How do you choose the right paint type to paint the interior of your house? This question is really three questions in one. Question #1 is how to determine what are suitable paint finish options for your painting project? Question #2 is what determines paint quality? Question #3 is what paint finish and paint grade would work best for each of the rooms and features you will be painting.?

Paint type: How to choose.
How to Choose the Correct Paint Type

Paint Focus

Let’s first focus on paint finish because that topic comes up right away in every conversation about interior painting and there is often confusion about what exactly is meant by the term paint finish. Before you can begin to seriously consider the right interior paint type for your painting needs you will need to become familiar with the various types of paint finishes and how they differ from one another. You also need to know where those different paint finishes are recommended for use in your interior residence.

Let’s keep in mind as we proceed that our discussion here will only cover Low-VOC or Zero VOC latex water-based paints that are eco-friendly, non-toxic, easy to use, and clean up with water.

Paint Type – Finish

Paint finish is the more formal name for paint sheen. Paint sheen is simply this: the amount of light the paint reflects from the painted surface. Paint sheens have graduated levels that start with no sheen and move all the way up to brilliant sheen.

Here’s a list of paint sheens by name. Use this list as a general rule-of-thumb method to compare and contrast these different paint sheens.

FLAT features no sheen.  

MATTE features 15% increased sheen above flat.

EGGSHELL features 35% increased sheen above flat.

SATIN 45% increased sheen above flat.

SEMI-GLOSS 85% increased sheen above flat.

GLOSS 95% increased sheen above flat.

Paint Type – Sheen

Now that you have a working vision of paint sheen values you can more easily understand why certain paint sheens are universally recommended for certain areas and features of your interior residence. Let’s take a quick look at those recommendations.

WALLS and CEILINGS: Flat, matte, eggshell, and satin.


DOORS, DOOR CASINGS/DOOR JAMBS, BASEBOARDS, SHELVES, CABINETS: Satin, semi-gloss, gloss. Now we move on to the next consideration and that is: what paint quality is best for my paint job? Paint quality will directly affect both paint sheen value and how well the paint lasts over time and how well the paint can be cleaned over time.

Paint Type – Quality

Paint companies have general categories for the quality grades of their paints. They are generally categorized as Contractor grade, premium grade, super premium grade, and specialty paints. Let’s take a quick look at what paint is made of so we can understand how one paint can be classified as Contractor grade and another paint classified as super premium grade.

Here is what basically constitutes paint.

SOLVENTS: This is the liquid in the paint that evaporates into the air after the paint is applied and begins to dry. What remains on the wall after the evaporation process is a “coherent paint film” of pigment and the binder. Reminder: Since the paint under discussion is latex water-based paint, the liquid that evaporates into the air after the paint is applied and begins to dry is water.

PIGMENTS: Simply defined, this is what gives paint color.

BINDERS:  Simply defined, this is the latex that adheres to the wall and what we think of as paint.  ADDITIVES: These are ingredients added to the paint to affect a paint’s capacity. This could result in a thicker paint or a paint with a mildewcide to help mitigate mildew formation.

Paint Type: What's in your paint can matters.
Paint Type Whats in your paint can matters

Paint grades are thus generally defined by the quality and the quantity of pigments, binders, and additives. The better the paint, the reasoning goes, better are the quality of ingredients and greater the quantity of those ingredients in that paint. The better the ingredients and greater the quantity of those ingredients, the reasoning goes, the better the paint will perform and the longer the paint will last.

BIG TIP Super Premium paints will have a uniquely smooth and sensuous feel to the touch because of the quantity and quality of the binders and the pigments as discussed above. Super Premium paints are also shown to provide a richer, more vibrant look to colors. Premium and Super Premium paints such as Sherwin Williams Duration and Emerald are both promoted as being washable including Duration and Emerald in flat sheen.

Paint Selection That’s Right for You

You may be thinking that paint selection comes down to cost versus quality. Here I can offer some encouraging examples that illustrate how different grades of paint, including affordable Contractor grade paint, have each performed exceptionally well for the jobs they were tasked.

Flat paint on walls.
Flat paint on Great Room walls

The builder painted these walls using Sherwin Williams Pro Mar 200 paint in flat sheen, and the walls are well presented. When we were contracted to handle some interior drywall repairs in the Great Room, we used the Pro Mar 200 to match all the existing interior wall paint for a seamless look. The Pro Mar 200 flat performed very well and is a contractor grade paint. The Sherwin Williams Pro Mar 400 Contractor grade paint in flat sheen has also performed well on previous projects where a flat finish was specified.

Doors and baseboards semi-gloss paint
Semi gloss sheen for doors and baseboards

The doors and baseboards were painted using Behr Paint and Primer in semi-gloss sheen. The Behr paint was used by the builder, so we used it as well for the interior woodwork painting to achieve a seamless look. The Behr Paint and Primer is considered a top-end Contractor grade and for a semi-gloss it is affordably priced.

Satin sheen interior walls.
Dramatic eye catching colors that were well balanced together

The Client selected dramatic eye-catching colors that were well- balanced together but also striking individually. TSP painted these walls using Sherwin Williams Super Paint in satin sheen. The satin sheen really brought out the energy of the colors and the Super Paint provided a rich canvas and well-tailored look to the walls. Super Paint is a premium grade that offers great results time after time.

Cabinet Paint Finishes and Sheens

Cabinets, cabinets, cabinets! These cabinets were refinished using Sherwin Williams Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel in semi-gloss sheen. Emerald Urethane is a super-premium paint and remarkable in quality and beauty of finish. The Emerald is steeply priced but for my money it’s worth every dime. The doors and woodwork were painted using Sherwin Williams Duration in semi-gloss sheen. Duration is a premium grade paint that has produced superlative results job after job.

Cabinet Repaint Sherwin Williams Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel.
Beautiful White Kitchen Cabinets

Where to Find Interior House Paint

This might surprise you but in the Denver Front Range area interior paints are offered by numerous paint retailers including Sherwin Williams, Benjamin Moore, Behr, Glidden, PPG, Old Western, Lowe’s, and there are also various paint companies online that will ship orders. I encourage every Client to discuss all your paint questions with me and to please do so with complete confidence and a sense of adventure. TSP would love to chat with lour Colorado neighbors about paint grades and paint sheens. Feel free to call Ray (303) 909-3349 anytime with any questions or e-mail us your questions using a web inquiry form.

***All photos are actual completed jobs, and are the property of TSP Painting Services LLC.