Painting Like a Pro – Part 2. Paint and Sheen

Let’s talk about Paint, Baby…

Before we start, let’s talk paint. One factor for a perfect paint job is the quality of the paint you choose. Do yourself a favor, don’t settle for the cheap store brand paint. You may save yourself a few bucks, but you will be looking at streaks and imperfections from the cheap paint for years to come. Or worse, the paint won’t hold up to wiping or moisture (not good!)

Benjamin Moore Aura Paint – Love this stuff! Serious love affair here. Not only is it low VOCs and low odor, but the coverage is amazing and you don’t see any of the roller marks. It is thick like a chocolate milk shake and spreads slightly after it is rolled on. This is the only paint I’ve been able to get away with only using one coat. But, it was because I was painting a lighter shade of sage over a pine green color. Other rooms where I was going from a much darker color to a light color, I had to use two coats, but I definitely didn’t use as much paint as I would have if I used another brand. Be prepared for the sticker shock, this paint isn’t cheap at $56 a gallon, but you will use less and you will be saving the environment!

Valspar – Hi Def Paint – Before we were spoiled by the Benjamin Moore Aura paint, Pretty Handsome Guy and I used to paint with Valspar paints for all our walls. In fact, we still use the Flat Ultra White for our ceilings. We were always happy with the results, but the idea of using a Low VOC paint really appealed to me.  Last week, as I eyed the “oops” paint at my local Lowe’s (a normal habit of mine), I was lucky enough to spot a color that was very close to a color I was craving for our bathroom. I grabbed it up for $5 ($10 at register with a $5 rebate. Normally $32). The paint was a gallon of the new Valspar Hi-DEF paint. I have to say, I was impressed by the coverage. It almost covered all of the old color in one coat (I was covering dark purple with a light aqua.) This paint would be a good option if you didn’t want to shell out the $56 for the Aura paint.

Benjamin Moore Impervo paintThis is my new favorite trim paint! This stuff goes on smooth and spreads like an oil paint. It also has a durable finish that resists chipping and really stands up to our kids’ shenanigans. Before I found the Impervo, I thought I was doomed to use an Alkyd (oil paint with a dryer added) paint for our trim. If you’ve ever had the misfortune of using oil based paint, you know that it has a strong odor and the brushes have to be cleaned with turpentine. Not at all good for you or the environment.  You can imagine my excitement (and skepticism) at finding a water based trim paint that is supposed to hold up like oil. Our living room trim paint has lasted 1.5 years and it still looks great! Again, this amazingly durable paint isn’t cheap, it costs $48  a gallon, but at least you don’t have to paint your trim every year if you have little devils boys in your home.

Please note: There are other good paints available (Sherwin Williams is also a favorite of many other DIY bloggers.) This is just a list of the paints that I love to use.


Let it Shine, Let it Shine (or maybe a little less shine) – Flat, Eggshell, Satin, Semi-Gloss, or  Gloss. How do you know which one to choose?

Gloss – The only time I use gloss or high gloss is for trim and cabinetry. (Or the things that get grubby fingers ALL over them.) The gloss surface cleans up much better than non-gloss, and it doesn’t hold onto oils or grease like the other finishes.

Semi-Gloss – This sheen is great for painting a bathroom, kitchen or walls that will see a lot of moisture, water and basic abuse.  Similar to the gloss, it will be easier to wipe clean and water splashes won’t show as much on this surface.

Satin – I know I just said you should paint kitchens and bathrooms with semi-gloss, but I rarely do. Why? Well, because my walls are far from perfect. We have two rooms that had wallpaper painted over (not my decision.) After spackling and sanding the seams (doing my best to smooth them), I used a satin paint.  Satin has most of the durability of a semi-gloss, but less sheen. If you use paint with a sheen you will see highlights wherever there is a seam, bump or edge.Therefore highlighting your imperfect walls.

Eggshell – Low sheen, but not flat. Eggshell is best for rooms with imperfect surfaces or bedrooms. Eggshell has an almost matte or flat appearance and is very smooth and hides bumps and dips fairly well. It’s not as easy to clean, but will stand up to an occasional wiping better than flat paint.

