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What’s the Difference Between Satin and Semi Gloss Paint?

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Despite popular belief, choosing the right paint color isn’t that difficult considering the easy ways to find inspiration. On the other hand, selecting the proper paint sheen can pose some additional challenges. You’re faced with various paint finish options but two seem to stand out – satin and semi-gloss. Both of them can be found in traditional or modern paint products, whether we’re talking about oil-based models, special latex paints, or primer combos.

Homeowners need to be aware of the importance of choosing the right paint finish. It can easily make or break the room, similar to deciding on a paint color. The reason why most people end up having to choose between satin and semi-gloss is that both provide a balanced aesthetic without excessive shine or appearing too matte. The two paint finishes can seem very similar at a first impression yet they have distinctive features. Check out the most important aspects that help you differentiate between satin and semi-gloss paints.

1. Understanding Paint Sheen

Before exploring the specific characteristics of either of these two finishes, it’s essential to understand the concept of paint sheen. It’s not enough to simply pick a paint color. You also need to inspect the level of glossiness in the paint. That’s what makes paint sheen a deciding factor when you’re faced with different paint products, even if they have the same color.




What makes a paint glossier than another one? The answer lies in the amount of light reflected from the paint. As we’ll see in the following section, the paint’s sheen can influence the way the color on the wall appears in the entire room. Also, it’s not simply a matter of aesthetics. Paint sheen can impact other properties of the paint such as durability.

2. Benefits of Satin Paint

Satin paints offer low levels of glossiness making them ideal for certain areas in your home such as bedrooms or living rooms. This is an excellent type of paint finish if you prefer a subdued style that’s not very lustrous. It’s characterized by a matte look that doesn’t create the impression of flattening the room. There’s some slight shine in satin paint but just enough to bring a bit of drama to the area and avoid dull looks for the paint.



  • Durability

When it comes to durability, satin paint finishes won’t disappoint. They’re superior to matte paints considering the resistance to scuffing. Unless you scrub harshly or use an abrasive cleaning product, it’s safe to say that you won’t have to deal with a damaged satin finish.

  • Color Accuracy

Glossier paints can appear very attractive depending on light reflections. At the same time, however, they may seem distracting in some cases. This is where low-gloss paints such as those using a satin finish can represent a better alternative. They tend to maintain better color accuracy by not reflecting the light in different ways.

  • Textural Feel

Although for some people it might not be that important, the feel of the paint’s texture can contribute to better enjoyment overall. Satin finishes don’t feel as rough as other styles. If you prefer the touch of velvet, this is the recommended paint finish for you.



  • Hiding Imperfections

Anyone who wants to paint the wall and hide pre-existing imperfections will get better results by opting for satin paint finishes. All those dings and dents might even become more noticeable when covered with a semi-gloss paint. To avoid the undesirable focus caused by light reflections, it’s recommended to stick to satin finishes that make the surface appear more even.

Check out our favorite satin paint on Amazon.

3. Drawbacks of Satin Paint

  • Susceptible to Moisture

Satin paints aren’t the best choice when it comes to high-humidity environments. This is because they can be susceptible to damage caused by excessive moisture. The paint finish might accumulate more mildew and mold compared to others. Semi-gloss paints boast better resistance in this case.



  • Hard to Repair

Even small touch-up jobs can be difficult to accomplish when it comes to satin paint. You will need to be careful and avoid damaging the wall. The dense pigmentation of a satin finish makes it particularly difficult to patch up damaged areas. It will often be required to repaint the entire wall.

  • Vulnerable to Stains

Any accidental spills on walls can be quite challenging to clean if they’re finished with satin paint. Even a simple water spill could be hard to remove. This is one important reason why satin finishes aren’t recommended for high-traffic areas of the home such as kitchens or bathrooms.

4. Benefits of Semi-Gloss Paint

Not fully glossy but not as matte as satin – this is how you can describe a semi-gloss paint finish. It’s a fairly balanced approach that can work wonders in many functional rooms such as bathrooms and kitchens. Areas with a lot of activity benefit more from some extra paint glossiness. That radiant sheen of a semi-gloss paint can provide multiple durability benefits but the finish is also quite attractive.



  • Durability

While satin finishes offer decent all-around durability, they can’t compete with semi-gloss paints. Kitchens painted with a semi-gloss finish will be less difficult to keep clean. This is thanks to superior stain resistance and the general ability to withstand wear and tear more effectively. Semi-gloss paint surfaces are easy to wipe boasting reliable resistance to moisture.

  • Balanced Sheen

If you like the idea of glossy paint but don’t want overwhelming shine, semi-gloss finishes are a great choice. They score high in terms of attractiveness without feeling as distracting as full gloss paints.



  • Highlighting Details

Adding more drama to the room can be done more effectively with semi-gloss paints compared to satin finishes. If you have specific architectural elements that you wish to emphasize, semi-gloss paints can contribute to their overall visual impact. Even when used in small doses, semi-gloss finishes are able to enhance the look of window trim, crown molding, and cabinetry. Craftsmanship details will stand out better with this type of paint.

Take a look at this high-quality semi-gloss interior paint from Amazon.

5. Drawbacks of Semi-Gloss Paint

  • Color Accuracy

That extra sheen provided by a semi-gloss paint finish brings more reflectivity which could alter the color of the paint. Before choosing a semi-gloss finish for the room, it’s recommended to analyze light sources and figure out whether you’d be pleased with less than ideal color accuracy.

  • Highlighting Imperfections

While the aesthetic benefits of semi-gloss paints can’t be contested, you will also have to deal with potential unwanted side effects. It’s possible to make wall imperfections stand out as well. This makes semi-gloss finishes not practical in some areas compared to more matte options.



  • Higher Cost

While there’s not a very significant cost difference between the two finishes, it’s safe to say that semi-gloss paints are generally more expensive. Additional chemicals are used for creating the glossy effect of these paints as well as the superior durability. A satin finish could be friendlier on the budget if you’re looking at a big painting project.

6. How to Choose Between Satin And Semi-Gloss

Still undecided which paint finish between satin and semi-gloss works best for your needs? Check out these important aspects to help you make a smart choice.

  • Keep In Mind The Space

There’s no need to paint the entire home using only a single finish type. You can compromise by opting for satin in some rooms and going for semi-gloss in other areas. This way, you can obtain the benefits of both worlds and refresh the look of your home more effectively.




Satin finishes are ideal for bedrooms and dining rooms. Darker colors are recommended if you wish to tone down reflectivity even further. Living rooms and hallways can also take advantage of the properties of satin paint finishes.

When it comes to spaces recommended for semi-gloss finishes, keep in mind areas of the home where messy mishaps are more likely to happen. That extra durability of semi-gloss paints can come in handy in the bathroom, kitchen, or laundry room assuming you don’t mind the shinier look.

  • Test Your Colors

Take a closer look at the kind of paint colors you prefer. It’s worth remembering that reflectivity will affect chosen colors in different ways depending on the kind of finish you select. Semi-gloss black paint can bring a dramatic visual effect to any room while the same dark tone will seem unappealing when opting for a satin finish. There are many other examples here but the basic idea is to test your colors with different finishes to be extra confident in the final decision.

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