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Best Paint Sheen on Ceilings: Eggshell or Flat

I think it’s time to ignore the old rules about which paint sheens to use in your home! Especially when it comes to which is the best paint sheen on ceilings.

And, I have pictures and video showing why I made the switch.

Best Paint Sheen on Ceilings

I know guys, I’ve heard the old rule about only using a flat paint sheen on ceilings. That rule has been around for decades. I’m not sure how that ever became a rule. Or who the person was that made that rule up.

I’m kind of imagining some crazy Madmen-style 1960’s advertising firm coming up with these rules to sell more paint. Personally though, I think a flat paint sheen looks boring on most ceilings.

Using a flat sheen on ceilings gives them a dull finish that can darken the feel of a room. I always feel like a flat sheen on a ceiling makes the ceiling feel lower and looks unfinished too.

Which is a shame. It’s a missed opportunity when it comes to adding extra style to your home.

5 before & after examples from my home of the best paint sheen on ceilings. Throw out those old painting rules to get a more beautiful room. Eggshell vs flat paint sheen on ceilings.
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What Sheen Should Ceiling Paint Be?

Honestly, you should ignore the old design rules about which paint sheens to use in different parts of your house. Instead, go with what you think looks best.

After years of remodeling homes, I think eggshell is the best paint sheen on ceilings.

And, to explain why I love eggshell sheen on ceilings, I have a pictures of ceilings in my house to show you the huge difference between a flat and eggshell sheen on ceilings.

But, there are some ceilings that should still be painted with a flat sheen.

The dull finish of flat paint doesn’t reflect light and always seems to make rooms feel smaller and unfinished in most houses.

When a ceiling has a subtle sheen it draws my eyes up and makes any room feel lighter, brighter, larger, and more welcoming.

Let’s get to those examples of why I think eggshell is the best paint sheen on ceilings!

Eggshell VS Flat Paint Sheen on Ceilings

Before and After Ceiling Makeover #1

Let’s start with the ceiling in the room I’m remodeling right now. You might have seen peeks of this ceiling in my How to Paint Built In Bookshelves and Cabinets post. It’s the ceiling in our Family Room.

It was already a nicely designed drop ceiling with beautiful wood trim. But, the paint always felt wrong to me. Have a look at the before photo.

5 before & after examples from my home of the best paint sheen on ceilings. Throw out those old painting rules to get a more beautiful room. Eggshell vs flat paint sheen on ceilings.
White ceiling with a builders grade flat white paint finish.

The ceiling was somehow missing something that made that beautiful trim look boring. I thought about adding more wood trim to the ceiling.

But, in the end, I decided to switch the paint to an eggshell sheen to see if that fixed the ceiling.

5 before & after examples from my home of the best paint sheen on ceilings. Throw out those old painting rules to get a more beautiful room. Eggshell vs flat paint sheen on ceilings.
Here’s a side by side look at the Eggshell Sheen on the left and the Flat Sheen on the right. That Eggshell sheen just adds a subtle reflection of light that makes the room feel brighter, bigger, and more open.

And, I think it 100% improved the look and feel of this ceiling. What do you think? The paint color is called Vermont Cream by Behr paint.

The new eggshell sheen reflects light, draws the eyes up, and makes the ceiling feel somehow higher.

This simple paint sheen change on the ceiling makes the whole room feel lighter, brighter, and more inviting. I can’t wait to get the floor and furniture in to start enjoying this great room again.

5 before & after examples from my home of the best paint sheen on ceilings. Throw out those old painting rules to get a more beautiful room. Eggshell vs flat paint sheen on ceilings.
The new ceiling paint reflects light nicely with that Eggshell Paint Sheen. You might have noticed the new built ins I built to replace the old arched opening to our foyer. Now we can use that wall as storage and for a large TV we can play video games on. You can see more of those built ins in the How to Paint Built In Bookshelves post or the Easy DIY Wood Drawer Front post. You can find more tutorials from this build in this DIY Built Ins Playlist on YouTube.

You can see a tour of the before and after of the ceiling in this room and a few other rooms in my house in this video from my YouTube channel.

Which Paint Sheen to Use on Ceilings? Eggshell vs Flat Paint Sheen

Whenever I’m remodeling or updating a room, the ceiling is always part of the design plan. I love a good statement ceiling. Even when that means endless days on a ladder of installing wood trim over my head. 😉

I have 4 more before and examples of ceilings I’ve switched to an eggshell sheen. 3 of these include a DIY wood trim or paneling detail too.