Flat – I never use flat, except….when painting ceilings. Then we grab our favorite ceiling paint: Valspar Flat Ultra White for maximum light reflection. (Read more about bright white ceilings HERE.) So, unless you are painting ceilings, don’t use flat, it is too chalky and hard to clean.

Just call me Ms. Mix-a-lot. How to Save $ by Mixing Your Own Paint:

Some of  the paints I mentioned can cost quite a pretty penny. So, I thought you might like to know the way I save money on paint. I frequently scour the “Oops” or “Mistint” paints. If I see a color that is close to what I want, I grab it. For my downstairs bathroom I spotted this sea green color and knew it was close to the color I wanted, but just a shade darker. All I needed to do was purchase an empty paint can and use some leftover white paint to mix a prefect color.

You can mix any two sheens as long as they are next to each other in the list above. In other words mixing gloss and semi-gloss is fine; semi-gloss and satin; satin and eggshell; or in my case eggshell and flat paint.  You definitely don’t want to mix a semi-gloss with a flat or eggshell. You might get some streaks and it is hard to mix.

To mix paint, I like to use this paint mixer attachment that fits on my drill. It is a dream come true for a custom paint mixer like myself.

Without going into too much color theory, here are two mixing formulas I like to use.  Keep in mind your paint color has to be fairly close to the final color you want before attempting these mixes.

Too vibrant, intense or bright – Let’s say you find a color that you like, but it is too intense and you want to dull or tone it down. You can add either black or brown paint (I use acrylic craft paint) to tone down the color. Pour some of your paint into an empty bucket or paint can, then add a big squeeze of black (or brown.) Mix it, put a dab on a piece of paper and dry it with a hair dryer (because I’m too impatient to wait.) Still too vibrant? Add more black (or brown) until it is the color you want. I used this method for my dormer hallway shutters. You’ll have to play with the mixing until you get the desired results.

Too dark, need a shade lighter – Add white paint to a bucket, then slowly add small amounts of your paint color and mix it. Put a dab on a piece of paper and dry it to check the color. Still too light? Add more color or if it is too dark, add more white.

I hope this post helps you find the perfect paint for your next paint job.

Other Steps in this Series:

Step 1. Prep work

Step 3. painting your room and finishing touches



  1. Excellent tips, especially about the not mixing too far away sheens! I’m about to do some mixing for the first time, I’ll have to let you know how it turns out.

  2. Thanks for the tips. I always wondered about mixing of paints. I always kept it flat with flat, etc.
    Also, thanks for the tips on toning down paint.

  3. These tips could not have come at a better time. We’re in the process of painting several rooms. I purchased a can of blue paint that I don’t like and I don’t want to throw it away. I’ll have to try mixing it with something else too. And I won’t blame you if it comes out horrendously. :-)

    Looking forward to tomorrows post. Thanks!

  4. If you’re feeling adventurous about tweaking an Oops paint, you might check out your local Habitat Re-store. The last couple of places we’ve lived got a lot of Oops paint donated and we’re selling it for great prices.

  5. You are truly an asset for the DIY industry. Thanks for all you do to help others have the confidence to tackle our projects.

  6. Benjamin Moore Aura Paint is my favourite as its with no voc just in love with it.

  7. Found you via One Pretty thing! Great tips on painting. I have a basement full of oops paint- you can’t beat the price and I have rarely messed up though I pray real hard as I am playing with all those cans of paint.

    Getting ready to paint another room this weekend. Am trying to figure if I want to go blue, or tan- well see what comes out of the mix!

  8. Christina says:

    I absolutely LOVE your blog. It is very empowering as I am trying to do more DIY and am sometimes a bit scared! I do need your help on a project from last summer. I painted my bathroom in a turquoisey (more light blue with a bit of turquoise) blue. We have one whole window (a skylight) in our bathroom. It gets moist in the bathroom… I mean it’s a BATHROOM :) In any case, the paint started dripping (like after it had dried, because of moisture I’m thinking??) down the walls. It’s horrid. If you touch it at any given time, you can kind of wipe it off (not completely but you’ll have a little blue on your finger). It was semi gloss. What did I do wrong? How can I fix the horror? Please please help if you can!

