A-Z Guide to Blinds and Shades for Windows

A-Z Guide to Blinds and Shades for Windows

Often, people use the terms “blinds” and “shades” interchangeably to describe a window covering. While it’s true that blinds and shades perform the same function of filtering and blocking light from a window, they are different. 

Window blinds have individual slats that you can adjust up and down. You can also tilt the slats from side to side, enabling you to control how much light enters your room. Window shades perform a similar function. However, they are made from a solid piece of material rather than individual slats. You can draw them up and down, but not side to side.

Below is our guide to the most common types of blinds and shades available. While they all get the job done, the type you choose for your window treatment depends mostly on material and style.

Types of Blinds

Blinds come in all sizes, types, and materials. Remember that blinds have individual slats, and there’s usually a cord on one side that enables you to adjust them up and down. Cordless models are also available as an added safety feature. On the other side of the blind, you’ll find a rod that controls the slats, allowing you to tilt the slats opened or closed.

Mini and Micro Blinds

The slats found on mini blinds are smaller in width than traditional Venetian blinds. The slats are typically about 1” thick. Micro blinds are even smaller than mini blinds. The slats are usually about ½” thick. Both mini and micro blinds accommodate small windows well, giving smaller windows a balanced look.

Panel Blinds

Panel blinds are an appropriate choice for patio doors, sliding doors, or oversized windows. Panel blinds are mounted either to the wall or ceiling and have large fabric panels. The panels open and close along a track. When fully open, the panels stack clear of the window or door, allowing you a full view.

Venetian Blinds

Of all the styles available, Venetian blinds are the most popular. They have 2” horizontal slats that attach with strips of cloth, strings, or cords called tapes. The tapes allow you to rotate the slats together up to 180 degrees. As you raise Venetian blinds, the bottom slat presses into the slat above it.

Most often, the slats are made of aluminum, plastic, or wood. Sometimes blinds made with wood slats are simply called wood blinds rather than Venetian.

Vertical Blinds

Vertical blinds have slats running along a track, which is located at the top of the blind. Vertical blinds may open from side to side, or they may part in the middle. People opt for vertical blinds for patio doors and picture windows that go from floor to ceiling. However, they are also available to scale for smaller windows as well.

Types of Shades

Shades come in the same sizes and most of the materials as blinds. Unlike blinds, however, they are designed as one piece of material rather than in slats. 

Cellular Shades

Cellular shades and are similar in design to pleated shades and are made from similar materials. However, cellular shades differ in that they are made of two different pieces of material rather than one. The front and back sections are open in the middle, creating a pocket that provides a bit of insulation. 

Cellular shades come in different cell sizes that fit the needs of different sizes of windows. These shades help your home stay cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Cellular shades also insulate your window from outside noises as well.

Pleated Shades

Pleated shades look like cellular shades, only they are made from a single piece of material or paper. That material is pleated, forming an accordion-like pattern that you can raise or lower. Pleated shades look like Venetian blinds, though they do more to soften the look of the window. Because they are shades, you can’t adjust them from side to side like Venetian blinds. 

Roller Shades

Roller shades roll up and down rather than fold accordion-style. They are usually made from a synthetic or natural fabric. Roller shades come in several styles, and you can mount them to the window in different ways as well. The most cost-effective roller shades have an external mounting system that makes the mounting hardware and rolling mechanisms of the shade visible.

You can select a more stylish option, such as one with valances or fascias that hide those mechanical components, giving you a sleeker look. Some roller shades come with thermal or blackout liners should you need those features for your window coverings.

Roman Shades

Roman shades are one of the most traditional window coverings. They available in a variety of styles and are made from fabric or natural materials like jute or seagrass. Regardless of style, all Roman shades fold in like a Venetian blind. The larger the shade, the thicker the raised fold. So, you end up with a thick stack of fabric at the top of your window when it’s raised. As a result, you get a timeless look, but you also lose a bit of space from the window when the shades are raised.

Like roller shades, Roman shades come with lined as well as unlined styles. The linings often have additional functions. Some serve as blackout shades, and others are thermal linings.

Tie-Up Shades

Tie-up shades are a hybrid of sorts, a cross between a curtain and a shade. Tie-Up shades come in various materials. They are made from a piece of fabric that has ties. Those ties go beyond the bottom of the shade. To raise the shade, roll it up and then tie it in place. The look of tie-up shades is a cottage, casual, or country look that blends with just about any décor.

Solar Shades

Similar to roller shades, solar shades reduce the amount of sunlight, UV rays, glare, and heat entering through your window. Since they are made from a specially designed fabric, these shades filter the light while also preserving your view. Think of solar shades (often called sunshades) as sunglasses for your window. This filtering does more than cut glare. It keeps sunlight from fading your upholstery, artwork, carpet, and floors. 

Beyond Traditional Windows

Some shades worth mentioning go beyond the traditional room window. The first is outdoor shades for patios and decks. These shades are made from heavy-duty fabrics that block the sun and hold up to weather and other natural elements. 

Another type is insulating skylight shades that come in many of the styles we mentioned above, included pleated and roller styles. Naturally, these shades are designed to cover skylights, which are in hard to reach areas. These shades typically have a handle or removable rod that you use to adjust, raise, or lower the shade. Newer models now come with automatic, remote features.

Smart Blinds and Shades

Due to the advances and popularity of smart home technology, smart blinds are becoming increasingly popular. Smart blinds and shades come in traditional styles as well as more trendy, modern styles.

Sync your smart blinds with your smartphone using an app and you can control your blinds together or individually, as you prefer. You can program them to open or close at specific times of the day. This feature can help cut down on your energy costs, since you can program your blinds to open and close when you aren’t home. If you aren’t ready to replace all your existing blinds, you can purchase smart controllers. These enable you to outfit your existing blinds with smart technology.


Now that you have a good working knowledge of the types of window blinds and shades available, you can better plan out your next window treatment design project. Blinds and shades layer well with other window coverings like curtains, drapes, and even window film.