PCA Articles

High Gloss Paint Job

PCA Craftsmanship in Focus: High Gloss

The painting industry is full of unique businesses that bring a high level of craftsmanship to the trade. This week, PCA spent some time exploring a technique that has received a lot of attention in the world of painting and design – high gloss. According to PCA Members Peter and Lisa Moon, owners of Paper Moon Painting, “more shine is back!”

Elle Decor Magazine defines high gloss as a paint sheen that produces “a glass-like finish… with a significant amount of reflectance.” One Kings Lane, a leading design company, traces the first appearance of the finish back to decorative screens in China and Japan, and then moved to the

George Washington’s dining room at Mount Vernon


United States and Europe through trade routes. High gloss was particularly useful before the invention of the light bulb because of its ability to reflect candlelight. One Kings Lane cites George Washington’s dining room at Mount Vernon as one early example of high gloss in the U.S.

Today high gloss is most commonly used to accent key features such as trim, and interior and exterior doors. It is also used on cabinetry, banisters,

and even for entire rooms, like the project completed by Paper Moon Painting. High gloss is usually done in bold colors that attract the eye and reflect light in a glass-like way, similar to the finish of a grand piano. When applied correctly the finished product is incredibly durable and easy to clean, says PCA member Jorge Aurichi, owner of Level 5 Painting. The magnificence behind this sheen is achieved through “a lot of precision, attention and skill,” according to Jorge. It is very labor intensive, and “almost impossible to accept touch-ups” says Jorge.

ZK Painting’s stunning high gloss railing

Another PCA member Zach Kenny, owner of ZK Painting, explained the process that he and his team use to create the perfect high gloss look. To start, the surface of the substrate must be flat and smooth to prevent any surface imperfections. Paint applications involve five to seven coats depending on the magnitude of the project, and both Zach and Jorge recommend using paint by Fine Paints of Europe. Zach and his team utilize an 800 and 1,000 grit sandpaper to smooth each layer of paint between coats to ensure the surface remains even, otherwise the finish will look like a mirror at a funhouse (and no one wants that). Zach says that the whole process involves about thirteen steps and must be completed in a dust controlled environment, including using an air purification system, anti-static rags, and floor protection to mitigate microdust.

Gorgeous green bathroom by Level Five Painting

A recent PCA poll of almost 300 contractors revealed that high gloss is most often applied utilizing an air sprayer to achieve a flawless mirror finish. It can also be applied with a brush or roller while avoiding the appearance of brushstrokes. The third method, which contrasts most sharply from the other two methods, is the “traditional brush stroke.” In this method, parallel and perpendicular lines are artfully used to showcase the craftsmanship behind the paint. Zach claims this look is most similar to the traditional high gloss work found in Europe, and is the most labor intensive high gloss service ZK Painting offers to its clients.

From our poll, we discovered that less than 10% have taken on a high gloss project. Still for PCA members like Peter, Zach, and Jorge, utilizing this technique has added to their business offerings, and demonstrates unique design and craftsmanship!