What Paint Finish Is Best for Baseboards and Trim?

Are you wondering what paint finish is best for baseboards and trim? You’re not alone. A lot of people have this same question. Whether you want a classic look or something more modern, there are a few options.

The most common finish for baseboards and trim is satin, semi-gloss, and high-gloss paint. These finishes are durable and provide good protection against moisture, scuffs, and dirt. Their high level of sheen makes it easy to keep clean with a damp cloth.

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • The 5 factors to consider in choosing a finish
  • The 3 best paint finishes for baseboards and trim
  • Whether it’s possible to use low-sheen paints on baseboards and trim

5 Key Factors to Consider When Choosing a Paint Finish

Here are some key things to consider when selecting the right paint finish for your baseboards and trim. 

Tolerance to humidity

If you live in a humid climate, you should look for a finish that can tolerate high levels of humidity. Satin, semi-gloss, and high-gloss finishes are all good choices in this regard, as they provide a slightly textured surface that is resistant to moisture.

Compatibility with walls

When choosing the paint finish for your baseboards and trim, you should also consider the type of paint used on the wall.

The sheen of your baseboards and trim should be compatible with that of the wall. For instance, matte-finish walls will look best when paired with a low-sheen finish like satin on the trim.


Durability is important when selecting paint for the baseboards and trim in your home. High-traffic areas like baseboards and door frames will require a finish that won’t easily scratch or scuff.


Since baseboards and trim are more prone to dirt, you should look for a paint finish that can be easily wiped clean.

Ease of application

Finally, you should also consider the ease of application when selecting a paint finish for your baseboards and trim.

Glossier finishes tend to be more difficult to apply, so if you don’t have much painting experience, you may opt for a lower-sheen product like satin.

The 3 Best Paint Finishes for Baseboards and Trim

Gloss in paint is shown and measured by the amount of light that reflects off its surface. The gloss level is often shown in percentages.

The higher the gloss, the more light will reflect off the surface and produce a bright, shiny finish. On the other hand, a flat or low sheen has a rougher surface profile that scatters light in many directions. As such, it appears much flatter to the eye.

The amount of shine a paint has can drastically influence its look and overall usefulness. Increasing gloss levels can improve durability, including scrub, stain, and moisture resistance.

However, they also tend to highlight any defects on a surface due to their reflective properties. Additionally, different gloss levels will cause colors to appear differently.

Some may become more vibrant, while others may seem duller than expected due to their ability to reflect light.


One of the most popular and best choices is to use semi-gloss paint for baseboards and trim, as it offers a durable finish that stands up to everyday wear and tears.

It is highly resistant to moisture and wipes clean easily, making it a great choice for high-traffic areas. Semi-gloss paint also has an attractive sheen that falls between satin and high-gloss paint finishes.

It has a 40-50% reflectivity level, providing an eye-catching look with just enough sparkle to add a bit of personality without being overpowering. 

In terms of cost, semi-gloss is typically more expensive than satin finishes due to the additional coats needed to achieve the desired effect.

However, this cost is often counterbalanced by the fact that semi-gloss finishes require less maintenance over time. And since they are more resistant to dirt, dust, and moisture than other types of paint, they will usually hold up better.

When preparing for a project using semi-gloss paint, careful preparation is essential for achieving the desired results. The surface must be free from debris or dust for the paint to adhere properly, so wiping down walls before painting is important.

Additionally, since semi-gloss paints tend to reveal imperfections readily, it’s important to take extra care when filling holes and sanding away any imperfections before applying the first coat of paint. 

If you’re looking for baseboards and trim built to last, then Sherwin-Williams Duration Home Interior Acrylic LatexOpens in a new tab. is the right choice. This paint features anti-microbial agents that inhibit mold growth through its moisture-resistant technology.

In addition, this paint boasts advanced stain-blocking capabilities with no color rub-off post-washing. And, of course, it’s backed by a lifetime warranty, so you know your purchase will be covered long into the future.


  • Very durable
  • Resistant to moisture, dirt, and scuffs
  • Easy to clean
  • Low odor and low VOCs


  • More expensive than satin finishes
  • Requires careful preparation before use


Like semi-gloss, using high-gloss paint on your baseboards and trim is one of the best choices. It provides a glass-like shine that instantly brightens any space.

