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Pick your paint finish

From the Resene decorating blog

Once you’ve chosen your colours and are about to get started on your amazing home makeover, there’s one more question to think about. What type of finish should you use?

Using semi-gloss finishes on exterior surfaces

As well as being practical for indoor surfaces, semi-gloss finishes are well suited to exterior wooden surfaces and furniture.

Wall painted in Resene Triple Merino, decking stained in Resene Tiri, screen in Resene Big Stone with Resene Bounty trim, medium-sized plant pot in Resene Alabaster, ombre pot in Resene Half Gull Grey and Resene Balderdash and braided pot is Resene Bluff. Bask sofa and table from Outside Space. Project by Kate Alexander, image by Bryce Carleton.

From high gloss to flat finishes, each has qualities that make it suitable for different use areas. There’s a trend factor in the choice of finish as well, where once high gloss finishes were all the rage, these days lower sheen finishes, with a softer look and an ability to hide flaws, are much more common.

The good news is it’s not as black and white and gloss or matte, there are mid-sheen options that offer flexibility to suit your space.

Here’s a guide to simplifying your paint finish choices.

Gloss – As the name suggests, these paints have a highly reflective surface. On the upside this makes them quite hard wearing and easier to clean, making them practical for high-use areas prone to fingerprints and dirt, such as kitchens, bathrooms and children’s play areas. However, the more reflective finish does mean gloss finishes can highlight any dents, bumps or other imperfections in the surface. Outside, high gloss finishes on window trims or key architectural features will really make them ‘pop’, or try a high-gloss vivid colour for a dramatic front door. Try Resene Hi-Glo, Resene Enamacryl or Resene Super Gloss.

Semi-gloss – With a slightly less-reflective surface than a gloss finish, semi-gloss paints are a little more forgiving on imperfections while still being easy to clean and stain resistant. They’re well suited for wooden cabinetry or furniture as well as exterior weatherboards and cement-based surfaces. Try Resene Sonyx 101, Resene Lustacryl or Resene Lusta-Glo.

Satin – Sitting at the mid-point on the gloss spectrum, satin finishes tend to have more depth than matte or flat finishes, but are less stain resistant than gloss or semi-gloss, though still robust enough for wipe-downs. Satin finishes have tended to move to lower sheen over time as decorators prefer a lower sheen finish.

Low-sheen paint – These tend to be the most popular finish for interior broadwall areas and are a safe choice where some sheen is desired but good cleaning properties are necessary, such as in living areas, hallways, bedrooms and playrooms. Outside low sheen finishes are good over timber, concrete and plaster finishes. If you really want to just use one finish over your whole interior, low-sheen is probably your best bet. Try Resene SpaceCote Low Sheen, Resene Zylone Sheen, Resene Lumbersider or Resene X-200.

Flat – As they diffuse light flat paints are better at concealing any surface imperfections. However, the matte finish tends to trap more dust and dirt making it more difficult to clean than higher sheen paints. Use in adult bedrooms and more formal dining and living areas, rather than high use family spaces. Flat finishes are also excellent on ceilings but the more porous nature of flat finishes make them less suitable for exterior use. Try Resene SpaceCote Flat or Resene Ceiling Paint.

Top tip:  Resene SpaceCote Clear can bring extra durability to a lower sheen finish without the problem of showing up every flaw in the surface. Try it on bold coloured feature walls.

Does colour make a difference?

Once you’ve thought about how your space will be used, it’s a good idea to use Resene testpots to try your chosen colour out. Remember some colours can appear muddier or darker in a flat finish and high-gloss finishes will reflect more light impacting the appearance of the colour.

If you have chosen dark, rich shades try going lower in sheen to bring out the depth and moodiness of the colour.

View the sheen boards at your local Resene ColorShop. As well as viewing front on, it’s also a good idea to look at the surface from different angles, as different sheen levels will reflect the light in different ways depending on the angle it’s viewed at. For example, some low sheen finishes may look very matte when viewed straight on, but show a sheen when viewed from an angle. None of that is bad, it just depends on what you want from your finished room.

Using high-gloss finishes for kids rooms

The robust and easy-clean finish of high gloss surfaces make them well suited to areas such as children’s play rooms.

For this fun roadway room the walls are painted in Resene Saltpan (top) and Resene Highland (bottom), with Resene Trojan mountains and Resene Bubble White snow caps. Roadway in Resene Shark with lines in Resene Broom, floor in Resene Highland, toy box in Resene Sebedee with a lid in Resene Broom, chair in Resene Anise, shelves in Resene Java (left) and Resene Japanese Laurel (right) and accessories on the shelves in Resene Japanese Laurel (green bowl), Resene Anise, Resene Sebedee, Resene Bubble White and Resene Java. Toy from Adairs, trucks from The Warehouse, puzzle toys from Miniso, magnet letters and peg people from Look Sharp Store. Project by Laura Lynn Johnston, image by Bryce Carleton.

Using flat finishes in formal areas

Flat finishes lend a luxurious touch to more formal spaces where walls and surfaces don’t require frequent cleaning.

Wall painted in Resene Nero, bold rectangle in Resene Hot Toddy, which frames the statement couch, peg stool and tabletop in Resene Half Gravel and table legs in Resene Double Merino. Couch by Contempa, artwork from Endemic World. Project by Megan Harrison-Turner, image by Bryce Carleton.

Mix your finishes

If your colour scheme is quite monochrome, or you just want to add subtle visual interest to a space you can try mixing different finishes in one room. You could try low sheen walls and a flat finish ceiling with high gloss trims. Or try a high gloss finish on any architectural features or furnishings you want to highlight against a flatter background.

It’s a subtle but effective way of adding depth and texture to your room. If you really like the aesthetics of a high gloss finish but worry about it showing dents or bumps on your walls, just adding notes of gloss on window trims or even a piece of furniture could be the answer.

Using low sheen paint finishes

Low sheen finishes are often considered the most user friendly, with a nice balance between durability while still concealing the worst imperfections in surfaces. They’re ideally suited to large wall spaces.

Wall painted in Resene Tea, floor in Resene Blanc, table and lampshade in Resene Bison Hide, lamp base in Resene Black, large frame in Resene Tapa, planter in Resene Quarter Drought, round vase with handles in Resene White Linen, tealight holder in Resene Sandal and other vases in Resene Half Sandstone and Resene Quarter Drought. Artwork from Etsy/WArtDesign, rug from Freedom. Project by Vanessa Nouwens, image by Bryce Carleton.

Fun and fancy finishes

Beyond choosing a level of sheen for your paint finish you can try something a little more creative for a dramatic effect.

Try Resene FX Faux Rust Effect on wooden, concrete or plaster surfaces to create an aged and industrial style rust-like finish. Once applied the look will continue to develop as the coating ages. You can leave it as is, or protect it with a clear finish such as Resene Waterborne Aquapel.

For something more glamorous, try a metallic finish using Resene FX Metallic, suitable for most interior and exterior surfaces. Try traditional metallics like gold, silver or copper or experiment with different shades like Resene FX Metallic Sputnik to resemble the night sky or the warm pink of Resene FX Metallic Sugar and Spice. For a pearlescent finish try Resene FX Pearl Shimmer over your base colour.

If you apply your paint and find it is too glossy or too flat, you can apply a Resene clear finish that will adjust the gloss level to a higher or lower sheen. It’s always best to live with a new paint finish for a few weeks to see how you find it once it cures. Much like a new haircut, sometimes it takes a little time to get used to the new look.

August 28, 2021

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