Matte vs Gloss Paint — Which Finish to Use Where (and Which is Best for Your Wall Paneling Project)

Head into your next painting project with confidence using our pro guide on picking between matte vs gloss paint as the best finish for all your DIY needs

tall light blue painted walls with wall molding around the window, a cream sofa and statement modern black chandelier
(Image credit: Sherwin Williams)

The world of paint can be a confusing one. Just when you’ve narrowed down dozens of testers and committed to the perfect shade, you’re hit with another conundrum: matte vs gloss paint?

Now, when it comes to walls it’s an easy decision, but what about woodwork, molding, front doors and windows? What’s the best paint finish for that DIY wall paneling tutorial you’ve seen on TikTok?

Thankfully, we’ve got all the expert advice you need. From durability tests to interior trend tips and details on the best application methods, our experts have given their top paint tips and tricks so you can pick your paint with confidence and finally finish that project with ease!

Is gloss or matte paint more durable?

a home office with warm neutral walls with molding, a white painted fireplace and white painted sliding doors

(Image credit: Sherwin Williams)

There’s no doubt many paint brands have expanded their product offering in the past decade to increase durability no matter what finish you choose. However, according to expert Dennis Fiorilli, Director of Product Excellence at Sherwin Williams, there's a secret to knowing how long-lasting a paint’s formula will be.

'In general, the higher the sheen the more durable the finish, so a gloss finish will provide a hard, lustrous finish with great washability,' he says. 'Matte paint can easily be touched up if something is spilled or splattered on the surface though.'

Plus, with the most durable paint finish comes better cleaning (music to our ears!). Due to the higher level of sheen in gloss paints, dirt and grime find it harder to stick to the paint’s surface, meaning it’s not just easier to give gloss surfaces a quick wipe down but they will actually repel dust too!

'Gloss, because of its higher sheen, will be easier to clean,' Dennis advises. 'This is why you often find semi-gloss in areas that are likely to get scuffed, nicked or stained. Gloss or semi-gloss finishes are great for kitchen or bathroom cabinets where you may experience more spills. They can easily be wiped from a glossy surface with a damp towel.'

Can you mix gloss and matte finishes in your home?

a blue matt wall with a geometric pattern in gloss paint

(Image credit: Benjamin Moore)

By the time you reach the decision on what color and finish to paint your trim, it’s easy to go on autopilot and assume gloss white is the only way forward. After all, it’s tradition, right? But as all interior designers will tell you, every aspect of your home is an opportunity to expand its design.

According to paint expert Helen Shaw at Benjamin Moore, paint finish can be as influential as paint color to a design, and you shouldn’t be afraid to alternate your finish based on what your room needs.

'As with color, choosing the correct finish will not only impact the look of a room but will also provide practical benefits in terms of durability and longevity,' Helen says. 'Different levels of sheen can affect how colors appear, how paint finishes look, as well as add dimension to rooms. Opting for different finishes in your home means you can utilize the benefits of each finish from room to room.'

Expert Dennis thinks mixing and matching finishes is the way forward too. However he does warn of the impact of light on certain finishes. 'In places that have a lot of natural light, a gloss can create a glare and matte finishes provide a softer look. It is important to also note that paints with a lower gloss or sheen will hide imperfections better than those with a higher gloss or sheen, although they are more durable.'

What’s more on trend between gloss or matte paint?

glossy dark green painted living rooms with a red velvet sofa and blue cushions

(Image credit: Benjamin Moore)

Interior design trends really are the ultimate place for interior inspiration, and paint finishes are no exception.

'For an on-trend look pair the velvety texture of matte paint with gloss finishes as this will add depth and interest to a space whilst elevating architectural detail such as picture rails or cornices,' Helen says. 'However, when used correctly there is nothing like opting for an all-encompassing gloss finish when you’re looking to add drama and high impact to a room.'

According to paint expert Dennis, matte paint seems to be a firm favorite, though he too is seeing more properties opt for a mix-and-match effect.

He says 'At the moment, a matte finish is the most popular. Homeowners are experimenting with the contrast between matte and gloss finishes and how they accentuate the colors and décor in the home. For people trying really bold and pigmented colors, matte provides excellent coverage and highlights the true shade. Although matte is gaining popularity, we have recently seen the high gloss finish become very popular on front doors and built-ins.'

What’s best paint finish for wall paneling?

a light grey bedroom with white wall panelling and a yellow ceiling

(Image credit: Benjamin Moore)

If you’ve got TikTok’s DIY wall paneling on the mind, don't worry, you’re not alone!

After you’ve gone to all that hard work cutting, filling, sanding and caulking, you want a paint that’s going to show off your handiwork – and maybe hide a few rough edges here and there!

Helen advises ‘Matte finishes are great when painting uneven walls and elements such as paneling as they will help to hide imperfections with their smooth application and lower levels of reflectivity.’

But the real secret to professional-looking DIY wall paneling is all in the prep, according to Dennis. He advises 'It is important that you apply either the gloss or matte finish to a properly prepared, sanded and primed surface for the desired result.'

In our experience, as long as you prime your wall paneling properly, using the same color matte paint across both the wall and the raised panel sections will give you a seamless high-end result.

What is the best paint finish for doors?

Doors are top of the list when it comes to high-wear and tear areas.

Whether it’s your front door standing up to blistering heat and driving rain, or your kitchen door coping with daily doses of sticky hands, ensuring their paint can brave what the days throw at them is a priority!

'Doors attract dirt, fingerprints and more from daily use, so gloss will make the surface easier to clean. In general, a higher sheen, like gloss, is best used for doors for its durability, cosmetics, washability, and feel' says paint expert Dennis.

In our opinion, while matte is a great option for lighter colors, when it comes to darker front doors the shine of gloss paint gives unrivalled drama and richness. Plus, not only will it handle whatever the weather throws at it, but it will emphasize your front door’s architecture!

Matilda Bourne