“Help! I'm redecorating my living room, but I'm confused all the different paint types and finishes. What finish should I use on which surfaces?”

Don’t know your eggshell from your soft sheen?

Choosing the right paint colour when you refresh your walls is key to creating the look you want, but don’t underestimate the importance of getting the finish just right. One wrong turn can completely alter the look and feel of your space.

Thankfully, a little knowledge goes a long way, so check out our handy guide before you buy your paint to get perfect results every time.

Matt emulsion is smooth and velvety making it suitable for most interior walls.

1. Matt emulsion

Matt emulsion is smooth and velvety making it suitable for most interior walls. Matt emulsion’s smooth consistency is great for disguising wall imperfections.

This low-sheen paint option is not only durable, it’s also water-resistant, making it the perfect choice for kitchen and bathroom walls, as well as woodwork.

2. Water-based eggshell finish

This low-sheen paint option is not only durable, it’s also water-resistant, making it the perfect choice for kitchen and bathroom walls, as well as woodwork. Eggshell should only be used on wood and metal surfaces indoors. Its durability makes it particularly good for surfaces that see a lot of wear and tear, such as window frames and ledges.

Shiner than eggshell, satinwood is a good option when you want a higher sheen finish, and is great for covering up imperfections.

3. Satinwood finish

Shiner than eggshell, satinwood is a good option when you want a higher sheen finish, and is great for covering up imperfections. As with eggshell, satin paint should only be used on wood and metal surfaces indoors.

Best for internal and external wood, gloss comes in a mid-sheen and a high-sheen finish, often called high gloss.

4. Gloss finish

Best for internal and external wood, gloss comes in a mid-sheen and a high-sheen finish, often called high gloss. Both will give a mirror-like finish to wood surfaces and can be used indoor and out to highlight any design features. This paint is also wipeable. Choose water-based gloss paints for indoor projects and use oil-based for outdoor paint jobs.

Top tip

For a striking, offbeat look create a striped feature wall by using alternate matt and gloss finish paints. For a subtle effect you can even use the same colour but in different finishes.