3 Differences Between Satin And Semi-Gloss Paint

Painting your home is a great way to spruce it up, whether adding a fresh paint to revive a dull old coat, or entirely redoing the color scheme of a room. While it may seem as easy as picking up a few cans of paints and rollers at your local home improvement store, there are actually a lot of factors that go into choosing a paint for your home.

The obvious first choice to make is the paint color — whether to keep your room neutral, make it bold and colorful, mix and match, add an accent wall, and nearly endless other possibilities. There's also the matter of primer, prepping your walls, etc. One thing many people may not think to consider, though, is the finish of your paint. There are roughly five different types of paint finishes available — matte, high-gloss, semi-gloss, eggshell, and satin, per The Savvy Heart. Finishes like matte or high-gloss are more obvious in their promised results, but others, like semi-gloss and satin, can be hard to understand or distinguish.

1. Reflectivity and sheen

One of the first and major differences between satin and semi-gloss paint finishes is, of course, the appearance. Specifically, the paint's reflectivity and sheen. According to Home Depot, satin paint has a very pearlescent quality when dry. It has a little bit of reflection and a light sheen, but it isn't as shiny as a high-gloss or dry as a matte finish. It's somewhere in the middle, offering just a slight reflective quality.

Semi-gloss paint is also in the middle of the spectrum but leans much more heavily toward high-gloss paint than matte. It is more reflective and shiny than a satin finish. It reflects light a lot more than other finishes, but not as much as high-gloss. The effect is still soft, though, similar to satin paint. Since satin paint is a little less reflective, it will appear more pigmented on your walls, whereas semi-gloss paint will be a little less saturated as it reflects light sources.

2. Durability and location

Different paint finishes don't just offer unique aesthetic qualities, but physical ones as well. The different sheen and gloss levels offer different levels of durability against elements like moisture and dirt, and some are easier to clean than others.

Satin paint, for example, is a lot more durable than flatter, less shiny paints like eggshell or matte, the shine offering a bit more resistance against the elements. It tends to be quite easy to clean dirt from satin paint, per Shoreline Painting. That being said, satin paint reveals more flaws than other flatter finishes. It is ideal for rooms with lots of traffic, like hallways, living rooms, etc. Home Depot notes it is also mildew resistant, making it ideal for bathrooms and other more moist rooms.

Semi-gloss paint has even more sheen than satin paint, making it even more durable and easy to clean. That also means it is even more unforgiving when it comes to mistakes during the painting job, so be prepared to invest a lot of time and energy into prepping your walls. Semi-gloss paint is even more resistant to moisture damage, and most dirt, grease, etc. can be easily wiped off, making it ideal for kitchens.

3. Uses and applications

Paint isn't just for your walls. Interior and exterior features like window and door trims, cabinets, doors, etc. also need paint. Since they have different functions, they also need different finishes.

Satin's soft reflective nature makes it a great trim and accent color, with Benjamin Moore saying the finish is great for creating definition and drawing attention to an area. Not only will it result in a smooth and bright appearance when used to paint wall, window, and door trims, but it will almost have a highlighting effect, making the room feel brighter overall. It's also a great paint finish for exterior features like front doors.

Semi-gloss paint finish has a very similar effect but is more potent. Using semi-gloss paint on trims, doors, and other details in your home, especially in combination with flatter wall paints, will create a really unique and sophisticated sense of dimension. It also looks great when used on kitchen cabinets.