How to pick the right finish and quality of interior paint


As if picking the right color wasn’t overwhelming enough, choosing an interior color involves more than just finding the perfect shade of teal. You must also determine the best formulation for the type of room or surface you are painting and decide what gloss is right for the job.

“Think about where you’re going to paint and what you want out of the finish,” says Alex Sinclair, director of product information at Sherwin-Williams.

If you haven’t bought a paint lately, don’t be surprised at the jump in price. Raw materials, supply chain and transportation issues, and even the cost of metal cans have all contributed to the rise. The price of interior paint increased 21.2 percent in 2021 from 2020, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Producer Price Index program.

Expect $55 to $60 a gallon for a quality product and $90 to $100 a gallon for a super premium paint, says Mike Mundwiller, end user product experience manager at Benjamin Moore. “When it comes to color, it’s true you get what you pay for. In some cases, this is due to the harsh cost of the materials that go into the paint. In addition, it has a lot to do with the technology in the can,” he says.

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Advances in paint technology have given consumers greater choice of paint types and finishes. Today’s water-based latex paints are formulated to work almost as well as their oil-based counterparts without strong odors, long drying times, or the need to use solvents to clean brushes and spills.

Most major paint manufacturers offer a range of interior options and price points. All are subject to a quality and performance standard; The difference between lines and prices depends on the technology and characteristics of each color. For example, a cheaper option might be an easy-to-use paint that’s easy to apply and touch up. However, it may not have the same washability, durability, and color retention as higher-priced offerings.

A high-quality premium product can also be the better choice when covering a dark surface. “While this gallon costs more upfront compared to others on the market, you need less of it because it offers better skin,” Mundwiller says. “Some paints that are less expensive per gallon require you to use more of it to cover.”

It may be worth spending more. “Premium paints are formulated to have exceptional coverage, even on dark colors, and withstand more wear and tear than some of the lower-priced products,” says Sinclair. “Excellent washability, durability and moisture resistance are just some of the attributes that make the extra expense worth it.”

Finish — referred to as luster or shine — can be almost as important as color when choosing a product. It determines how much light is reflected off a painted surface, allowing it to stand out or fade into the background. To make matters worse, shine is subjective and doesn’t have an industry standard, Mundwiller says.

Typically, you’ll find paint finishes in a few variations of matte, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss, and gloss. “Lower sheen and shimmer help hide imperfections, making them ideal for walls with imperfections and high-traffic hallways with lots of natural light,” says Sinclair. Because ceilings are so difficult to paint and tend to develop overlap marks (a deeper color or increased gloss when wet and dry coats overlap during application), a level surface is usually used.

High gloss paint, like satin, is usually more durable and easier to clean, but a paint classified as “high gloss” used in a bright room could glare like a mirror. According to Mundwiller, baseboards, crown molding and front doors are suitable for satin or a higher gloss because the contrast between a wall and a baseboard, for example, can create an appealing look. Satin or semi-gloss surfaces on kitchen cabinets are also trendy. “It’s a balance of attributes: covering up flaws and minimizing traces of roundness versus how much light reflects off that surface,” he says.

Innovations across the board have led to more durable colors. “All gloss levels are now stain and moisture resistant. That means you can use virtually any gloss in an area like a bathroom or kitchen,” says Sinclair. Because some colors can be used on a variety of surfaces, they may be available in a wider range of glosses.

When choosing a gloss, consider the use of your space and how you want the color to perform. Here is a list to guide you.

  • Even: No shine. Conceals imperfections but is more difficult to keep clean. Best suited for ceilings, walls and low-traffic areas.
  • Frosted: Almost shine-free. Hides imperfections. Withstands cleaning. Best for walls, family rooms, living rooms, dining rooms and bedrooms.
  • eggshell: One of the most popular highlights. Almost no shine, but durable and easy to care for. Best for family rooms, living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchens.
  • Satin: A higher gloss than eggshell. Dirt-resistant and durable. Best suited for high traffic walls, bathrooms, kitchens, windows, shutters, paneling and interior doors.
  • Semi Glossy: Smooth finish. Best for trim, doors and kitchen cabinets.
  • Shine: A mirror-like finish. Easy to clean and stain resistant. Best suited for paneling, doors, cabinets and architectural details.

Before painting, you may need to consider purchasing an interior primer. Though many paints market themselves as a “primer and topcoat” all in one, Mundwiller says using a separate primer is a better, more cost-effective option when it comes to: a porous surface for the paint to penetrate, allowing a coating with an expensive paint is a problem Waste of money; a mottled surface; or an area previously painted with a glossy finish. (Primer helps the new top coat adhere.)

To determine the best paint for your job, do your research first. Both Sherwin-Williams and Benjamin Moore have how-to guides on their websites. You might also want to read home improvement blogs, visit a paint store, or speak to a professional painting company.

Denver-based author Laura Daily specializes in consumer protection and travel strategies. Find them under

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