Casting A Light On Sheen

Once you’ve chosen between oil and latex, and once you’ve chosen your color, you still have five different sheens to choose from—flat, eggshell, satin, semigloss, and gloss. Each is a measure of how much light the paint reflects. A flat paint reflects perhaps 5 to 10 percent of the light that shines on it; a gloss reflects 50 percent of the light or more. With changes in sheen come changes in the appearance of both the surface and the color. A flat sheen looks duller and darker than the same color in a gloss.

Paint sheen comparison

Flat paint absorbs light and therefore hides many surface imperfections. Dents, dings, changes in texture, and undulations in the surface all tend to disappear behind the matte finish of a flat paint. Because it hides blemishes so well, you can often apply a single coat. On the down side, it tends to show dirt and doesn't stand up well to scrubbing.

Eggshell hides many imperfections but is a bit smoother than flat, meaning it reflects more light. It's also easier to wash and therefore more durable. Because of its washability, it has become a popular sheen for walls.

Satin. Think washability when you think satin— kitchens, bathrooms, hallways, kids' rooms, woodwork, and trim. Satin paint's silky finish looks good on walls but is smooth enough to stand up to dirt and cleaning.

Semigloss. Think shiny washability when you think semigloss. Semigloss reflects between 35 and 50 percent of the light that hits it, and most people find it too shiny on walls. It's extremely durable, however, and well suited to surfaces that get a lot of handprints—trim, woodwork, cabinets, and doors. For the same reason, it's also popular in kitchens and baths.

Gloss. For utility room or playroom walls, and for trim that gets a lot of abuse, the easy cleanability of gloss is a good call. Used on walls, however, the high shine may be discomforting. Minor surface imperfections suddenly look like glaring errors.

The Color Wheel

The biggest hurdle you’ll face when painting—short of moving furniture—is choosing color. White is always safe; off-white is a bit wilder, while the more adventurous opt for ivory. Many people still seek cover at the mention of the color wheel, but if you ever want to paint your walls and woodwork something other than another shade of white, it’s worth a look. Choosing a color scheme is nothing more than picking one color, and then choosing other colors to use with it based on their relative positions on the color wheel.

The primary colors—red, blue, and yellow—combine to form all other colors. You’ll find them at about 12 o’clock, 4 o’clock, and 8 o’clock on the wheel. Combine any two primary colors, and you’ll get a secondary color—secondary colors always fall midway between two primary colors on the wheel. Tertiary colors are the combination of a secondary color and a primary color.

You’ll find them sandwiched between the secondary and primary colors on the wheel. Now for the theory: Pick two colors that go together: red and green at Christmas; blue and gold football uniforms; or the blue and red spots on a brook trout. What do they have in common? Each is actually a color scheme found on the color wheel.

Designers long ago realized that most people don’t want their houses looking like their favorite football team’s uniforms, even during a winning season. Consequently, designers developed some shorthand approaches, using the color wheel, to find colors that work together.

Colorful language

Color value: The lightness or darkness of a color.

Tint: A color that has been lightened with white. Pink is a tint of red.

Shade or tone: A color that has been darkened with black. Indigo is a shade of blue.

White is equal parts of all colors.

Black is the absence of color or light.

Shades are mixtures of pure color with black. They seem darker than the pure color.

Tints are mixtures of pure color with white. They seem lighter than the pure color.

Choosing a color scheme

Any color scheme begins with a single color. You want a blue dining room. A red house. A yellow nursery. The question is, what next? Look at the blue dining room. The simplest scheme would be a monochromatic approach: Do the entire room in shades of blue. You probably don’t want dark blue walls, so go with a lighter tint, like powder blue. The trim could be a darker shade of the same color, or in what designers call an analogous scheme, the trim color could come from one of blue’s adjacent slices of the wheel.

If blue-on-blue proves to be overpowering, you can look for a complementary color—one drat falls opposite your first choice on the color wheel. Technically, in the blue dining room, this would be orange; however you might prefer to fudge just a little with a brass chandelier or a burnt umber finish on the furniture.

For more variety, you might choose triadic colors—those that are equidistant from each other on the wheel. Tints and shades of blue, red, and yellow are shown below. Garish? Not on an Oriental rug. Not convinced? Then keep it to two of the three colors. Because it can be difficult to make these decisions in the abstract, paint manufacturers offer brochures that group colors in schemes they think you’ll find attractive. Pictures in decorating and house magazines are also good sources for color combinations that work well together. If you see something you like, take it to a paint department and buy a quart of each of the colors. Paint a small part of the room, and live with it for a while. If it doesn’t work, try another shade or tint. Keep trying until you find something you like.

Eventually, you may realize that no matter what you do, the golden trim you loved in someone else’s country kitchen looks like yucky mustard in yours. Red, on the other hand, may add the warmth you want. Better to find out on a few square feet of the kitchen than on all four walls. If the complementary color scheme isn’t working, try a variation of the triad.

Brushes and rollers

When should you use a roller or brush? Use a brush when you need to paint narrow strips or to cut in (paint a sharp edge). (A roller has soft ends, so it cannot lay a sharp line of paint.) A roller lays down paint at least three times faster than the largest brush, and a good roller with beveled ends leaves no roller or overlap marks. A roller is the tool of choice for large, flat areas, such as ceilings and walls.

Most jobs will require both a roller and a brush. The key is to understand when to use each applicator and to know how to use each properly, including pouring out only as much paint as you are going to need for the job. A good brush feels like a natural extension of your hand. There are many types of paint applicators available, but quality is the key. Bristle brushes are generally more expensive but will last longer and outperform their more inexpensive counterparts.

There Are Two Types Of Bristles:

• Natural (usually hog) for solvent-based finishes.

• Synthetic (nylon or polyester) for water-based finishes. (Some can be used with alkyd-based finishes as well.)

The Advantages Of Bristle Brushes:

• Versatility.

• Durability and reusability.

• Ability to apply a heavier coat.

• Fastest cleanup.

The Disadvantages Of Bristle Brushes:

• Slower application than a roller or pad.

• Can leave brush marks (require practice to use properly).

• Skill required to cover large areas.

Disposable brushes are the least expensive. They provide quick application of materials that are difficult to clean up, such as contact cement and fiberglass resin. Use low-cost foam brushes to apply smooth finishes to small areas.

Paint Rollers are two-piece tools: There is a handle with a wire cage and threaded base, and a roller cover with a nap. The handle will last as long as you clean it, so invest in the best you can afford. Look for these features:

Good quality roller cages with molded or wooden handles, used with good quality roller covers, make every painting job easier.

• A grip that molds to your hand.

• A heavy frame with minimum flex under pressure.

• Nylon bearings that spin easily.

• A cage with at least five wires and an antislip device.

Roller covers range in quality. Bargain roller covers with paper cores break down quickly and cannot be reused. Use them for small jobs. Look for these features in a high-quality roller cover:

• A resin core (or tube) that won’t break down in water.

• Beveled ends to avoid leaving edge beads.

• Seams that cannot be felt through the nap.

• Heavy, uniform nap that sheds little lint.

A good quality brush, properly cared for, will last for years.

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