A Color Consultant’s Guide to Interior Paint Coatings and Finishes - QC Design School

Christina Kittelstad is a tutor of QC Design School and an accomplished color consultant, home stager and painter whose work has been featured on HGTV’s show House Hunters. She is the owner and lead color consultant for Spiral Design Color Consulting. She’s best known for creating beautiful, functional spaces through the use of color and creating a sense of style and personality that’s as unique as each of her clients.

For every interior paint project, there is that perfect coating and finish that will show off a room in all its glory. Help your clients select the right products for their unique home, and they will be so happy they chose to work with you!

Let’s talk about paint coatings. It’s not the most exciting topic, but as a designer, you need to know the different types of coatings that are available, and how to use them.

Two of the most popular interior paint coatings are:

  • Water-Based Coatings
    This is the most popular coating for interior paint projects. It is low fumes and easy to clean up because it is water-based. This coating works well for most projects.
  • Oil-Based Latex Coatings
    This coating emits more fumes but provides a stronger shine, which is great for more drama and durability. For cleanup, solvents such as turpentine are required.

Helping your clients choose the appropriate paint sheen for their needs and goals is a very important step in every paint project. Each paint manufacturer has their own selection of sheen options. Here are the most popular sheens and how to use them correctly in each space:

  • Matte
    This sheen is flat and has very little reflective value. It hides imperfections and offers a clean and relaxed atmosphere. This sheen is also difficult to clean, so use it in rooms such as the home office, dining room, garage, closets, and ceilings. 
  • Eggshell / Satin
    This is the most popular sheen for painting interior walls and main living areas. It is the standard finish. It is durable and adds warmth to any room. This sheen is also easier to clean. Use it in the family room, living room, bedrooms, and well-ventilated kitchens or bathrooms. Satin sheen is great for rooms with a bit more traffic, such as children’s bedrooms, playrooms or any rooms with lots of activity.
  • Semi-Gloss/ Gloss
    This sheen is the most reflective of sheens and offers the highest shine. Use it for painting trim, molding, fireplace mantles, custom built-ins, doors, trim, window sills, and any rooms with high traffic areas, such as the entryway or laundry room. Kitchen cabinetry and decorative furniture also work well with a semi-gloss sheen. This sheen is also most helpful in rooms with low ventilation and high moisture such as smaller kitchens and bathrooms.
color consultant choosing paint coatings

Current Sheen Trends to Try:

The higher the sheen, the more dramatic the look, and clients are loving it!

The biggest trends we are seeing with sheen right now include:

  • Mixing lower sheens like Matte with higher sheens like Semi-Gloss to create a layered effect. Think stripes, lattice and cheetah spots. This creates a wallpaper effect full of texture.
  • High Gloss Ceilings are gorgeous! Go with a light color like aqua or choose a deeper, richer color like Navy to create even more drama on a dining room or entry ceiling. Just be careful and test darker colors to be sure your client is ready to go bold.
  • High Gloss walls are happening! Using high gloss on a focal wall, entry or powder bath will bring energy, high drama, and will looks stunning!
color consultant choosing paint coatings in her office

As a color consultant, it’s important to stay current on industry standards and practices. By educating yourself on paint coatings and sheens, you can work with your clients with confidence. Armed with this knowledge, you will make every project a success!

What’s your favorite sheen finish? Let us know in a comment below!

Ready to dig deeper? Take the first step to becoming a Color Consultant!

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