Gloss paint is much more reflective than semi-gloss, with a 70-80% reflectivity level. It gives off a visually striking appearance that can make any room look more beautiful.

The smooth, shiny surface of high-gloss painted trim creates an appealing contrast against the wall surfaces, making it a great option for accentuating baseboards and other architectural elements.

This type of finish is also highly durable and resistant to staining. It can stand up to some serious scrubbing without chipping or fading, so it’s ideal for areas with heavy foot traffic or those prone to dirt and grime.

However, applying high-gloss paint can be tricky for DIYers who don’t have experience working with this type of finish.

If not done properly, brush strokes and excess spattering can become very noticeable upon drying, especially when compared to the smoother finish of flatter paints.

Touch-ups are also much harder because you need to match the existing glossiness precisely to blend them seamlessly with their surroundings. 

Farrow & Ball Full GlossOpens in a new tab. offers a stunning, high-gloss finish that is washable and wipeable. Plus, it’s A+ rated for indoor air quality, boasting rapid drying times and low odors with its low VOCs. Enjoy up to six years of durability without worrying about water damage or fading.


  • Extremely reflective
  • Very durable and long-lasting
  • Washable and wipeable
  • Low VOCs


  • Difficult to apply for DIYers
  • Touch-ups are difficult to blend in seamlessly


Using satin paint on your baseboards and trim is an excellent option for its strong color, slight sheen, and soft luster, which add subtle beauty and dimension. It stands up well to wear in moderate-traffic areas, making it a great choice for busy households.

It’s resilient against scratches and dents, and it’s easy to clean, making maintenance relatively straightforward compared to other finishes. 

Additionally, satin finish paint is moisture-resistant and offers good coverage with reasonable maintenance needed. 

One thing that makes satin paint ideal for baseboards and trim is its medium reflectivity level. Its 20-25% reflectivity level produces a soft glow in low-light conditions and doesn’t create unwanted glare in brighter areas.

This means that your new baseboard and trim will look great at any time of day while still blending seamlessly into the background when not being actively looked at. 

The satin finish costs slightly more than other finishes due to the extra coats required for full coverage. However, this higher cost is well worth the investment, given the durability of this paint.

Glidden Essentials interior paintOpens in a new tab. offers a stunning, silky smooth finish that looks gorgeous from any angle. Its rich and creamy texture ensures easy application with superior coverage and hiding capabilities.

Not to mention it’s scrubbable for fast cleaning. With the bonus of paint-and-primer in one, you can achieve beautiful results faster than ever before.


  • Soft luster and slight sheen
  • Moisture-resistant
  • Medium reflectivity level
  • Scrubbable for fast cleaning


  • Higher cost due to extra coats needed for full coverage 
  • More susceptible to damage from scratches and dents than glossier finishes.​​

Can Low-Sheen Paints Be Used on Baseboards and Trim?

Low-sheen paints lack the necessary durability and protection for baseboards and trim. Baseboards and trim are areas that often experience more foot traffic and contact with furniture, making it essential to choose a paint with greater durability to ensure the longevity of your paint job.

Flat, matte, and eggshell paints are much better suited for other areas of the house that do not experience as much traffic. These paints offer little to no sheen, which makes them less durable. They can also be difficult to clean and are prone to staining.

High-sheen, semi-gloss, and satin paints are the best choice due to their durability and easy cleanability. They also provide an attractive finish that stands up well to wear and tear over time.

Oil-Based vs. Water-Based (Latex) vs. Acrylic Paints

Oil-based paint

Oil-based paint is best used for trim because it produces superior glass-like finishes with minimal to zero brush marks. The thick consistency of the paint is also good at filling in minor holes.

This type of paint typically offers greater stain blocking, durability, and scratch resistance than latex-based paints, making it ideal for use in high-traffic areas like trim work around the home.

One potential downside of oil-based paint is that it requires more time to dry between coats. The slow drying process could lead to an uneven finish if you don’t give each layer enough time to cure before applying the next coat.

Additionally, cleanup requires special solvents such as mineral spirits, which can be unpleasant and messy to deal with due to their strong odors.

Many localities now ban oil-based paints due to environmental concerns about their solvent content. They also have a high VOC level, which could be hazardous to your health if inhaled in large amounts. Hence, many professional painters opt to use water-based latex paints instead.

