How to choose the right interior paint finish and quality



As if choosing the right color wasn’t overwhelming enough, there’s more to choosing interior paint than finding the perfect shade of blue-green. You also need to identify the best formulation for the type of room or surface you are painting and decide which sheen is best for the job.

“Consider where you put the paint and what you want from the paint job,” says Alex Sinclair, director of product information at Sherwin-Williams.

If you haven’t bought paint lately, don’t be surprised by the price hike. Raw materials, supply chain and transportation issues, and even the cost of metal boxes have contributed to the increase. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Producer Price Index program, the price of interior paint jumped 21.2% in 2021 compared to 2020.

Expect to pay $55 to $60 a gallon for a quality product and $90 to $100 a gallon for a premium paint, says Mike Mundwiller, end-user product experience manager at Benjamin Moore. “When it comes to painting, it’s true that you get what you pay for. In some cases, it comes down to the high cost of the materials that go into the paint. Beyond that, it has a lot to do with the technology in the box,” he says.

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Advances in paint technology have given consumers more choices in paint type and finish. Today’s water-based latex paints are formulated to perform nearly as well as their oil-based counterparts, without strong odors, long drying times, or the need to use solvents to clean brushes and spills.

Most major paint manufacturers offer a range of interior options and price points. All are held to a standard of quality and performance; the difference between lines and prices depends on the technology and attributes of each painting. For example, a less expensive option may be an easy-to-use paint that’s easy to apply and touch up. However, it may not have the same levels of washability, durability and color retention as more expensive offerings.

A high-end, high-quality product may also be the best choice for covering a dark surface. “While this gallon may cost more than others on the market, you’ll need less because it provides better skin,” says Mundwiller. “Some cheaper paints per gallon require you to use more to cover.”

It might be worth spending more. “Premium paints are formulated to have exceptional coverage, even on dark colors, and withstand more wear and tear than some of the more economical products,” Sinclair says. “Excellent washability, durability and moisture resistance are just a few of the attributes that make it worthwhile.”

Finish – called sheen or sheen – can matter almost as much as color when choosing a product. It determines the amount of light reflected off a painted surface, which can make it stand out or fade into the background. To complicate matters, brilliance is subjective, with no industry standard, says Mundwiller.

You will typically find paint finishes in some variation of matte, matte, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss, and gloss. “The lower sheens and sheens help hide flaws, making them ideal for walls with imperfections and high-traffic hallways with lots of natural light,” says Sinclair. Because ceilings are so difficult to paint and tend to develop lap marks (a deeper color or increased gloss where wet and dry coats overlap during application), a matte finish is typically used.

Glossier paint, such as satin, is generally more durable and easier to clean, but paint classified as “high gloss” used in a bright space may glare like a mirror. According to Mundwiller, baseboards, crown moldings and entryways are suitable for satin or glossier chandeliers, as the contrast between a wall and a baseboard, for example, can create an attractive look. Satin or semi-gloss finishes on kitchen cabinets are also trending. “It’s a balance of attributes: covering flaws and minimizing lap marks versus how much light reflects off that surface,” he says.

Innovations have resulted in more durable paints in all areas. “All levels of sheen are now stain and moisture resistant. This means you can use virtually any sheen in an area such as a bathroom or kitchen,” says Sinclair. paints can be used on a variety of surfaces, they can be available in a wider range of sheens.

When choosing a chandelier, consider your room’s use and how you want the paint to perform. Here is a list for reference only.

  • Apartment: No sparkle. Hides blemishes, but makes it harder to stay clean. Ideal for ceilings, walls and low traffic areas.
  • Mast: Almost no shine. Hides imperfections. Resists cleaning. Ideal for walls, family rooms, living rooms, dining rooms and bedrooms.
  • Egg shell: One of the most popular chandeliers. Almost shine-free, yet durable and easy to clean. Ideal for family rooms, living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchens.
  • Satin: A shine higher than eggshell. Stain resistant and durable. Ideal for high traffic walls, bathrooms, kitchens, windows, shutters, trim and interior doors.
  • Semi-gloss: Smooth finish. Ideal for kitchen trim, doors and cabinets.
  • Bright: A mirror finish. Easy to clean and stain resistant. Ideal for trim, doors, cabinets and architectural details.

Before painting, you may need to consider purchasing an interior primer. Although many paints advertise themselves as “primer and topcoat” in one, Mundwiller says using a separate primer is the best, most affordable option when dealing with a porous surface, into which the paint will soak, so coating with expensive paint will be a waste of money; a stained surface; or an area that has already been painted with a gloss finish. (The primer will help the new topcoat stick.)

To determine the best paint for your job, do some research first. Both Sherwin-Williams and Benjamin Moore have how-to guides on their websites. You can also check home improvement blogs, visit a paint store, or talk to a professional painting contractor.

Denver-based writer Laura Daily specializes in consumer advocacy and travel strategy. Find it on


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