Clarity of Gloss Finishes

High-gloss finish formulas are more transparent than dull or satin finishes. That can have both good and bad consequences. March 12, 2006

Is it true that for clarity of finish, gloss is the best? Will you obtain a better finish if you start with gloss, then rub it out?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor M:
Yes, it is true. Gloss is void of any flattening agents, so you get full clarity throughout all your clear coats. Flattening agents are used to diffuse the light from reflecting back the light waves - the more agents, the less reflectivity.

From contributor C:
Contributor M is correct about the first part of your question, but the second part is open to debate. A clearer finish is often less desirable than a softer, cloudier look. I was recently paid a lot of money to soften and cloud the look on some pretty nice (new) cabinets. I have similar work lined up for next month, too. Gloss finishes (because of the absence of flatting agents) are often harder than other sheens, but sometimes they are softer (because of retardants, intended to give better flow out).

From contributor D:
Clarity also provides every defect with more opportunity to shine like a light. But any sheen can be achieved with gloss. You can dull any sheen, but you can't clarify. In other words, you can go down, but not up - satin can't be made gloss, etc.

From contributor G:
I use gloss undercoats and satin or semi for the final coat. With the flattening agents only in the topcoat, I think you get a better look, more depth than when dull coats are used at every level.

From contributor Z:
Yes, it is true that for a clearer finish, using a gloss will help. And yes, it is true that the LRV of a clear coating is affected by the amount of flattening agent that is used. So a 20 sheen will be slightly cloudy, whereas an 80 will be clear. The other factor is the sealer. The sealer resin will definitely affect clarity. It is equally important to know how clear your sealer is. I would recommend a vinyl specifically because of its clarity. To answer the second part of your question, a gloss finish is no better than a satin finish. So using a gloss will not give you a better finish. Besides that, a gloss finish doesn't sand as well as a satin, or lower sheen in general. Something else to consider when trying to achieve a clearer finish is sanding schedule. In your case, I would probably sand with 280, then 320 or 400 before each coat. The less sanding scratches you are contending with, the better and clearer the finish will appear.