What’s The Best Paint Finish For Wall Paneling?

If you live in an older house, the chances are that you have at least one room where the walls are covered in paneling. Depending on the type of paneling, it can sometimes make a room feel outdated. What better way to freshen it up than with a new coat of paint? But what is the best type of paint finish to use for wood paneling? We’ve done the research to answer this question.

A satin paint finish is the all-around best paint finish to use for wall paneling. But you can choose any type of finish except high-gloss, depending on the type of wall paneling, the purpose of the room, and how much the room gets used.

It may seem as if many factors go into choosing the right paint finish. But that’s why we’ve created this guide. We’ll break down the best paint finish to use for different types of paneling, as well as the pros and cons of each one. Continue reading to learn more.

white wall with white decorative frame on the wall in classic style empty room with dark wooden parquet floor. What's The Best Paint Finish For Wall Paneling


What Types Of Wall Paneling Are There?

There are different styles of wall paneling that are made from different materials. Sometimes, the type of paneling will determine the best kind of paint to use. 

This is due to the fact that different types of paneling can evoke different styles, and they can also affect how the room looks as far as size, amount of light, etc. Determining what type of paneling you have can help you choose the right paint finish.


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White wainscot or bead board close up photo

Beadboard is a thin, vertical paneling that gives off a traditional style and is often found in cottages and farmhouses. Sometimes beadboard paneling is only found on the lower half of a wall. In that case, the type of paneling style is known as wainscoting. 

Board and Batten

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Board and Batten White Wall

Board and batten paneling is most often found in dining rooms and is designed to give texture and dimension to a room. It consists of evenly spaced boards with batten - or molding - secured between the boards. 

Flat Paneling

Wood texture, wood background, texture background


Flat paneling is one of the most popular and versatile paneling types. It can be found in any room of the house. It is essentially just flat and smooth panels that are laid out in a consistent pattern. There are different sizes of flat paneling.

Raised Paneling

Raised paneling is commonly found in older, colonial-style homes. The paneling is raised and usually beveled to give a room more texture. It can cover the whole wall or only part of it and might be stained instead of painted.


textured shiplap wall

Shiplap paneling has recently grown in popularity and looks good in any room. Individual panels each have a groove to secure the panels together. Shiplap gives rooms a relaxed look. It is one of the easiest types of paneling to paint.

Tongue and Groove

Timber boards as a background

Tongue and groove paneling is similar to tongue and groove flooring. The tongue of one panel fits into the groove of another panel. This type of paneling is usually installed horizontally and can give a streamlined appearance to a room. 

What’s The Best Paint Finish For Wall Paneling?

When choosing a paint finish for paneling, it doesn’t matter what material the paneling is made of as long as you prepare the surface properly.

What matters most is that different paint finishes have different levels of sheen, which means they’ll reflect light differently. Some are easier to clean and are more durable as well. When choosing a paint finish for the type of wall paneling you have, you will want to consider all of these factors.


A matte finish is sometimes called a flat finish because it has the least amount of shine and gives the appearance of a flat surface when finished painting.

The benefit of using matte finish paint is that it provides better coverage than other paint finishes. Matte finishes require fewer coats and cover imperfections better than paints that have a sheen.

Matte is one of the most popular paint finishes to use on shiplap paneling. But, you should consider the room that the shiplap paneling is in first.

The downsides to a matte finish are that it is the least durable and harder to clean. If the shiplap paneling is in a room that gets a lot of use, then matte isn’t the best finish choice.


Eggshell is one of the most popular paint finishes for painting projects in general. It has a slight sheen to it but can still have a somewhat flat appearance. It is also more durable and easier to clean than matte finishes are.

The downside to choosing an eggshell finish is that it is not as easy to clean as some glossier finishes. An eggshell finish is appropriate to use in a room that doesn’t receive a lot of heavy use, such as a living room or entryway.

With that being said, eggshell is a much better finish to use for shiplap. It still gives it a flat appearance, but it is more durable.

Eggshell also works great for board and batten paneling. Since board and batten already give more dimension to a room, you don’t need a finish with a lot of shine. 


Satin is the most popular finish for interior painting projects and is the all-around best choice to use on wall paneling.

