Satin vs Semi-Gloss: Which Paint Finish is Best For Your Painting Project?

satin vs semi-gloss paint

Deciding between satin vs semi-gloss paint can be tough, but understanding the key differences will help you make the best decision for your project. Here’s a look at some of the main differences between each finish to help you make the best decision for your project.

Of the two finishes, semi-gloss is a slightly higher-gloss finish than satin and offers more reflectivity. Let’s examine each and why you might choose satin vs semi-gloss paint.

What is Satin Paint?

Satin paints are more durable than flat paints but less than semi-gloss paints. Satin finishes reflect some light but can also hide imperfections and irregularities in the surface below.

Satin paint finishes have a slight gloss and essentially fall between eggshell and semi-gloss paint finishes. It is less glossy than semi-gloss but more glossy than an eggshell finish. Satin finishes have a lower sheen level than semi-gloss paint yet are more resistant to moisture and mildew than eggshell paint. It’s ideal for areas where high durability is necessary, such as a children’s bedroom, laundry room, bathroom, or kitchen.

While traditionally, semi-gloss paint is used on woodwork, satin finish is also suitable for wood trim, molding, and kitchen cabinets where you don’t want as much of a reflective surface.

Satin paint is easy to clean and maintain, so it’s perfect for areas with a lot of use. And because it has a bit of shine, it can also help to brighten up a space. If you’re looking for paint that will give you both durability and beauty, satin paint is the way to go.

Satin paint is a popular choice for many different types of projects, both big and small. This type of paint has a smooth, velvety finish that is neither too flat nor too shiny. It is also durable and easy to clean, making it ideal for high-traffic areas like kitchens and bathrooms.

What is Semi-Gloss Paint?

Semi-gloss paint is a type of paint that has a glossy sheen that lies between a satin and a high-gloss finish. Semi-gloss paints are a more durable finish and are easier to clean than satin paint. However, its higher paint sheen reflects more light and won’t hide imperfections like satin paint finishes.

Semi-gloss finishes help protect the paint from wear and tear, and it also makes the paint easier to clean. Semi-gloss paint is often used for painting trim, doors, and cabinets. It is also sometimes used for painting walls in high-traffic areas. Semi-gloss is more durable than matte paints but less durable than high-gloss paints.

Semi-gloss paint falls right between satin and high-gloss paint on the reflectivity scale. It has a shiny, sleek finish that is easy to clean and maintain. This makes it a popular choice for trim work, cabinetry, and other high-traffic areas.

satin vs semi-gloss paint

Satin vs. Semi-Gloss Paint: What are the Key Differences?

You’ll likely find a few different types in most paint collections when it comes to paint finishes. These range from most to least reflective and include glossy/high-gloss, semi-gloss, satin, eggshell, and flat/matte. Of these finishes, semi-gloss is slightly higher on the scale than satin and promises a little more reflectivity.

Semi-Gloss Paints Higher Sheen May Affect How Your Paint Color Looks

Semi-gloss paint is more reflective than satin paint. Semi-gloss will reflect more light, while satin finishes will absorb more light. Therefore, more artificial and natural sunlight will bounce off a semi-gloss surface than a satin painted surface.

Since light reflects differently on each finish, the same paint color may appear darker in semi-gloss and lighter in satin. Therefore, consider this when deciding which paint to use.

Semi-Gloss Paints are More Durable and Easier to Clean

More gloss means fewer fingerprints and smudges. If you have surfaces that require a lot of use or regular wipe-downs—such as in bathrooms, kitchens, playrooms, or kids’ bedrooms—then semi-gloss is likely the better option. This shinier surface offers more resistance to moisture and can be quickly cleaned with a damp cloth or special cleaners designed for small household messes.

Semi-gloss is more durable than satin and less likely to show wear and tear. Satin finish paints have more pigment and fewer binders than semi-gloss paint, making satin paint less resistant to dents, divots, scuffs, scratches, and stains.

The tradeoff for more durability with semi-gloss paint is that it won’t hide imperfections as well. This is one of the primary reasons satin paint finishes are preferred on walls and ceilings, while semi-gloss is preferred on woodwork, trim, and doors.

Semi-Gloss Paint Accentuates Ornate Details

When deciding between satin and semi-gloss paint, most people choose satin for walls and furniture while reserving semi-gloss for higher traffic areas or places where you want extra sheen: cabinets, mantels, stair railings, window trim, door casings, window frames, and crown molding.

You can also use two different sheens of the same color in one room to create contrast – like Satin on your walls with Semi-Gloss on the trim. The light will reflect off the semi-gloss surfaces, making architectural features stand out.

Satin Hides Imperfections Better Than Semi-Gloss

The shiny, reflective quality of semi-gloss paint finishes will only make any dents or scratches in your walls, cabinets, or furniture stand out more.

A satin finish is more forgiving over bumps and scrapes since it softens the light and makes the surface appear smoother. So if you want to camouflage imperfections without spending hours sanding them down, satin is the better choice.

Satin also hides brush strokes and roller marks better than a semi-gloss paint finish, making satin paint an excellent choice for wall surfaces and amateur painters.

Satin Finish Costs Less Than Semi-Gloss Paint

Higher sheens paints usually cost $2 to $3 more per gallon for each step up from low-gloss paint. This makes satin, a middle-of-the-road price option on the overall sheen spectrum, pricier than eggshell finishes but costs less than semi-gloss paints.

