Simple color isn’t the only thing you need to think about when creating the office you want. It’s just as important to choose the right paint sheen to get the look you’re after.

What is Paint Sheen?

The sheen of any paint refers to the way it does or does not reflect light. Part of what causes a difference in the amount of reflection is the color of the paint. Every color absorbs some light and reflects some light. The exceptions are black and white. Black absorbs all light and white absorbs none, reflecting it instead. Every other color will do some of both.

The other thing that describes how much light a paint color will reflect is called sheen. There are a few different types of sheen. These include glossy, semi-gloss and matte sheens. There are pros and cons to each type.

Easy to Clean? Use Glossy Sheen

The top end of shiny is a high-gloss sheen. This is the shiny, hard surface you see on cabinets and trim, like baseboards. It’s really too shiny for walls because it reflects all the light and leaves a sparkling surface. Because a glossy sheen is hard, it is very easy to clean. Many marks wipe right off. When it comes to practical, with a little pizzazz, you can’t beat glossy.

Semi-gloss is a step down in the realm of shiny. Semi-gloss is a compromise between easy to clean and easy on the eyes. Semi-gloss paint might be used in a basement or a bathroom. It’s also a good choice for trim and cabinets.

Lower Gloss is Like Satin (or Eggshells)

The lower gloss paint sheens include satin, eggshell and matte. These surfaces absorb more light than the higher glosses, leaving you with richer colors that are easy on the eyes. The lower gloss sheens are typical wall paints.

A satin finish has just a bit of shine. It’s a smooth, rich and velvety look. Painting with a satin sheen gives a surface that is pleasing to look at and still easy to clean. Walls throughout the office could be painted with a satin sheen. The drawback to the bit of shine is any painting imperfections will still be on display. You’ll see brush strokes or roller marks and touch-ups are touchy. If your walls need to look super smooth, you can choose eggshell instead.

Eggshell is just a step above a flat or matte finish. It barely has any shine, like the shell of an egg. This finish is great for hiding imperfections. You could choose eggshell finishes for your office, but the cost will run higher than a satin. Save the eggshell for the lowest-traffic areas because it can absorb dirt and be tough to clean.

Finally, a flat or matte finish is generally used on ceilings or walls in areas without bumps or jolts from traffic or children. Remember, flat paint is difficult to clean because the paint tends to come off with the dirt.

Look at the Light in This Room

Another consideration when choosing a paint sheen may be the lighting in the room. This is important with both artificial and natural lighting

Artificial lighting will interplay with the sheen and color of your paint. LED and fluorescent light will give off a cool, bluish tone in the room. Incandescent or halogen bulbs will reflect yellow and golden tones, which will feel warmer.

If you are fortunate to have office space with lots of windows, the effect of the natural light will influence the result of the paint sheen.

Imagine this: you find the perfect shade of a mild yellow that you are certain will lend a positive, happy attitude to the break room. However, you fail to take into consideration the wall of windows luring in the sun from the east. That easterly light will change throughout the day and cause shadowing of your happy yellow. While the color may still be appealing, the effect in the room could be altered by the change in lighting.

Northern light exposures will bring in a bluish tone of light. To counteract the cool tones of light, use a deeper, bolder color in the room.

Western windows bring a lot of warmth and sunlight in the afternoon hours. Contrast this with green colors to bring it into balance.

The southern window is possibly the most complimentary lighting of all. That bright light from way up in the sky brings out the best in both warm and cool tones of color.

Your Office Will Shine (or Not) With the Right Paint Sheen

When choosing paint for your new or remodelled office space, the color is very important. Don’t forget about the sheen. How much or how little shine from paint will have a big impact on your staff and clients. For an office to feel both professional and comfortable, the sheen is a big priority. Keep it low enough to absorb some light, but a little gloss makes cleaning easier in high traffic areas.

Now that you have a basic understanding of using color and sheen to create the atmosphere you want, you’re ready to shop for paint.


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