satin vs matte comparison

Satin Vs Matte Paint Finish: (Side-by-Side Comparison)

Satin vs matte: Matte and satin are the most common paint finishes besides eggshell finishes. One offers a flat finish for warm, inviting interiors. Meanwhile, the other is the standard paint sheen for doors, windows, and trim.

Unfortunately, deciding between the two is occasionally challenging, given our emotional and stylistic preferences. So, we’ve prepared this guide to help you make an informed choice.

What is the difference between matte and satin?

Matte has a flat, non-reflective surface, ideal for hiding imperfections. Satin offers a soft sheen, providing a middle ground between matte and gloss. While matte absorbs light, satin subtly reflects it, giving a smooth and velvety appearance.

What Is A Satin Paint Finish?

Satin vs matte

A satin finish is what many people call medium gloss. It’s right in the middle of the paint sheen chart between eggshell and semi-gloss, with flat and gloss on either extreme.

Therefore, when comparing semi-gloss vs eggshell, it offers the best of both worlds. The silky smooth paint finish retains a pearl-like sheen when dry, appearing silky and feeling velvety to the touch.

What Is Matte Paint?

Satin vs matte image

What does matte finish look like?

Matte paint is one of the lowest sheens. It reflects so little light you may not notice the sheen at all unless it’s a textured surface. The main reason for the low sheen is a high binder concentration.

On the flip side, matte paints contain a very high proportion of paint pigment, offering truer colors. The pigment-rich paints also require fewer coats.

Satin Vs Matte Finishes: Key Differences

What’s the difference between satin vs matte? The following are common distinctions between the two to help you choose the right sheen for your next painting project.

Satin finish vs matte: Appearance

Appearance is the first main difference between matte and satin paint finishes. Satin finishes are the mid-point between gloss and flat sheens.

This means satin paint reflects about half as much light as glossy paint. Standard sating paints reflect about 35% to 40% of the light falling onto the surface.

Meanwhile, matte is at the low end of the scale. It reflects very little light, typically 5% to 10%. Therefore, you may confuse it with flat paint, the least-reflective sheen.

Indeed, the two terms are often used interchangeably. However, flat paints typically reflect 5% or less light.

The result is that satin finishes are highly influenced by the presence of light, especially natural light. Often, the painted surface appears lighter than the true color due.

Moreover, a differently colored item near the satin surface may cause visual color variations. The lower sheen of matte paints prevents this problem, resulting in truer colors. 

Matte vs satin Finish

Satin finishes are glossier than matte. However, it’s often described as a soft glow or a pearl-like velvety. So, it’s not as shiny as gloss or semi-gloss. However, it is close to the eggshell sheen and much higher than matte or flat.

On the other hand, matte finishes have very little sheen. A little light may bounce off the painted surface. However, it’s often not enough to cause a glow.

Despite the differences, satin and flat finishes look quite smooth when applied correctly. Satin presents more application issues and reveals more brush strokes than matte.

It also creates more consistency issues, which are more pronounced when using water-based paints.

However, professional application eliminates most of these issues for a highly consistent finish. 

Satin or matte finish: Durability

Three things define durable paint – washability, wet abrasion, and scrub resistance. More durable paints stay on the surface for longer without losing their shine, even after repeated washing.

They are also less likely to come off when scrubbed with a sponge or brush. This is critical for high-traffic areas, such as hallways, that require regular cleaning. 

Sadly, neither satin nor matte finishes are highly durable. However, if you must pick one, satin wins. Satin paints contain more binders than matte paints.

This is why it’s glossier – because the higher binder concentration reflects more light. These binders also increase paint durability, allowing the paint to withstand staining, scratches, and dings better.

It also accepts light scrubbing. Unfortunately, matte paints have low binder concentration, thus low resistance to scratches, scrubbing, and general wear.

This is why satin paints work in bathrooms while matte doesn’t. Also, matte is a poor choice for high-traffic areas with common scratches and staining.

Satin paint vs matte: Ease of use

You’re less worried about the outcome when working with low-sheen paint. Therefore, matte paints are easier to use.

First, brush lines aren’t as noticeable on matte paints as on satin finishes because of low reflection. Additionally, you’re less likely to notice accidental crossovers.

Thus you can use the painting technique in large areas without anyone noticing.

The opposite is true for satin finishes which reflect substantial light, making mistakes easily visible. For instance, overlapping lines are easy to spot on satin finishes.

Similarly, painting is a no-no since the lines are visible. Instead, you must stick to single passes lining up next to each other. This takes longer in larger spaces.

As a result, many painters opt for spray paint when using satin. It provides more even coverage without the risk of harsh lines and is faster.

Since you may want to do more, will acrylic paint stick to spray paint? It will depend on the types of paint and surfaces.

