Paint perfection

Photo is of room with a day bed, a desk and blue and white painted walls

You don’t have to be a registered interior designer to know that the easiest and most affordable way to bring a fresh look to any room is to give it a new coat or two of paint. The simple act of painting the walls or even the trim with a fresh colour or finish can breathe life into a tired-looking or dated space.

Many people hire professionals to get the job done right, but if you’re keen to jump on the DIY bandwagon, make sure you do your research. It’s important to be up to date on the different terminology and techniques involved in successfully applying the right kind of paint to each surface. To help you on your way, we spoke with Sharon Grech, a colour and design expert with Benjamin Moore paint about different paint finishes, for which rooms and on what surfaces they are best suited, as well as some tips to get you started on your first successful, professional-looking paint job.

The different paint finishes available can make it confusing to know which one works best where. Grech says that traditionally, a flat finish was used on ceilings, eggshell on walls and semi-gloss on trim, but these days, these are no longer hard and fast rules. She explains the concept of sheen, and how its presence, or lack of presence, affects the finish.

“A paint’s sheen level is a measure of how much light reflects off the painted surface and it can range from no sheen at all (flat) to a highly reflective gloss (high-gloss), “she says. “Although sheen is independent of colour, the same colour can appear quite different in different sheens. This gives sheen the power to add subtle depth and dimension. For example, a current trend is to use the same colour on the wall and trim, with a higher gloss sheen to accentuate the trim details against a flatter wall finish.”

Finishes: what they are and where best to use them

FLAT has no sheen at all and makes it very forgiving of flaws and imperfections on the surface where a higher sheen will reflect these. Flat paint is best reserved for ceilings and/or very low-traffic walls, as the finish is not designed to be rubbed clean.

MATTE is relatively flat, but the little bit of sheen provides more durability, allowing for more frequent washing. This is a good choice in any room where you want the luxurious look and feel of a flatter finish with added durability.

EGGSHELL reflects a little more light than a matte finish and was traditionally the most popular choice for walls, since it holds up well in almost any room and remains popular for family rooms and hallways.

PEARL/SATIN Benjamin Moore was the first in 1988 to create a pearl finish to suit the growing desire for a less shiny yet durable paint finish for trim and high-traffic walls. Satin reflects slightly more light than pearl, but they are both considered a medium gloss, which makes it easy to clean. It is often used for trim, doors, laundry rooms, mud rooms and playrooms.

SEMI-GLOSS is a very popular finish for trim, doors and furniture. It can be used interchangeably on surfaces with pearl or satin but for those who prefer a higher sheen level.

HIGH-GLOSS reflects the most light but also shows more blemishes. It can highlight smooth, dimensioned surfaces beautifully, like ornate trim, and provides a mirror-like finish. Today, it is a popular choice for contemporary painted furniture and trim, or even unexpected areas like ceilings, where you want the look of a lacquer without the smell and difficult application.

Top five tips for the beginner DIY painter

  1. Measure the areas to be painted, deducting openings, and calculate paint quantity accordingly based on two coats. Note: On average, one gallon of paint covers approximately 350 sq. ft. of surface area.)
  2. Be sure to stock up on all your painting and prep supplies before getting started. In addition to paint and primer, these can include drop sheets, painter’s tape, paint brushes, rollers, trays and sandpaper.
  3. Keep in mind that quality tools will help to ensure a professional-looking paint job!
  4. Preparation before painting is a critical step. Be sure to take the time to clean the surfaces to be painted, removing any dirt, dust and mildew. Sand to dull down any glossy areas and use painter’s tape to protect any areas you do not want painted.
  5. Consider starting the paint job at the top of the room with the ceiling, then the trim and walls.