PaintSemi-GlossSatin
Glidden Premium$27.98$25.98
Behr Premium Plus$39.98$36.98
Behr Marquee$58.98$55.98
Valspar Signature$48.98$45.98
HGTV HOME by Sherwin-Williams $53.98$50.98
Prices from HomeDepot.com and Lowes.com as of 11/10/2022. Prices are subject to change.

Satin vs Semi-Gloss Paint: Mixture and Characteristics

There are some key differences between the two types of paint.

Semi-Gloss has More Sheen than Satin

Satin has less shine than semi-gloss but more than eggshell and flat/matte. This makes it a good choice for areas with a lot of traffic but doesn’t require high amounts of reflectivity, such as living rooms and bedrooms.

On the other hand, semi-gloss has a higher level of shine and is often used in areas that need to be easy to clean, such as kitchens and bathrooms.

Semi-Gloss has More Binders than Satin

Semi-gloss paint contains more binders than satin paint to achieve its reflective and durable qualities. This makes it more expensive than satin paint, but the difference is usually only about $2 to $3 per gallon. These binders are also what make semi-gloss paint more durable paint.

Satin is More Forgiving than Semi-Gloss

Satin paint is more forgiving of pre-existing imperfections than semi-gloss paint. The reflective semi-gloss finish will accentuate any dents and other wall imperfections, while a satin finish will create the illusion of a smoother surface. If you’re trying to save money while repainting walls throughout your home, go with satin rather than semi-gloss for a smoother paint job.

Satin Offers a Truer Color than Semi-Gloss

Satin paint absorbs more light, while semi-gloss paint reflects more light. Because satin finishes have fewer binders allowing them to absorb more light, you get a more true color. On the other hand, semi-gloss reflects more light causing the same color to appear darker than it actually may be.

satin vs semi-gloss finish

Satin vs Semi-Gloss Paint: Which is More Durable?

Regarding durability, both satin and semi-gloss paints are pretty tough. However, semi-gloss paint is typically more durable than satin paint since it contains more binders. This makes it a good choice for areas with a lot of traffic or needs to be easy to clean, such as kitchens and bathrooms. Choose semi-gloss if you’re looking for paint that will resist smudges and fingerprints.

Satin vs Semi-Gloss Paint: Which is Easier to Clean?

Since semi-gloss paint contains more binders, it is typically more durable than satin paint. This makes it a good choice for areas with a lot of traffic or needs to be easy to clean, such as kitchens and bathrooms. Choose semi-gloss if you’re looking for paint that will resist smudges and fingerprints.

Satin vs Semi-Gloss Paint: Which Looks Better?

This is a matter of personal preference. Some people prefer the look of semi-gloss paint because it has a higher sheen and creates the illusion of a smoother surface. Others prefer satin paint because it has less shine and is more forgiving of pre-existing imperfections. Ultimately, it comes down to what you like best.

Satin vs Semi-Gloss Paint: Where to Use?

Satin paint is a good choice for areas that don’t require high amounts of reflectivity, such as living rooms and bedrooms. Semi-gloss paint is often used in areas that need to be easy to clean, such as cabinetry, woodwork, and doors.

Satin paint is a good choice for areas that don’t require high amounts of reflectivity, such as living rooms and bedrooms. We recommend you use satin finishes on walls inside laundry rooms, finished basements, kitchens, bathrooms, and children’s bedrooms.

Semi-gloss paint is often used in areas that need to be easy to clean, such as kitchens and bathrooms. We recommend you use semi-gloss paint on woodwork, cabinetry, and interior doors because it’s easier to clean.

You can also use semi-gloss paint on walls in laundry rooms, finished basements, kitchens, bathrooms, and children’s bedrooms. Be mindful that the finish will reflect more light and show more imperfections.

Satin vs Semi-Gloss FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions when comparing satin vs semi-gloss paints.

What looks better, satin or gloss?

Semi-gloss paints look great on wood trim, cabinets, and doors. Satin paint has less shine and is more forgiving of pre-existing surface imperfections, making it great for interior walls and ceilings.

Is satin shiner than semi-gloss?

No, satin is not shiner than semi-gloss paint. Satin paints contain fewer binders and more pigments than semi-gloss paint. Because semi-gloss paint contains more binders, it has more shine and will reflect more light.

Do professional painters use a satin or semi-gloss paint?

A professional painter often uses satin paint on interior walls and semi-gloss paint on wood trim, cabinetry, and doors. Satin paint is the best option for family rooms, living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms, kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry rooms.

What sheen is best for interior walls

Flat, eggshell and satin paint finishes are the best sheens for interior walls. Flat finishes (matte finishes) hide imperfections well but are harder to keep clean. The right paint sheen for high-traffic living spaces is satin paint.

Conclusion

Satin vs semi-gloss paint is a debate that has been going on for years. Both types of paint have unique benefits, so deciding which one can be hard. Ultimately, the ideal choice comes down to what you want in paint and your personal preferences.

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Hubert Miles

I've been conducting home inspections for 17 years. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and FHA 203k Consultant. I started HomeInspectionInsider.com to help people better understand the home inspection process and answer questions about homeownership and home maintenance.
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