Types of Exterior Paint Finish

What Type of Exterior Paint Finish is Best?

In an ocean of paints, there are lots of sheens to choose from the same way we have an abundant number of fishes in the sea. And this makes it rather challenging to know what type of exterior paint finish is best for your outdoor renovation.

You may opt for eye-catching color and BINGO! You thought you have arrived.

But if the sheen can’t withstand the freezing winters, soaking rains, and a daily bombardment of blistering UV radiation without peeling, fading, or cracking, you have won the battle but lost the war.

Reading on to find out more.

What Type of Exterior Paint Finish is Best?

What Type of Exterior Paint Finish is Best

The difference between interior paint and exterior paint is no secrete anymore. And you can’t swap one for the use of others.

For example, you can’t use interior paint for exterior purposes because they weren’t designed to endure the torturing of outdoor elements. Exterior paint should be strictly used for outdoor paintings and vice versa.

The same thing applies to exterior paint finishes. When used on the wrong surface, the result is always lousy.

Well, I’m here to help you understand the different types of exterior finish or sheens and their uniqueness, so you know which is best suitable for your needs.

Read Also: Best Paints for Fence

Types of Exterior Paint Finishes [Flat, Satin, and Gloss]

Here is a quick breakdown that will help simplify the selection process for you.

  • Flat Finish: The most porous paint finish and doesn’t reflect light.
  • Satin Finish: Most popular among DIY homeowners, and it’s neither too dull nor shiny. It has just the right amount of sheen that is ideal for any wall painting projects.
  • Gloss Finish: they are shiny and reflect most light in a specular mirror-like direction, but could highlight the flaws on the surface. Also, gloss finishes are sub-categorized into two, namely high-gloss and semi-gloss finishes.

Now you’ve got a cue, let’s look at each of these sheens in details.

Flat Paint Finish

Flat or matte finish (whichever you prefer to call) got its name from their lack of reflective properties.

This category of sheen does not provide overlap marks when using a roller or paintbrush to apply them and are well-known for their uncompromised smooth and uniform look.

Also, a flat finish often requires fewer coats compared to gloss sheens and is relatively easy to touch up.

To put it bluntly, they are the most forgiving finish with the best color payout you can find. If you want a saturated, velvety wall, a matte finish will give you that rich result.

Another exceptional characteristic of matte finish is they absorb light and disguise surface imperfections like dents, scratches, nail holes, uneven texture, or patches on older exteriors.

Flat paint can be an excellent choice for exterior walls and wooden siding.

However, the drawback of flat finishes is they are less durable and requires utmost care when cleaning them.

Applying flat paints on areas that often get a foot and hand trafficking is probably a bad idea, so is scrubbing them. It is because the finish could wear down and make flaws visible again.

Aside from that, they are susceptible to fading and mildew problems.

Satin Paint Finish

Unlike flat finish, satin is more durable and can withstand a good scrubbing and UV rays –but still not sturdy enough for painting railings, floors, windows, or doors.

However, if you wish to apply them to such areas, you MUST opt for a classified deck and porch satin paint because they were specifically designed to withstand such heavy-duty use.

Considering the fact they are more cleanable, it will be suitable for areas that will require routine cleaning, whether the siding is made of vinyl, steel, aluminum, stucco, or fiber cement.

Satin paint also has better resistant moisture that invites mildew than flat paint does.

There is a slight difference In terms of appearance. Satin has more sheen than a flat finish, but not as gloss paint.

But if you were to choose between both mediums for your exterior walls, the condition of the material will decide.

For instance, if you are working on a new wall, a professionally finished job with satin paint is far more compelling than flat finishes.

However, if there are any surface imperfections like holes, bumps, or cracks that have been filled, yet still visible, you should opt for flat paint instead. Satin magnifies flaws.

Lastly, Satin is the most popular choice for serious DIY enthusiasts because they are happy mediums between matte and gloss finishes. They are also perfect for use on a wide variety of trims.

Semi-Gloss finish

Semi-gloss finish, on the other hand, has more durability and shinier sheen than satin, but not as high-gloss.

They are also the easiest to clean when compared to other finishes on this list. I’d recommend the semi-gloss paint if you have kids who will prop items or throw mud against the side of your house.

The only downside of semi-gloss paint is that it unveils almost every imperfection on the surface.

Aside from that, semi-gloss is a must-have in your painting collections. They are good at drawing attention to the architectural details of your home.