Let’s start with my favorite ceiling makeover that really shows why I think eggshell is the best paint sheen on ceilings.

Before and After Ceiling Makeover #2

This Dining Room ceiling has the same wood trim and drop ceiling design as our Family Room. You can see our Dining Room from our Foyer, so I wanted this ceiling to be extra special as a first impression.

Here’s a look at the before photo. The Dining Room trim work was already nice. But, I thought this Simple DIY Coffered Ceiling Design Makeover would add even more style. The subtle sheen of that Eggshell paint finish will look better too. Side note, you can see the steps for that distressed DIY Gray Chalk Paint Furniture Makeover on that buffet in a previous post.

So, I added a Simple DIY Coffered Ceiling to this ceiling. I use 1x4’s and cove molding to give this ceiling a fresh new look.

After using caulk and wood filler on the wood trim, I painted the entire ceiling with the same eggshell sheen white paint I used on the Family Room. It’s Behr’s Vermont Cream color.

Try this Simple DIY Coffered Ceiling Design I used to give my Dining Room ceiling a beautiful new look. Includes lots of pictures and a how to video. DIY Ceiling Design Ideas. DIY Ceiling Makeover Ideas.

This beautiful coffered ceiling looks amazing, especially with the new wood trim paneling I installed in our foyer after I removed an arched doorway between that foyer and our family room.

Everything is coming together nicely in these rooms. 🙂

Before and After Ceiling Makeover #3

Here’s another massive improvement that only involved a paint change. We have a huge ceiling that goes over our Foyer, upstairs Hallway, and Living Room. And by huge I mean it’s probably 18′ x 50′. It’s massive. 

So, that big ceiling really catches your attention. The builder did a nice job of installing beautiful crown molding and dental molding.

But again, the flat sheen on the ceiling felt boring. It made me want to look away from the ceiling that took up so much space.

How a light colored paint scheme has transformed this home and even made the crown molding and millwork pop! #LightWalls #WhiteWalls #GreyWalls #PaintIdeas
How sad is that crown. It’s so gorgeous but a bad paint job and boring ceiling don’t do it justice.

And, after 20 years, that crown molding needed a new coat of paint too. So, I spent a week on scaffolding painting the ceiling and crown molding to turn that ceiling into the eye-catching feature it deserved to be.

These ORC Living Room Makeover Plans are so fresh and light. Includes bright Blues and light Cream Walls with accents of pale pinks and green. #AbbottsAtHome #LivingRoom #BlueFurniture #MakeoverPlans

Here’s a look at the finished ceiling and crown molding paint. For this ceiling, I really wanted to accentuate that beautiful crown molding. So, I painted the crown molding with Behr’s Polished Pearl in Eggshell Sheen.

And, I painted the ceiling in a slightly darker creamy beige to make the crown POP! That ceiling paint color is actually the exact same color that I have on the walls. But, the shadows on the ceiling make it look a bit darker than the walls.

How a light colored paint scheme has transformed this home and even made the crown molding and millwork pop! #LightWalls #WhiteWalls #GreyWalls #PaintIdeas
A colorful Modern Farmhouse Living Room Makeover, I love! It's fun, beautiful, and stylish. Full of living room decor and design ideas JoAnna Gaines would approve. :) #AbbottsAtHome #ModernFarmhouse #TraditionalHome #LivingRoom #Farmhouse

The color on the walls and ceiling here is Behr’s Sandstone Cove in Eggshell Sheen.

Before and After Ceiling Makeover #4

Our Master Bedroom is another example of a big change that was made with wood trim and paneling.

This ceiling had a beautiful vaulted design but a bad drywall job and ugly flat ceiling paint really made it more of a problem than a beautiful feature.

DIY Tray Ceiling Molding and Paneling Feature Steps. If you're wondering how you can turn your boring tray ceiling into a feature, I have the how-to steps for adding trim moulding and panels. Here's a DIY Tray Ceiling Idea you can do. With easy to follow steps. #TrayCeiling #CeilingFeature #CeilingIdeas
Before updating our ceiling. The stark white ceiling clashed with our creamy crown molding. And the ceiling was just kind of boring when it should have been the feature of the room.

I decided that the best way to accentuate that vaulted ceiling would be to install plywood paneling and trim around the angled sides of the vaulted ceiling.

I love how that trim draws your eyes up and really makes the room feel grand. You can see the details of this DIY Vaulted Ceiling Makeover here.

