Choosing the Right Finish: A Guide to Paint Sheen

- January 2024

Hand taking masking tape off after painting, displaying the difference between different paint sheen levels

If you’re looking at setting up a fit out or renovating your storefront, there are so many interior design considerations to make. The selection of the right paint finish can drastically enhance the look and feel of your commercial property. It’s about understanding the unique benefits and aesthetics each sheen level offers and making an informed decision based on your specific needs and preferences.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the different paint sheen levels and the pros and cons of each one.


Different Paint Sheen Levels


In the context of paint finishes, sheen is the mirror-like quality that reflects light off a painted surface. This property of paint not only significantly influences its visual appeal but also plays an essential role in its protective functionality.

High-sheen paints, like high-gloss paint and semi-gloss paint, offer a shiny and lustrous look that can add depth and dynamism to a space. Known for their resistance to marks, stains, and wear, these finishes are a popular choice for commercial areas that tend to experience heavy foot traffic. From bustling office cafeterias to busy retail corridors, high-sheen paint can both withstand the rigours of daily use and maintain their aesthetic appeal.

On the other end of the spectrum are low sheen levels, which may include eggshell finishes or matte finishes. These finishes offer more of a muted, understated sophistication, making them ideal for areas with less traffic, as well as spaces where a calm atmosphere is preferred. A low-sheen finish can effectively mask minor surface imperfections, which in turn makes it a wise choice for older commercial properties or those with textured walls.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, we can discuss each of the most common sheen levels in greater detail.


Gloss and Semi-Gloss Finish


Gloss finishes automatically stand out with their striking characteristics and many practical benefits. Featuring higher sheen levels, these finishes provide a reflective surface that amplifies the depth and vibrancy of colours. This quality makes them a popular choice for commercial businesses that are aiming to make a strong visual statement.

However, the benefits of gloss finishes go well beyond their visual appearance. In fact, they are widely renowned for their excellent durability, a feature that makes them a practical choice for high-traffic areas in commercial settings. From bustling hallways to busy kitchens, or frequently used bathrooms, gloss finishes both stand the test of time and retain their appeal despite constant use.

Another important factor that enhances the value of gloss finishes is their easy-to-clean nature. Even a simple wipe-down quickly removes dirt and grime, making them an easy-to-maintain option. This makes them a go-to choice for spaces like healthcare facilities, restaurants, or any area where hygiene is paramount.

Moreover, gloss finishes have an inherent resistance to moisture and stains. This resistance is particularly useful in spaces like bathrooms and kitchens, where the walls are constantly exposed to water splashes and food stains. By opting for gloss finishes, you can ensure that the walls of these spaces remain unblemished and attractive for a long time.

However, it’s important to note that while gloss finishes offer many benefits, they may not be the right choice for every space. Their reflective nature might highlight imperfections on the wall surface, making them a less suitable choice for older buildings with uneven walls. Additionally, their shiny appearance might not align with the aesthetic preferences of everyone, particularly those who prefer a more subdued look.


Satin Finish


A satin finish brings a unique subtlety and grace to commercial properties. This finish, characterised by its soft, velvety sheen, has a unique way of adding an understated elegance to any space it graces. Think of it as the in-between of high and low gloss varnishes.

If you’re going with a satin finish, one of the key considerations is its moderate resistance to dirt and stains. This feature is particularly beneficial for areas that aren’t subjected to high volumes of traffic or frequent contact, reducing the probability of dirt accumulation or staining. It’s also worth noting that while satin finish is resistant to dirt and stains to a degree, it may not match the resilience of high gloss or semi-gloss finishes, which are known for their superior durability and ease of cleaning.

As you weigh the merits of a satin finish, consider how you intend to use the space. For areas that are intended to evoke a sense of calm and tranquillity, such as a private office or a conference room, the soft sheen of a satin finish can significantly enhance the ambiance. Its ability to gently reflect light without creating a glaring shine can contribute to a serene and focused environment.

On the flip side, it’s crucial to bear in mind that the satin finish, while aesthetically pleasing, may require more maintenance than its glossier counterparts. Given its lower resistance to dirt and stains, spaces with satin finishes might require more frequent cleaning or a fresh coat of paint over time.

But don’t let this deter you from choosing a satin finish. With the right care and maintenance, it can retain its elegance and charm for a long time. Regular cleaning with a mild detergent and soft cloth can help preserve the finish.


Matte Finish


A matte finish, also called flat paint, is known for its non-reflective properties, making it an ideal choice for masking minor defects and promoting a refined, understated aesthetic. This finish, while offering the lowest sheen level, is by no means the least in terms of its contribution to the overall aesthetics of a commercial property.

