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kitchen cabinets freshly painted in blue with a glossy finish

Glossy Finish

Originally contributed by Jeff Butler • last updated 1/21/2021

Deciding how glossy you want the finish on your paint job to be can be a tough decision. These days, there are a range of gloss levels available, and understanding the differences and how they perform can be overwhelming for even experienced DIYers.

Definition

When talking about paint, the terms gloss and sheen are sometimes used interchangeably to describe how shiny (or glossy) a paint’s finish appears after it has dried. However, some paint manufacturers do distinguish between the terms gloss and sheen and measure them separately. In this case, how glossy a paint is typically refers to the amount of light that is reflected off its surface with “high-gloss” (or “glossy”) being at the high end and “flat” being at the low end. There are a range of gloss levels commonly available between high-gloss and flat, including: full gloss, semi-gloss, satin, eggshell, and matte.

Should You Choose A Glossy Finish For Your Project?

Choosing the right gloss level has almost always been determined by the utility of the paint. Things are different now as paint manufacturers are designing new formulations.

  • Traditionally, how glossy a paint’s finish was also determined how well it would perform under certain conditions. Semi-gloss and high-gloss paints were typically more durable and resistant to moisture so they were used in bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms.
  • However, paints now come specially formulated with different gloss levels that hold up in high-traffic areas and prevent moisture damage, so even matte finishes can be used in bathrooms and kitchens.
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