What Paint Finish Is Best for Ceilings?

Choosing the right paint for your ceiling is vital, as the finish you choose has a huge impact on the look and feel of the room and how long the paint job lasts. So, which paint finish is the best?

It’s recommended to use flat acrylic paint for ceilings. This type of paint does not reflect light or divert attention from the walls and furniture in the room. Additionally, since ceilings don’t undergo much wear and tear, a glossy and durable finish is not necessary, except in moisture-prone areas such as bathrooms or kitchens.

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • The 5 factors to consider in choosing a paint finish
  • The best paint finish for living rooms, bedrooms, kitchens, and bathrooms
  • How to choose the right paint color for your ceiling

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 ceiling.


Although ceilings rarely face wear and tear, there are still some cases where durability is important. For example, a more durable finish is necessary for bathrooms and kitchens where steam and moisture can cause paint to peel and blister.

Mold and mildew resistance

A paint finish with mold and mildew resistance can benefit ceilings in damp areas, such as basements or rooms with poor ventilation or bathrooms.


Again, depending on the room usage, a finish that is easy to clean can be important. For instance, a washable finish is desirable in kitchens where splatters and other cooking residues can accumulate on the ceiling.


Many individuals underestimate this aspect as they believe all paint has the same odor. This is not always the case. It’s important to pay attention to products with low VOC labels, to ensure that the scent is not too strong during application or after the paint has dried.


Considering your budget beforehand can help narrow down your search by ruling out certain products that may not fit within what you’re willing or able to spend at the present moment.

The 3 Best Paint Finishes for Bathroom and Kitchen Ceilings

Gloss is an important aspect of paint, as it determines a surface’s look and durability. Higher gloss levels make surfaces more resistant to scratches, stains, and moisture, but they also show more imperfections.

The gloss level of paint can influence color perception as well. For instance, a single color can appear different with varying gloss levels due to light reflection. 

The appearance of the paint is directly related to how much light is reflected off it. A smooth glass-like surface reflects a lot of light, making it appear glossy, whereas rough surfaces scatter the light in various directions, giving it a flat look.

The reflectivity level is shown in percentages. The higher it is, the glossier the paint will look.


Semi-gloss paint strikes a balance between a high gloss finish, which can be too reflective, and a satin finish which may appear too dull. The subtle shine of semi-gloss on ceilings adds a nice touch to both areas.

A semi-gloss finish has a reflectivity level of between 40-50%, making it perfect for rooms with higher moisture levels, such as bathrooms and kitchens. This mid-level reflectivity helps reduce glare while providing enough shine to brighten the room. 

Durability is also a major advantage of semi-gloss paint. These paints are highly resistant to moisture and mold, making them ideal for use in damp environments like bathrooms and kitchens, where other finishes would quickly degrade over time due to the humidity.

Semi-gloss paints also wipe easily, meaning any spills or accidental splashes can be removed without damaging the finish. 

AURA Interior PaintOpens in a new tab. is a perfect choice if you’re looking for a semi-gloss finish that is attractive and long-lasting.

Not only does it deliver excellent hide in one or two coats, but its innovative Color Lock technology ensures your vibrant colors stay locked into the paint film. Additionally, its unique copolymer resin formulation increases film durability and resists color rub-off.


  • Offers a subtle shine that looks great in bathrooms and kitchens
  • Highly resistant to moisture and mold
  • Wipes down easily for easy cleaning
  • Durable finish


  • Can be difficult to apply due to its glossy finish
  • Requires multiple coats for good coverage


High-gloss paint is one of the best paint finishes for bathroom and kitchen ceilings. Using high-gloss paint on ceilings can help create an instantly brighter, more inviting space with its glass-like appearance, high reflectivity, and smooth, shiny finish.

High-gloss paints are more expensive than semi-gloss and satin paints, but it is the most durable. It is a tough, stain-resistant choice that can withstand serious scrubbing.

Applying high-gloss paint is harder than lower gloss paints, and touchups are particularly noticeable due to the high gloss sheen of the paint. This makes it important to be extra careful while painting, as any imperfections will be highlighted.

Despite this, high gloss paints remain highly washable due to their resiliency against staining and smudging. This makes them an ideal choice for areas such as bathrooms and kitchens where hygiene is paramount. 