One of the primary advantages of a matte finish is its ability to hide surface imperfections. This attribute is particularly beneficial in older commercial buildings where wall surfaces may not be perfectly smooth. Unlike glossier finishes that enhance light reflection and can highlight even small defects, a flat finish absorbs light, thus camouflaging minor wall irregularities.

However, there are still a few trade-offs to consider. Matte finish’s ability to hide imperfections comes at the cost of durability and ongoing maintenance. This finish is less resistant to dirt and stains than higher-sheen paints, and cleaning it can require more effort. For example, scrubbing the surface too vigorously can often lead to the removal of the paint itself.

Despite these drawbacks, a matte finish is highly valued for its unique aesthetic appeal. It offers a depth and richness of colour that isn’t achievable with other finishes. Its subtle elegance and soft texture can lend a sophisticated, luxurious feel to low-traffic areas like conference rooms, executive offices, or even commercial property ceilings.

When considering a matte finish, it’s critical to evaluate the function and traffic of your space. This finish is best suited for areas with less busy areas, where the risk of smudges, stains, and wear and tear is reduced. For instance, a matte finish might not be the best choice for busy corridors or reception areas. But in a boardroom or CEO’s office, its muted elegance can speak volumes about the company’s style and ethos.


Not sure what paint finish to go for? Contact Resolute Painting and Projects for commercial painting services in Blackburn, Rosebud, Clayton and beyond.


Optimal Paint Finishes for Commercial Spaces


Deciding on the ideal sheen level for commercial properties is a multifaceted task. The best way to go about this process is to examine several factors, such as the property’s purpose, location, and ongoing maintenance needs.

First things first, the property’s purpose can dictate the exact sheen level you need. Businesses like restaurants, retail stores, or salons that see a high volume of daily traffic all tend to benefit from higher sheen levels. Gloss or semi-gloss finishes, which are known for their reflective quality and durability, can withstand frequent cleaning and are less prone to show wear and tear. They are, therefore, perfect for high-touch areas like counters, door handles, and restroom facilities.

However, a balance must always be struck. Applying high sheen paint indiscriminately throughout the property can result in an overly glossy space that lacks warmth and character. Therefore, it’s crucial to consider the locations where these finishes are applied. For instance, while a gloss finish might be suitable for a restroom, it could feel out of place in a cosy coffee shop corner or an elegant boutique fitting room.

Maintenance requirements are another major consideration. If your commercial business is aiming to minimise maintenance costs, high sheen levels are a wise choice due to their stain resistance and ease of cleaning. However, for properties seeking an upscale, refined ambience, the elegance of a low sheen finish might be worth the extra upkeep.


FAQs and Tips


Q: How to decide between a semi-gloss and a low-gloss finish?

A: While both are durable and relatively easy to clean, the choice between a semi-gloss and low-gloss finish largely depends on the desired look and feel. If you’re after a subtle sheen that’s not too shiny yet not too flat, a semi-gloss finish is your go-to. On the other hand, a satin or matte finish provides a more muted elegance.


Q: Is it possible to mix different sheen levels in one space?

A: Absolutely! Mixing sheen levels can add depth and interest to your space. For instance, using a high-gloss finish on trim and a low sheen on the walls can create a beautiful contrast.


When choosing the appropriate sheen, here are a few tips to consider:

1. Light and Sheen: Remember, the higher the sheen, the more light it reflects. If your space has abundant natural light, a high gloss finish might be too reflective. Conversely, a matte finish can help brighten up a room with limited light.

2. Maintenance and Durability: High-gloss finishes are easier to clean and more durable, making them ideal for high-traffic areas or spaces prone to spills and stains.

3. Test Patches: Finally, always test your chosen sheen in a small area before committing to it entirely. Lighting conditions can dramatically affect how a sheen appears, and what looks good under fluorescent lighting may look drastically different under natural light.


Looking for professional advice and commercial painting services in Berwick, Chadstone or Springvale? Resolute Painting and Projects are here to help! Get in touch today.


Get Trustworthy Commercial Painting in Melbourne


Choosing the right paint finish is not just a matter of aesthetic appeal – it is a strategic decision that can significantly impact the visual identity and functional durability of your commercial property. Each sheen level, whether gloss, semi-gloss, satin or matte, offers unique benefits and aesthetics, making understanding these nuances crucial to making the best choice for your space.

For commercial painting you can trust, Resolute Painting and Projects are the business to call. We have over 50 years of cumulative experience in strata, retail and commercial painting projects, and our many satisfied clients agree we are an excellent choice.

If you’d like to chat about a painting project and get our advice or a colour sample appointment, give us a call on 1300366544.

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