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About House Paint

Sheen and Gloss Explained

The Master Painters Institute (MPI) sets paint sheen Standards for all paints.


Although there are different standards for different types of applications a paint is used for (auto finishes, alkyd oil, rough texture, etc.), the sheen levels we will be refering to are based on currently in use latex house paints that are applied to a smooth drywall surface, such as your interior walls and ceilings.


What does Paint Gloss mean?

A gloss paint means that it is glass-like or shiney.

The amount of gloss for any paint goes from flat to gloss - to high gloss, with some subtle variations between flat and semi-gloss, such as eggshell, satin, velvet, pearl, etc...
Each paint manufacturer creates their own level of sheen for each paint they produce, but will always fall within MPI specs.

The more gloss a paint has, the more expensive the paint will be, the more durable, the easier it to wipe with a sponge to clean it, however, the more gloss a paint has; the easier to see drywall irregularities.

In the case of latex house paints, measuring gloss reflectance is done by using a single beam of light - deflected off the surface (a 60 degree angle in this case) into a receptor. The receptor gauges the intensity of that light in "gloss units", the higher the gloss unit number, the shinier the surface will be.

Flat Paint

There once was a time when almost every manufacturer made a flat latex paint, but most paints today that advertise "flat" - are not truly a flat.


A true flat paint has no reflection of light. As a matter of fact, a true flat paint absorbes light.


Since flat paint has no reflective properties, it is the perfect paint to use when you want to hide drywall irregularities, and would be the best choice to put on your ceilings. It's also a great paint to use on new homes or when you want to sell your home, since; it has the most pigments, it covers very well, and can be touched up.

Matte Paint

Matte Paint has just a (very) slight sheen to it.

It is so close to being a flat, but the slight sheen is obvious. If you use a Matte Paint, make sure your drywall is perfect, and make sure you apply it quickly, otherwise; you will see all your drywall irregularities and your lap marks.