Get the perfect sheen for your kitchen and bathroom with BEHR PREMIUM PLUS Interior/Exterior Hi-Gloss EnamelOpens in a new tab. paint. This superior gloss provides a glassy, durable finish that is easy to clean and resists moisture and mildew buildup.


  • High reflectivity that creates a bright and inviting space
  • Tough and stain-resistant
  • Easy to clean


  • Expensive
  • Difficult to apply
  • Touchups are very noticeable due to high sheen 


Satin paint is one of the best options to finish bathroom and kitchen ceilings. It has a strong color with a slight sheen, making it ideal for ceiling applications where you don’t want too much light reflection or glare. Satin paint has a 20-25% reflectivity level, lower than other glossier paint finishes.

When it comes to durability, satin paint on ceilings is tough and flexible. It stands up well to wear and tear even in high-traffic areas, which makes it ideal for busy households.

Furthermore, satin paint is moisture-resistant and can handle steamy bathrooms and kitchens. Regarding maintenance, satin paint requires reasonable coverage and can be easily cleaned.

When looking for a budget-friendly option that still delivers great results, satin paints are the way to go. Sherwin-Williams Emerald Interior Acrylic LatexOpens in a new tab. paint is a first-rate choice if you’re searching for such an option.

Boasting exceptional hide and coverage as well as durability and washability, this paint provides a smooth, uniform finish with remarkable scrub and stain resistance.

Additionally, anti-microbial agents inhibit mold and mildew growth on the painted surface, all while meeting even the most stringent VOC regulations.


  • Costs less than high-gloss paints
  • Strong color with a subtle sheen
  • Durable and flexible
  • Moisture-resistant and washable


  • Lower reflectivity level than other glossier paints
  • May require multiple coats for good coverage

Can Low-Sheen Paints Be Used on Bathroom and Kitchen Ceilings?

Low-sheen paints, such as flat, matte, and eggshell finishes, are popular for interior walls because they are durable and offer a subtle finish that doesn’t reflect light.

Although these types of paints can be used on many surfaces throughout the home, they should not be used on bathroom and kitchen ceilings because they provide little protection against moisture.

Low-sheen paints can become susceptible to mold growth and deteriorate quickly when exposed to prolonged moisture, such as steam from a shower or cooking splatter from the kitchen stovetop. 

In addition to being unsuitable for bathrooms and kitchens due to their lack of protection against moisture buildup, low-sheen paints may also become dull over time due to their inability to withstand frequent cleaning with harsh chemicals. 

While flat paint may look good when first applied, any scrubbing or use of chemical cleaners will cause the finish to fade and lose its luster. For this reason, it is important for homeowners who want a lasting finish in these areas of the home to opt for a higher-sheen option. 

The 3 Best Paint Finishes for Living Room and Bedroom Ceilings

Gloss level can have a big impact on the look and feel of a room. Generally, finishes with a reflectivity level of 0-15% are best for living rooms and bedrooms because they provide a softer, more muted look and don’t reflect too much light.

Low-gloss finishes are best for traditionally decorated rooms that don’t feature any bold colors or patterns. They give off an inviting, cozy vibe that makes these types of spaces comfortable and inviting.


If you’re looking to modernize the look of your living room and bedroom ceilings, flat paint is a fantastic option. Not only does it provide a sleek, contemporary appearance, but it also comes with a range of benefits.

Using flat paint on your ceiling won’t leave visible brush strokes or roller marks, making it an economical choice for your ceiling renovation. In addition to being budget-friendly, flat paint is also great at concealing imperfections on surfaces.

Unlike its high gloss or semi-gloss counterparts, flat paint has the ability to effectively camouflage blemishes and make your ceiling look flawless for a prolonged period of time.

This is a great option for homeowners looking to give their ceilings a polished, modern touch without breaking the bank.

This is important when you have an older home with some warping or unevenness in the ceiling. An extra layer of flat paint will provide additional coverage and help make the surface look more uniform.

It’s also easier to apply multiple layers of flat paint because there’s less chance of creating puddles or drips on the edges due to its consistency and thickness.

We recommend Valspar Ultra Interior Flat Ceiling White Latex-Base Paint and PrimerOpens in a new tab. for optimal results.

