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Matte Paint vs. Gloss Paint for Your Bathroom: What You Need To Know

A bathroom with shades of gray paint

Dive into the Paint Debate!

Ever stood in the paint aisle, overwhelmed by choices, wondering which finish is best for your bathroom?

Or perhaps you’ve pondered why some bathrooms glisten with a glossy sheen while others boast a muted matte finish?

Dive into this guide to discover the ins and outs of matte and gloss paints for your bathroom.

By the end, you’ll be armed with the knowledge to make the best choice for your bathroom remodeling project, ensuring durability, style, and a fresh look for years to come.

1. The Impact of Humidity and Moisture

Bathroom Paint

Bathrooms are unique spaces in our homes.

Unlike other rooms, they experience frequent and rapid fluctuations in humidity levels.

Every time you take a hot shower or fill the tub for a relaxing soak, steam fills the room, raising the humidity levels.

In cities with a humid climate, like Atlanta, GA, this effect is even more pronounced.

Why does this matter for your paint?

When you introduce moisture to a room, especially in the form of steam, it needs somewhere to go.

Often, it will settle on the interior walls and ceiling.

Over time, this consistent exposure to moisture can begin to affect the paint on these surfaces.

Paint that isn’t designed to handle this kind of environment can begin to peel, bubble, or crack.

Paint might also lose its vibrant color, appearing faded or washed out.

Moreover, high humidity levels provide the perfect breeding ground for mold and mildew.

These fungi thrive in damp conditions and can quickly establish colonies on interior walls, especially if the paint isn’t resistant to their growth.

Not only is this unsightly, but certain types of mold can also pose health risks.

To combat these issues, it’s crucial to choose the right type of paint for bathrooms.

Paints designed for these spaces will be moisture-resistant and often have additives to prevent the growth of mold and mildew.

By understanding and respecting the unique challenges posed by bathroom humidity, you can ensure a beautiful and long-lasting finish for this essential room in your home.

2. Understanding Paint Finishes

Bathroom Paint

When it comes to painting your bathroom, the finish you choose can make all the difference.

The finish, or sheen, of the paint, refers to how much light it reflects.

This choice affects not only the look of the paint but also its practicality in a bathroom setting.

While matte and gloss paints are the two main types of finishes, there are also many options between these two ends of the spectrum, such as satin and eggshell.

Let’s delve deeper into the world of paint finishes.

Glossy Finishes (High-Gloss, Semi-Gloss)

Glossy finishes are the superheroes of the paint world when it comes to bathrooms.

Their high sheen acts like a protective shield, repelling water and preventing mold growth.

Think of them as the raincoats for your interior walls.

Their reflective nature doesn’t just offer protection; it also makes them a breeze to clean.

Consider a bathroom frequently used by kids.

Water splashes, toothpaste smears, and soap scum are everyday occurrences.

A glossy finish, in this case, would be a lifesaver, allowing for easy clean-up and maintaining a fresh appearance.

Some notable glossy paints include:

  • BEHR Premium Plus Hi-Gloss Enamel
  • BEHR Premium Semi-Gloss Enamel
  • Farrow & Ball’s Full Gloss
  • HGTV HOME by Sherwin-Williams Showcase Semi-Gloss
  • PPG UltraLast Base 1 Semi-Gloss
  • PPG’s Metallic Interior Specialty Finish
  • Valspar Ultra High-Gloss
  • Zinsser Semi-Gloss Perma-White


Satin Finish

Satin paints are the middle ground in the paint sheen spectrum.

They offer a soft glow, a bit like silk, making them a popular choice for spaces that need a touch of shine without being overly reflective.

Their balanced nature makes them suitable for areas like guest bathrooms or powder rooms, which don’t experience as much direct water exposure as full bathrooms.

A satin finish in such a space would offer a touch of elegance while still being practical.

A couple of the top choices for satin finishes are:


Eggshell and Flat/Matte Finishes

Eggshell and matte finishes offer a soft, muted look, perfect for creating a serene and calming bathroom ambiance.

While they don’t reflect light much, making them ideal for hiding wall imperfections, they do have a downside.

Their porous nature means they can absorb moisture, which isn’t ideal for a bathroom.

That being said, with advancements in paint technology, many brands now offer moisture-resistant variants of these paint finishes.

Consider a large, well-ventilated master bathroom with a big window.

The natural ventilation reduces moisture build-up, making it possible to opt for a matte or eggshell finish without the usual concerns.

