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Paint choices: which finish is right for your next project?

Swatches for choosing paint colour

The finish you choose will determine how vivid details appear and how easy the surface will be to clean.

Colour isn’t the only consideration when planning your next paint project. The finish you choose will determine how vivid details appear and how easy the surface will be to clean.

Paint is available in many types, grades of quality, sheens, purposed and brands made by many manufacturers. All of these factors can make choosing your paint type even more confusing than deciding which colour to use. <link to ‘Choosing the right colour for your new home.”

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Getting started

There are typically just six finishes to choose from within every paint manufacturers’ line. And while each brand refers to their finishes differently, the distinguishing factors are essentially the same — lustre and washability.

In general, paint finishes range from completely “flat” or matte to shiny or “high-gloss.” Glossier finishes contain higher levels of resin and lower levels of pigmentation, whereas less shiny ones contain more pigment than resin.

Pro-tip: Preparation is half the battle

Prepping your surfaces immaculately will be the difference between a smooth paint job and a bumpy one. Depending on the surface you’re painting, you may even need to use a primer and/or an undercoat before you are able to even apply the paint.

The Big Finish


At one end of the spectrum you’ll find the chalky finish known as “flat,” which features a matte sheen that absorbs light and helps hide surface imperfections. Flat paint is ideal for ceilings and areas with surface irregularities as they’ll hide these imperfections better than any other paint finish.

Pro-tip: Not all flat paints are created equal. The kind made specifically for ceilings is designed to roll on with minimal spatter and resist yellowing over time. These paints will be marked differently in the store.


Eggshell enamel offers superior scrubability to completely flat finishes. With a bit more luster than flat paint, it has soft a sheen, like an egg. This paint finish works well for walls but not on trims around doors or windows. You can wash eggshell paints without harming the surface.


These paints reflect light for a bright, shiny appearance that will most benefit rooms with a strong light source. Use it on areas that are cleaned frequently such as kitchens, bathrooms, closet doors and trim. It is generally accepted that the glossier the surface the more durable and easy to clean it will be.


Low-sheen (satin finish) paint combines the soft finish of flat paint with the washability of semi-gloss. It is ideal for walls in high-traffic areas that need to be wiped clean regularly – think young children’s’ hand prints along hallways. Satin paints are similar to eggshell and semigloss except that they have a warm, pearl-like finish.

These paints are also excellent at resisting mildew, dirt and stains (they can better withstand cleaning and light scrubbing) making them more suitable for frequently used spaces than their eggshell counterparts. Satin has an added benefit; it won’t glare like high-gloss and semi-gloss paints.


One key benefit that high-sheen colors have over flat sheens is their depth of color. The higher the sheen, the more vivid and rich your color will appear. Deep, jewel-toned colors such as reds and navy blues benefit from this paint type. Consider this finish for wood surfaces, such as door and window trims, cabinets and doors, but only when blemishes are minimal. The shinier the surface the more those tiny flaws will be evident.

Masonry, metal and more

Latex or oil-based paints, in any of the above finishes, suit harder-to-paint surfaces such as metal and masonry. The key, again, is preparation. Applying the right primer before you start will guarantee the ultimate finish. But be careful with floors. These require paint specifically designed to stand up to abrasion, traffic and heavy scrubbing.

"We paint all surfaces with the correct Dulux & Resene paint system following the manufacturer's specification."