Satin Vs Flat Paint: What’s the Difference and Which Is Better?

When you’re preparing to paint a wall or update your furniture, you’ll have to choose a finish. When it comes to satin vs. flat paint, understanding the key differences between the two options may make a decision easier.

The main difference between satin and flat paint is the finish. Satin paint has a touch of sheen, while flat paint essentially has none. However, the finish isn’t the only way the two paints stand apart. There are also variations in durability, maintenance, and more.

Since both satin and flat paint are popular, you shouldn’t have issues finding either. Additionally, each can come in a full array of colors. As a result, you’ll need to consider what’s best for your specific application.

By understanding what each paint finish offers and the pros and cons of using satin vs. flat paint, you can choose the best product for your projects. If you’re wondering whether flat or satin paint is better, here’s what you need to know.

Satin Vs Flat Paint

Satin vs. Flat Paint: Key Points

It may seem like a paint’s finish isn’t as important as choosing the right color. However, flat and satin paint do create different looks. Additionally, there are benefits and drawbacks to each option.

Here is a quick overview of the satin vs. flat paint key differences:

 Satin PaintFlat Paint
AppearanceStrong color with a slight sheenStrong color with no sheen
FinishSoft lusterMatte
DurabilityFlexible and tough, standing up well to wear, even in high-traffic areasLess flexible and lower toughness, making it more susceptible to wear issues
CoverageReasonable coverageExcellent coverage
MaintenanceStands up well to wear and tear and easy to cleanScuffs and scratches are more common, and scrubbing can remove paint
Ease of useHarder to apply, and touchups often showEasy to apply and touchups blend

What Is a Satin Finish?

Satin paint has a soft luster. Some describe the look as velvety, reflecting just enough light to give it a touch of sheen. However, satin paint isn’t highly glossy. While it reflects light, the sheen is typically gentle enough to be barely noticeable on smooth surfaces.

Often, it’s the ratio of binders to pigments that impact the finish of paint. The more binder that’s present, the glossier the look. Among the most common paint finishes, satin falls in the middle. It has more binder than flat and eggshell paint but less than semi-gloss and gloss.

The higher amount of binder gives satin paint additional flexibility and durability. It’s easier to clean than some of its lower-sheen brethren and is better suited to high-traffic areas. With the higher amount of binder, it’s also moisture-resistant. While the reduced pigment amount may make additional coats necessary to get full coverage, you can find one-coat versions on the market that might make that unnecessary.

However, the light-reflecting qualities mean imperfections in surfaces are more noticeable. Additionally, it can be harder to apply. Due to the sheen, crossing wet paint over a dry edge can create a line. Without the proper care, the final look may be uneven.

Similarly, touchups are more likely to stand out. If you touch up to cover a scuff or other issue, the overall sheen may look uneven, making the touched-up spot noticeable.

Finally, satin finish paint may cost more than some alternatives. However, the difference is usually small on a per-can basis. Still, if you’re painting a large area and need several cans of paint, it does add up.

Satin Paint Pros and Cons


  • Easy to clean
  • Moisture-resistant
  • Highly durable
  • Reasonable coverage


  • Imperfections are more noticeable
  • Harder to apply
  • Costs more
  • Touchups stand out

What Is a Flat Finish?

Flat paint has a matte finish, reflecting as little light as possible. When applied to a surface, the lack of sheen makes the overall look highly uniform. It isn’t as impacted by colors reflecting onto the surface or alternations caused by light bouncing from the surface.

Comparatively speaking, flat paint has the lowest amount of binder and the highest amount of pigment. That means flat paint offers exceptional coverage. However, that comes at the cost of lower flexibility and reduced durability.

Often, flat paint is the hardest to clean. Scrubbing can cause paint to come off, not just dirt. If enough paint is removed, the underlying color may peak through, creating noticeable unevenness.

Additionally, flat paint shows wear and tear faster. Scuffs and scratches show on the surface easier, making touchups necessary more often.

On a good note, flat paint is easier to apply. The color remains consistent even if you apply wet paint to dry edges. As a result, touchups don’t stand out as much.

The higher amount of pigment also improves the coverage. You may be able to use fewer coats to achieve the desired look, resulting in cost savings.

Flat Paint Pros and Cons


  • Best at hiding imperfections
  • Lower cost
  • Easy to apply
  • Excellent coverage
  • Touchups blend


  • Lower durability
  • Harder to clean
  • Not moisture-resistant

What Is the Difference Between Satin and Flat Paint?

Understanding the difference between satin vs. flat paint allows you to determine which option is best for your particular product. By looking at each characteristic closely and comparing the two paint types directly, it’s easier to see how they stand apart. Here is an in-depth look at the difference between sating and flat paint.


The main difference between satin and flat paint in the appearance arena is the amount of sheen. While satin paint has a soft luster, flat paint has a matte finish, reflecting very little light.

