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Which Sheen Is the Best Kind of Exterior Paint?

Which Sheen Is the Best Kind of Exterior Paint?

“Sheen” is a buzzword for exterior painters, but what difference does it make for your home or HOA painting projects? It can affect both the appearance and the performance of paint finishes, depending on where and how a paint of a particular sheen is used.

What’s Paint Sheen?

In terms of paint appearance, sheen is the degree of shine—or lack of shine—that’s visible on the painted surface.

“Paint sheen is determined by the ratio of resins and binders to pigment levels in the paint. Paints with a high level of resins/binders create a high-sheen, shiny surface, while those where the pigment levels are high, create a less reflective surface.”

Different manufacturers use different terms to describe paint sheen. Generally, paint sheens fall into four different levels:

  1. Flat/Matte

  2. Satin (also known as Eggshell/Low-Luster)

  3. Semi-Gloss

  4. Gloss/High Gloss (or high-gloss).

For each level, the ratio of resins/binders to pigments increases with each level. Matte sheens have the lowest sheen level. Satin is the next lowest sheen. Semi-gloss has something between a matte and a mirror-like finish. Gloss/high-gloss paints offer the highest-level sheen available for exterior painting. (Source: The Spruce)

How to Spot Different Paint Sheens

One of the best ways to narrow down your exterior paint choices is to know how each level of sheen looks on the surface where it’s painted. Here’s how to spot the differences between degree/type of exterior paint sheen:

  • A flat or matte paint sheen is dull rather than glistening: it absorbs light rather than reflecting it, and doesn’t have a “shine” to it.

  • Satin/Eggshell sheens have a bit more dimension to their finish than mattes, giving them a slight shine.

  • Semi-gloss is in the middle of the range of paint sheens. Shine is definitely more visible than mattes or eggshells, but it’s not the most reflective option available.

  • High-gloss paint sheens are mirror-like: light reflects off of them instead of being absorbed into the exterior surface.

Beyond these differences, sheen appearance will also vary depending on the surfaces being painted. Some types of wood and wood siding may make sheens appear less reflective, while others may enhance the glossiness of the finish. Your results will also vary depending on how many coats of paint you use.

And it’s important to remember that errors in application or surface preparation mean imperfections or inconsistencies in both the look of exterior paint sheen, and how long it lasts on a surface.

Is One Sheen Best for Exterior Surfaces?

Surfaces and tastes differ, of course. Many exterior painters use satin or eggshell finishes for the exterior of a home because of their blend of coverage, aesthetic appeal, and long-term performance. But other sheens may be the best choice for your unique surface or painting project.

Here are some reasons people choose matte finishes for exterior painting:

  • A flat finish paint is easier to apply without leaving lap marks, which makes it a go-to for DIY painting and projects that need a quick turnaround (i.e., painting your home yourself before putting it on the market).

  • Low reflectivity means surface blemishes can be more easily covered and camouflaged with matte finishes.

  • Matte will improve the aesthetic appeal of exteriors more quickly due to their quick curing time, but it will need more frequent repainting and is a greater time/cost investment when it comes to long-term maintenance.

Here’s why many homeowners and property managers decide on eggshell/satin finishes:

  • If your home or HOA property sees a lot of outdoor activity near building exteriors, satin or semi-gloss paint sheens are a good fit.

  • These wipeable finishes make exteriors easy to clean and stand up well against dirt, moisture, and wear and tear.

High-gloss finishes are very aesthetically appealing, but it may not be best to paint the entire exterior surface with these sheens.

  • Yes, they’re very easy-to-clean and highly-durable sheens. But covering exteriors with high-gloss paint tends to make them look “plastic.

  • Because they’re the most reflective sheens available, they magnify surface imperfections rather than hiding them.

Exterior Painting with Peace of Mind

When making decisions about exterior painting, you don’t have to leave it to chance or feel overwhelmed. Every exterior painting contractor at Trico Painting has an in-depth understanding of available sheens, and the performance each one offers against dirt, moisture, and the elements.

And when you’re working with experts, your paint choices aren’t limited by ease of application. You can choose the paint for your project based on results, and feel confident that you’re getting durable, high-performing finishes.

Whether you’re looking to match an existing sheen or repainting building exteriors, we can customize exterior painting solutions for your home or HOA. Contact us today if you’re ready for a more beautiful exterior protected by a high-performing sheen.