Is your home in need of a new interior paint job? Even if you don’t have a house full of rowdy kids and pets, interior paint doesn’t last forever.

You might have fond memories attached to every mark and smudge on the walls of your home, but you’ll eventually need to prioritize a refresh. Fresh paint makes a world of difference. Rooms feel brighter and larger, and if you’re considering putting your house on the market any time soon, newly painted walls are a great selling point.

When you’re ready to have the inside of your house repainted, don’t try to turn the project into a DIY adventure. Painting is one of those home improvement tasks that sounds a lot easier than it actually is, and professional painters can save you from a time-consuming, labor-intensive disaster.

Even with the pros on board, however, you’ll still need to select colors and finishes. Color selection alone isn’t easy—there are so many choices!—and trying to settle on the right paint finish for each room can make your head spin. Many professional painting companies have color consultants on staff to help you choose the best shades for your house, but a little extra knowledge about paint types and finishes never hurt anyone.

Keep reading to learn more about the interior paint types and finishes available on today’s market, and scroll to the end for a cheat sheet to help you choose the right paint finish for each room in your house.

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Popular Interior Paint Types

Room half painted white with ladder and painting toolsThe paint department of your local home improvement store can be a little daunting. The professional painting company you hire will be able to direct you to the best interior paint types for your house, but if you’d like to learn a bit ahead of time, you’ve come to the right place!

A quick note before we get started: We’re only going to discuss latex (also referred to as water-based) paint in this article. The latex paint formulations on the market today perform so well that there’s really no need to use oil-based paint anymore. Oil-based paint isn’t good for the environment, and recent regulations have made it expensive and difficult to find.

Interior paint finishes

Close-up image of paint brush and brushstrokes in red paint

1. Matte

A matte finish (also referred to as flat) is great for hiding imperfections in walls because it has little to no sheen. This smooth, richly colored finish makes matte latex paint a popular choice for the cozy parts of your home, such as bedrooms and family rooms.

Pros

  • Hides flaws well
  • Gives rooms a warm, intimate feeling
  • Colors appear rich and deep
  • Touch-ups are easier than with glossier finishes

Cons

  • Can be difficult to clean without removing paint if smudged or marked

2. Eggshell

Latex paint with an eggshell finish looks much like, well, an eggshell—matte with just a hint of sheen. If you love the look of a matte finish but are concerned about being able to remove smudges, eggshell is a good option.

Pros

  • Hides flaws well
  • Easier to clean than a true matte finish
  • Colors appear just as rich as they do in a matte finish

Cons

  • Some smudges and marks may still be difficult to remove

3. Satin

Satin finish is a step glossier than eggshell and has a medium shine that’s iridescent or pearl-like. If your family includes kids and/or pets, paint with a satin finish is a sanity-preserving choice. You can use safely use satin paint in every room of your home.

Pros

  • Doesn’t highlight flaws in the wall
  • Easy to clean—marks and smudges wipe away
  • Has just enough sheen to reflect a bit of light, making rooms appear brighter and larger

Cons

  • Brushstrokes or roller marks will be obvious—an experienced painter is essential
  • Can be difficult to touch up later

4. Semi-gloss and gloss

Semi-gloss and gloss are the workhorses of paint finishes. Semi-gloss paint is durable and very easy to clean, so it’s a perfect choice for kitchens, bathrooms, and utility spaces, like a mudroom or laundry room. Gloss paint, also referred to as high-gloss, is even shinier. It’s best suited for doors and trim.

Pros

  • Very easy to clean
  • Durable and resistant to scratches and dents
  • Environmentally friendly alternative to oil-based trim paint

Cons

  • Reflects light, so the paint color may look different than anticipated
  • Shows all imperfections on a surface

When you work with a professional painter, you can trust their recommendations for both color and finish. They’re pros at this, after all—they have seen it all and know what looks good and what clashes terribly.

That being said, there’s nothing wrong with doing a little research beforehand. The paint department of your local home improvement store can whip up paint samples for you in the colors and finishes you’re considering. Paint a few swatches on the walls in your house to make sure that you love the color and the finish in all types of light.

Perfect Paint Finishes by Room

Child's bedroom with light-green walls

As you can tell from the list above, some paint finishes work better in certain areas of your home than others. No professional painter would ever encourage you to use a high-gloss paint in your bedroom, for example—the shiny walls would be distracting.

Here’s a quick cheat sheet to help you land on the perfect paint finish for the different rooms in your house:

Front entryway

Use a satin or semi-gloss paint here.

If the front door is seldom used and only by visitors, you can get away with satin. If your front entryway is a high-traffic area used by everyone in your household, use semi-gloss. Grubby handprints and marks from bags and backpacks will wipe away much more easily.

Hallways

Opt for a satin finish.

Hallways can see quite a bit of traffic, and satin cleans relatively easily without being too shiny. If your household doesn’t include kids or pets, you may be able to use paint with an eggshell finish.

Adult and guest bedrooms

Use a matte or eggshell finish.

Adult bedrooms and guest rooms typically don’t see a lot of heavy use (or crayons and markers on the walls), so you won’t need to worry as much about the ease of removing marks and smudges. A flat finish works perfectly.

Kids’ bedrooms

Do yourself a favor and go with a satin finish.

Kids are messy—that’s part of how they learn about the world—but knowing that doesn’t make it any less frustrating when they use their crayon collection to create murals on their bedroom walls. Walls painted with a satin finish will clean right up with a damp towel.

Bathrooms

Opt for a semi-gloss finish.

Bathrooms are wet spaces. They get humid, and water is sometimes splashed on the walls. If the walls are painted with a semi-gloss finish, you’ll be able to wipe up splashes and condensation without leaving spots on the walls.

Kitchen

Use a semi-gloss finish here, too.

Kitchens see daily use, and spills, splashes, and messes are bound to happen. A semi-gloss finish cleans up easily so you can cook and entertain freely, without worrying about the walls.

Laundry and/or utility room

Use more semi-gloss!

Laundry and utility spaces are often windowless, and a semi-gloss paint will reflect enough light to make the room feel less cave-like. And as we’ve mentioned, semi-gloss is super simple to clean, which makes it perfect for a utilitarian space.

The Bottom Line

A new coat of paint makes such a difference in the feel of your home. Fresh paint can brighten and modernize a space as long as you choose the right color and finish. An experienced, professional painter is your key to an interior painting project done well.

Use our guide to paint finishes and your painter’s advice to make the final decisions about updating the interior of your home.

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