Its unbeatable features stand out from the rest: excellent hide and coverage, a stunning dead-flat finish that’s easy to touch up, spatter resistance for mess-free painting experiences, and mold and mildew protection with a Greenguard Gold Certification. Plus, it can be tinted to any other color for a truly unique look.


  • Hides imperfections better than other finishes
  • Easy to apply multiple layers
  • Highly affordable


  • Not as durable as higher-sheen finishes


Matte is one of the best paint finishes for living room and bedroom ceilings because of its durable, low-gloss properties. Using a matte finish on your ceilings will help to absorb light rather than reflect it, creating a calming atmosphere in those spaces.

Matte paint offers a gorgeous sheen with the added benefit of superior coverage due to its higher pigment content. However, this does mean an increased cost in comparison to flat paints.

Additionally, matte paint is safe for use in living rooms and bedrooms. It does not chip easily and can tolerate some cleaning due to the low level of glossiness that it provides.

Matte paints are both cost-effective and practical. They are easy to apply, don’t require special tools or techniques, and can be touched up quickly and easily. 

Pittsburgh Paints & Stains Ultra Interior Matte White Smoke Ceiling Paint & PrimerOpens in a new tab. is a perfect choice for a luxurious matte finish. With this paint and primer in one, you’ll get excellent coverage with fewer coats, plus its creamy consistency ensures low splatter for a rich look.

The acrylic latex formula offers great hide and coverage while easily cleaning up with soap and water. Get your desired coloration by using it as-is or tinting it to over 600 colors.


  • Durable and chip-resistant
  • Creates a calming atmosphere
  • Easy to clean


  • More expensive than flat paint


Eggshell has a slight gloss that adds a subtle richness to rooms, so it can be used in formal and informal settings. It’s also easy to apply and cost-effective, making it a preferred choice of professional designers. 

Unlike its flat paint counterparts, its slight gloss helps keep dirt and other contaminants away from the surface while at the same time providing good coverage. Eggshell paints are exceptionally resistant to wear and tear due to their strong composition.

Painting your ceiling with eggshell paint doesn’t just look attractive. It also has a greater resistance to moisture, mold, mildew, and other environmental elements when compared to flat and matte finishes. Not only will it last longer than flat paints, but it is also much easier to clean.

Valspar Professional Interior Latex Eggshell SeriesOpens in a new tab. is the ideal solution for any project. Not only does it boast excellent hide and coverage, but it also offers a smooth, uniform finish that’s easy to apply. Plus, you benefit from its durable film and top-notch touchup capabilities, making this series an all-inclusive answer.


  • Gives a subtle rich look
  • Easy to apply and cost-effective
  • Resistant to moisture, mold, and mildew


  • More expensive than flat finishes

Can High-Sheen Paints Be Used on Living Room and Bedroom Ceilings?

High-sheen paints are not suitable for use on living room and bedroom ceilings due to the intense amount of light reflection they provide.

To achieve a soft and comfortable atmosphere in low-traffic areas like living rooms and bedrooms, it is best to stick with flat or eggshell finishes. These paint types have a very low level of sheen, meaning that the wall or ceiling will absorb light instead of reflect it.

Also, high-sheen paints show imperfections more readily than other sheens, meaning they do not hide blemishes or lower sheens. Low-luster finishes like flat or matte does a better job at hiding these imperfections, so it’s best to stick with those types of paint if you want your ceiling to look its best over time. 

It is important to note that while high-sheen paints are typically not recommended on living room and bedroom ceilings, they can still be used elsewhere, depending on your decorating goals.

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

Oil-based paint

Oil-based paints are not recommended for ceilings due to their high levels of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that can be released into the environment. When inhaled, VOCs are toxic gasses that can cause nausea, headaches, and other health problems.

In some countries, oil-based paint is no longer available due to its environmental impact. In addition to the health concerns associated with using oil-based paints on ceilings, it is also important to consider the paint’s performance.

Oil-based paints take longer to dry than other types of paint and may require additional thinning agents to help them spread more evenly.

Oil-based paints also have the potential to yellow over time, which could lead to an undesirable aesthetic effect on a ceiling visible from eye level.

Lastly, oil-based paints are more likely than other types of paint to chip off and require additional maintenance over their lifespan. For these reasons, oil-based paints are not recommended for use on ceilings.