Since the light-reflecting qualities vary, the look of the paints on surfaces can differ even if the paints are the same color. With satin paint, the color is impacted by light hitting the surface directly and light bouncing off of nearby objects. When struck by light, the paint color may seem lighter. Light-reflecting off of an object may alter the hue, depending on the color of the object.

With flat paint, the color is more consistent. Light doesn’t reflect off of the surface to the same degree, reducing any color-altering effects.

Due to its light-reflecting qualities, satin paint can give spaces more visual depth. Additionally, it may make smaller areas like hallways, bathrooms, or children’s bedrooms seem bigger. Flat paint doesn’t offer either of those benefits.

Finally, satin paint can augment blemishes on surfaces. Light bouncing off of the imperfections makes them more noticeable. Flat paint isn’t as reflective. As a result, dents and dings won’t stand out to the same degree.


Satin has a glossier finish than flat paint. The gentle sheen on satin paint is usually described as velvety or pearl-like. While the shine is noticeable, if far subtler than you find with semi-gloss or gloss.

Flat paint is the least glossy finish available with practically no sheen. While that means no light bounces off of the surface, the amount is so low that it typically isn’t noticeable.

However, even with the sheen differences, both satin and flat paint can look quite smooth. The final finish can be incredibly consistent when properly applied, but application issues are happening more frequently with satin, increasing the odds of inconsistencies.


When it comes to durability, satin paint outperforms flat paint. The binders give satin paint more flexibility and toughness, making it more resistant to scratches, dings, and stains.

Additionally, the satin paint’s tougher surface allows for easier cleaning. Gentle washes won’t harm the paint. However, if you scrub with something rough aggressively, it may alter the sheen.

The extra binders in satin paint also make it moisture-resistant. In damp spaces like bathrooms, mold and mildew on the paint’s surface won’t be as likely.

Flat paint doesn’t have as much binder, making it less flexible and durable. Dings, scratches, and stains are more common, even when only subjected to daily wear and tear. Additionally, cleaning can strip away the paint, exposing the material or old paint below.

Finally, flat paint isn’t moisture-resistant. That increases the likelihood of issues like mold and mildew.


Typically, flat paint offers better coverage than satin. Since flat paint has less binder, there’s more pigment. The extra pigment imbues more color on the wall in a single coat, potentially reducing the need for subsequent coats to achieve a full coverage look.

With more binders, coverage issues might be more common with satin. You’re trading pigment for an extra binder. Since the binder doesn’t carry your chosen hue, you aren’t applying as much color in a single pass.

Now, it’s important to note that there are one-coat paint products available in a range of finishes, including satin. With those, you may have fewer coverage issues.


When it comes to maintenance, there are benefits and drawbacks for satin and flat paint. Satin paint is incredibly easy to clean. Usually, some soap and water and a soft sponge or rag can remove dirt quickly. Plus, washing the paint typically won’t harm it unless you are scrubbing hard. If you’re overzealous, you may damage the sheen but might not remove any color.

However, doing touchups on satin paint isn’t easy. Usually, there will be a difference in the sheen at the touched-up spot. As a result, the touchup stands out visually.

With flat paint, cleaning is more difficult. When you try to clean off dirt, you may take the paint off with it. Depending on how thick the paint is, cleaning could reveal the old paint or material underneath, creating a noticeable spot.

But fixing spots is generally easier. When you touch up flat paint, the touched-up spot blends into the surface quite well. Once it dries, there’s a good chance you won’t see any difference at all.

Ease of Use

Generally speaking, flat paint is far easier to use than satin. Flat paint tends to blend in well, even if wet paint crosses over dry. The lack of sheen prevents noticeable lines. As a result, using a traditional W method works well, allowing you to apply paint fairly quickly.

Satin paint is a little trickier. If wet paint cross over dry paint, there can be inconsistencies in the sheen. Essentially, you’ll get the appearance of lines on the surface due solely to the overlap.

As a result, using a typical W technique isn’t always ideal for satin paint unless you can move incredibly quickly. Instead, you may have to do fast single passes.

For example, on a wall, you’d add paint to a roller and do a single stripe from top to bottom. Then, you’d apply more paint, move one roller length to the side, and apply an adjacent vertical stripe, repeating the process until the room is covered.

Alternatively, you may have to use a paint sprayer with satin paint. That allows for soft, even coverage quickly without harsh lines.

When it comes to touchups, flat paint is also easier. Touchups tend to blend with flat paint while, due to sheen inconsistencies, they often stand out with sating paint.


On average, flat paint is less expensive than satin. On a per-gallon basis, the difference is typically around $5 per can if you’re looking at the same brand and paint line. However, there are situations where the price gap is larger or smaller.

While a $5 per-can difference might seem negligible, it can add up. In most cases, a gallon of paint can cover up to 400 square feet. If you need two or three cans for one room and use satin paint instead of flat, you’re spending $10 to $15 more in total.

