How to Choose the Best Paint Finish for Every Area of Your Home, From Kitchen Cabinets to Bathroom Walls

Wondering where to use flat, satin, semi-gloss, and other paint finishes? We asked the experts to explain.

Choosing the perfect paint color for your home is a big decision, but perhaps even more important is choosing the right type of paint finish. Also known as sheen, paint finish refers to the amount of light the paint reflects from its surface, which dictates how shiny it is. Flat paint has no shine, while high gloss is very shiny. Beyond aesthetics, knowing the difference between finishes is important as some are easier to clean and stand up to damage better than others. To make the choice easier, we’re sharing the best types of paint for each area of your home.


Kitchen surfaces are susceptible to damage from cooking grease and heavy traffic. Protect your walls and cabinets from damage by using the appropriate type of paint.


In the kitchen, utilize paints that are easy to clean and maintain, such as semi-gloss or satin finishes, says Kerrie Kelly, creative director of Kerrie Kelly Design Lab. “They resist stains and grease, ensuring that the walls stay pristine even in a high-traffic area.”


For kitchen cabinets, a durable and washable paint like semi-gloss or high-gloss is best. “These finishes are resilient against grease and frequent cleaning, preserving the cabinets’ appearance for years,” says Kelly.

Dining Room

Dining room walls can easily build up with scuffs and smudges, which is why choosing a paint that doesn’t show these imperfections easily is ideal. “Eggshell is commonly used in dining rooms, as it is durable and does not pick up dirt easily,” says Erika Woelfel, vice president of color and creative services for Behr.

Living Room

Frequently used for entertaining and spending time with family, the living room benefits from versatile paints like satin or eggshell finish. These provide a balance between durability and aesthetics. “They offer a subtle sheen while being durable enough to withstand daily activities,” says Kelly. While both are durable and easy to clean, satin paint will give your living room a subtle shine.


Bathrooms require paint that is moisture-resistant and durable, like semi-gloss. “Semi-gloss is one of the most versatile paint finishes because it is easy to clean and water-resistant, making it a great choice for your bathroom walls and trim,” says Woelfel. “The sleek sheen resists mildew and wear, so it’s great for bathrooms.”


While ceilings aren’t exposed to every day scuffs and damage in the same way walls are, they need a paint that will protect them from cooking grease, smoke, dust, and other particles that can dirty the surface over time. For this area, choose a flat or semi-gloss paint finish as both are designed to hide imperfections.


As beautiful as it is, the main purpose of trim is to cover the gaps between two areas (like the wall and the ceiling or the wall and a window). It can also be used to protect your walls from damage from furnishings, meaning it needs a paint that is durable. “For trim, opt for a semi-gloss or high-gloss paint,” says Kelly. “Their sheen not only adds a touch of elegance but also offers durability and easy maintenance, enhancing the visual appeal of architectural details.”


When choosing a paint for your home’s exterior, think about the surface you are painting—the body, doors, windows, etc. “Lower sheen paints are often chosen for the body of the house, while higher sheen paints are often used for trim, doors, and accents,” says Woelfel.