Paint satin vs semi gloss: Satin vs Semi-Gloss: Choosing the Right Paint Finish for Your Project

Satin vs Semi-Gloss: Choosing the Right Paint Finish for Your Project

Photo: via Bente Whyatt

When you’re choosing fresh paint for your walls or wooden furniture, after color, the next big decision to be made is that of sheen. Two middle-of-the-road options for paint finish—satin and semi-gloss—are quite popular for being neither too shiny nor too matte. In fact, telling them apart can get somewhat tricky.

Both finishes are available in traditional oil-based paints and modern latex paints alike. Both are options for cans of paint as well as cans of paint-and-primer combos. The two types of finishes can be found in special latex paints with low- or no-VOC (volatile organic compound) versions. The subtle differences between the two can make one distinctly better fit for your project than another.

RELATED: All You Need to Know About Paint Types

Read on to see these two popular paint finishes go head to head, satin vs semi-gloss. The following key comparisons can aid you in choosing the one that best suits your next paint project.

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Most notably, semi-gloss has more sheen than satin.

The types of finishes you’ll likely find in most paint collections—ranging from most to least reflective—are glossy/high-gloss, semi-gloss, satin, eggshell, and flat/matte. Semi-gloss is slightly higher on the scale than satin and, thus, promises a little more reflectivity.


Semi-gloss’s extra sheen may change how your paint color looks on the wall.

While both finishes have a hint of sheen, more light from your lamps or the room’s uncovered windows will bounce off of semi-gloss surface than a satin surface (which actually absorbs some additional light instead). As a result of the way light reflects, the same paint color may appear slightly darker in a semi-gloss finish and slightly lighter in a satin one. So, factor that in when you’re making your final decision about which paint finish to use.

Semi-gloss is more durable and easier to clean.

The higher the gloss, the easier the cleanup of messes like fingerprints and smudges. For objects and areas that get a lot of use and therefore require frequent wipe-downs—bathrooms, kitchens, playrooms, kids’ bedrooms, and any other area children may feel tempted to draw on walls with Crayola—semi-gloss is often the wiser option. Because the surface is slicker, it’s more resistant to moisture and easier to go over with a damp cloth or special sprays designed for minor household disasters. (Either semi-gloss or satin finish, though, beats out their eggshell and flat/matte finishes for durability.)

Semi-gloss better draws the eye to architectural elements.

Generally speaking, cleaning needs aside, satin is the default choice for many do-it-yourselfers refreshing interior walls and furniture, while smaller doses of semi-gloss highlight home features: cabinetry, mantels, stair railing, window trim, door casings, and crown molding. Even if you apply the same color in two different sheens in a room—satin to the walls and semi-gloss to the trim—the reflection will make the craftsmanship of the molding pop.

Satin is more forgiving of pre-existing imperfections than semi-gloss.

If you’ve got dings and dents in your walls, your cabinets, or your soon-to-be-painted dresser, the reflective nature of semi-gloss will only draw more attention to every flaw. A satin finish is more flattering over pocks, divots, and scrapes since it draws the light in and tricks the eye into seeing a more even surface. So, if you want to deflect attention away from faults and blemishes without spending hours sanding them away, satin is the way to go.

The cost between the two is negligible, but you may pay a few cents less on the dollar for satin.

Generally speaking, the more gloss a paint offers, the more it will cost. Semi-gloss paint is manufactured with more binders (resins responsible for sheen) than satin paint in order to deliver the reflection and durability for which it’s known.  So, if you’re looking to a little bit of money repainting walls throughout the whole home, satin is the most budget-worthy option of the two that still offers a hint of sheen.

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Semi-Gloss vs Satin Paint: What’s the Difference?

So, you’ve finally nailed down the perfect paint color to give your home a refresh. Now it’s time to determine which sheen to spring for. Both satin and semi-gloss are popular options, touting impressive durability with an appearance that’s neither matte nor shiny. We’ve broken down the differences between satin and semi-gloss paint to help you decide which sheen is best for your painting project.

Satin and Semi-Gloss Paint: Major Differences

While satin and semi-gloss sit next to one another on the paint sheen scale, there are some major differences between the two options.

What Is Satin Paint?

Satin paint is paint with a sheen that reflects an average amount of light. It is shinier than pearl, eggshell, and matte, yet flatter than semi-gloss and high gloss.

