The perfect finish: Choosing the right paint sheen

You’ve selected your paint colours and paired them perfectly. But have you thought about what paint finish you’ll choose?

Paint finish is more than just a detail. It makes a big difference in how your chosen colour will look, especially when you’re dealing with darker shades. With flat, eggshell, pearl and semi-gloss on offer, it’s tough to know which to choose.

All about finishes

A paint’s finish, also known as sheen, refers to its final look and how much light it will reflect. Paint that reflects a lot of light is known as gloss (semi-gloss), while paint that’s less reflective is known as flat.
Light reflection by finish
Flat: 0–5%
Eggshell: 5–10%
Pearl: 10–30%
Melamine: 30–40%
Semi-gloss: 45–55%  

Generally speaking, the flatter the sheen, the better the coverage. A flat finish also offers the richest, most accurate colour payoff. It’s best for lower-traffic rooms, as well as ceilings. Traditionally, the downside to flat paint was that it was hard to wash. Luckily, nearly 20 years ago, Sico revolutionized the world of paint by launching the first-ever washable flat finish: Cashmere®. This advancement has been surpassed by our Evolution flat and Sico Muse ranges.

But although these high-quality paints are considered washable, they are sensitive to vigorous scrubbing and frequent washing. If you anticipate having to wash your walls on a regular basis, an eggshell finish is the compromise you’re looking for. It’s a popular choice that reflects little light and can hold its own against the occasional scrub.

On the other hand, the glossier the sheen, the more light it reflects, creating a shiny effect. Contrasting finishes are a popular design technique, and a perfectly smooth wall looks even better with gloss paint on top. But watch out! Using gloss will make all the little defects on your walls stand out. So, choose where you apply it carefully. The beauty of gloss is that it’s a dream to maintain. It’s the ideal choice for surfaces you’ll need to wash often, such as moulding, door and window frames, and playroom walls.

How do I choose my finish?

Before you buy, ask yourself what effect you want, and how you plan to use the room you’ll be painting. Is it a high-traffic area? Will you have to wash the surface frequently? Is the room particularly humid? Here are our tips for achieving optimal results all through the home.

Bedroom, living room and dining room

Your bedrooms, living room and dining room are spaces for spending quality time in a soft, calming atmosphere. Because they see frequent traffic but don’t require regular wall cleaning, a washable flat (between 0% and 5% shine) or eggshell finish is recommended. These finishes will make darker accent walls turn out beautifully. For top-quality, perfectly even results, choose a soft matte finish, exclusive to our Sico Muse range.

When it comes to the dining room, it all depends on how you use it. For instance, if it’s in the same open-plan space as your kitchen, the walls are more likely to gather food stains. If so, Sico Kitchen and Bathroom paint is the way to go.

>> Our fave: Sico Muse soft matte finish
Kids rooms and playrooms

When you’re painting a child’s room or playroom, a high-performance product is crucial for optimal durability and easy upkeep. A slightly glossier finish like eggshell (between 5% and 10% shine) or pearl (between 10% and 20% shine) will offer better long-term results.

>> Our fave: Sico Evolution eggshell or pearl finish
Kitchen, bathroom and laundry room

The most humid rooms of your home require a finish that can battle mildew. For these jobs, specially formulated kitchen and bathroom paint in a smooth finish is the way to go. If you prefer a flat finish, our top-of-the-line Sico Muse range offers a mildew-resistant formula that can meet your needs, although it’s not as resistant against frequent scrubbing.

>> Our fave: Sico Kitchen and Bathroom smooth finish
Hallways, entryways and staircases

In areas with frequent comings and goings, it’s best to opt for a glossier sheen, such as Sico Muse soft gloss, rather than a flat finish. As walls in these spaces are frequently victims of fingerprints, a finish that’s easier to wash will perform better over the long term and stain less easily.

>> Our fave: Sico Muse soft gloss finish
Furniture and cabinets

Last but not least, these rough-and-tumble surfaces need to be extremely resistant to stains and humidity. Time to bring out the big guns: advanced paint technology! For a mildew-resistant result that will stand up to daily wear and tear, we prefer using a specialized, top-quality product with a super-washable finish like melamine or semi-gloss.

>> Our fave: Sico Furniture and cabinets interior alkyd emulsion paint with melamine finish. Durable and easy to use, this formula offers unrivaled strength and stunning resistance to repeated washing and stains.
Want to refinish old furniture?

Learn how with our article: Breathing new life through colour