The main difference between satin and matte paint finishes is the gloss or shine. Satin paint has a shinier finish than matte which is more flat.
Comparatively, satin finishes have between 25% and 35% gloss while matte finishes have a gloss percentage between 5% and 10%. This means that satin paint reflects around three to five times as much light as matte paint does.
Without question, satin has a glossier finish versus matte. On the plus side, this makes satin paint easier to clean and more durable than a matte finish. However, matte paint is easier to apply and touch up than satin. Not to mention, matte covers better, shows fewer imperfections and is cheaper per gallon than satin paint.
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Choosing Between Matte and Satin
Generally speaking, both matte and satin paint finishes are great options. The choice between satin or matte depends in large part on which room or surface you are painting.
Is it a high-traffic area like a mudroom or hallway that gets scuffs? Perhaps a satin sheen works better on the walls than matte because it’s easier to clean.
Does your ceiling or wall have lots of imperfections or bumps? Then you should choose matte over satin because it hides surface imperfections better.
In this guide, we’ll highlight factors that most affect which of the two types of paint sheens work best for your particular home painting project.
Furthermore, we’ll discuss how lighting, room functionality, and different surfaces impact which type of finish you choose. Ultimately helping you make the right choice between the two sheens before purchasing any paint cans as a homeowner.
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A matte finish is a low gloss sheen that’s shinier than flat paint but less shiny than satin or eggshell. It has a low gloss percentage which means it contains less luster or reflects less light than most paints.
However, with a gloss percentage of 5% to 10%, matte has slightly more sheen than flat paint which has an under 5% gloss formula. As a result, both matte and flat paint contains more pigment which leads to better coverage per gallon.
Typically, we recommend using matte on walls in lower-traffic areas like master bedrooms, dining rooms, or living rooms that won’t get dirty or scuffed up as often.
Moreover, flat and matte paints are easier to touch up and apply, which makes them ideal for novice painters or DIY projects.
Not to mention, matte finishes hide bumps and blemishes better than satin or eggshell. Making it an ideal paint for older exterior siding with lots of peeling paint.
Look and Feel of Matte Sheen
While slightly rougher or chalky to the touch, matte offers a cozy and modern look to any room or outdoor surface.
On the other hand, high-gloss paints like satin look plastic-like on interior walls and exterior siding.
Given this, another great surface for matte paint is on interior ceilings which look best with lower gloss sheens that hide nail pops better.
Indeed, the look of a matte finish resembled a velvety, almost powdery finish that absorbs light. Because of its higher pigment, matte adds depth to deeper shades and increases the richness of darker paint colors.
A last key benefit of matte is it softens bright colors, allowing you to explore bolder color palettes.
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A satin finish is a medium gloss sheen that’s shinier than matte but not as shiny as semi-gloss paint. Likewise, satin offers slightly more luster or light reflectiveness than eggshell finishes.
Concurrently, satin works perfectly on smooth walls in higher-traffic areas like hallways, family rooms, and kids’ rooms. This is because satin finishes are easier to clean and more durable than lower sheen paints like matte or flat.
Additionally, satin is moisture resistant, which makes it the right finish for bathrooms or kitchens. You can also use it on interior or exterior trim and molding for a “not too glossy” type finish.
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Look and Feel of Satin Sheen
In general, a surface with a satin sheen falls between the dull, non-shiny matte finish and the glass-like reflectiveness of a high gloss. Accordingly, it looks silky and feels smooth to the touch.
However, satin finishes are harder to apply, offer less coverage and are more difficult to touch up than matte paints. Similarly, a slight sanding of the surfaces before applying glossier paint like satin will go a long way to even out the final finish.
Certainly, the amount of light your room gets and the number of prior repaints a surface has received will impact if satin is the right finish to use.
So if you have walls with a ton of cracks and divots, stick with eggshell or matte vs satin paints. Also, if you have an older home with bumpy plaster walls, stay far away from high gloss paint like satin.
Likewise, if you have a room with tons of light, satin may be too reflective or shiny based on your interior design preferences.
In those cases, opt for a low sheen paint like matte during interior painting.
When To Use Matte Paints
Use matte paints for low-traffic areas like bedrooms, formal dining rooms, and living rooms. Likewise, matte sheens work great on both ceilings and walls or as an accent paint color.