In most professionals’ opinions, satin is the glossiest sheen that should be used on walls. In fact, most walls are finished with eggshell or matte, as these sheens hide imperfections incredibly well.

However, because satin is more durable and easier to clean than matte and eggshell, it remains a popular wall finish for kitchens and bathrooms, as these spaces see more moisture and grime and require more frequent wipe-downs.


  • Can be used on walls without showing too many imperfections

  • Durable, good for areas that take abuse

  • Can stand up to frequent cleaning, good for kitchens and bathrooms


  • Will show more imperfections than eggshell, matte, and flat

  • Not as durable as semi-gloss, shouldn’t be used on high abuse areas like baseboards in a playroom

What Is Semi-Gloss Paint?

Semi-gloss paint is paint with a sheen that reflects an above-average amount of light. It is shinier than satin, pearl, and eggshell, yet flatter than high gloss.

Unlike satin, semi-gloss is rarely ever used on walls. Because of its higher light reflectivity, it shows every imperfection, highlights brushstrokes, and can appear slightly darker than the same color in a different finish.

Instead, semi-gloss paint is reserved for trim, doors, and cabinets, as it’s highly durable, shows off millwork details, and can hold up to frequent cleaning.


  • High sheen that shows details, great for millwork

  • It’s glossiness makes it highly durable

  • Perfect for high impact areas like baseboards and doors

  • Easy to clean


  • Too shiny for walls, shows every imperfection

  • Shows more brushstrokes

  • May take on an “orange peel” look if not rolled properly on a prepped surface


Semi-gloss paint reflects more light than satin paint. Satin and semi-gloss are quite different in appearance.

Semi-Gloss Paint

Semi-gloss’s higher reflectivity tends to reveal far more imperfections in large, flat wall surfaces. However, this same quality is what makes semi-gloss the preferred sheen for trim, as it calls attention to millwork details.

Satin Paint

Satin is preferred for painting walls, as it hides imperfections much better than semi-gloss paint. The flatter the paint, the more hidden imperfections are, but durability is sacrificed by going too flat.


If you’ve already chosen your paint color but you’re still deciding between satin and semi-gloss, you should consider getting samples in each sheen and applying them throughout your space. Sometimes, a given paint color can vary slightly between sheens, which is especially noticeable once it’s applied to the wall and fully dried.


Semi-gloss paint is more durable than satin paint. Generally, the higher a paint’s sheen, the more durable it is.

Semi-Gloss Paint

For this reason, semi-gloss paint is more durable than satin paint. This is another reason semi-gloss is great for trim like baseboards, which see a lot of wear and frequent scrubbing.

Satin Paint

That said, satin paint is still highly durable and is a great wall paint for areas that see a lot of wear or frequent cleaning, such as bathrooms and kitchens. However, in the average room, a flatter sheen like pearl, eggshell, or even matte is plenty durable and may offer a better appearance.


Semi-gloss has more texture than satin paint. A surface painted with satin paint is noticeably smoother to the touch.

Semi-Gloss Paint

Semi-gloss paint has additional components such as resins and urethanes that give it its higher sheen, leading to a slightly tacky feel. The reflectivity combined with the tackiness can give the paint an “orange peel” look when rolled and reveal brushstrokes when brushed on.


To lessen the chance of an “orange peel” look when rolling, use a high-quality roller with a short nap and avoid letting the roller get too dry.

Satin Paint

Satin paint leaves walls with a smooth surface. It may seem strange that a paint that is less shiny would have a smoother texture, but this is the case with satin and semi-gloss.


Semi-gloss paint costs slightly more than satin paint. You may have heard that the glossier the paint, the higher its price. While this is generally true, the difference in cost likely isn’t worth influencing your decision.

Semi-Gloss Paint

Semi-gloss paint has a higher resin count than satin paint, which leads to a slightly higher price point.

Satin Paint

By choosing satin rather than semi-gloss, you can expect to save around $3 or more per gallon when comparing the same brand and type of paint. In reality, the amount you’ll save by choosing satin won’t justify the long-term compromise if semi-gloss is what you want and need.


  • In most cases, satin paint isn’t too shiny for walls. In fact, satin is likely the glossiest sheen that will work on walls. However, if you’re looking to hide imperfections on your walls, opting for a flatter finish will be better.

