a off white kitchen with high gloss paint sheen

Paint Sheen

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

Selecting paint can be one of the most difficult and rewarding decisions to make during just about any home renovation. However, understanding the basics beyond just the color, such as the level of sheen that paint has, can go a long way toward achieving the best look possible.


Commonly, the term sheen refers to the level of gloss or shine that a painted surface reflects after it has dried. Paints with more sheen reflect light better and appear shinier than paints with a lower level of sheen. However, some paint manufacturers use the terms sheen and gloss to refer to different ways that light reflects off of a flat (matte finish) paint compared to a shiny paint. In this case, the sheen and gloss levels of a paint are measured in units of 1-100 by reflecting light at different angles (60 degrees and 85 degrees, respectively).

How To select A Paint Sheen Level For Your Project

Sometimes, selecting a paint sheen level just comes down to personal preference. But, there are times when a paint with more or less sheen may be better suited for the project.

  • Flat paints with a lower level of sheen tend to hide imperfections. If you’re painting an imperfect surface or you’re worried about brush strokes, paints with lower levels of sheen may be a better option.
  • Paints with higher levels of sheen tend to be easier to clean. They also tend to reflect light better and can make smaller rooms look bigger.