There seems to be a LOT of confusion on this topic, and the wrong choice of finish can lead to poor outcomes. (V!?!) I want to give you a basic where-to-use-what guide to help. They guys at the paint counter, while experts in paint, are not experts on interior decor and can often lead you in the WRONG direction. I found a pretty good explanation that speaks to the finishes. I have edited the original below. The full text article can be found here. My comments are in parentheses.
- There are many different types of interior paint finishes, all of which essentially refer to the final paint finishes reaction to light. Different manufacturers of paint sell paint in any combination of finishes, though generally not all of them. The following descriptions of interior paint finishes refer to interior latex paints.
- Flat and matte paint finishes have no real sheen when the paint has dried. Rather than reflect light, flat and matte paint finishes absorb it. Both paint finishes are good for hiding small surface imperfections and imperfections in application, such as brush or roller marks. Flat and matte finishes are good choices for interior walls in rooms that receive little traffic or for painting ceilings. Both paint finishes are generally poor choices for kitchens, baths, and kids’ rooms because they do not wash as well as other paint finishes. (**I have never purchased flat paint)
- An eggshell paint finish is similar to a matte finish but has a tiny amount of sheen to it when dried. It is a good choice for interior walls and washes slightly better than flat wall paint. Eggshell paint finishes are sometimes interchangeable with matte paint finishes in certain brands of paint. (**I prefer this finish for most interior walls, color looks rich & opaque)
- A satin paint finish is often the glossiest paint finish a decorator will recommend for any room save the kitchen and bath. It is not a high-gloss finish, but does have a smooth, velvety shine to it when dried. Satin paint finishes do not hide imperfections in surfaces or application as well as the aforementioned finishes, but they are forgiving enough for novice painters to use. A satin paint finish will reflect more light than eggshell and is a great choice for kids’ rooms and trim as it stands up well to washing. (**I prefer this for the kitchen & bathrooms)
- Semi-gloss and high-gloss paint finishes are at the other end of the spectrum and reflect the most light of any paint finish when dried. Semi-gloss is a great choice for kitchens and baths as the finish can stand up to water and frequent cleaning better than other finishes. Many people also choose to paint trim with semi-gloss paint for the same reasons. High-gloss paints are not generally popular choices for walls, but many people choose gloss paint for painting furniture especially for a modern look or durable paint finish. (**while the guy at the paint counter will tell you to use semi gloss in a bathroom, I highly advise not. Satin will hold up just as well and make for a prettier color finish. I tend to use semi-gloss for trim only. I have used high gloss on furniture and it has held up beautifully)
- Choosing the right interior paint finish is mostly a matter of personal preference; just remember that the higher the sheen, the more durable the paint is (**but carries less color wow) in the face of frequent traffic and washing. Keeping in mind the use of the room you are painting will help you to select the right interior paint finish. It’s choosing the right color that’s the hard part!