low Sheen.

Low Sheen (20 to 30 on a 60 degree gloss meter)

  • Where to Use - Can be used in place of flat paints on wall surfaces especially in halls, bathrooms & playrooms. Can be used in place of semigloss paints on trim for a less shiny appearance.
  • Comments - It resists stains better than flat paint & gives a more lustrous appearance.

Flat (less than 15 on a 60 degree gloss meter)

  • Where to Use - For general use on walls & ceilings.
  • Comments - Hides surface imperfections. Stain removal can be difficult. Use for uniform, nonreflecting appearance. Best suited for low-traffic areas.

Matte Same characteristics as Flat.