Just remember that matte has a little gloss finish which means scuff and fingerprints will show over time. Accordingly, avoid using matte in high-traffic spaces like hallways, kids’ bedrooms, and bathrooms.
Also, since matte paint absorbs light, avoid using it in small rooms with little light. In this case, it will make the space look smaller.
All major paint companies, including Sherwin Williams, Benjamin Moore, and Behr, sell matte paint formulated for interior and exterior surfaces.
Indeed, you can use a matte finish for interior spaces or outdoor surfaces like siding. Because it hides imperfections, it works great on bumpier surfaces that have been repainted many times.
For example, many homeowners would use matte on the siding of an 80-year-old victorian home, which has layers of paint. But keep in mind that matte is harder to clean so it may get dirty over time.
Pros of Matte:
- Easier to apply and touch up
- Costs less per gallon than satin or semi-gloss finishes
- Shows fewer imperfections and covers better
- A rich, velvety modern paint finish for contemporary spaces
Cons of Matte:
- Harder to wash and less durable against scuffs
- Less moisture-resistant so avoid using it in the kitchen or bathroom
- Soaks up the light so it can make small rooms look smaller
Lastly, you should never directly apply matte over an already glossy finish like semi-gloss or satin.
Before painting, lightly sand or scuff up the surface and use a primer to ensure your matte finish has something to “bite” onto.
This pro tip will save you time and money as your matte paint coat will apply more evenly using a brush or roller. Learn more painting tips by reading our guide on how to paint a room.
When To Use Satin Paint
Use satin paint for higher-traffic areas like bathrooms, kitchens, and hallways. Because it contains more gloss than eggshell or matte, it’s also more durable.
As a result, satin is a perfect finish for a kids’ bedroom, mudroom, or foyer.
Typically, satin works best on walls but you can also use it on trim if semi-gloss or high gloss finishes are too shiny.
While not recommended for ceilings, you can use it on a bathroom ceiling as it is more moisture resistant than flatter sheens like matte.
Likewise, satin can be used on interior surfaces as well as exterior siding, trim, or doors. Since it’s easier to wash and more durable than flat paints, it will hold up longer and resist moisture better.
Pros of Satin:
- Easier to clean and more durable than matte or flat paint
- More moisture resistant than flatter paints with less gloss
- Reflects more light so it can open up a small, darker room
Cons of Satin:
- Harder to apply and touch up without noticeable flashing
- More expensive per gallon than flat or matte paints
- Does not hide bumps or wall imperfections well
Because satin reflects light, it can make a small space with low light look larger. On the other hand, satin shows imperfections more. More often than not, avoid using satin on bumpier walls with lots of prior drywall patches or repairs.
Finally, most major paint manufacturers including Benjamin Moore and Sherwin-Williams carry satin interior and exterior products. This final detail makes it easy to find at your local paint store or hardware shop.
Satin Versus Matte Sheen FAQs
From homeowners to professional painters, Improovy is the ultimate resource for home improvement help.
The following are some of the most frequently asked questions our experts get about sheens.
Is satin or matte paint better?
For a higher traffic room like a foyer or powder room, satin works better. But for lower traffic rooms like a guest bedroom or formal dining area, matte works best. Overall, there are pros and cons of using either satin or matte finishes in specific situations. We compare and contrast each specific use case in this matte vs satin paint sheen guide.
How much more expensive is a gallon of satin paint versus matte?
Satin paint is typically 10-20% more expensive than a gallon of comparable matte paint. The average matte paint cost $54 versus $66 per gallon of satin paint. This is because gloss is more expensive than pigment when the paint is being made. Satin has more gloss and less pigment than matte therefore it’s more expensive.
What is the best paint finish for my house?
It depends on the surface you are painting. For interior walls in high-traffic spaces like a mudroom, satin or eggshell finishes work best. Flat or matte finishes work best for most ceilings and semi-gloss is recommended for interior trim and doors. When it comes to exteriors, most homeowners paint their siding in a satin finish. For older homes with layers of paint, matte or flat is best as it hides imperfections better. Lastly, most use satin, semi-gloss, or high gloss on exterior trim and front doors.
Should accent walls be matte?
Matte finishes add an aura of sophistication to accent walls. When choosing a bold accent color, matte may be a great sheen to contrast against the typical eggshell finish. As always, it’s best to first apply a test patch sample of each sheen you are considering to see how it looks in the space.