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How to choose a paint for the right feel and look

Published 18.02.2022


Choosing the right paint starts with an idea about the perfect look and feel in a given space. Varying shades and tints of colour, texture and shine can instantly transform a dull and even unpleasant space thus extending the paint purpose beyond the ability to cover and protect a surface. Paint manufacturers supply a wide selection of paints with various formulations providing to the consumers different options to achieve the desired effect. For consumers not to become confused in the presence of paint product abundance, this blog post will provide an insight in the visual properties of paints and will give more confidence when choosing the right paint for the right feel.

What is glossiness, colour and texture and why it matters?

Paint in known to be one of the simplest and budget-friendly solutions for transforming an indoor space in order to create certain feel and look. Most often the choice of particular paint product depends on taste, experience and wishes of particular person. Upon starting a new painting project, three key visual properties of paint should be considered, since they are suitable for different cases, different requirements and conditions of the surface. These visual properties are colour, texture and glossiness or sheen.


One of the main describing properties of paint is the gloss or sheen level and the most typical standard levels are: gloss, semigloss, eggshell and flat. Gloss level in proportion to measurable sheen allows to assess if the paint is more or less washable as well as if it is able to cover surface imperfections, where generally — the higher the sheen of paint, the more washable is the surface and surface imperfections are more visible (Table 1).

Table 1. Description of sheen-level terms (Source: L. Godsay (a; b))


Gloss level

Measurable Sheen Considerations
High gloss 85% or more
  • All surface imperfections will be highlighted
  • Need for expert preparation of the surface
  • Prepwork will be easily judged by the perfection of reflection in the surface
Gloss paint 75 to 85%
  • Surface imperfections will be visible
  • Need for expert preparation of the surface
  • In utility spaces, where washability is more important than appearance, it is usually acceptable to use gloss paint on less-than-perfect surfaces
Semigloss paint 40 to 75%
  • A little less shiny, little less washable
  • Less of a need for perfect surface
  • Specified more often than gloss paint
  • Frequently used on millwork trim and as accent areas
Satin 25 to 40%
  • Soft sheen
  • Can be cleaned with a soft cloth and mild soap
Eggshell 10 to 25%
  • Close to the sheen of satin
  • View samples side-by-side in order to discern the difference
  • Still washable
Matte 5 to 10 %
  • Good at hiding imperfections
  • Affords some washability but not rigorous
  • Also referred to as velvet and suede finish
Flat Less than 5%
  • Not washable; for touch-ups only
  • Hide imperfections better than other sheen levels
  • Touches up easily

Knowledge of paint gloss level allows the consumer to decide which paint is suitable for a particular type of surface, for example, a hight gloss and gloss paint will be more suitable for heavy duty surfaces that requires frequent cleaning and such paint should be applied on a well pre-prepared surface, since it will allow for imperfections to be more noticeable (a).


  • Gloss and high gloss paints: reflective; good for highlighting; good for heavy duty application for example doors and cabinets.
  • Semigloss paints: slightly glossy; very durable, easily cleanable; moisture-retardant; suitable for wet areas.
  • Satin: minimal gloss; durable finish; good for most indoor spaces.
  • Eggshell: more reflective than flat paint; hides well surface imperfections; suitable for medium-traffic areas.
  • Flat: no gloss or reflection, hides well surface imperfections; suitable for low-traffic areas, for example ceilings (b).


Colour of the paint used for interior surfaces has a significant role in the overall feeling of a given space, heavily impacting the senses of people spending their time there. In the design of interior, colour has  somewhat manipulative power and therefore when used with knowledge, it can aid in making a space look bigger or smaller, make certain objects to “stand out” as well as have mood alleviating or grounding effect. While one can follow the guidelines of colour psychology (study of how certain colours impact human behaviour), it is also worth evaluating personal preferences and the specifications of a given space (d).

  • Light colours

Light paint colours are effective in making a room feel larger and more open since light colours reflect light. Therefore, light shades of the colour are suitable for small spaces, spaces with insufficient natural light as well as spaces with low ceilings.

