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Satin Or Gloss Finish – Which Is Better?

If you are painting a wall, or just finishing some furniture, whatever you are painting, you are going to have to decide at some point, which paint are you going to use?

On top of just the choice of color, you also have to choose the finish. Two of the most popular types of paint that you will have to decide between is satin or glossy.

Satin Or Gloss Finish - Which Is Better

If you do not actually know what the difference is between these two types of paint, the main one is that glossy paint will tend to be a lot more reflective whereas a satin paint is closer to matte.

There are more differences that are worth considering when picking between these two types of paint, like how durable they are, how well they hide imperfections, and how much they cost, but how much they reflect is what usually separates them.

As mentioned before, both of these finishes are quite popular and each have their own situations where they will excel. However, there are other options you can choose, for example the semi-gloss finish is in between these two types of paint.

The best thing you can do to help decide which is better out of these two types of paint is to learn as much as you can about these types of paint and then apply what you have learned into making your decision.

So, if you are still unsure, keep reading to learn all of the main differences between satin and gloss finish paint (see also ” Eggshell VS Satin Paint: What Differences Are There?“)! First, let’s start with satin finish paint!

What Is A Satin Finish

The sheen you will get from a satin finish paint is much more subtle compared to other shinier paints.

The paint is by no means matte, and if you want a matte finish paint, then going for flat paint will be a better option, and it does reflect a little light.

The light that reflects off satin paint is not very noticeable, however, if you look out for it, you can notice it. What influences how much sheen a paint has are the binders that are in them.

So, the more binders and the fewer pigments, the more shiny a paint will be, whereas, the more pigments, and the fewer binders, the more matte the paint will be.

There are plenty of different products that you can find which offer a satin finish, more than just paint. These various options will give you the chance to have a satin finish on a variety of different projects like repainting, or finishing.

Most of these products will have a situation they are best to be used in. For example, a satin finish paint will be best for applying color as well as having a finish.

Whereas, a satin sealant will be a clear coating and will be unlikely to change the color of what is underneath it, instead they will just seal and then offer a satin sheen.

Some satin products include; satin paint, satin clear coat, satin varnish, satin stains, satin furniture wax, and satin sealants.

One of the best things about working with a satin finish is that you will get a very smooth feeling surface once you have finished working with it.

Satin paint is very unlikely to have a sticky texture, and you can glide your fingers across the wall without any resistance.

We also love working with a satin finish since these products tend to have quite a durable finish which makes them a great investment as well.

They are great at standing up wear and tear compared to a finish which is matte. This durability also makes them moisture resistant which is why cleaning a matte finish wall is not an issue.  

While satin finishes are not the best at hiding imperfections, they are a lot better at doing this than a shinier finish would. This is because the reflection on a satin finish is not that obvious.

This means that dents and dings on the paint are not too obvious. It will not cover these imperfections perfectly, but it is much better at doing so than a glossy option would be.

Satin finishes are also great since you will get a much more accurate color than you would with a glossy finish.

This is because the satin finish does not reflect as much light, and this means the color reflected will not be altering how the paint looks on the surface.

However, satin finishes are not perfect and there are some issues you can run into when working with a satin finish.

While satin finishes are fine for covering some imperfections, it is not a great choice for doing touch ups with since the more paint you add, the more the paint will stand out.

It is also worth noting that while satin finishes are quite durable, they are not as good at being moisture or stain resistant as glossier paint options.

They are a good option for being moisture resistant, but they are not the best available.

You will also need to be careful when you are applying satin paint is that you are getting the layers as even as possible, so if you are not the most experienced painter, you might struggle to get a perfect result.

There are specific areas in the home that are a perfect choice for satin pain, this is mainly areas that are high traffic and get worn quite easily.

It is also a great option when working in large spaces, this is why you commonly find satin paint being used in areas like living rooms or master bedrooms.

This is because these areas have high traffic so they need to be durable, but you also do not want a paint that is too reflective either.