    • Christina,

      You didn’t do anything wrong. The paint manufacturers did! Unfortunately you were the recipient of poor quality paint. If you repaint this room, I highly recommend priming over the current paint. Then, invest in a higher quality paint like Benjamin Moore (Aura is my favorite because of the low VOCs) or Sherwin Williams. You can use a satin finish if you like, or semi-gloss (but it will show imperfections more.)

      I hope that helps. Good luck with your bathroom and sorry that happened to you.


      • Christina says:

        Thank you Thank you Thank you!!!I went back and looked at the paint can: Glidden Low VOC Satin tropical lagoon 😉 Love the color-not the paint. Thanks for getting back to me so quickly. I’ve been afraid to repaint all this time thinking I might mess it up worse. I’ll just reprime and get that color paint matched in Benjamin Moore paint.

        • Hmmm, I would have thought Glidden was a good brand. When you go to your Benjamin Moore dealer, ask the paint guy what the best paint for a moist bathroom would be. I’m guessing most would work well, but better to double check with them.

          • Christina says:

            OK will do. I thought Glidden was a better brand too. On the can it says to wait 30 minutes in between coats. Maybe I should have waited longer? Maybe I didn’t wait long enough after I primed it? It’s not paint drips per se’.. it’s like the paint is kind of runny / running down the wall. In any case, I will still ask the Benjamin Moore person as well. Thank you again for your help! :)

  9. Jason Hepperly says:

    I usually use flat paint for my imperfect walls but my kitchen need something stronger should I do the latex mixed with eggshell or eggshell and satin?

    • Jason, if you are willing to pay a little bit more for paint, Benjamin Moore makes a great Bath & Spa paint that is flat but resists water and is easy to clean up. It is called Natura. I used it in my kids’ bathroom and so far really like it.

      Otherwise, I would use a latex satin finish in the kitchen. Just try to patch as much as you can on the walls before painting.

  10. I’d like to know if I can use a craft paint in a design over a semi-gloss paint?

  11. I’m about to cry!!! I have painted many a wall and trim in my day. I am painting my dining room with Martha Stewart’s “Kalamata Olive” that was custom mixed in Behr’s paint+primer. I do not allow a lot of sunlight in the room. The walls are in very good shape. With natural sunlight or ceiling light at night with the drapes closed, I can still see (after 3 coats) that the paint isn’t uniform: roller streaks, however subtle they may be. My technique is really great; I don’t thin the paint out or glob it on. I take my time and use decent rollers and brushes. Is it the brand of paint? What am I doing wrong?? Please help me as I have the rest of my condo to paint. #feelingdiscouraged. Thank you. Leah.

    • also…it’s satin btw. thanks…

      • Leah, what color are you painting over? Is it a drastic dark to light (or opposite change?) I don’t have much experience with Martha Stewart paint, I do know that I had results like that in the past when I bought cheap paint. I can tell you that you shouldn’t have any roller marks with Benjamin Aura, but the paint is expensive.

  12. hi! i just found your blog and i have a question! do you have any experience painting over various sheens? i am planning on repainting a couple of my rooms that *i think* the previous owners painted in either satin or semigloss. is it ok to just paint over them, or do i need to take steps prior to the painting. i have been having such a hard time finding a good answer…

  13. I accidently mixed together some oil paint and some wb paint (for a custom color), but obv a mistake. Is there anything I can use this paint for? If not, how do I get rid of it? Thanks for your tips, have made a big difference in my painting!

    • Kg, Not really, that sounds like a mess waiting to happen. You will have to mix the paint with sawdust and/or kitty litter and leave the lid off to let the paint harden.

  14. Seana Larson says:

    I know you said you use flat on ceilings but when it come to a bathroom, do you use semi-gloss or a paint with a lesser sheen?


  1. […] Welcome back, I hope you are ready to paint with me today! If you are just stopping by and haven’t prepped your room for painting, you may want to take a moment to read Painting Like a Pro Step 1 and Step 2. […]

  2. […] up next week, Step 2. painting your room like a pro! I bet you can’t […]

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