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4 totally no-fuss tips for choosing a paint finish

Paintbrush featuring olive green paint/Photographer: © Sandie Clarke via Unsplash/Find the right finish with these easy insights from a professional painter.

Matte, flat, satin, eggshell, semi-gloss, high-gloss—how do you choose which paint finish to use, and where? We quiz Tony Jarvis, the expert painter behind Jarvis Painting & Interiors, specializing in high-end retail and residential for projects as diverse as a Brooklyn tattoo parlor, private homes, and art installations, on his advice for taking the guesswork out of painting your next project.

A green den/Photographer: Nick Johnson/Farrow & Ball’s Studio Green appears in this modern Telluride, Colorado home designed by interior design firm Consort.

Choose your paint color first.

First things first! Sample until you find the right paint color for your project. Even seemingly easy choices—like white for the ceiling—can be complicated."White is usually a safe bet for ceilings, although there are many whites to choose from! Putting up some samples on the walls is best for when clients are not 100% sure."

Go flat—or matte—for the most part.


"I recommend latex flat or matte on most walls and ceilings," advises Tony. There is a caveat to that, though. Consider eggshell if you have little ones at home, advises Tony. "If people have young kids, eggshell is good on walls. However, I believe most people don’t actually wash their walls. Flat is much easier to touch up areas that get dirty in the future."

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When it comes to trim, he advocates for latex satin.

"Some people like semi-gloss on trim, but, to me, satin is more refined and toned down, with enough sheen to keep smudges or fingerprints away."

A deeply hued living room featuring a fireplace/Photographer: Stoffer Photography Interiors/ Benjamin Moore’s Twilight Zone paint highlights enviable crown molding in this sitting room designed by Abbie Anderson Design.

What about high-touch, high-use areas, like kitchens and bathrooms?

"A satin finish is good [here], however if the texture of the existing surface isn’t perfect, a bath and spa paint in matte finish will look better and more perfect. Benjamin Moore Advance Paint (hybrid alkyd) is great for use where we want a very smooth oil-based type finish. I love oil-based paint, but it seems to be becoming a bit of a thing of the past."

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