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Satin Vs Semi-Gloss Paint Finish: Which Is Better?

Painting your house hardly ends with applying paint. You still need to select the appropriate finish for the paintwork—and semi-gloss and satin are two good options for that. 

Deciding between semi-gloss and satin is hard since each has benefits. To help, this article compares both finishes and explores factors to consider before selecting. You’ll also learn the best places for each finish.

satin vs semi gloss paint

What is Semi-Gloss Paint?

Semi-gloss is a moderately reflective finish often compared to satin. However, semi-gloss differs from satin, as it has more sheen and lasts longer. 

Because of its higher sheen content, semi-gloss finish is shinier and brightens spaces. You have more light bouncing off the paint from external sources, increasing the color’s vibrancy. 

The downside to it is the extra glare homeowners must deal with. Glossy finishes, including semi-gloss, are extremely bright—consider that before buying. 

Advantages of Semi-Gloss?

1. Durable

Semi-gloss finishes are more durable compared to other paint finishes. Because of this quality, many homeowners love to use this paint finish in areas exposed to elements—rain, wind, snow, and hot sunshine. 

2. Brighten dark spaces 

Semi-gloss surfaces bounce off more light, which gives the space a brighter and wider look. If you need more glow in your living spaces, a semi-gloss finish should be your priority. 

3. Easy to maintain 

Thanks to its smooth nature, semi-gloss paint is easy to clean. Besides, it's water resistant—so spills and stains cannot ruin the finish. 

4. Enhances trim 

A semi-gloss is good if you want to add vibrancy to the trims in your home. With its lustrous quality, the paint can make railings, doors, frames, cabinets, mantels, and woodwork pop with extra color. 

Disadvantages of Semi-Gloss

1. Reveals imperfections 

A semi-gloss finish is the last thing any homeowner would consider for surfaces with dents, chips, and other surface imperfections. As semi-gloss reflects light a lot, those minor flaws in your interior walls only get more noticeable.

2. Excessive glare 

The high sheen in semi-gloss paints work well for dark spaces. In a well-lit room, it increases the glare you have to deal with. If you prefer a laid-back look to your space, another choice would be better. 

3. Require more work

Everyone wants a smooth finish on their painted surfaces. However, the odds of getting a smooth finish with semi-gloss are lower since the material highlights surface defects. You'll need to waste more time sanding the surface if you want an even finish. 

4. Harder to touch up 

As it makes flaws more obvious, semi-gloss is harder to touch up. The touch-ups on semi-gloss finishes cause a difference in sheen, which can be off-putting. 

What is Satin Paint? 

Satin is a velvety finish that has a pearl-like sheen. Although it has a noticeable glow, satin finish paint has an understated appearance. That makes it perfect for hiding flaws in surfaces, which would be evident if you used a brighter finish.  

Advantages of Satin

1. Cool tones 

Satin paint is a low-to-medium gloss finish. It's not dull like matte finish, nor is it shiny like semi-gloss. For places that could use subdued tones, a satin finish is a sensible option. 

2. Strength

Satin is one of the few finishes that can take a good scrubbing without wearing out. Satin's durability makes it the perfect choice for areas that get a lot of foot traffic. This include’s your kid's play area, the bathroom, or the kitchen. 

3. Easy maintenance 

It's easier to touch up and preserve the original condition than other finishes. Areas where the finish needs regular maintenance will look better with a satin finish. 

4. Enhances architecture

Satin paint is a good choice if you need to enhance trim and make the architecture more noticeable. That's why satin finishes are great for living spaces. 

5. Hides imperfections 

Got dings and flaws on your home's surfaces? Satin is your best choice for hiding them. This finish reflects less light than, say, a semi-gloss finish. This means the imperfections in your walls and floors remain hidden from view. 

6. Accurate color

Satin paint improves the accuracy of your paint color. With other high-gloss paints, the reflection of light can distort the appearance. Satin paints rarely have this problem because they absorb little light. 

Disadvantages of Satin

1. Low water resistance 

Although satin is durable, it has lower water resistance than glossier finishes. This makes it more difficult to remove stains and spills. 

2. Dullness

Satin reflects little light, unlike high-sheen options that absorb light heavily. That's an exceptional quality if you want a subtle appearance. Those who want a glossy and attractive look to their paint would be better off with other options. 

3. Poor paint quality

The quality of your paintwork may reduce overtime since satin is harder to clean (in some cases). Without cleaning the paint, it may lose its luster to the accumulation of dirt and spills. 

4. Requires more preparation

Using satin requires more preparation compared to other finishes, like semi-gloss. This is true if your home’s surfaces have many imperfections. Satin highlights unevenness in surfaces, so you need time to remove those flaws first.

Satin Vs Semi-Gloss: When To Use Which?

As semi-gloss and satin have different qualities, they work best for different situations. Here’s a handy guide on the best places to use semi-gloss and satin in your home:

painting kitchen semi gloss

Semi-gloss paint is the perfect finish for painting the following areas:

  • Kitchen 

A semi-gloss finish is the best material to use for kitchen surfaces. For starters, semi-gloss is impervious to moisture, which shields it from spills that may ruin its quality. Semi-gloss has a pearl-like quality, so cleaning spills and stains aren't difficult. 

  • Playrooms 

Playrooms are another area that works well with a semi-gloss finish. Your kids will probably cause more liquid spills than you want, which means you need a paint finish that's 100% scrubbable. 

  • Bathrooms 

As explained earlier, semi-gloss is a highly durable paint finish that's tough enough to resist water damage. Due to this moisture-resistance, it goes well in bathrooms and especially bathroom walls. In bathrooms, where copious amounts of water end up on the wall, semi-gloss is the best choice. With semi-gloss, the paint on your bathroom walls is likely to keep its original condition for long. 

  • Trimmings 

Trimmings benefit from the added luster that semi-gloss provides. Applying a high-sheen finish like semi-gloss enhances wooden trims and gives them an attractive glow. Wood surface examples include:

  • Crown moldings 
  • Stair railings 
  • Cabinets 
  • Bookshelves 
  • Dressers 

This also makes it suitable for ceilings. Learn how to paint them here.

On the other hand, satin paint is an excellent choice for the following:

  • Bedrooms, living rooms, and master bedrooms 

Satin is ideal for bedrooms and other living spaces in the room. It doesn't reflect light heavily like its semi-gloss counterpart, which is great for those spaces. 

  • Hallways

Hallways experience high foot traffic and get more stains and marks than other areas. Satin finishes fit hallways since cleaning them is a breeze and offers good stain resistance. 

  • Kitchens 

Another high-traffic area in your home that could benefit from a satin finish is your kitchen. You'll likely have more spills as you cook—and a satin finish makes your paint job easier. 

  • Large rooms 

In large rooms, highly reflective finishes may lead to excessive glare. A satin finish is softer on the eyes, making it the perfect choice for those enormous areas.

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Andrew Wilson

Andrew Wilson is the founder of Contractor Advisorly. He has over 15+ years of professional experience as a home improvement and home construction contractor. Whether you're looking for DIY advice, tool recommendations or anything home improved-related, he's happy to share his insights.