Understanding Fabric Sheen

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Like paints, textiles come in a variety of finishes from flat to very shiny.  Luster (or Lustre) is all around us; the paper in a magazine, the screen on your computer, the finish on your table, the shoes on your feet.  The list goes on and on.  The finish you select for your fabric architecture affects the way the color is rendered and the tactile appeal while conveying a subtle message about the brand.

Holding the sheen consistent throughout the space can create a more coherent, matching environment, while adding a pop of shine in an otherwise matte space can add complexities and interest.  Sometimes it just comes down to personal preference when deciding which sheen is desired for materials in a space, but factoring sheen into your overall project plan will most certainly improve the outcome.

When describing sheen of fabrics, here are the terms you should know:

Matte Finish:  Felt
Matte Finish: Felt

Matte:  “Flat” or “Matte” finish in paint.  Non reflective surface.  This finish is best at hiding any imperfections.  The French root is mat, “dead, dull surface,” from the Old French meaning, “dull or dejected.”  Do not let this scare you away from using a matte finish which conveys bold imagery with less distraction and photographs the best out of all the finish options.

Material options include: Canvas, Visalight, Poly Cube, Architectural Felt, Matte Spandex.


Lustrous Finish:  Relink 10
Lustrous Finish: Relink 10

Lustrous: “Eggshell” or “Satin” in paint.  A gentle sheen or soft glow, especially that of a partly reflective surface.  It comes from the Italian word lustro, which means “to make bright.”  This category has the most fabric options and can often provide just the right amount of depth to a piece of fabric architecture.

Material options include: Lite Mesh, EZ Stretch, Relink 10, Phil-Tex, Heavy Knit.


Shiny Finish:  ElastiLuster
Shiny Finish: ElastiLuster

Shiny: “Semi Gloss” or “Gloss” in paint. A surface that reflects high levels of light, often a smooth face.  Shiny materials can have a strong glare with lighting.  Light reflections on the surface can distract from the actual image. It is often difficult to look at a glossy print from anything other than a straightforward angle.  However, shiny finishes seem to be the ones that we are more drawn to when compared side by side and colors are typically perceived as brighter on shiny surfaces.

Material options include: Flag Knit, Brite Screen, 45” Super Stretch Spandex, ElastiLuster and Stretch Illusion.


To see more fabric options visit our Materials page.

Poly Georgette

Valerie C.

Valerie “Poly Georgette” has a passion for textiles and construction. She enjoys developing solutions utilizing a number of different substrates to dress a space. She has ten years of experience creating custom solutions and tracking down a plethora of amazing textiles, consistently dreaming up new ways to use them.

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