Understanding Gloss & Sheen

How do you decide which gloss and sheen to use when choosing paint for your walls? How do you measure gloss and sheen? What’s the difference between the two? Don’t worry, this is a commonly misunderstood topic. Knowing the difference between the two is vital to the look and longevity of your painted surfaces.

glossmeasureLet’s start with how gloss and sheen are measured. In the painting industry, gloss and sheen are measured by reflecting light using specific angles. Gloss is measured at a 60 degree angle. A beam of light is reflected off of a painted surface at 60 degrees and then bounces back into an optical sensor.

The sensor reads out a measurement of gloss units from 0 to 100. The closer to 100 units, the shinier (and thus glossier) the paint coating is.

Because of the extra reflectivity of glossy paints, room lighting is the biggest consideration when choosing your gloss level.

To measure sheen, light is reflected off of a surface at an 85 degree angle. The differences in sheen are most noticeable in low gloss paints.

Every Sherwin Williams paint type has a gloss or a sheen value. Some have both gloss and sheen values listed.

Your choice for gloss and sheen should be based on the following: what is being painted, what type of room is it, where the lighting is located and how bright it is, window position, room traffic, visual preference, and performance expectations.

When to use a low gloss/sheen

  • Walls with lots of imperfections. Low gloss sheen will hide flaws.
  • The room has an abundance of natural or artificial light. A room with many light sources or very bright lights could end up with a mirror effect with a high gloss or sheen paint.

When to use high gloss/sheen

  • A high traffic room that requires lots of cleaning. High gloss or sheen paints produce the toughest surfaces which can stand up to dirt and other stains.
  • For rooms that need added depth. Using contrasting finishes on trim and walls can make certain features pop.

Although higher gloss and sheen paints are generally easier to clean, newer paints like Sherwin Williams Emerald provide good washability at any gloss or sheen level.

Always start by selecting your color, then choose the type of paint that best fits your application. Finally, choose your gloss or sheen level to fit the room.

Paint Finish Categories

  • Flat/Matte – finish that reflects very little or no light when dry.
  • Satin (low gloss, low sheen, high sheen, eg-shel, low lustre, velvet) – finish that reflects a low to medium amount of light when dry.
  • Semi-Gloss (pearl, medium lustre) – finish that creates a medium to medium-high reflectance when dry.
  • Gloss/High Gloss – finish that reflects a high amount of light when dry.

Rhodes Custom Finishes is always here to help you pick out paint colors and types. Don’t hesitate to call 636-385-6655 and schedule a consultation today.