Some of these advanced paint finishes include:

In short, the finish you choose for your bathroom paint can greatly influence its longevity and appearance.

By understanding the unique properties of each finish, you can make an informed decision that combines both aesthetics and functionality.

3. Importance of Primers

Bathroom Paint

Painting is more than just choosing a color and slapping it onto a wall, especially in challenging environments like bathrooms.

One of the unsung heroes in the painting process is the primer.

Let’s delve deeper into why primers are so essential, especially for bathroom spaces.

Primers serve as a preparatory coat that goes on before the paint.

Think of them as the bridge between the wall and the paint.

They ensure that the paint adheres better to the surface, providing a smooth canvas for the paint to do its magic.

Without a primer, the paint might not stick well, leading to an uneven finish or, worse, peeling after a short period.

Why are primers especially crucial for bathrooms?

Bathrooms are notorious for their moisture-rich environment.

This moisture can seep into the walls, especially if they aren’t adequately protected.

When you paint over such a surface without priming it first, the paint might not adhere correctly.

Over time, as the moisture tries to escape, it can cause the paint to bubble or peel.

Moreover, bathrooms can be a breeding ground for mold and mildew due to the constant exposure to moisture.

Primers with mildewcide additives come to the rescue here.

These additives prevent the growth of mold and mildew, ensuring your bathroom walls remain clean and hygienic.

Some top-notch primers specially formulated for bathrooms include:

While primers might seem like an extra step, they are, in fact, a crucial foundation for any painting job, especially in moisture-prone areas like bathrooms.

Investing in a good primer ensures that your paint job remains fresh, vibrant, and mold-free for years to come.

4. Special Paint Formulations

Bathroom Paint

Bathrooms are unique spaces in our homes, facing challenges that other rooms don’t typically encounter.

The constant exposure to moisture, steam, and fluctuating temperatures demands a special paint that’s up to the task.

This is where special paint formulations come into play.

Acrylic Paint: The Bathroom Champion

Acrylic paint is a water-based paint made with acrylic resin.

What makes it stand out, especially for bathrooms, is its fast-drying nature and durability.

Unlike oil-based paints, which can take longer to dry and might not handle moisture as well, acrylic paints dry quickly, reducing the window of vulnerability to water damage.

Moreover, acrylic paints are resistant to yellowing, a common issue with oil-based paints, especially in rooms with limited sunlight.

This ensures that the bright, fresh look of your bathroom remains intact for years.

Latex paint is another option homeowners might consider, especially since it dries quickly and is easy to clean.

The main difference between acrylic and latex paint is that latex is water-based, while acrylic is chemical-based.

This means that acrylic paint will expand and contract better than latex paint, making acrylic the better choice for high-moisture environments like bathrooms.

Bathroom Paints: A Step Above

While standard acrylic paint is already a good choice for bathrooms, some brands have gone a step further, introducing specially formulated “bathroom paints.”

These paints come with mold-inhibiting agents, offering an added layer of protection against mold and mildew growth.

Given that mold can pose health risks and is unsightly, this added protection is invaluable.

Oil-Based Paints: The Caveats

While oil-based paints have their merits, they might not be the best choice for bathrooms.

They take longer to dry, which can be problematic in a room that’s frequently exposed to moisture.

Additionally, they can yellow over time, especially in the absence of sunlight, which can affect the overall aesthetic of your bathroom.

However, it’s worth noting that advancements in oil-based paint technology have led to the development of paints that resist yellowing and are more moisture-resistant.

Premium paint brands have been at the forefront of these innovations, ensuring that homeowners have a wider range of options without compromising on quality.

Advanced Formulas: The Best of Both Worlds

Recognizing the unique challenges posed by bathrooms, premium paint brands have developed advanced formulas that combine the best properties of different paints.

These paints offer easy cleaning, ensuring that watermarks or soap scum can be wiped away without degrading the paint quality.

They also provide enhanced protection against moisture, ensuring longevity and a fresh look.

To sum up, when painting a bathroom, it’s essential to choose a formulation that’s tailored to handle the challenges of the space.

Whether it’s a standard acrylic paint, a specially formulated bathroom paint, or an advanced formula from a premium brand, making the right choice ensures that your bathroom remains a clean, fresh, and inviting space for years to come.

5. Color Choices for Bathrooms

Colors do more than just beautify a space; they evoke emotions, influence moods, and even play tricks on our perception.

