The Difference Between Eggshell and Semi-Gloss Paint, Plus How to Choose the Right Finish for Every Room

Each of these finishes offer unique characteristics to consider when choosing paint.

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When you're faced with a paint decision, you might think the only thing you really need to consider is the color. While choosing your paint color is important, choosing the paint's finish is equally so, as different finishes can dramatically affect a space. Two common paint finishes are eggshell and semi-gloss, which might look fairly similar but have different characteristics, like durability and ease of cleaning. Ahead, we spoke with paint experts and interior designers to explain the difference between eggshell and semi-gloss paint.

Meet Our Expert

Related: How to Choose the Best Paint Finish for Every Area of Your Home, From Kitchen Cabinets to Bathroom Walls

What Is Eggshell Paint?

Eggshell is a type of finish that's fairly flat with just a subtle amount of sheen—like an eggshell. "Eggshell finish is one step above a dead-flat paint finish," says Ashley Spencer, a professional paint consultant, artist, and designer with Casart Coverings. "It tends to absorb light rather than reflect it."

Eggshell is one of the more common paint finishes used in homes because it hides imperfections relatively well due to its lower sheen level. It's also a more durable finish than flat or matte finishes.

What Is Semi-Gloss Paint?

A semi-gloss finish offers a shiny, reflective sheen that is also highly durable. It's not quite as shiny as a high-gloss finish but is definitely shinier than eggshell or satin finishes. "It typically has a reflective quality that gives the surface a polished appearance," says Elena DeStefano, owner and principal designer of Studio Lane Interiors.

Semi-gloss is often used in kitchen and bathroom spaces because of its durability, standing up to moisture, mildew, stains, kids, and pets. "I recommend semi-gloss for kitchens and bathrooms that see a lot of hand-wall traffic and need to be washed or cleaned often. A semi-gloss finish protects the color and quality of the paint because of its higher sheen," says Spencer. "In addition, semi-gloss or higher sheen finishes work best for trim and cabinetry because of the amount of use they receive."

Related: 3 Ways to Color Match Paint—Plus, How to Identify Its Finish

The Difference Between Eggshell and Semi-Gloss Finishes

The biggest difference between these two finishes is their level of sheen and, thus, their level of durability. Eggshell has a hint of shine, whereas semi-gloss is shinier and reflects light, giving the surface a more polished look.

In terms of durability, eggshell finishes are more durable than lower sheen finishes like flat and matte and can be wiped down with a wet cloth if necessary. But, a semi-gloss finish can withstand some scrubbing and heavy cleaning that eggshell can't. This is why semi-gloss finishes are recommended for high-traffic areas (think baseboards, trim, bathrooms, and even front doors).

What to Consider When Choosing Eggshell vs. Semi-Gloss

If you're trying to decide which paint finish to choose, you'll want to take a couple of things into consideration. First, figure out the room's function—if you're repainting your bedroom, you're probably going to want to pick an eggshell finish, whereas a kitchen makeover is going to necessitate a semi-gloss.

You'll also want to consider lighting—semi-gloss is highly reflective, which can make a room feel brighter and more spacious if that's your intent, according to DeStefano. "However, the reflective glare by natural light could be of concern for some," she says. "A lower sheen finish will help minimize the reflection."

One last thing to consider is personal aesthetic preferences, which is likely the biggest factor—after all, you have to live with the decision! "Aesthetic preference is also crucial!" says DeStefano. "We love to finish walls with custom moldings or millwork in a semi-gloss to highlight the details of the millwork, while we prefer an eggshell finish over a flat finish in most cases for the velvety finish."

The Right Finish to Use in Each Room of Your Home

To make things a bit easier, there are a few key spots around your home that experts recommend using one paint finish over the other.

Living Rooms, Bedrooms, Home Offices

Eggshell finishes work well in these spaces because of their low risk for stains and dirt. "Its low sparkle makes spaces feel cozy instead of flashy, perfect for living rooms, bedrooms, and other places to relax," says Keely Smith, lead interior designer with JD Elite Interiors. "It's also easy to fix any little mistakes, so it's good for areas that don't see a lot of traffic."

Kitchens, Bathrooms, Hallways

Go for semi-gloss for these areas—all of these spaces see a lot of action, whether it's moisture from showers, oil and grease from cooking, or little hand prints down the side of the hallway. "For busy spots like kitchens and bathrooms that get lots of use, semi-gloss is a smarter choice. It stands up well to daily cleaning without showing wear over time, thanks to its high gleam," says Smith. "When I redid my kitchen recently, I chose semi-gloss after how well it worked in my old home under heavy use. The shine makes cleaning easy and has kept my walls looking fresh even through messy weekend cooking experiments."

Related: 10 Paint Colors That Make Small Bathrooms Feel Bigger

Dining Rooms

You could choose either paint finish here, depending on the look you're going for. If you prefer a softer sheen that has an elegant finish in your dining space, go with eggshell. For those with small children and whose dining rooms might see a little more action, semi-gloss might be the better route while offering a higher touch of shine to the space.


Now, you could go with a traditional eggshell or matte finish for your ceiling, but where's the fun in that? Kick your ceiling finish up a notch, and choose a semi-gloss instead. "Contrary to the standard application where ceilings are typically painted in a flat, light-absorbing finish, if the ceiling is low, painting it a semi-gloss to match the wall finish with a 20% lighter wall color can create a visual illusion that makes the room look larger," says Spencer. "The dimensions of a room tend to disappear when painted in this manner."

Related: 12 Ceiling Paint Colors That Add Drama to Any Room, According to Interior Designers

Trim and Baseboard

These areas have the greatest chance of getting scuffed up and damaged, so durability is key here—choose semi-gloss. Luckily, if you use a semi-gloss finish, you should be able to easily scrub any scuff marks or dirt from these spots.

Read the original article on Martha Stewart.