Water-based (latex) paint

Water-based paint is ideal for trim and baseboard painting projects due to its quick drying time, ease of application, and minimal odor. It has a lower VOC content than oil-based paints and dries quickly between coats.

Water-based paint also does not yellow over time like oil-based paint can, making it an excellent choice for long-term projects such as baseboards or trims. 

In addition to its durability, water-based paint is easy to clean with soap and water, making it convenient for home DIYers and professional painters. It also covers surfaces in fewer coats than oil-based paints.

Moreover, water-based paints are also resistant to mold and mildew growth which can be beneficial in bathrooms or other high-humidity areas where moisture can trap quickly behind walls or trim. 

The only downside to water-based paints is that they can cause the grain of wood surfaces to swell during application. Brush marks may also be visible after the paint dries.

Despite these minor issues, the overall benefits of water-based paint make it a preferred choice for most trim and baseboard painting projects.

Acrylic paint

Trim and baseboards require strong, durable paint that won’t easily chip or peel, and acrylic paint doesn’t have what it takes. Even with multiple coats, acrylic paint is not as resilient and can become dull over time.

They would require more maintenance than other paints because of the amount of wear and tear that baseboards and trim see.

Additionally, if temperatures fluctuate significantly in the room where the trim or baseboard is located, the acrylic paint may expand or contract too much, causing cracks or peeling.

This means that acrylic paint is not suitable for use in rooms with large temperature variations. Furthermore, acrylic paint is often only available in a limited range of colors compared with latex paints, which can come in nearly any shade imaginable.

Overall, acrylic paint may be an attractive option due to its quick drying time, but it is not suited for trim and baseboard projects where longevity matters most.

When painting any area of your home with frequent contact or movement, always choose a type that provides superior adhesion qualities, like latex or oil-based formulas, over acrylic ones to achieve the best results possible.

How to Choose the Right Paint Color for Your Baseboards and Trim

Let’s look at how to make the best choice for your baseboards and trim. 

Consider your room’s style 

First and foremost, consider the style of the room you are painting. When selecting a color, think of the overall effect you want to achieve. If you are going for a modern look, consider choosing bold colors that stand out.

On the other hand, if you are looking for something more traditional, select neutral shades such as white or gray.

Choose a color that compliments your wall color 

For a more cohesive look, choosing a color that complements your wall color may be better. Try to select shades with similar undertones, such as cool blues and greens or warm yellows and oranges. This will create a seamless look throughout the room and an even more calming atmosphere.

Think about the light in the room 

When selecting a trim color, consider the type of lighting in each room and how it might affect the shade you choose. The same color may look very different in a bright sunlit bedroom compared to a dimly lit living room.

Try out different samples 

Once you’ve narrowed down your choices based on style and contrast considerations, it’s time to get samples of each color option that appeal to you most.

Paint samples are an inexpensive way to see how a shade looks in person before committing to buying gallons of paint.

7 Preparations to Consider Before Painting Your Baseboards and Trim

Gather your supplies 

The first step is gathering all the necessary supplies for the job. This includes paint, brushes, rollers, tape, and drop cloths. Make sure you have enough of each to complete the project with minimal interruption.

Protect your floors and walls 

Before you begin, protect your floors and walls with drop cloths or plastic. This will help keep paint from getting onto surfaces where it shouldn’t be.

Remove any fixtures or hardware 

Before you begin, remove any fixtures or hardware from the baseboards and trim. This will make it easier to paint without any obstacles in your way.

Clean the surface 

It’s important to clean the surface before applying new paint. Use a mild detergent with water to get rid of any dust or debris that could interfere with the paint adhesion.

Fill in any holes or cracks 

If there are any holes or cracks, fill them in before painting. This will ensure a smooth surface and prevent future cracking and peeling of the paint.

Sand the surface 

Once you’ve filled in any imperfections, sand down the surface to create an even finish, and use fine-grade sandpaper. The final result will be smooth and uniform.

Apply primer 

To ensure the best coverage, it’s recommended to use a primer before applying paint. This will help the paint adhere better and give you a professional-looking finish. Now you can start painting your baseboards and trim.

Joshua Milton

I want to share everything I know about home improvement in order to help you. Whether you're a home enthusiast or an industry professional, I have the information that you need.

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