  • Generally, semi-gloss paint is used for baseboards, door and window casings, crown molding, cabinets, and doors. Its high sheen allows it to reflect more light, which highlights details in trim, while its durability makes it a good candidate for surfaces that see a lot of wear and frequent cleaning.

  • The application process of glossier paints like satin and semi-gloss doesn’t differ from that of other paint sheens. However, because higher sheens reflect more light, they call attention to surface imperfections, which requires a more detailed prep process to remove imperfections.

Satin and Semi Gloss Paint: The Differences and How to Choose


When doing any painting project, the initial enthusiasm that you might have imagined how great the finished product would look can be undone when you walk into a paint shop and are confronted with a huge and confusing number of paint options.

Paints come in a variety of oil and water based, latex and primer finishes in a wide range of shades including flat, matte, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss, gloss and more.

Deciding which paint is right for the job can be overwhelming, but with a little knowledge on your side, choosing the right paint is easy.

What is the difference between glossy and semi-gloss paint? Semi-gloss paint has a higher sheen, is easier to clean, is more durable, enhances features better, and is more resistant to stains than satin. Satin paint has a lower sheen, is harder to clean, is less durable, hides imperfections better, and is easier to touch up than semi-gloss.

Luckily, you don’t have to be a paint expert to learn the key differences between satin and semi-gloss paint.

In this article, you’ll learn the differences between the two in terms of gloss, cleanliness, and durability, as well as the designs that work best with each individual paint.

Satin vs Semigloss: Key Differences Explained

Satin and Semigloss paints are fairly similar in that both are neither too glossy nor too flat, can be oil or water based, and can be purchased separately or as a combination of paint and primer.

However, there are differences between them that make them more suitable individually for specific projects.

Biggest difference: Sheen

Roughness is the sheen of the paint, i.e. the appearance of the paint after it has completely dried.

Semi-gloss has a little more sheen than satin, making it a better choice if you’re looking for a more reflective finish.

Satin paint absorbs more light than semi-gloss paint, so it appears lighter when dry.

Winner: Semi Gloss

Easy to Clean

In general, the glossier the paint, the easier it is to clean.

Gloss paint has a smoother surface, which makes it more resistant to water and therefore easier to clean with a little moisture.

Semi-gloss paint is easy to remove smudges, handprints and stray marks.

Satin paint is slightly water resistant, which means it can be washed, but does not withstand as much washing as semi-gloss paint.

Winner: Semi Gloss Paint


In general, the glossier the paint, the more durable it is. Semi-gloss paint is very durable and is an excellent choice for rooms that will be subject to frequent wear or cleaning.

Semi-gloss paint can be used in areas that are exposed to the elements and is a good choice for areas with high humidity or areas with a lot of grease or stains.

Satin paint is also durable and is best cleaned with a dusting cloth or soft cloth with soap and water to avoid removing the paint.

Winner: Semi-Gloss Paint


Semi-gloss paint reflects light while remaining light in appearance, making it an excellent choice for use in small areas such as trim or woodwork that you want to stand out from surrounding walls.

Satin paint is more even and does not have the same sheen as semi-gloss.

Winner: Semi Gloss

Hides imperfections

The semi-gloss paint is quite shiny, so it sometimes shows cracks and imperfections.

Satin paint is slightly more matte, which means it hides dents, dents, scratches and other small imperfections better.

Winner: Satin Paint

Surface Feel

Satin paint has a duller, velvety finish while semi-gloss paint has a smoother, shiny finish.

Semi-gloss paints tend to show more dents and imperfections than satin paints, meaning that satin paints can provide a smoother finish when applied to rough surfaces.

Winner: Satin

Stain Resistant

The same sheen that gives semi-gloss paint its longevity provides excellent stain resistance. Semi-gloss paint is generally more water-resistant (and in some cases waterproof) than satin.

Although satin paint is waterproof, it is not as stain resistant as semi-gloss.

Winner: Semi Gloss

Easy Touch Up

One of the advantages of matt and semi-gloss paints is their high durability, which means that touch-ups are less frequent.

Flat and matt paints are less durable but easier to touch up than high gloss paints such as satin and semi-gloss.

If the area to be touched up is very small, you can try painting it with a small brush and as few strokes as possible.