  • Dark colours

In contrast to the light colours, the dark ones absorb light, therefore dark colours are effective in creating warmth, intimacy and cosiness in large and open spaces. Dark colours are often used for one or two accent walls in a room.

  • Bright colours

Bright and bold paint colours have an energising effect. Yellow and orange colours can be used in so-called active spaces — gyms and workout rooms, for stimulating effect and motivation. Bright colours can also be incorporated in environment for making objects stand out and become noticeable.

  • Soft colours

Soft colours are recognised as relaxing. Pastels, soft blues and greens are good paint choices for a calming and serene environment.


Textured paints are thicker paints with added sand, crushed stones, gypsum or synthetics, and such paints allow for creation of patterns on the surface. Additionally, these paints are advanced in their protection against withering being resilient in heat, cold and rain conditions as well as to the damage done by ultraviolet rays. Textured paints are also often better resistant to algae, fungus, peeling, flaking and fading. Textured paints are more suitable for imperfect and less prepared surfaces (e).

There are many types of textured paints and these paints can also be self-made. The main textured paint types are:

  • Silica sand textured paint that contains very small sand particles. This paint adds a fine grainy effect on the walls.
  • Roll-on textured paint that is typically used prior to painting a room with standard paint. This paint can be applied with different tools (for example, brush, roller, trowel) and therefore allow for different pattern creation.
  • Knockdown textured paint is not the paint itself but a technique of painting that involves using  joint compound and precise skills of spreading it on a surface thus creating an elevated surface dimension with dapple patterns. Such surfaces can be further painted in any desired colour (f).

To sum up, the effects of texture paints provide looks by adding a decorative appearance, provide coverage of imperfect surfaces as well as potentially extend surface durability allowing for reduced maintenance needs and costs (e).

Tips for choosing the right paint

When preparing for a painting project, first it is necessary to evaluate the limitations of the given space and decide for a desired feel and look as it it will be helpful for purchasing the right product. It is quite common that people test a small quantity of paint on a surface, thus being able to notice the visual performance of the paint in specific lighting conditions.

The holistic approach that includes the evaluation of necessary surface preparation and planned furniture placement can be followed, when a specific space or room has to be coated. For example, bathrooms and kitchens are spaces with increased moisture and generally require surfaces to be easy-to-clean without washing away the paint and in such spaces the best solution is to use the more durable semigloss and gloss paints. Different approach should be used in bedrooms and living rooms, where the glossiness requirements are lower. These spaces require to choose colour carefully and decide right shades for creating relaxing, intimate or cosy atmosphere. for example, with soft and dark colour paints. Small and narrow spaces as well as spaces with insufficient natural lighting can be painted in light colours for the effect of expansion (Table 2) (b; c; d).

Table 2. Paint glossiness and colour regarding specific indoor spaces.

  Glossiness Colour
  • Flat, eggshell, satin;
  • Gloss can be used for effect.
  • Soft colours
  • Dark colours
Halls and corridors
  • Eggshell and variations of gloss paints.
  • Light colours for expansion;
  • Bright colours for stimulation; and to accent certain elements.
Kitchens, bathrooms
  • Semigloss or gloss paints.
  • Light and soft colours for expansion and relaxation;
  • Bright accents for stimulation.
Living rooms
  • Eggshell or satin for walls;
  • flats for ceilings;
  • gloss for doors and window and baseboard trim.
  • Dark colours for cosiness;
  • Light colours for expansion;
  • Bright accents for stimulation.



Choosing a paint for the right feel and look begins with evaluation of the surfaces and room as a whole, considering humidity, light conditions and the general purpose of the space. Knowledge of these parameters can subsequently allow for precise choice of the right paint product. Among other important paint qualities, the potential for creating the right look and feel accounts to paint visual properties — paint colour, texture and paint glossiness.


Author: written by Anse Romančuka, edited by Linda Kikuste


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