With a satin finish, you will get a medium sheen that is easier to clean and more durable than matte and eggshell finishes. The only downside to using a satin finish is that it shows brushstrokes more easily.

If you have paneling in a high-traffic room, such as a kitchen, bathroom, laundry room, or family room, you will want to use paint that has a satin finish. It works well with flat paneling that can be found in a lot of rooms.

Satin also works well for board and batten and raised paneling that may be found in a dining room because it isn’t as shiny while still being easy to clean. If you have tongue and groove paneling in a room such as a kitchen, satin also works well because you may have to clean the walls more often.

Lastly, beadboard has grooves in the paneling, and those grooves trap dirt easily.  Because it is easy to clean, satin paint is the best type to use on beadboard and wainscoting. This is especially true if you’re going to be using a brush or roller to paint with. 


Semi-gloss is one of the most durable and shiniest finishes. This finish is also moisture and mildew-resistant, so it is good to use in a bathroom or kitchen where a lot of moisture can be found.

The downside is that semi-gloss paints will show more imperfections in the paneling, such as seams and filled holes.

Because of its moisture resistance, you may choose to use semi-gloss paint on any paneling that you have in the bathroom or kitchen, commonly beadboard or flat paneling. It also works well if you’re using spray paint to paint beadboard or wainscoting.


The last paint finish is high-gloss. It is the most durable and easiest to clean, but it also has the highest sheen level and is the most likely to show imperfections. That means that it will reflect a lot of light and make your walls look very shiny, so it isn’t the best choice to use on the paneling itself. 

However, you can use a high-gloss paint finish to complement whatever finish you choose for the paneling. By that, we mean that you can use high-gloss paint on molding and trim, particularly around the windows and doors that are located in the room.

The high-gloss finish will reflect the light coming through the windows without reflecting too much light.

What Kind Of Paint Do You Use On Paneling?

The best type of paint to use on paneling is interior latex paint. These paints last longer and are more durable, so they shouldn’t crack or chip over time. Latex paint is also water-based, which means that you can clean surfaces painted with latex paint by just using water.

See More: 7 Best Wall Colors That Go With Wood Paneling And Trim

What Materials Are Used For Paneling?

The most common materials used for paneling are either cheaper, solid woods such as pine or fiberboard, or plywood. The material used depends on the age of the house and whether or not the paneling is original or installed later. 

Solid woods are also more expensive and tend to be used for paneling with more texture, such as shiplap, board and batten, or raised paneling. Other types of paneling, such as beadboard and flat paneling, are less expensive and are usually made out of fiberboard.

Is It A Good Idea To Paint Wood Paneling?

It’s totally fine to paint wood paneling, especially if it makes the room look dark and dated. Painting paneling is a great way to brighten up the room, and it can even make the room appear larger. But if you are going to paint your wood paneling, you must prepare the surface and use the correct type of paint.

Can You Paint Paneling Without Sanding?

Sanding paneling would take a lot of time and make a big mess with all of the dust it would create. With that being said, you can paint paneling without sanding it first. Wood paneling already has a smooth and consistent texture, and the paint should stick well, providing that you use the right kind.

What Is The Best Primer For Wood Paneling?

If you’re using the recommended interior latex paint, then the best primer to use is a latex primer with stain blocking. You want the primer base to match the base of the paint for the paint to adhere.

Click here to see this latex primer on Amazon.

How Many Coats Of Primer Should I Use On Paneling?

For most painting projects, you will want to use two coats of primer. Using two coats will provide the best adhesion between the paint and the paneling, especially if the paneling hasn’t been painted before.

How To Paint Paneling To Look Rustic?

The easiest way to make paneling look rustic is to paint it with a color that contrasts the color it was originally. If it’s darker, paint it lighter. If it’s lighter, paint it darker. Allow the paint to completely dry, then use a putty knife to randomly scrape off some of the paint. This will give the paneling a distressed look.

See More: How To Distress Wood Paneling

In Closing

white living room in classic style with furniture on bright laminate floor ang raised wall panelling.

We hope this guide has helped you better understand the best paint finish for wall paneling. What finish did you decide to go with? Let us know in the comments!

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