Matte or satin finish: Coverage

Coverage (measured in square meters per gallon) comes down to the amount of pigment in the paint. Why? Because pigments give the paint its color, opacity, and gloss control.

Therefore, paints with a higher pigment concentration inherently have a higher coverage. For this reason, matte paints have higher coverage than similar satin paints. You can cover a larger area with a single pass.

Moreover, as we’ve seen, matte paints cover imperfections excellently. Therefore, you need fewer coats compared to similar satin paints.

The opposite is true for glossier paints, including satin. These paints contain more binders than pigment. Therefore, you must apply more paint per unit area compared to matte paints.

For instance, if you need a gallon of matte paint to cover 10 square meters, you may need 1.5 gallons of satin paint for the same area.

Worse still, glossy paints don’t hide imperfections well. So, you need more passes and extra coats to achieve the desired results.

Matte vs satin acrylic paint: Costs (upfront)

Two factors are critical when assessing the cost of painting. First, we must consider the price per gallon. In this case, what’s the cost of a gallon of matt paint versus a gallon of satin paint from the same brand?

Secondly, we must consider the coverage, including the number of coats required to achieve the desired results. Expectedly, matte paint wins both contests.

First, matte paint is cheaper per gallon. On average, a gallon of matte paint costs $5 less than a gallon of comparable satin paint from the same brand.

Actual differences can be as high as $15 or less than $1. Nonetheless, matte paints are more affordable. Additionally, matte paint offers a higher coverage per gallon and requires fewer coats to achieve a good finish.

Therefore, you need fewer gallons of paint per square meter compared to satin paint. Combine the two factors, and matte paints become much more cost-effective than satin paint.

Satin clear coat vs matte: Maintenance

Maintenance covers a few bases, including durability, maintenance costs, and ease of cleaning. Therefore, it’s not easy to pick a winner here. However, satin paints win the contest by a small margin.

Matte paints offer several maintenance advantages. But you’ll particularly love the ease of touch-up. You can easily “patch up” matte paint if something goes wrong – and no one will notice.

This allows you to patch up scratches, stains and marks easily. Unfortunately, its low durability means matt finishes get lots of scratches and other damage.

Therefore, the maintenance costs can add up quickly. Moreover, cleaning matte paint is hell. On the other hand, satin paint is more durable and thus doesn’t get scratches or stains easily. Also, it’s very easy to clean.

Wiping the surface with soapy water and a clean rag removes most stains in one or two passes. The only downside is that satin shows touch-up lines. But why touch up the paint when you can wipe the stains?

Is a satin finish shiny?

Yes, satin paint has a slight sheen to it. For instance, it’s shinier than eggshell and matte finishes. But it’s not as shiny as gloss or semi-gloss.

The medium glossiness is perfect for poorly lit rooms. However, it highlights imperfections in well-lit areas.

Pros and Cons of Satin Paints

Satin Paint Pros

  • Durable
  • Easy to clean
  • Moisture resistant
  • Perfect for high-traffic areas

Satin Paint Cons

  • Highlights imperfections
  • It’s not as easy to use as matte paint
  • It costs more than matte paint

What is concealer Paint? 

Matte paints are sometimes referred to as concealer paints because they’re perfect for hiding imperfections. For instance, they hide wall cracks and dents excellently. 

Pros and Cons of Matte Paints

Matte paint pros

  • Easy application
  • High coverage
  • Easy touchup
  • Hides imperfections
  • Low cost

Matte paint cons

  • Low durability
  • Difficulty cleaning 
  • Not water resistant

Is Matte Finish Paint Good for Walls?

Yes, matt paint is great for interior walls as it makes them look smooth and elegant. It’s particularly suitable for high-traffic areas, such as kitchens and hallways, because it absorbs rather than reflects light.

Matte paint is also a great choice for living rooms, dining rooms, and guest rooms.

Is satin paint easy to clean?

It’s moderately easy to clean, making it suitable for many interior surfaces. However, it may not be as durable as high-gloss paint, so it’s best used in lower-traffic areas.

Regular cleaning can help maintain its appearance, but it’s important to avoid abrasive scrubbing to prevent damage.

Is satin black the same as matte black?

No, satin black and matte black are not the same. Matte black has a flat, non-reflective finish, while satin black offers a soft, subtle shine.

While both are subdued compared to glossy finishes, satin black subtly reflects light, giving it a smoother appearance, whereas matte black absorbs light, presenting a more muted look.

Satin or Matte Paint for Interior Walls?

Flat or matte paint is slightly better than satin finishes for interior walls. It’s a close contest, though, as matte, eggshell, and satin are the best finishes for interior walls.

However, matte comes out on top because it hides imperfections better than the other two. This is critical in rooms with plenty of natural light. Satin highlights slight imperfections, like brush marks, while matte hides them.