While satin paint is sometimes switched out for a flat paint in bedrooms, it is a much more popular choice for kids bedrooms since these spaces are a lot more likely to get messy.

We also recommend trying satin paint for kitchens and hallways.

We love satin paint in a kitchen since this space will need the easy to clean quality of satin paint, and the subtle glossy nature of satin finish will help with giving hallways extra depth

What Is A Semi-Gloss Finish

As you can imagine based on the name, a semi-gloss finish is a paint which has a bit more of a sheen than a satin finish does, however, it is nowhere near as reflective as a fully gloss paint would be.

This means it is not as distracting as a gloss paint would be making it a lot less distracting and a bit less noticeable.

This is why if you want a glossier paint to cover a wider space, we would actually recommend using a semi-gloss instead of a gloss paint.

You can get plenty of types of paint in a semi-gloss finish, this includes; paint, a clear coat, types of spray paint (see also “How To Make Your Spray Paint Dry Faster“), some varnishes, stains, some furniture wax, and sealants.

There are a variety of reasons why a semi-gloss finish is a good choice, the main one, especially when compared to a satin finish, is that it is quite durable and can put up with quite a bit of scrubbing if there is any dirt on it.

It is also more moisture resistant so if you want it in a spot in your home that will tend to be more humid, this is a great option.

This paint is also a  good choice if you want to add some brightness to a space, this is because it will bounce light around your room and make it lighter.

This is overwhelming if you do it in a space that is well lit already, however, if you are working in a smaller space or with limited sources of light, it can be a good option.

However, while there are benefits to working with a semi-gloss paint, there are also drawbacks that should definitely be considered before choosing to work with it as well.

The main issue with paints as glossy as this is that they are more likely to highlight imperfections instead of covering them up.

This means that if there are any dings or dents in your wall, the reflective paint is more likely to show off this imperfection in the wall and can actually draw your eyes to it.

Also, working with a semi-gloss finish when painting can be difficult, this is because it can occasionally streak and this is of course something you want to avoid.

This is because it will make the sheen of the paint uneven and make it stand out too much.

There are some specific spots in the home that are better suited to getting a semi-gloss finish than others. The main areas you want to focus on are those that will benefit from getting a moisture resistant finish that is durable.

This paint is good at resisting scrubbing, so if this is something you are after, you should try this paint. You can find semi-gloss paint commonly being used in bathrooms and kitchens because of these qualities, so keep this in mind.

People also tend to like using semi-gloss paint on furniture like shelves and dressers, or cabinets in bathrooms.

Also consider using semi-gloss paint in molding or on a trim, these will both benefit from the durability, and having a smaller area like this with a sheen often helps give your space more depth.

What Is A Gloss Finish

Satin Or Gloss Finish Which Is Better

As you can imagine with the progression in this article, gloss paint is the shiniest type of paint you can get, when applied properly it will give the surface it is on a slick look and it will reflect quite a lot of light when on a surface like a wall.

There are plenty of different products that you can find in a gloss finish, these products include; gloss finish paint, glossy clear coat, a gloss spray paint, a gloss varnish, a gloss sealant, and gloss stains.

It can be quite difficult to find a furniture wax that comes in a gloss finish, however, with a standard furniture wax, you can sometimes buff this to get quite a good sheen that is similar to gloss.

The best aspects of a glossy finish are how durable it is, and how easy it is to clean once it has been applied to the surface it is on.

This paint is also great at resisting stains, and this is because the paint is so moisture resistant. We also love how gloss finish paint will brighten up spaces and give them more depth.

This is because this paint will reflect a lot of light in a room. This can make dark rooms or nooks have a lot more energy which is often needed.

The main issue that can frequently bother those who invest in a gloss finish is how it will highlight imperfections in the space.

Because of how reflective this paint is, even if you have a small issue with your wall, if it has a gloss finish it will be easy to notice.