However, if the satin paint doesn’t offer you one-coat coverage (which is more likely with satin than flat), you may need to apply a second coat. In that case, you’re spending $20 to $30 more in total since you’ll need four to six cans of paint to finish that room.

If you’re repainting your entire interior, that $5 per can difference adds up even more. Depending on the number of coats needed and size, the $10 to $30 difference per room quickly becomes hundreds of dollars.


Technically, you can use any paint finish in any situation. However, flat and satin paints are better suited to specific use cases.

Flat paint is typically the preferred option for ceilings. Most people don’t want their ceiling to stand out, so limiting the amount of sheen makes it less noticeable. Plus, ceilings typically go untouched, making them less susceptible to wear and tear issues.

Additionally, flat paint can be a reasonable choice in lower-traffic areas. Master bedrooms, guest bedrooms, formal dining rooms, and home offices could all be solid places for flat paint. In most cases, cleaning the walls isn’t as necessary in those spaces, so the lower durability isn’t an issue.

Satin paint is usually best for high-traffic areas and rooms that can benefit from moisture resistance. Kitchens and bathrooms are the best examples. However, kid’s rooms and hallways are also good choices for this more durable paint, as well as for trim and molding.

When it comes to living rooms, how you use the space may dictate which is best. For example, if it’s a frequent play area for children, flat paint might not be the best fit. However, flat paint may work if the living room is treated as a more formal space or an area for relaxing instead of activity.

Paint Sheen Chart

  Satin Flat
Bedroom X X
Living Room X X
Family Room X  
Dining Room X X
Ceiling X X
Kids’ Room X X
Hallway X  
Bathroom X  
Kitchen X  
Doors X  
Windows X  
Trim X  
Cabinets X  
Interior Furniture X  

Which Paint Is Better: Satin or Flat?

Technically, neither satin nor flat paint is better in all situations. Each one has specific use-cases where it’s the better approach. You want to consider what you’re trying to accomplish. Then, you can choose the right option for your project.

However, as a generalization, satin paint is better for high-moisture, high-traffic environments. It’s moisture-resistant, more durable, and easier to clean. Just be aware that it’s harder to apply, and touchups will show.

Flat paint is a solid choice for lower-traffic or low-touch areas. Since cleaning flat paint can damage it, areas where dirt and grime are less important can be appropriate. Plus, it’s far easier to apply and touch up.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t use either product as you’d like. If you prefer more sheen, then go with satin. If you favor matte finishes, flat is the way to go.

How to Make Satin Paint Flat?

If you have satin paint on a wall or furniture piece and want to make it less glossy, you have some options. The simplest approach is usually to apply a clear flat topcoat. The topcoat will change the sheen without impacting the underlying color in just a single coat.

There are also commercial deglossing agents. You prepare and apply the liquid according to the manufacturer’s directions, leaving you with a matter finish once the process is done. Since the results can vary, you’ll want to conduct a test before tackling an entire room or furniture piece.

The main challenge with deglossing agents is that they can involve harsh chemicals. As a result, they aren’t ideal for rooms that aren’t well-ventilated. Additionally, you’ll want to wear gloves and a mask for safety purposes.

Another option is to lightly sand the surface. Start with sandpaper with a high grit number. The higher the grit number, the less coarse the sandpaper is, reducing the odds it will leave gouges or remove too much paint. Additionally, do a test in an inconspicuous spot to see if it can achieve the desired result.

Sanding is an incredibly time-consuming approach. You’ll have to slightly scuff the paint surface across the entire room or furniture piece, wiping away dust with a damp rag as you go. Still, if you aren’t concerned about the amount of labor, it can work.

Can You Mix Satin Paint with Flat?

Technically, you can mix satin paint with flat. You’ll end up with an intermediate sheen, typically one closer to an eggshell finish.

However, combining paints that are more than one step apart sheen-wise – such as trying to mix flat and satin paint –is cumbersome. If they aren’t incredibly well combined, you may end up with streaks or variations in the sheen after painting the wall or furniture piece, leaving it uneven.

If you want to mix satin paint with flat, a mechanical mixer may be a necessity. Mechanical mixers are far more effective at combining paints than doing it manually, increasing your chances of getting a consistent result.

Otherwise, if you’re aiming for a sheen between flat and satin, you may be better off buying your preferred color in an eggshell finish. Eggshell sits between flat and satin on the sheen spectrum, so you’ll get just a hint of luster.


When it comes to satin vs. flat paint, the main appearance difference is the sheen. However, there are also differences in durability, ease of use, cost, and more.

Generally, satin has a more noticeable luster, is easier to clean, and is more durable. However, it’s harder to apply and touch up and usually comes with a higher price tag.

Flat offers a less reflective matte finish, leading to more accurate color in various lighting conditions. It’s also easier to apply and touch up but is less durable than its counterpart. Additionally, scrubbing to clean dirt can strip away paint, revealing the color or material below.