Design Alchemy

Confused about paint finish? Gloss / Matte / Sheen / Lo-Lustre? In the following article Sherwin Williams help shed some light on this topic. Your guide to gloss and sheen — and the outcomes different finishes deliver when all is done and dry. By Tad Simons Color’s not everything when selecting paint. Among the characteristics that contribute to the look, feel, texture and durability of a paint specification are gloss and sheen — a.k.a. the finish — which also gives surfaces their distinct luster and overall aesthetic appeal. Here, Sherwin-Williams color and coatings experts make simple sense of gloss and sheen, so your designs can finish strong. This is gloss. This is sheen. To the eye, gloss and sheen are very different: Gloss is shiny and crisp. Sheen looks softer and has more depth and luster. Technically speaking, however, gloss and sheen are two aspects of the same thing: the amount of light reflected off a painted surface independent of its color. Glossy surfaces reflect a great deal of light. The sheen of matte or other low-gloss finishes doesn’t reflect as much light or in the same way. While gloss and sheen are separate from color (and measured differently), they nonetheless can profoundly affect how the eye perceives color. See the difference for yourself. Paint three strips side by side in the same color, but in different glosses/sheens. Viewed directly from above, the colors should appear close. Change your angle, however, and the color appears to change, sometimes dramatically, strip to strip. Straight on, dark glossy finishes tend to look darker than their matte counterparts; light glossy finishes skew brighter and sharper. The intensity and direction of the light source factor in as well. Matte colors tend to look darker viewed from an angle or in low light. They can also look quite flat when viewed straight on, and only seem lustrous from an angle. Likewise, glossy finishes can look lighter or slightly mottled if the surface is rough, uneven or has other imperfections. Tip: Consider the where. Referencing gloss/sheen measurements can help compensate for distortions in color perception. To achieve the appearance of a uniform color in an area where people will be moving around (say, a hallway), choose a paint with similar reflectance numbers at both 60 and 85 degrees. These reflect the same amount of light at a wide range of angles. Our finish categories. Within the Sherwin-Williams interior paint family, finishes fall into four basic categories. The sub-categories in parentheses provide a clearer mental picture of the paint’s characteristics. While subjective, they attempt to describe the “feel” of the paint as much as its look. Flat (flat, matte): No to very low reflection when dry. Eg-shel (low-gloss, eggshell, low sheen, satin, velvet): Low to medium reflection when dry. Semi-gloss (semi-gloss, pearl, medium luster): Medium to moderate reflection when dry. Gloss (gloss, high-gloss): High reflection when dry. Our measurements. All Sherwin-Williams paints contain numerical measurements for the amount of gloss and/or sheen in the can. These measurements are taken with a “gloss meter” whose receptor is sensitive to reflected light. Gloss is measured in units from 0 (no gloss) to 100 (mirror-like), with the measurement taken by reflecting light into the receptor at a 60-degree angle. Sheen is measured the same, except the light is reflected off the surface at an 85-degree angle, or five degrees from the surface plane. Many paints, particularly eg-shel and satins, contain both a gloss and a sheen number: These qualities combined give such paints their distinctive luster. Thus, a high-gloss paint might have a 60-degree gloss value of 80 or more. A low-gloss or matte finish might have a 60-degree value of 10 or less and an 85-degree sheen value between 20 and 30. The higher the numbers, the glossier the finish. This is where it gets fun. “In a lot of ways, gloss and sheen can be as important as the color itself to a design, depending on the overall effect you want to create,” says Sue Wadden, Director of Color Marketing for Sherwin-Williams. Using paints with slightly different gloss and sheen values can create subtle shifts in depth and color perception. Contrasting, for example, glossy window and door trim with flat/matte walls, adds depth, definition and texture to architectural features. Durability has the last word. Gloss finish or matte? In the past, gloss would have been the more durable option hands down. But technology is a wonderful thing. “For designers, specifying a flat finish no longer means compromising durability and cleanup ease,” says Rick Watson, Director of Product and Technical Information at Sherwin-Williams. Sherwin-Williams Emerald® Paints are a best-in-class example. Emerald’s new true-flat paint provides a stain-resistant, washable finish that delivers exceptional color and beauty. “I have Emerald flat finish on the walls in my own home’s back entry,” Watson says. “When my dogs get the wall muddy, it sponges clean without leaving a trace.”

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