Types of Exterior Paint Finishes

Eddie Shekari
July 20, 2018

When it comes to exterior paint finishes there are primarily only three types; flat, satin and gloss. You may also find a paint available in a high gloss finish or semi-gloss finish.  It all depends on the type of siding you have and what matters most to you: hideability or durability. Here?s our detailed breakdown to help simplify the selection process for you.

3 Main Types of Exterior Paint Finishes

  1. Flat Finish: The most porous paint finish and doesn’t reflect light.
  2. Satin Finish: Most popular among homeowners, not too dull but not too shiny. It has just the right amount of sheen that is perfect for wall painting.
  3. Gloss Finish: Reflects light that could highlight the flaws of your house.

Selecting a Sheen


The sheen of your paint refers to the amount of shine it holds. This will fall somewhere between flat and high gloss paint. You?ll want to have at least two types of sheens on your home?s exterior to help offset each other. Otherwise, your house will look too flattened and one-dimensional.

Types of Exterior Paint Finishes



Flat, or matte, finishes soften a home?s exterior look because there are no overlap marks when it?s brushed or rolled. They also hide blemishes on the surface due to their porosity and lack of light reflection. They are great for body siding, particularly if it is made of wood. Keep in mind that since this paint gets soiled fast and is hardest to clean, lighter paint will show it more.




A satin, or eggshell, finish is the universal option for siding because it is low-reflective and therefore good at hiding imperfections on the surface. It has a higher gloss than flat and is more cleanable, so it goes well on areas that will require routine cleaning, whether the siding be made of steel, vinyl, aluminum, fiber cement, or stucco. If you like how this paint looks, but want to use it in a high traffic area, you can find a deck and porch satin paint specifically designed for heavy-duty use.




A semi-gloss gives a shinier sheen, making it more durable and easier to clean. It also stands as a more moisture resistant paint. This goes great on trim work that will be most exposed to bad weather, like window sills, gutters, or garage doors, but don?t use it to cover large areas. Stick to using it to draw attention to architectural details of the house. Also, consider this type of paint if you have children who will be propping items or throwing mud against the side of your house.


High Gloss



A high gloss finish is resin-rich, which adds depth and richness to colors, while acting with resiliency and repelling dirt. This finish will call the most attention to imperfections so you must be very careful when applying it and use it sparingly. High-gloss works well on surfaces you come close to, like doors or shutters, but use too much and your house will look like plastic. If you want to apply it to your floor, then purchase a floor paint and add in some sand because glossy paint is slippery and needs extra grit for safety reasons.


Prep Work


When it comes to exterior painting, you need to prep and prime before you paint, just like you would with interior painting. Your house exterior is exposed to the roughness of the outdoors so if you want your coating system to last fifteen years you have to make sure the preparatory work is just as solid as the final coat. The paint will adhere best to a clean and dry surface so you must wash it, scrape, it, and then sand it for a smooth base layer. You will also need to repair any broken siding or trim and fill all holes that you find. Next, you will apply an exterior primer to the surface to grip it and provide a uniform porosity. Oil and water-based primers will stop ?bleeding? on redwood or red cedar.


Paint Can Contents


Exterior paint consists of pigments, solvents, binders, and additives. The pigments are the man-made colors and powdered minerals that give the paint its opacity and hue. The solvents are quick-to-evaporate liquids that keep the pigments and binders in suspension. The binders are the resins that coalesce to form the paint film after the solvents evaporate. Finally, the additives control dry time, mildew, and leveling.


Acrylic Paint for the Win


Paint made with 100% acrylic resins is the best all around, but the proportions of ingredients, dry-film thickness, and coverage rates vary. A high solids ratio indicates a good paint so long as the pigments and resins are high quality as well. As the film-thickness goes down the coverage goes up, so you will use this to determine how much paint to buy. The volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, in a paint are limited to different amounts, whether it is a flat paint or glossy one, because these adversely affect our lungs. Thus, acrylic paint with high solids, high thickness, and low coverage per gallon will cost the most because it does the best job.


But What About Masonry


Acrylic paint, lime, or mineral are musts for any coating going over masonry, such as stucco, stone, or brick. This is because they allow moisture to escape, while oil-based finishes don?t. Acrylic paint needs an alkaline resistant primer to protect it from the high pH of cement. The coating formula that combines slaked quicklime and mineral pigments must be reapplied every five years since it easily wears off. Mineral paints, however, use silicates, which will chemically bond to masonry and form a breathable, durable skin that will last for 50 years.


Oil Based Paint Option


Oil based paints, however, have been on a steady decline over the years, due to stricter health regulations. There are still times when this type of paint remains ideal, such as on porch floors, wrought iron, doors, and trim. It also works well on areas that will be closely examined, touched, or deserve a good shine. Oil paint’s toughness makes it preferable on these kinds of surfaces compared to what you would apply on just regular siding.


Color Selection


Choosing a color comes down to focusing on the surroundings of your house, neighborhood, landscape, and weather. You want to pick complementary colors to what already exists on the substrate of your home. For example, red on a brick foundation, a honey color on a cedar-shingle roof, or gray on a stone stoop. You should also aim for your home to blend in with the other houses in the neighborhood so it doesn?t awkwardly stick out. As for the landscape, playoff nature by going with a color that matches the trees or desert area surrounding you. The weather will range depending on your location, too, so aim to use warmer colors for sunnier spots and cooler shades for wintry climates.


Regardless of the type of paint and sheen you choose, painting your home?s exterior is a lot of work. Contact Pro Painters if you find yourself needing assistance with part or all of it. We are taking on plenty of exterior paint jobs this summer and would love to add yours to the list!



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Eddie Shekari

Eddie founded Pro Painters in 1995 to meet the growing need for high-quality residential and commercial painting needs in Houston. In nearly 20 years, Pro Painters has exponentially grown our client base, serving residents across the greater Houston area. Our core principles have helped us achieve the highest standard of workmanship and customer satisfaction. Our years of experience have allowed us to become an extension to our customers as the all-in-one solution for home makeovers.