This is why when you are going to use a gloss paint you will need to dedicate a lot of effort into preparing the surface you are painting on, you need to ensure that the wall, or whatever you are painting on, is as smooth as possible.

Another common issue with gloss painting is that spaces that have a lot of gloss paint have often been known to be quite overwhelming.

This is especially prevalent in spaces that have large surfaces that have been painted with a gloss paint. If you paint a whole room with a glossy paint, especially if it is well lit, the space is very likely to be overwhelming and not cozy.

One thing that is also worth noting with how reflective gloss paint is, because of this it can end up having its color shift based on its surrounding and the hue of the light.

If the light has a certain color the wall can appear to look significantly warmer or much cooler, this can also be impacted by the sunlight as well.

Because of how reflective a gloss paint is, it is recommended that you use it strategically and thoughtfully so you get the best results when working with it. This is why we love using a glossy paint on smaller highlights like molding or trim.

Or we also like how gloss paint looks when it has been used on smaller pieces of furniture like end tables or similar pieces.

You can also use gloss paint to create some subtle patterns on your walls.

An example of this is when you use a satin finish paint in a similar or the same color, and then paint in stripes or something else easy to achieve and it gives your space a really sleek style.

Comparing Satin, Semi-Gloss, And Gloss

One of the best ways to pick between different options like with paint finishes is to directly compare them so you know what the best options will be.

This will show you which options will work the best for you in certain situations. As we mentioned in the introduction, the main defining factor of satin, semi-gloss, and glossy paint is how reflective and shiny they are.

You will also find these paints getting more durable based on how glossy they are as well. You will find semi-gloss and glossy paints having great durability for a paint, and while satin is more durable than flat paint, it is not as good as semi-gloss or glossy.

However, all of these paints will work in spaces like bathrooms, kid’s bedrooms, or kitchens. You will also want to acknowledge how much light’s reflection alters the appearance of the surface painted.

For example, satin and semi-gloss are only one step apart from each other, and the only thing that really differentiates them is which is shinier.

So, if you are looking for something which captures a bit more light and is a little more durable, you should go for a semi-gloss, however, if you do not want the color of the wall to be altered in certain lighting, or if you want the paint to be a little easier to work with but still have a rich appearance, then go with a satin finish.

Both of these will be a great option for a high traffic surface, but it is worth keeping in mind that satin paint is easier for correcting mistakes, so if you are worried about the surface getting damaged, this could be a good option!

When looking at the sheen spectrum with different finishes of paint, satin and glossy are at opposite ends, with satin having the most subtle sheen while gloss has the most obvious.

Satin paint practically looks matte if you have it next to a glossy paint.

Both of these paints work well, especially if you pair them, however if you are looking for the most durable option, go for glossy, however, if you are looking for a pair that will be a little less overwhelming, then a satin paint will not overpower your space. 

Now, choosing between a semi-gloss, and a glossy paint can almost seem like a minor decision, however, there are also some pieces of information that you should keep in mind when you are trying to choose between these two options.

Of course there is considering the luster you get from these paints. Glossy will capture a lot more light and is slightly more durable, this is why we love using it for furniture whether it is high traffic or not. This is why we prefer using semi-gloss for walls.

Of course, you want to use neither in a space with too much light, or in a space that could become overwhelming, but using semi-gloss will work a lot better on walls.

Unless you have a very specific vision, we recommend saving walls from gloss and instead using it on highlight spots.


So, hopefully this article has helped you when it comes to choosing between a satin or a gloss finish paint, and hopefully it has also informed you on when you should consider the middle ground being a semi-gloss paint.

There are plenty of situations where each of these paints will work amazingly, so if you have any of these paints, you will find a spot to use them.

However, each also works better in specific situations and knowing these will help your space look a lot more put together.

Make sure to consider the durability requirements of where you are painting and how much natural or artificial light there will be.

The main difference between these types of paint is how they interact with light, so this should be your primary concern.

Liz Miller
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