Water-based (latex) paint

Although water-based (latex) paint is not the most suitable choice for ceilings due to its thin consistency, there exists specially formulated latex ceiling paints, which are more viscous so that they do not drip while being applied.

A higher-quality paint designed for ceilings will help ensure better coverage and a more even application of the paint on the ceiling.

Latex paints are generally easier to clean after application since they are water-based, but they may take a few coats to get full coverage.

The upside is that they dry quickly between coats, so you don’t have to wait too long. Latex paints also have less odor and low VOC levels, making them a good choice if you want a more eco-friendly option.

Because of their tendency to show brush strokes and not stick as well to certain surfaces, it’s important to make sure you prepare your ceiling properly before applying latex paint so that it adheres properly.

This includes cleaning the surface thoroughly and priming it with a good quality primer designed specifically for latex paints so that the brush marks don’t show through once dried.

Acrylic paint

Acrylic paint is highly recommended for ceilings due to its numerous advantages. It has a greater color range than oil-based paints and is usually cheaper, making it perfect for budget-conscious homeowners.

Compared to oil-based paints that emit hazardous fumes, acrylics contain fewer VOCs and are therefore the safer option for interior painting projects.

The paint also has strong adhesive properties that provide a secure bond to the surface of the ceiling, so it won’t crack or peel over time.

Furthermore, acrylic paint expands and contracts when temperatures fluctuate, protecting against dramatic changes in the weather. This ensures that your ceiling will look as good as new for years to come. 

Aside from these practical benefits, acrylic paint also offers a wide variety of color choices, so you can choose something that perfectly complements your decor scheme.

Thanks to the paint’s UV resistance, you can experiment with different shades and tones without worrying about them fading or peeling over time. 

How to Choose the Right Paint Color for Your Ceiling

Consider your lighting 

It is important to consider the amount of natural light in the room. A darker color may absorb more light, making the room look smaller. On the other hand, light colors reflect light and can make a room appear larger and brighter.

Consider the style of the room

The paint color of your ceiling should be in harmony with the style and design elements of the room. For a traditional or classic look, muted and neutral colors are usually recommended. If you prefer a modern aesthetic, go for bolder shades to create an eye-catching statement piece.

Complement your wall color

One way to ensure that your ceiling looks cohesive with the rest of your room is to find a paint color that matches your wall color. This is especially true when working with softer shades like pastels or whites. Anything too bright can disrupt the flow between walls and ceilings.

Experiment before committing 

Before committing to any particular shade, it’s important to experiment by using paint samples on different parts of the wall or ceiling before deciding which one looks best.

This way, you can better understand how different colors will look in relation to one another and see what combinations work best before committing to anything long-term.  

4 Preparations to Consider Before Painting Your Ceiling

A freshly painted ceiling can be a great way to make any room look more inviting. But painting your ceiling is not as straightforward as it may seem.

Certain preparations must be taken beforehand to ensure the best results. These tips and tricks will help you get the perfect finish for your ceiling. 

Check for damage and make repairs 

The first step is to inspect your ceiling for any damage or signs of wear and tear. Look for cracks in the drywall, mold spots, water stains, or other areas where the paint may have started to peel off.

If any of these issues exist, they must be fixed before painting can begin. This could involve repairing cracks in the drywall, patching holes with spackling paste, or cleaning up mold spots with bleach. Once all repairs have been made, allow the area adequate time to dry.

Cover everything up 

Once the repairs have been made and allowed time to dry, it’s time to cover up items. This includes furniture, floors, walls, and other items that need protection from potential paint splatter or drips.

Covering items correctly will also help speed up cleaning after you finish painting. Remove any lighting fixtures, outlets, and other items that can easily be moved before you begin painting.

Prepare the ceiling for painting 

The last step before you start painting is prepping your ceiling for a fresh coat of paint. First, ensure that all dust and dirt particles are wiped away from the surface with a damp rag or sponge. Then use sandpaper or a sanding block (depending on how rough the surface is) to smooth out any imperfections.

Prime the ceiling 

Before you start painting, it is recommended to apply a coat of primer. Primer will help the paint adhere better and last longer on your ceiling. Make sure you use a high-quality product and allow adequate time to dry before applying any paint.

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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