Paint Sheen Level

by Ali |

When choosing the type of paint for your job there is more involved than just choosing colours. There are different paint sheen levels that need to be selected to ensure the desired effect is achieved. There are 5 different options when it comes to choosing your sheen level. Basically this means the level of shine or gloss you will get out of the paint with reference to it’s reflective power, clean-ability and durability.

Starting from the least shine to the highest gloss these are your options of Paint Sheen Levels:

Flat paint is typically recommended for gyprock and fibro ceilings. Avoid flat paint in mould prone areas, woodwork or areas that will be regularly touched. The lower the sheen level the easier it is to hide imperfection. This is because flat paint reflects minimal light. Flat paint is ideal for dark feature walls as it brings out the true colour as minimal light is reflected.

Low Sheen Paint

Low sheen paint is the most commonly used paint type for interior walls due to its combined properties, these are cleanliness and ability to hide imperfections. It has only a slightly higher reflective power than flat which has no reflectability. Architects typically prefer low sheen on the exterior because of these combined properties and increased durability. We are also noticing low sheen paint becoming popular again on VJ ceilings.

Semi Gloss Paint

Semi Gloss paint is used in interior wet areas such as the kitchen, laundry, bathroom and toilet. This is due to its cleanability and it is easier to remove mould and mildew as semi gloss paint is less pourous and therefore more moisture resistant. Exterior use is common for guttering and trims as it is not a high sheen level but has high washability. Colour bond products are typically semi gloss in their sheen level, so this is the sheen to use when matching prefabricated or colourbond products such as roofs, gutters and downpipes.

Gloss Paint

Gloss paint has a “wet look” and is left for the skirting or trims, including windows and doors and any woodwork in general. It has a high reflective capability, easy to clean and durable, however does not hide imperfections well. Trims can sometimes be ornate in design and a gloss paint helps to highlight angles, curves and features. Therefore using gloss in older homes can be tricky, as it will highlight detailed woodwork, but may lead to problems associated with making defects on surfaces more visible.


This table below helps summarise each Paint Sheen Level’s key attributes:

Sheen LevelGloss PercentageExample AreasCleanability
(1 = difficult, 5 = easy)
(1 = none, 5 = high)
Flat1-9%Ceilings, dark feature walls11
Low Sheen10-25%interior & exterior walls,33
Semi Gloss41-69%interior wet areas e.g. kitchen, laundry, bathroom & toilet, external guttering44
Gloss70-80%Wooden trim including doors and window sash, Exterior Trim5 5


The only way to achieve high gloss is with enamel paint. For the difference between acrylic and enamel paint refer to our article on this topic.

Please note:

We haven’t forgotten the 5th option! There is also a high gloss option, but this cannot be achieved with acrylic (water based) paints. For the difference between acrylic vs enamel paint please click through to our article on this topic.

Finally, it is important to note that ultimately, sheen level comes down to personal preference. At Rochele Painting if a customer has their heart set on something then we do everything we can to accommodate.

In Rochele’s 45 years there has only been 2 cases where a customer has specifically requested the entire house (walls, ceilings, doors) to be painted in high gloss. Although this is uncommon and not recommended we were surprised on the outcome and the customers were extremely happy with the shiny result.