Choosing the right finish of paint can be a task. What finish works where and what doesn’t? There is no set rule in place that says you can’t use a satin or semi-gloss on your walls. But if you do, be prepared to see every imperfection there is on the walls. As a rule of thumb, flat or matte finishes work best on the ceilings. If you have crown molding, this usually goes from a satin to your glossier paints. Even as high a shine as high gloss. But there again, the shinier the paint, the more you will see flaws and imperfections.
But you say you want to be able to wash the walls. That fine. Most egg shell finishes on the walls are washable and show less imperfections such as sheetrock screws, seams and patched places on the walls. Most of your finishes with a shine cannot be touched up either. If you look at the place you touched up straight on, it won’t show. But look at the spot at an angle and catch it in the light, say from a window and you will see the spot that was touched up. Only a flat finish will provide you with a nice touched up area. If you have small children or grandchildren, more than likely you will experience a crayon or Sharpie mark on the walls. Luckily most of these areas will be down low and easily touched up with a primer and paint. I would recommend an oil primer for these marks. Water based primers don’t work well for this. What I like to use is Kilz in a spray can. It dries quickly and you don’t have to clean up a brush. It also works well on water stains on the ceilings.
So what do I recommend for walls, ceilings and trim?
Again, this is a personal choice but if asked, and sometimes I just have to throw in my two cents worth, but a flat or matte finish works best on ceilings. Walls do well but not really washable. However you can touch up places easily instead of washing. On a side note here, never use an alcohol based cleaner for walls finished in latex. It will remove the finish and paint.
Eggshell, is a finish most used on walls. Ceilings don’t usually do well but it will work if there are no imperfections. I have used it and it depends on many things but I have actually seen where the ceilings joists are. That isn’t good.
Satin finishes are used mainly on trim and cabinets. Mostly by those that don’t want a lot of shine but still want to be able to clean. We have used satin latex finishes in public hallways and corridors.
Semi-gloss is used mostly for trim, doors and windows. A little higher on the “shiny” list. The finish looks great on trim but on walls it shows too many flaws.
Gloss and high-gloss finishes are used almost exclusively on trim, windows and doors. It is or those that like almost a mirror like shine. For me personally it is just too shiny. But that is why there are different finishes available. Different strokes for different folks.
I’ve got to say something about all of these new paint and primer all in one paints. They are useless. They do not prime well over any spackled areas and if you are repainting a wall, you don’t need to prime it anyway. Two coats of your paint will usually do it. Bold, brighter colors may require three coats but as a rule two will do it. We recently used Benjamin Moore’s Aura paint and primer. The cost was almost $60 per gallon. I wouldn’t give you $10 for it. It had so much acrylic in it that it almost ran off the walls. BM paints are top quality usually but I hope we never use Aura again. The paints and primers all in one are just not worth the cost. Your best bet is to go to your local Pittsburgh, Sherwin Williams or Benjamin Moore store and use their brands. Except the Aura of course. The worst paints on the market come from Lowes and Home Depot. I am speaking from experience here. And they aren’t that much less expensive than the paint stores.