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Choosing a finish. "When it comes to finish, beauty is in the eye of the beholder," says Watson. However, you can also choose a finish based on the room's purpose.
Flat finishes — including matte and eggshell — are generally best for ceilings and walls where you want to hide any imperfections. "With flat paints, you can get by with a lot more," says Watson. Flat paint's matte finish also does well with routine cleaning, making it a good option for less frequently used spaces, like formal living and dining rooms. "The angular shine of flat finishes helps make walls smooth and washable, simply with a damp sponge," says Jordan.
However, glossier finishes — including satin and semigloss — clean even more easily, which is why they're often recommended for higher-use spots, like kitchens, bathrooms, trim and cabinets. "These paint formulations traditionally produce the toughest and most stain-resistant finishes," says Jordan. The glossier the finish, the more imperfections can be seen in the surface and your paint job, so Watson recommends using a high-quality brush with glossy paints.
Paint Picks From the Pros
For light walls: "C2's LoVo nonreflective flat is an excellent ultraflat finish that has tremendous hiding power and a very smooth finish. Pratt & Lambert's Accolade Velvet is a great eggshell finish that goes on ultrasmooth, is spatterless and covers extremely well. Both are low odor and low VOC."
For dark walls: "Fine Paints of Europe's Eurolux Matte is an incredible product for painting dark walls. Their unique pigment system creates high-powered coverage in an exceptionally durable paint."
For light walls: "I always buy Regal Select [Benjamin Moore], as this is a very good product, low VOC and at a fair price."
For dark walls: "Restoration Hardware has a paint which are their own colors tinted into actual Benjamin Moore paint, so you have the quality and the designer touch. Look at Slate for an example."
Jackie Jordan and Rick Watson
For dark and light walls: Both recommend Sherwin-Williams' Emerald Interior Paint. "It flows like melted butter," says Watson. "The flow and leveling characteristics of this paint make a beginning painter look like a pro."