However, you may need to repaint the entire area.

High gloss paints are more difficult to paint over, and although satin and semi-gloss paints are also difficult to paint over effectively, satin paint is less glossy and easier to mix new color with old.

Winner: Satin Paint

Satin and Semi Gloss Compared

Glitter Semi-gloss paint has a glossier sheen than satin.
Easy to clean Semi-gloss paint has a shinier surface than matte paint and is therefore easier to clean.
Durability Semi-gloss paint is more durable than matte paint. In general, the glossier the paint, the more durable it is.
Key Features Semi-gloss reflects more light than matte, making it a good choice for highlighting details.
Hides imperfections Satin paint has a slightly smoother finish than semi-gloss, making it a better choice for painting large areas or more textured or imperfect walls.
Surface feel Satin paint hides imperfections better, creating a more even surface.
Stain resistant Semi-gloss paint is more durable and easier to clean than satin and resists stains better.
Easy to touch up Satin paint is less glossy and easier to touch up.

Benefits of satin paint

Satin paint is resistant to mildew and fading and is suitable for large walls.

Satin Paint is a versatile paint that is both glossy and smooth and is great for painting high humidity areas such as kitchens and bathrooms.

Satin paint can be oil-based or water-based and come in low-odor paints that contain fewer harmful chemicals than their solvent-based counterparts.

Satin Paint Disadvantages

Although satin paint is scuff resistant, it may still show some marks or imperfections. Satin paint may also require multiple coats to cover brush or roller marks.

You should avoid using satin paint on highly textured or damaged walls, as its reflective nature means it won’t hide imperfections as well as flat or matte paint.

Satin paint is usually not as expensive as glossier paints, but is generally more expensive than flat or matte paint.

If you are painting a temporary area or an area that will not be used frequently (such as a ceiling), Flat, Matte or Egg Paint may be a more economical option.

Benefits of semi-gloss paint

Semi-gloss paint is a paint with a shinier surface that allows light to reflect off its surface, creating a beautiful radiant effect. Semi-gloss paint is a durable paint that is easy to clean.

Semi-gloss paint is an excellent choice for areas that will be subject to wear and tear, such as playrooms or children’s rooms.

The semi-gloss paint is very durable and you can easily clean it without worrying about accidentally picking off the paint when removing dirt or scuffs.

Disadvantages of semi-gloss paint

If you want to avoid glare, semi-gloss paint is not for you.

If the surface to be painted has many irregularities or imperfections, gloss paint tends to accentuate these imperfections, so semi-gloss paint is not the best choice for these conditions.

In this case, it is better to use satin paint or flat, matt or egg paint.

When to Use Satin Paint

Satin Paint can be used effectively in kitchens, dining rooms, living rooms and bathrooms. This is a good paint for large walls as it draws attention away from imperfections.

Satin paint is the best choice for wet areas such as kitchens and bathrooms because matte paint tends to trap moisture.

Satin paint is also the preferred choice when painting new walls, especially if they are free of flaws and defects.

When to use semi-gloss paint

Semi-gloss paint is a durable paint that is an excellent choice for high traffic areas that will be subject to heavy wear and tear, such as children’s rooms, playrooms, mudrooms or pet areas.

Semi-gloss paint is also a good choice for finishes and woodwork as its sheen helps distinguish it from surrounding walls.

Semigloss paint can be used on trim, stair railings, door frames, baseboards, fireplaces, mouldings, cabinets and other types of woodwork.

Semi-gloss paint can also be used on garage doors, window sills, exterior trim and lampposts.

Semi-gloss paint is excellent for areas with high humidity or areas where grease stains, smudges and streaks often appear, such as kitchens and bathrooms.

Due to its reflectivity, semi-gloss paint is a good choice for painting small spaces, as it reflects light and creates the illusion of space.

Similar questions:

Which is better eggshell or satin?

Eggshell paint has a low sheen that is slightly smoother than satin paint. By its name, the paint resembles an eggshell and is great for hiding defects.

Eggshell paint is stain resistant but not as durable as satin paint.

Eggshell paint is often used on walls in low traffic areas such as living rooms and dining rooms.

Eggshell paint is generally less expensive than satin paint, but is also harder to keep clean.

If you are looking for a durable paint that is suitable for use in high traffic areas, satin paint is your choice.

What is the best paint for the bedroom?

