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Paint Finishes |Terms What Do They All Mean?

By May 1, 2014October 11th, 20182 Comments

Paint finishes and all the terms, what do they mean? VOC paints, gloss, semi-gloss, flat etc. If the lingo of paint is a little confusing for you came to the right spot. This is to help clarify what these terms mean and what the best paint is for each application. Here are the basics you will need to get your painting project started.

Paint finishes


Paint Terms


stands for volatile organic compounds that are found in paint and other items around your house that can harm you. They are gases that release as the material ages over time. These can cause allergic reactions in some people, so if you can reduce the amount of these in the products you use in and around your home, the healthier the home will be. Look for products that say Low VOC.

Latex based paint-

these are water-based paints made with synthetic binders i.e. acrylic, vinyl, and other polymers. They are easy to clean up and good for interior wall paints. If you are unfamiliar with paint I would recommend skipping the big box stores and going to your local paint store for help when selecting paint. Price typically does correlate to the quality and amount of pigments in paint. Keep in mind that top-quality paints go on more smoothly, will show fewer brush marks and cover in fewer coasts than cheaper paints.

Oil-based paint

These paints contain drying oil which creates a film that makes the paint dry slower. Due to the new technology of acrylics, oil-based paints are somewhat of yesterday.

Waterborne enamels or alkyds– these behave much like oil based paints but are water-based and have good leveling qualities for a smooth finish and maintain the performance of past oil-based paints. Do NOT paint with waterborne enamels over oil based because they most likely will not adhere. It is best to sand down with fine sandpaper the surface if suspect the last coat of paint was oil base, clean and dry to prevent peeling of the new coat. These are a great choice for surfaces that see a lot of wear such as doors, cabinets, and trim.


Matte or Flat finish

this is a finish where when dry, will be free from gloss or sheen. The surface is velvety; it absorbs and scatters the light so the finish hides imperfections well. This is an excellent option for ceilings and covering walls with a lot of imperfections. It works best in low traffic areas because it is not very easy to clean.

Eggshell or satin finish

this finish is similar to the surface of an egg, it is not shiny or glossy but it is not flat either. It is a soft finish with very little sheen. It is great for high traffic areas like hallways, kitchens, children’s rooms because it is easier to clean and can withstand repeated cleaning.

Semi-gloss or Gloss-

this finish has a reflective sheen and is highly durable. Due to being very reflective anything coated in semi-gloss or gloss will emphasize any surface imperfections. Semi-gloss has a subtle shine, where gloss has more of sheen. They stand up to multiple cleanings and are traditionally used on baseboards, moldings, cabinets, and doors.

Knowing the differences between the finishes and types of paint makes choosing a breeze to get the best results possible for your painting project. I have seen matte finished combined with semi-gloss on a striped wall and the results are stunningBe creative, and now confident that you will be using the right finish and paint for your projects.

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Karen GP

Author Karen GP

Karen GrayPlaisted is the principle owner of Design Solutions KGP. She is a graduate from Pace University and The Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC. Her marketing background and design sense are a perfect combination for home sellers. In the first year she began her staging business, she won the ‘Rising Star’ accolade from RESA, selected from all North American stagers, USA and Canada. In 2016 she won top Occupied Stager in the USA. Karen’s ability to educate and empower clients using simple solutions allows homeowners to transform their spaces with desirable affordable decadence.

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