While you can use certain lighting fixtures and custom mirrors to maximize space in your bathroom, color choice is especially critical when it comes to bathroom design.

Light and Airy Shades

Bathroom Paint

Opting for light shades like taupe, sage, dusty blue, and white can be transformative.

These colors reflect light better, giving the illusion of a more expansive space.

Especially in smaller bathrooms or those with limited natural light, such shades can make the room feel open, airy, and rejuvenating.

Think of the calmness of a soft blue, reminiscent of the sky, or the purity of a crisp white, evoking feelings of cleanliness and freshness.

The Cozy Allure of Dark Shades

While dark shades might seem counterintuitive for a bathroom, they have their charm.

Colors like deep navy, forest green, or rich burgundy can make a space feel intimate and cozy.

However, there’s a trade-off.

Darker colors absorb light, which can make a room feel more confined.

If you have a spacious bathroom or one with plenty of natural light, these shades can add a touch of luxury and sophistication.

The Versatility of Neutrals

Bathroom Paint

Neutral tones, like beiges, grays, and soft pinks, are versatile choices.

They cast a natural ambient light, creating a calming and harmonious environment.

These shades are timeless, ensuring that your bathroom remains stylish regardless of changing trends.

Soft neutrals, in particular, can mimic the effect of soft morning light, making your morning routine feel more serene.

Adding a Splash of Fun

For spaces like children’s bathrooms or if you’re looking to make a statement with painted cabinets, don’t be afraid to go bold.

Vibrant yellows, playful greens, or even energetic oranges can add a touch of fun and vibrancy.

These shades stimulate energy and creativity, perfect for getting the kids ready in the morning!

Tailoring to the Users

Lastly, always tailor your color choices to the bathroom’s primary users.

A guest bathroom might benefit from neutral, welcoming shades, while a master ensuite could reflect personal tastes more vividly.

Remember, colors are powerful tools in interior design, and the right choice can elevate your bathroom from a mere functional space to a personal sanctuary.

6. Bathroom Hardware and Fixtures

If you’re looking to repaint bathroom fixtures, rust-resistant paints are the way to go.

Metallic finishes often offer more protection than matte ones.

Some sprays to consider are:


7. Additional Considerations

Selecting the perfect paint for your bathroom goes beyond just color and finish.

There are subtle nuances that can significantly impact the final result and the longevity of your paint job.

Mirror Reflections and Wall Color

Bathroom Mirrors

Mirrors, whether framed or frameless, are a staple in bathrooms, and they do more than just show our reflection.

They also reflect the room around us.

The wall color you choose can influence the light that bounces off the mirror.

For instance, a bright red or vibrant orange might cast a warm glow, potentially affecting how you see yourself in the mirror, especially during tasks like makeup application or shaving.

It’s a detail that’s often overlooked but can influence your daily routine.

The Battle Against Mold and Mildew

Bathrooms are naturally humid environments, making them prime real estate for mold and mildew.

These not only mar the appearance of your walls but can also pose health risks.

Opting for paints with mold and mildew resistance properties isn’t just a luxury; it’s a necessity.

These paints contain special additives that inhibit the growth of these fungi, ensuring your walls remain pristine and hygienic.

The Importance of a Solid Foundation

Lastly, the longevity of your paint job is only as good as its foundation.

Proper priming ensures that the paint adheres well to the surface, reducing the chances of issues like bubbling or peeling.

And when it comes to paint, quality matters.

Investing in high-quality paint ensures richer color, better coverage, and increased resistance to the challenges bathrooms present.

In summary, while the color and finish are crucial, diving deeper into these additional considerations ensures that your bathroom remains a beautiful and functional space for years to come.

Let Ranney Blair Weidmann Transform Your Bathroom!

Bathroom Paint

Choosing the right paint for your bathroom is more than just picking a color.

It’s about understanding the nuances of paint finishes, the importance of primers, and the role of special formulations.

With the insights from this guide, you’re well-equipped to make an informed decision for your bathroom paint project.

You can even find out how much it costs to paint a bathroom here.

And if you’re in the Atlanta, GA, area and considering a bathroom remodel, Ranney Blair Weidmann is here to help.

Our expertise ensures your bathroom not only looks great but also stands the test of time.

Ready to embark on a bathroom transformation journey?

Check out our guide to bathroom remodeling, then fill out our contact form today or give us a call.

We’re excited to bring your vision to life!