I painted the wood panels and trim in Behr’s Polished Pearl in Eggshell. And, again, I used Behr’s Sandstone Cove in Eggshell Sheen on the walls and ceiling in this room. 

Turn that vaulted ceiling into the feature it should be! This DIY Wood Panel Vaulted Ceiling Makeover gave our Master Bedroom instant style.
DIY Woodworkers can find the build steps for that DIY Upholstered Bench Plans in another post.

I love how the light colored paint scheme in our home has completely transformed this house. The rooms feel so much lighter, brighter, and more inviting.

Before and After Ceiling Makeover #5

The last before and after example of the best paint sheen to use on ceilings is from our Master Bathroom. I gave our Master Bathroom a Full Remodel a couple years ago. It was another room with an underwhelming feature ceiling.

The ceiling has a pitched center with lots of level changes and a soffit hiding plumbing. That made the ceiling in this room feel confused and not quite right. 

Here's a look at our Master Bathroom before the big makeover. It has 2 vanities, a big roman tub in front of a bay window and a walk in shower.

After a lot of planning and thinking, I decided to go with a DIY Plywood Plank Ceiling in this room. The planks bring the different levels of the ceiling together, turning it into a design feature.

And, since I used plywood to make the planks, it was really a low cost makeover.

I painted the ceiling planks in our Master Bathroom with Behr’s Polished Pearl in Eggshell Sheen. The original ceiling was just a boring, builders grade flat ceiling paint.

This DIY Plywood Plank Ceiling Installation is a pretty cross between faux shiplap and v-groove boards. And, it's such an easy DIY project, she did it alone. #AbbottsAtHome #Ceiling #CeilingIdeas #CeilingMakeover #DIYPlywoodPlanks #FauxShiplap #Shiplap

That’s it for my examples. But, I have answers to a few common questions about painting ceilings before you go.

Which Paint Sheen Looks Best on a Textured or Popcorn Ceiling

The only time I’d recommend a flat paint sheen on a ceiling is for a heavily textured ceiling. If you have a popcorn ceiling or heavy texture on your ceiling, that you don’t like, I’d paint that ceiling with a flat paint sheen.

A flat paint sheen is the best at hiding some of that texture. Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, a flat paint sheen doesn’t reflect light. It just looks like a uniform color across the entire ceiling.

Which is ideal when you want to distract attention away from an ugly texture on a ceiling.

If you painted a textured ceiling with an eggshell or shinier sheen, that light would reflect off different bits of that texture drawing attention to that unwanted texture on the ceiling.

If you do have a popcorn, be sure to follow the rules for safely painting a popcorn ceiling. If you touch it after it is wet, the popcorn texture can easily fall off.

5 before & after examples from my home of the best paint sheen on ceilings. Throw out those old painting rules to get a more beautiful room. Eggshell vs flat paint sheen on ceilings.

Which Paint Sheen on Crown Molding

If you read the before and after makeover details above, you probably already know my answer to this question.

I like to use eggshell paint sheen on crown molding and all of the other trim in my home. The old rule of thumb was to use semi-gloss or gloss on molding and trim in a home. Again, I ignore that rule of thumb and use what I like.

I prefer the subtle sheen with eggshell. It seems more casual than a semi-gloss or gloss sheen. More livable. I know this won’t be true of every home, but I always think a glossy sheen in a home feels too formal and old fashioned.

People always say that glossy sheens are easier to wipe clean too. I do think that flat paint sheens are hard to wipe clean. The texture is just a bit too rough. It holds on to dirt and oils.

But eggshell sheen and shinier sheens have always been very easy for me to wipe clean. And, that is super important with my 2 boys. They are constantly leaving marks on our eggshell sheen walls and trim. I can easily wipe it away with a dishrag or Clorox wipes.

5 before & after examples from my home of the best paint sheen on ceilings. Throw out those old painting rules to get a more beautiful room. Eggshell vs flat paint sheen on ceilings.
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That’s it for my thoughts on the Best Paint Sheen on Ceilings.

Looking for more DIY Tips and Home Maintenance Videos? Check out this playlist full of great DIY’s on my YouTube Channel.


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Feeling inspired? Now that you’ve seen which is the Best Paint Sheen on Ceilings, good luck with your project. Let me know if you have questions. Don’t forget to sign up for the Abbotts At Home email newsletter to get DIY, Remodeling, and Crafty ideas in your inbox.