Can You Use Matte Paint on Wood?

Yes, you can use matte acrylic paint finishes on wood, especially wood trim. The soft, warm, luxurious appearance of matte paint lends excellently to accenting wood trim with antique furniture.

Moreover, matte paint hides imperfections and is easy to touch up. However, we recommend satin or semi-gloss for painting wooden furniture.

Satin vs Matte vs Gloss Paint

Matte and gloss paints are on either extreme of the paint sheen chart, while satin lies right in the middle. Therefore, matte reflects little to no light, while glossy paint reflects the most light of any paint sheen.

Meanwhile, matte reflects about 40% of light, although you can learn how to make matte finish glossy. Semi-gloss finishes and high–gloss paint are variations of glossy paint. Gloss finishes prove durable and scrubbable, while flatter paints such as matte are better at hiding imperfections.

Satin vs Eggshell Paints

Satin has a slightly higher sheen than eggshell paint. In fact, it’s the next option on the paint sheen chart when shopping for shinier paint than eggshell.

This makes satin more reflective and durable than eggshell paint. Meanwhile, eggshell offers a softer, warmer finish and hides imperfections better than satin.

Related Read: Eggshell Paint vs Flat

Satin vs Matte Clear Coat

Clear coat satin and matt paints vary mainly on the basis of sheen. Matte paints are near-flat, reflecting very little light. Thus they appear dull.

On the other hand, satin paints are moderately shiny. They aren’t as shiny as gloss. But they reflect up to 40% of light while matt reflects less than 10%. So, they create a higher sense of space.

Satin vs Matte Black

Satin black is a shinier version of black, with a charming radiance that lends excellently on most surfaces, including interior walls.

Meanwhile, matt black is a flatter version of black. It reflects very little light. Thus it lacks “glow” or “spark.” S0, satin is better when you wish to highlight a surface or object.

Meanwhile, matte is better for keeping a low profile or hiding imperfections.

Factors To Consider When Choosing Paint Sheen

Given the importance of sheen in interior decoration, you should pick your sheen level carefully. Consider the following three factors;

  • The condition of your walls: Glossy paints work best on new walls with few imperfections. Meanwhile, consider matte paints for older walls or walls in poor shape.
  • Natural lighting: Glossy paints reflect plenty of light. The higher the gloss, the more light it reflects. This can cause too much reflection in rooms with good natural lighting, potentially causing glare. So, consider gloss paints for poorly-lit rooms and matte paints for well-lit rooms.
  • Type of application: Which room is it, and how do you intend to use it? Also, what’s the maintenance level? Consider flatter paints for high-traffic rooms or surfaces that get little maintenance. The opposite is true for gloss paints. They work best in low-traffic rooms or well-maintained surfaces.

How To Make Satin Paint Matte

The best way to make satin paint matte or flat before painting is to mix it with flat paint until you achieve the desired sheen. Pour the satin paint into a container and gradually add flat paint of the same color until you’re satisfied.

Alternatively, for a painted surface, sand the satin finish with fine sandpaper (ideally 300 grit) or steel wool (#0000) to “flatten” the sheen.

How to Make Matte Paint Satin

The easiest way to make matt paint satin is to mix it with gloss or semi-gloss paint before painting. Pour the matte paint into a bucket and gradually add glossy paint, stirring gently until you achieve the desired sheen.

Alternatively, mix it with a glazing compound. Another option is painting over the matte surface with a clear, glossy varnish.

Related Read: How to Make Acrylic Paint Gloss Without Varnish

Does satin paint have a shine?

Yes, satin paint has a soft, subtle shine. It provides a finish that is between matte (no shine) and semi-gloss (more pronounced shine).

Satin’s light-reflecting properties give surfaces a smooth and velvety appearance.

Verdict – Satin Vs Matte Paint Finish

Satin and matte are two of the most popular paint sheens – and for a good reason. They are beautiful, reasonably durable, and easier to apply than other sheens. But beware that the two finishes are significantly different.

For instance, satin reflects more light but matte offers a warmer finish. Additionally, satin is more durable, but matte paint is easier to apply.

When to use satin finish

Satin works best in high-traffic and high-touch areas that go through regular cleaning. For instance, it works well for hallway walls that are wiped a lot to remove stains and marks.

Moreover, satin paint resists scratches and thus stays around for longer. But avoid it when painting light-exposed surfaces as it can cause glare.

When to Use a Matte Finish

Matte and other flatter finishes are the perfect choices for well-lit areas. For instance, matt works perfectly on ceilings as it doesn’t reflect light back into the room.

Additionally, matt paint is a great choice if you wish to conceal surface imperfections. That’s why flatter finishes are the preferred sheen for older houses.


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