Design 101 with Caroline Brackett: Paint Finishes


One question I always get after selecting paint colors for a project is, “which finish?”. Color isn’t all that you need to consider when planning your next paint project. Whether tackling it yourself or hiring a professional, it’s important to know the in’s and out’s of the different finishes that are available.

The options for color are endless, but there are typically just four finishes to choose from within most paint manufacturer’s line. They may all call them something different, but they remain the same in their characteristics of luster and cleanability. Generally speaking, the shinier the finish, the easier it will be to wipe down and clean. See below for some pros and cons of each and how we at Caroline Brackett Studio of Design like to use different paint finishes in our projects.

Flat paint has is chalkier and has a more matte appearance than other finishes. Although it is
better for hiding surface imperfections, it is more difficult to wipe and is more absorbent. In most
cases, we use flat paint for ceilings only.

An eggshell finish has more luster than flat paint and offers more wirability. We commonly use it
bedrooms, closets, and secondary rooms where the traffic is moderate and we don’t need the
drama of sheen. This is the most commonly and widely used finish for walls.

Semi gloss paint does reflect some light and is good for walls and surfaces that need to be
cleaned frequently. Try it in hallways and children’t rooms. This is my go-to finish for mill work
and trim. It is elegant, but not blindingly shiny.

A high gloss finish will intensify any color you have chosen and create a more dramatic effect in
the room. It is especially impressive when applied in rich, deep colors when applied to walls.
Although very easy to clean, it is not so great for hiding imperfections – which we are willing to
overlook in order to achieve the desired effect! I love to go high gloss in foyers, dining rooms,
powder rooms, and master bedrooms. High gloss is also a go-to finish for trim, cabinets, and

Designer tip:
Some people think that lacquer and high gloss are the same. This is NOT the case. Lacquer is a multi-step decorative painting process that has a mirror like finish. When you don’t have the time
(or money) for lacquer, high gloss paint is your next best option.

Don’t be afraid to have fun and break the rules! These are merely suggestions. For example, try painting entire rooms (trim, ceiling, and walls) in the same color and finish, or varying them for more visual interest. But always remember, sample first! Although paint selection can be a daunting task, hopefully these tips and pointers will help you when selecting paint for your next project.

Caroline Brackett on FacebookCaroline Brackett on Instagram
Caroline Brackett
Caroline Brackett is founder and principal at Caroline Brackett Studio of Design, a full-service interior design studio based in Greenville SC. A graduate of UGA School of Interior Design in 2001, Caroline has been in the industry for 16+ years, recently relocating from Charlotte, NC. With a fresh and sophisticated approach to design, Caroline is known for creating unique and comfortable spaces for her clients near and far. Learn more at​

Comments are closed.