What's The Best Paint Finish When Using A Darker Paint?

Finding the right paint finish for the walls of your home can often be a challenge. Many factors play a role in determining whether a glossy or matte finish paint will look right on your walls, including natural light, artificial light, underlying wall texture, and location within the home. The color you use may also make certain finishes more beneficial than others, including the depth of the shade, with deeper shades often working best in matte or flat finishes. 

According to Kylie Mawdsley of Kylie M. Interiors, "If you're painting a medium or dark-toned color (feature wall or whole room), it can look garish with too much sheen (there are few exceptions). Ideally, you would use a washable matte finish (this doesn't apply to cabinets – only walls)."  Mawdsley's advice encompasses a number of colors rising in design trends as people move away from all-over lighter neutrals like white and cream and toward deeper colors like charcoal gray, deep green, and black.

Upsides of matte finishes

While matte and flat-finished paints come with their own set of downsides versus satin and gloss finishes, they present the best choice for darker colors, which, when rendered with too much glossiness and reflection, can also lose their rich level of depth. Matte finish paints allow dark colors to stay deep while hiding more imperfections in the wall than gloss or satin finishes. While lighter matte may sometimes show more damage if your walls are in bad shape, the darker the paint, the less likely they will be visible.

Other suggestions from experts for working with matte paintings and dark colors include using the right tools and brushes, investing in quality paints, and planning for multiple coats to get full coverage, allowing each coat to dry fully in between for best results. Proper lighting in whichever room you use darker shades is also crucial, whether you rely on natural sunlight or purely artificial light in interior rooms. The matte finish will absorb more light than a gloss, so make sure to factor that in with your lighting choices.

Downsides of matte finishes

While one of the chief criticisms of matte and flat finish paints is that they are hard to clean, the darker shades actually may help to disguise fingerprints and scratches a bit better than lighter colors would. According to designer Stefana Silber, however, you might want to consider where in the home the paint will be used. "Both matte and flat create a very deep, velvety like effect when used with black paint. It looks absolutely scrumptious! The trouble with flat paint is that it has no tolerance for fingerprints or touchups, and is not wipeable. It is great for a room that will be rarely used and not by kids." For more high-traffic areas, Silber recommends a satin enamel finish instead.

Experts also recommend avoiding flat or matte finishes in rooms with moisture, as stains from steam and splashes of water may leave marks that are difficult to wash away. In general, the more matte the shade is for darker colors, the better it will look. If your space is likely to get dirty more easily, you can try satin or eggshell finishes which are a little more wipeable or forgiving, as well as brands of matte finishes that are more amenable to cleaning.