For areas where moisture, drips, and grease stains are a challenge, semi-gloss is the unsung hero that will put a smile on your walls.

They will look hale and hearty on even the most exposed trim like window gutters, sills, garage doors, shutters, metal lamp posts, and railings.

High-Gloss Paint Finish

Types of Exterior Paint Finish

Finally, here comes the highest level of reflective and durable finish you could find on this list: the high-gloss.

High-gloss finish is resin-rich, which implies they have more depth and richness in colors and are resiliency and dirt repellant.

Having said that, if you want your exterior surface to REALLY pop, look no further than a high-gloss paint finish. But you should be extra careful when applying it and use it sparingly because they will call attention to imperfections.

Other than that, you can run off to the sunset with this heavy-duty paint.

Because this medium can excellently highlight architectural details, accent trim, front doors, decorative fixtures, black metal railings, or virtually anything that you touch regularly, pro painters are happily using them.

But when applying it to the floor, they purchase a floor paint and add some sand to it. It is because glossy paint is generally slippery as such needs extra grit for safety reasons.

Read Also: How to Avoid Roller Marks On Ceiling

Final Thought on The Gloss finish

If you have plans on using any of the glossy finishes, you should be aware they can be brittle and chip if applied on the wrong surface or without proper prep ritual.

We urge you to put in the time and sweat to prep and paint the surface properly, so the result looks professional and lasts longer. Furthermore, semi and high-gloss sheens often require more coats than other finishes.

Making this sacrifice in labor will guarantee that you won’t be dragging out the step ladders again anytime soon.

What is the longest lasting exterior paint?

acrylic paint
As per the industry standard for professional painters, acrylic paint is the best type of paint on exterior finishing materials. Acrylic paint lasts the longest and is also known for resisting all sorts of damage caused by weather and other natural variables.

What type of paint should I use on exterior house?

Gloss paint and high-gloss paint are some of the best options for choosing the best exterior house paint. These clean easily and resist scuffs better, making them a good choice for areas in constant use, like doors, door jambs and window casings.

Is exterior paint semi gloss or satin?

Semi-gloss is an interior paint finish, and satin is a common choice in both areas, interior as well as exterior.

How often should the exterior of a house be painted?

every 5 to 10 years
Exteriors should be painted every 5 to 10 years, depending on the quality of paint and craftsmanship it was painted with last time. Here are some guidelines based on exterior surface: Wood surfaces need to be painted every 3 to 7 years. Aluminum siding needs to be painted about every 5 years.

Is Behr paint good for exterior?

The best exterior paint overall

Behr Premium Plus Ultra Exterior Paint and Primer in One is a good choice for use with older, worn, or damaged surfaces, and it can be applied directly over rusted metals or worn woods.

Is Low Sheen good for exterior paint?

My general rule of thumb for exterior finishes is:

Gutters, facias, posts, trim, eaves and front door in a good quality exterior low sheen finish. If you do like a little bit more shine you can opt for a semi-gloss paint for everything but the eaves.

What is better eggshell or satin?

Often confused with other finishes, the difference between eggshell and satin paint is that satin delivers a higher gloss, while offering better stain resistance and durability than lower sheens, including eggshell.

Should I use semi-gloss or satin exterior trim?

A semi-gloss paint offers visible shine on home exteriors and is ideal for surfaces that require frequent cleaning. The glossier sheen makes semi-gloss paint more durable than satin, so it’s easier to clean. Semi-gloss paint can also endure harsh weather conditions and withstand excess moisture.

How do you pick exterior sheen?

Pick Your Sheen

  • Satin/eggshell: Best for siding because it’s a low-reflective finish that’s good at hiding surface imperfections.
  • Semigloss: This shinier sheen is easier to clean, more durable, and more moisture resistant than a satin or eggshell paint.

How do I choose a paint finish?

There’s a basic rule of thumb to follow when choosing paint sheens: The higher the sheen, the higher the shine — and the higher the shine, the more durable it will be. Flat paint has no shine; high-gloss is all shine. In between are eggshell, satin, and semi-gloss, each with its own practical and decorative job to do.


I guess by now, you’ve gotten a cue on what type of exterior paint finish is best suitable for your project.

You should know by now that paint finish can either make or break the final look and longevity of the paint.

So while considering everything, including the type of siding you have, you should keep in mind that the hide-ability and durability matters even more.

Choose wisely!