Choosing a Finish For Your Bathroom

design tipbook

You can bring personality and style into a bathroom with paint. Once you’ve chosen your color(s), you need to choose the finish. The name of a finish — such as gloss, satin, eggshell or matte — describes the amount of light that the paint reflects. Each finish has other qualities as well, and not all finishes are appropriate for all places in a bathroom. The list below, from Sunset Make It Your Own: Baths, will help you select the right finish.

These are the shiniest finishes you can buy. These paints contain more resin than other paints, which adds shine and makes the dried paint tougher and slicker. Gloss paint is the preferred paint for trim and cabinets in a high-traffic bathroom because it’s easiest to clean. Use it on cabinets, woodwork and molding with undulating curves and crisp corners. It’s also OK for walls. Do not use it on the ceiling; reflected light highlights surface imperfections and makes the ceiling seem lower than with a less-shiny finish. 

This paint has less luster than gloss paint. It’s still slick enough for easy cleaning, and the lower shine hides surface irregularities like patching over screws and nails better than gloss. Use it on walls and cabinets or trim. Do not use it on ceilings for the same reason as gloss paint, unless it’s important to you that the ceiling and walls match. 

A low-luster finish, eggshell is named for the way it resembles the slightly reflective surface of an egg. It’s not ideal for most bathroom surfaces because it’s harder to wipe clean, but it hides surface irregularities better than satin and gloss finishes. Use it on ceilings and in powder rooms that don’t get as much traffic. 

This paint has a somewhat rough texture, though you’d need a microscope to see it. The uneven surface causes light waves to bounce back at various angles, resulting in a surface that looks almost velvety. Use it on walls and ceilings where you want colors to seem especially deep and pure or want to hide surface irregularities. 


Design tip from Sunset Make It Your Own: Baths (Time Home Entertainment Inc., 2012),

Categories: Home Design