For most do-it-yourselfers, Home Depot is an indispensable resource for every kind of home improvement project. The paint aisles are particularly useful, as the store's wide selection of premium brands like Behr and Glidden allows you to match virtually any color imaginable. Picking out colors isn't the only choice you have to make when selecting Home Depot interior paints, though. You'll need to choose a finish (commonly referred to as sheen) as well.
Why Sheen Matters
The way dry paint reflects light is going to depend on a number of factors, and one of the biggest is the paint's inherent formulation. Certain paints are designed to absorb more light, leading to rich, warm colors; this is called a flat or matte sheen. Other paints reflect as much light as possible, giving a brighter, harder look; this is a gloss sheen.
The difference between the two is about more than just aesthetics! Glossier paints show surface imperfections more clearly, so they require more prep work to get good results. A glossy paint is also more durable and easier to clean, justifying the extra work required for surface prep. Matte sheens are easy to apply, go on quickly, and give you the richest possible range of colors.
The most important factor you should consider when selecting a finish for your paints is how much traffic or activity you're expecting in a given room. Areas that are unlikely to see a lot of dirt and damage are suited to matte finishes, while those that have to contend with a lot of action are better served by glossier sheens. (There's a reason why tough exterior paints lean towards the glossy end of the finish spectrum, after all!)
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Matte / Flat
The smooth finish produced by classic matte paint is widely used in areas where homeowners want to show off color selections or cover up walls that might have imperfections. (Most primers have a matte sheen for this very reason.) Although most matte Home Depot interior paints are extremely long-lasting when applied properly, they can absorb dirt. Cleaning matte paint is a challenge because many cleaning products will actually stain or damage the paint.
Low-Gloss / Eggshell
Eggshell paint gets its name from the distinctive slightly stippled texture it develops as it dries. This low-gloss sheen is an excellent compromise between the smooth colors of matte finishes and the durability of glosses. Eggshell paint is more durable than matte paint, and it can withstand light damage and gentle cleaning.
Satin / Semi-Gloss
Another hybrid sheen option, semi-gloss paint falls further towards the shiny end of the spectrum. This is an excellent choice for rooms which you expect to get a fair amount of traffic, as it can be scrubbed and wiped down to remove dirt without affecting the paint's color.
A gloss sheen is your best choice for maximum durability. This shiny finish creates a hard protective shell that does a great job of standing up to dirt and damage. Gloss paint is often used on interior woodwork like trim and cabinets. It's also ideally suited to rooms that frequently get wet, making it a perfect choice for your kitchen or bathroom.
Although there are a few more terms used to describe rarer levels of sheen, this glossary covers the full range of finishes available in interior paints. Take the time to get a little hands-on experience with both gloss and matte finishes so you understand the physical qualities of each before you make your finish selections. Matching your paint's sheen to your tastes and needs will go a long way towards ensuring that you're happy with the results you get!