What Exterior Paint Sheen Should You Use?

When painting the exterior of your house, you will be faced with many decisions regarding color, type of paint, and sheen. Just like with interior paint, exterior paint comes in a number of different sheens. The type of sheen should be looked at along with the paint color and brand. All three of these are important for not only the appearance of the home but also the performance of the paint. At Osborne Painting, we have the experience to help you pick the right sheen for your house. Let us give you some tips that will make it easier when you are choosing the best sheen for the exterior surfaces of your home.

What Is Paint Sheen?

Paint sheen affects the appearance and the performance of the exterior paint. For the appearance factor, paint with sheen provides a shine whereas paint without sheen has no shine. If the paint has a sheen, light reflects off of it and it is glossy. If it is flat or matte, without shine, it absorbs light. These are the two extremes; but, between these, there are other degrees of sheen. Sheen also plays a part in the paint’s performance. High-gloss paint works best for high-impact or wet applications. Paint with dull sheens, like matte and flat, are less durable and attract more dirt.

exterior house paint sheens

Four Sheen Levels

It’s important to note that different manufacturers have different terms for describing their paints. Generally, however, there are four different levels of sheen–flat (also called matte), satin (also called eggshell or low-luster), semi-gloss, and high-gloss. The ratio of resins/binders to pigments creates the sheen. The more shine a paint has the higher this ratio is.


Paint that has a flat finish hides imperfections better than a paint with a gloss finish, so a matte paint is appropriate on surfaces that are more blemished and uneven. A house with a rough surface like cedar siding would be best painted using a matte paint. High-quality flat paint is durable and washable, yet it isn’t as easy to clean as paint with a higher sheen. Additionally, a flat paint will not withstand abrasion like a higher sheen paint.


Even though satin (also called eggshell) finishes have a low-level sheen, they are still pretty good at hiding bumps and imperfections although not as effective as matte. The same paint color will appear slightly richer in a satin sheen as compared to a flat sheen. You can wipe down a surface painted with satin or eggshell paint, or hose it with water. Applying paint with a satin finish is a little more difficult because it will show lap marks that a matte paint won’t. Keeping a wet edge is important when applying paint with an eggshell finish. This type of paint needs to be thoroughly mixed before application in order to hold the resins and pigments in a uniform ratio throughout the can. 

Semi-Gloss and High Gloss

It’s best to use semi-gloss and high-gloss paint for trims and doors. These are surfaces that get a lot of wear and may need to be frequently cleaned, which a glossier paint allows. Paint with higher gloss is a good choice where the exterior needs to be washed frequently. However, these are not the best choices for exterior paint on large areas of siding due to showing more bumps and imperfections. 

Exterior Paint Sheen Recommendations for your Home

So, in summary, is there a universal paint sheen that works for most exterior applications? We would recommend a satin or eggshell finish as preferable paint for the exterior of your home. This is based on satin/eggshell finishes being easily maintained and providing a nice appearance, appealing to the widest range of homeowners. If you are doing the painting yourself, you may want to go with a matte finish because it is easier to apply. If you want a quick drying time, then a flat paint would achieve that requirement.

On the other hand, consider if your house gets a lot of outdoor activity from children throwing mud and snowballs or laying bikes against the house. This requires frequent wiping and cleaning. In this situation, consider painting with a satin or semi-gloss finish.

Professional painters are proficient at applying all types of paints and paint finishes, regardless of the level of difficulty. Therefore, if you are hiring an experienced painting company, you don’t need to consider the application, just the appearance you are wanting.

Contact Osborne Painting for Exterior House Painting Services

Our team of professional painters is experienced in applying all types of paint when painting the exterior of houses. We can help you decide the best paint sheen for your home. We give expert advice and impeccable service! To get started with an estimate, call us at 919-878-6611 or fill out our online contact form below.






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