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What Is Sheen and Why Does It Matter?

Paint Sheens
The sheen is the level of gloss, or shine. Gloss is measured in 0 - 100 gloss units which is a measure of the light reflecting off the surface. Coatings typically come in sheens ranging from flat to gloss, and most people are familiar with the terms flat, matte, low luster, satin, semi-gloss and gloss. A flat paint sheen would have a gloss level between 2 and 6 gloss units and a gloss sheen would range between 80 and 90. However, there is no set industry standard for sheen names so the actual gloss level for the gloss name varies among different paint manufacturers. For custom spray paint, MyPerfectColor offers flat (2-6), low lustre (10-15), satin (20-30), semi-gloss (60-70) and gloss (80-90) as well as custom sheen levels.
Compare a chalk board to a glass panel. The chalk board is mostly flat whereas the glass is shiny. The gloss is a function of how porous and smooth the surface is. If the surface is very porous and rough, then it would tend to be flat and if it is very smooth and non-porous it would tend to be glossy.
So why is sheen important?
Sheen is important for a variety of reasons. If you are trying to develop a touch up application, the gloss level is critical because if the touch up paint sheen isn't the same as the part, then the touch up will stand out. At different angles the touch up will look like a shiny or flat spot. In many ways the sheen match is just as important as the color match.
Typically the sheen is chosen for either aesthetic or practical considerations. All things being equal, the shinier the coating the more durable and resistant to dirt/stains it will be. Going back to the chalk board versus glass panel example, the glass is very durable in that it is difficult to scratch and very easy to clean. You could put just about anything on it and it will completely wipe off. The chalk board on the other hand would somewhat absorb whatever you put on it and be more difficult to clean as the contaminant gets caught in the pores. The chalkboard surface would also likely scratch much more easily than the glass. Coatings are similar. Normally gloss paints are used on equipment, doors, shelving, fixtures, floors and other things that need maximum durability. Ceilings on the other hand are done in flat because durability is a non-issue on a ceiling.
Companies developing appearance models and prototypes choose the sheen of the paint that will most closely match the sheen of the finished product. Product designers choose sheens that mimic the final materials to be used or maybe it is part of the desired look and feel. The product may need to be very cleanable and glossy or maybe the matte finish fits better with the brand’s mystique. Sometimes our clients buy paint in multiple sheens so they can evaluate various options to help inform the final product design.
If you wanted your walls in your home to have maximum durability you'd paint them in gloss, but from an aesthetic point of view that's a terrible idea. First, it would be a lot to have gloss on all your walls. Also, the gloss paint would show every little imperfection in your walls as light reflecting off the surface highlights all the little bumps, waves and divits that you didn't notice until you used gloss paint. Eggshell and matte finish paints are ideal for walls because they limit the shine but also offer a very durable/cleanable finish. Semi-gloss and gloss are most popular for interior/exterior trim and doors.

*MyPerfectColor uses proprietary paints to create or match any color imaginable. MyPerfectColor has matched the colors on this page based on the color specifications of the original. Select a color to see MyPerfectColor's duplication of the colors you desire. Please note that since the paint used to match this color is unique to MyPerfectColor, the finish of the paint may vary from the original. Please note that, other than RAL and Pantone, MyPerfectColor is not offering the actual branded color or paint product for sale and has no affiliation with the color-referenced brands. MyPerfectColor reference to any trademark is for color comparison only. On-screen and printed color representations may vary from actual paint colors. The actual paint color will also vary depending on the specific paint product, application method, gloss level, film variance, surface substrate, age and light source. Please note on small batch size orders, the potential variation of colors is increased.