As if picking the right color weren’t overwhelming enough, there’s more to choosing an interior paint than just finding that perfect shade of blue-green. You also need to identify the best formulation for the type of room or surface you’re painting, and decide which sheen is right for the job.

“Consider where you are putting the paint and what you want out of the paint job,” says Alex Sinclair, director of product information at Sherwin-Williams.

If you haven’t shopped for paint recently, don’t be surprised by the jump in price. Raw materials, supply chain and transportation issues, and even the cost of metal cans have contributed to the increase. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Producer Price Index program, the price of interior paint climbed 21.2% in 2021 over 2020.

Expect to pay $55 to $60 per gallon for a quality product, and $90 to $100 per gallon for a super-premium paint, says Mike Mundwiller, end user product experience manager with Benjamin Moore. “When it comes to paint, it’s true that you get what you pay for. In some instances, this comes down to the hard cost of the materials that go into the paint. Beyond that, it has a lot to do with the technology in the can,” he says.

Advancements in paint technology have given consumers more choices of paint type and finish. Today’s water-based latex paints are formulated to perform nearly as well as their oil-based counterparts, without strong odors, lengthy drying times or the need to use solvents for cleaning brushes and spills.

Most major paint manufacturers offer a range of interior options and price points. All are held to a standard of quality and performance; the difference between lines and pricing depends on the technology and attributes of each paint. For example, a lower-price option may be an easy-to-use paint that applies and touches up easily. However, it may not have the same levels of washability, durability and color retention as higher-priced offerings.


A high-quality, premium product may also be the better choice when covering a dark surface. “While that gallon may cost more upfront compared to others on the market, you will need less of it, because it offers better hide,” Mundwiller says. “Some paints that are less expensive per gallon require you to use more of it to cover.”

It may be worth it to spend more. “Premium paints are formulated to have exceptional coverage, even over dark colors, and withstand more wear and tear than some of the more economically priced products,” Sinclair says. “Excellent washability, durability and moisture resistance are just a few of the attributes that make it worth the extra spend.”

Finish — referred to as sheen or gloss — may matter almost as much as the color when choosing a product. It determines how much light reflects off a painted surface, which can make it stand out or fade into the background. To complicate matters, sheen is subjective, with no industry standard, Mundwiller says.

You’ll typically find paint finishes in some variations of flat, matte, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss and gloss. “Lower glosses and sheens help hide flaws, making them ideal for walls with imperfections and heavy-traffic hallways with lots of natural light,” Sinclair says. Because ceilings are so challenging to paint and tend to develop lap marks (a deeper color or an increased gloss where wet and dry layers overlap during application), a flat finish is usually used.

Higher-sheen paint, such as satin, is usually more durable and easier to clean, but a paint classified as “high gloss” used in a bright space could glare like a mirror. Mundwiller says baseboards, crown molding and entry doors are suited to satin or higher sheens, because the contrast between a wall and a baseboard, for example, can create an appealing look. Satin or semi-gloss finishes on kitchen cabinets are trending, too. “It’s a balance between attributes: covering flaws and minimizing lap marks versus how much light reflects off that surface,” he says.

Innovations have resulted in more durable paints across the board. “All sheen levels now resist stains and are moisture-resistant. That means you can use virtually any sheen in an area such as a bathroom or kitchen,” Sinclair says. Because some paints can be used on a variety of surfaces, they may be available in a wider range of sheens.


When choosing a sheen, take into consideration your room’s use and how you want the paint to perform. Here’s a list for guidance.

Flat: No sheen. Hides imperfections, but it’s harder to keep clean. Best for ceilings, walls and low-traffic areas.

Matte: Nearly shine-free. Hides imperfections. Withstands cleaning. Best for walls, family rooms, living rooms, dining rooms and bedrooms.

Eggshell: One of the most popular sheens. Nearly shine-free, but durable and easy to clean. Best for family rooms, living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchens.

Satin: A higher gloss than eggshell. Stain-resistant and durable. Best for high-traffic walls, bathrooms, kitchens, windows, shutters, trim and interior doors.

Semi-gloss: Smooth finish. Best for trim, doors and kitchen cabinets.

Gloss: A mirror-like finish. Easy to clean and stain-resistant. Best for trim, doors, cabinets and architectural details.

Before painting, you may need to consider purchasing an interior primer. Although many paints market themselves as “primer and topcoat” in one, Mundwiller says using a separate primer is the better, more affordable option when dealing with: a porous surface, which paint will soak into, so coating with an expensive paint will be a waste of money; a stained surface; or an area that was previously painted with a glossy finish. (Primer will help the new topcoat stick.)

To determine the best paint for your job, first do some research. Sherwin-Williams and Benjamin Moore have how-to guides on their websites. You may also want to check out home improvement blogs, visit a paint store or speak with a professional paint contractor.