OK, so you have decided the look you want, whether you are going to do it yourself or hire a painter - now you have to consider the look you want and the type of paint you want to use. If you decided to hire a professional, they will help you make this decision based on what finish you expressed you want. If you are a do-it- yourself person, then this guide may help you.
The choices have grown in the past few years - not only do you have the basic flat, eggshell or semi gloss; you are now offered a variety of types of paints along with additional finishes of satin, matte, and now you can choose low VOC paints. These are paints that are more environmentally friendly, with lower VOC than "regular" paint.
VOC = Volatile Organic Compounds.
I am going to give you a general list of the paint finishes that are most popular. Most people use flat or eggshell paint, as it is the best known. Take a look to at the brief descriptions to help you decide the best option for your space.
Types of base coat paints
flat- no shine - you can re-touch this paint in the spot that gets dirty without painting the entire wall - so many people like to use flat in high traffic areas. Great for example on a stairway where little hands ( dirty hands) may hold onto the wall on their way up and down. A place that would need touching up on a regular basis. Flat paint finish has come a long way, at one point it was not as scrubbable as eggshell finish and therefore people shy-ed away from using is where it might get dirty, as you could not scrub off the dirt without taking the paint with it. Now most companies offer a scrubbable flat paint.
eggshell- this offers a slight shine, and is the most used finish among my clients. A bit of shine, but not too much. I like to use this paint for most faux finishes.
satin- slightly more shine than eggshell - still used on walls, but also a good choice for furniture or re-finishing cabinets
semi gloss- I always use this on moldings, door frames and doors - easily cleaned, and gives a great look, shiny and polished looking.
gloss- used many times on moldings indoors, and outdoors it is great on entry doors - this is also a great look when doing faux finish striping, as you can use this finish in the same color as an alternate stripe for a classic contemporary look. Great too for painting older bathroom or kitchen cabinets. If taking on a project like that, be sure to clean up the cabinets with TSP and then prime prior to painting.
glaze - used alone or mixed in with paint to extend the working time of latex paint. Glaze adds dimension to specialty faux finishes, will not change the color of the paint when added and, the best benefit is that like latex paint, cleans up with soap and water.
oil based paints - often used by some faux finishing artists as it has a longer working time, allowing the artist to work with the paint, blending for a longer period of time. I find it is the most annoying to clean up, as you need to use mineral spirits ( turpentine) which smells bad and is messy. I prefer glaze over oil anytime!
Whichever finish you choose, be sure to have all the right materials prior to starting any painting job yourself. This would include drop cloths, paint brushes for trim areas and rollers and roller pads for the large wall areas.
Have fun and happy painting!