Most bedroom walls (unless they are a children’s room) are not subject to heavy wear and tear, so a highly pigmented, flat or matt finish paint is suitable.

If you want a more durable paint with a more reflective finish, satin paint is a good alternative.

What is the difference between matte and flat paint?

Flat paint is an excellent choice for textured walls or areas with multiple imperfections as it has a zero to low sheen so light does not reflect off bumps and imperfections.

Due to its lack of reflectivity, flat paint is often used on ceilings.

Matte paint has low to medium sheen, making it slightly more reflective than flat paint.

Matt paint is also a good choice for hiding imperfections and has the added benefit of being easier to clean.

Due to its higher gloss content, matt paint resists moisture better than flat paint and is easier to clean without the risk of accidentally removing the paint.

Matte paint is often used in low traffic areas such as adult bedrooms.

Final Considerations

Satin and semi-gloss paints have a lot in common: they both have a higher gloss than flat, matt, or eggshell paints, and both are durable paints that can be used in a variety of high-humidity, high-traffic environments.

Semi-gloss paint is generally the best choice for areas that will be exposed to the elements or will experience heavy wear, such as outdoor woodwork or children’s rooms.

Semi-gloss paint is also good for finishing as it reflects light and can help separate walls of the same color.

Satin paint is an excellent choice for large walls, kitchens and bathrooms.

Semi-gloss paint is more glossy than satin, making it more durable, stain resistant and easier to clean.

Both semi-gloss and satin paints are water-resistant, but while semi-gloss paints tolerate cleaning well, satin paints require a softer touch and should be rubbed gently to avoid removing the paint.

features, pros and cons – WikiStroy

Satin paint: features, pros and cons
All paints are divided into glossy and matte. But there are also intermediate options – semi-gloss and semi-matte compositions, which can look even more interesting. Satin paints are neither matte nor glossy. The RMNT website will talk about their features, list the advantages and disadvantages.

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All paints are divided into glossy and matte. But there are also intermediate options – semi-gloss and semi-matte compositions, which can look even more interesting. Satin paints are neither matte nor glossy. The RMNT website will talk about their features, list the advantages and disadvantages.

Satin paints are certainly closer to matte than to glossy, which are commonly called satin. But they still have a light, velvety sheen, shimmer, which is especially noticeable under the sun’s rays and with direct exposure to artificial light. Satin is ideal for decorating a wide variety of rooms, painting moldings, cabinets and other cabinet furniture. It will look beautiful both on the facade of the kitchen set and on the wall in the living room. Light reflection is between 25% and 35%, which brightens surfaces without creating glare.

Satin paints can create a cozy and warm atmosphere, emphasize decorative elements. Such compositions with a light, slightly noticeable sheen can be oil-based or water-based. Water-based and water-dispersion paints are now more popular and more suitable for interior work, while oil paints are more often used outdoors.

Portal told you about

eggshell paint

, which in terms of gloss is approximately in the middle between satin and satin. Satin paints are less shiny, but they have their own undeniable advantages:

  1. They look more interesting than matte ones, but do not give such a brilliant effect as glossy ones. Strong shine can be annoying, especially if the room has many windows facing the sunny side.
  2. Manufacturers offer a large selection of shades, it is virtually unlimited.
  3. They lay down on the walls easily, leaving no traces from the roller or brush. They hide small imperfections better than glossy ones that require a perfect surface.
  4. Satin paints are not washed off, unlike matte ones. They are easier to care for, they can be wiped with a soft sponge with the addition of dishwashing detergent. Abrasives, of course, cannot be used, in this regard, glossy paints are more resistant.
  5. Satin paints are more mold resistant than matte paints. With a high degree of probability, blackness will not appear even in the corners and in areas with high humidity.
  6. Satin is versatile and can be used in any room for painting walls and ceilings – from the hallway to the master bedroom. Suitable for painting wooden windows, doors, furniture. There are special compositions for external work.
  7. Satin compounds are able to protect wooden surfaces from weathering, cracking and decay.

There are practically no drawbacks to satin paints. The only negative is that it will not work to touch up only one zone, a section of the wall, for example, around the switch, where the stain appeared. She will stand out. To make the coating perfectly even and smooth, without seams and traces of the roller, you need to paint the entire wall at once and preferably in two layers.