There's a lot more to choosing an interior paint than picking a color. You have to consider the hues of the furniture and flooring, and the amount of light a room gets makes a difference, too. Picking a paint that's too shiny can reflect too much light, and one that's too flat might appear dull.

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It's the paint sheen, or finish, that affects how the color appears. And that depends on whether it absorbs light or reflects it. In addition, for paint to hold up well over time, it has to be durable enough for the surface and the situation.

Here is Consumer Reports' guide to paint sheens from the least to most shiny, and a breakdown of which ones work best in particular parts of the house.

Flat and Matte

Flat paint has a nonreflective finish and matte is low luster. A paint brand usually offers one or the other. Both help hide imperfections on the surface. "But these finishes are the least resistant to stains," says Rico de Paz, the engineer who oversees CR's tests of paints and stains. "And although many did well in our mildew-resistance tests, the other finishes generally performed better." 

Best uses: Ceilings, living rooms, bedrooms, and anyplace with little wear and tear or where messy splatters are uncommon.

Eggshell and Satin

For a softer look, choose eggshell. "Satin is slightly shinier, and both are easier to clean than flat or matte paint," says de Paz. You’ll find that some paint lines offer both eggshell and satin. These sheens tend to accentuate surface imperfections, so take time prepping, getting the walls as smooth as possible. Scrape away cracked or peeling paint with a metal putty knife. And use it to remove bumps, dried-on paint, and the raised edges around nail holes.

Best uses: Eggshell can be used in the family room, living room, bedrooms, and hallways. Satin works well in those rooms, too—anywhere, really—and in the kitchen, dining area, children’s bedrooms, bathrooms, and hallways. Many satin finishes are tough and can be used on both walls and trim.

Semigloss

"The most lustrous of this group, semigloss paints typically resist stains better than the other finishes and are easy to clean," says de Paz. Very smooth surfaces are a must.

Best uses: Trim, windows, and doors. For walls that are in great condition, consider semigloss for a kid's room, the kitchen, and bathrooms if you don't mind the shine.

Best and Worst Paints

Our Paint Buying Guide is a good primer, and see our interior paint ratings of 21 lines. Prices range from $17 to $70 per gallon—and paying more doesn't necessarily get you a better paint. Because years of testing showed us that a paint line’s various finishes perform similarly overall, we’ve combined the scores into one to make it easier for you to shop.