There's a lot more to choosing an interior paint than picking a color. Not only do you have to consider the hues of the furniture and flooring; 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 may appear dull.

It's the paint sheen, or finish, that affects how the color appears depending on whether it absorbs light or reflects it. In addition, for the paint to hold up well over time, it has to be durable enough for the surface and the situation. Typically, the shinier the finish, the tougher the paint. Here’s Consumer Reports' guide to paint sheens from the least to most shiny, and the rooms in which you should use them.

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. These finishes are the least resistant to stains, and although many did well in our mildew-resistance tests, the other finishes were 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 shinier and more durable. Both are tougher and easier to clean than flat or matte paint. You’ll find that some paint lines offer both eggshell and satin. These sheens 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 tougher than they use to be and can be used on both walls and trim.


The most lustrous and toughest of this group, semigloss paints resist stains and are easy to clean. Very smooth surfaces are a must.

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

Best and Worst Paints

See our interior paint ratings of 24 lines, from the top-rated Behr Marquee to the bottom-rated Color Place from Walmart. Prices are $17 to $105 per gallon. And 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.