Satin vs Matte Paint Finish: What’s the Difference and Which Is Better?

When you’re preparing for a paint project, you’ll need to choose a paint finish. If you’re debating between satin vs. matte finish paint, learning the core difference between the two can make selecting the right option easier.

The primary difference between satin and matte finish paint is the sheen. With satin, you get a velvety finish with a hint of shine. Satin can reflect just a bit of light, creating a gentle glow. Matte paint doesn’t have a noticeable sheen, leading to a truer color since it isn’t as impacted by light.

Both matte and satin paint is widely available, so you won’t have trouble finding either option. Additionally, both can come in nearly any color. However, there are other pros and cons of satin vs. matte finish paint worth exploring.

Satin vs Matte Paint Finish

Satin vs. Matte Paint: Key Points

During the paint selection process, color is usually a priority. But overlooking the finish is a mistake, as it impacts the final look.

Here is a quick overview of the satin vs. matte finish paint main differences:

 Satin PaintMatte Paint
AppearanceStrong color with slight sheenIntense color with no sheen
FinishVelvety lusterAlmost no luster
DurabilityReasonable durability, stands up well to wear-and-tearLess flexible, reducing toughness and making is susceptible to wear issues
CoverageSolid coverageExcellent coverage
MaintenanceResists damage and easy to clean, though touchups may be noticeableEasier to damage and harder to clean, but touchups blend in well
Ease of UseHarder to apply evenly due to luster. Touchups are potentially noticeableEasy to use, and touchups won’t stand out

What Is Satin Finish?

Satin finish

Satin finish paint has a gentle glow, creating a look that many describe as velvety. It reflects enough light to add a hint of shine, but not so much that it’s highly noticeable or overly distracting.

The sheen is the ratio of binders to pigments in the paint. When the amount of binder goes up, the final look is glossier. When the amount of pigment is higher, there’s less sheen.

Binder also impacts flexibility and durability, with higher amounts leading to more resilience against wear-and-tear and more water-resistant. Additionally, they stand up to scrubbing better, making them easier to clean and better suited to higher traffic areas than those with less binder.

However, more binder means less pigment, so you may have to apply more coats to get the job done. Additionally, the sheen can make imperfections more noticeable. Plus, evenly applying the paint is harder, and touchups can stand out.

Overall, satin paint falls in the middle of the sheen spectrum. It has enough binder to be durable and easy to clean, as well as moisture-resistant. Additionally, it does have enough of a sheen to have some application and touchup-related challenges.

Also, satin finish paint is moderately priced. While the cost difference between satin finish paint and other options can be slight on a per-can basis, it adds up if your project is large.

Satin Paint Pros and Cons


  • Durable enough for high-traffic areas
  • Moisture-resistant
  • Easy to clean
  • Decent coverage


  • Application difficulties
  • Touchups stand out
  • Surface imperfections are more noticeable
  • Costs more than some alternatives

What Is Matte Finish?

What Is Matte Finish

Matte finish paint has one of the lowest sheen levels around. Usually, it reflects so little light that any shine isn’t noticeable unless a surface is highly textured. This creates an incredibly uniform appearance. Plus, since light doesn’t bounce off the surface, the color may look truer.

Since matte finish paint is pigment-rich, it offers excellent coverage. In many cases, a single coat can be sufficient, though you may need two depending on what you’re trying to cover.

However, matte paint isn’t as flexible or durable as any other finish. Cleaning it is difficult, as any scrubbing can remove paint. Additionally, it isn’t water-resistant and is susceptible to wear and tear.

The lack of sheen does make matte paint a good choice for hiding imperfections or reducing the visual impact of texture on a surface. It’s also easier to apply and touchups blend since there isn’t a shine.

When it comes to cost, matte paint is one of the least expensive options per-can. As a result, it can be far less expensive overall for bigger projects that require multiple cans.

Matte Paint Pros and Cons


  • Easy application
  • Touchups blend
  • Excellent coverage
  • Hides imperfections
  • Low cost


  • Lacks durability
  • Not water-resistant
  • Difficult to clean

What Is the Difference Between Satin and Matte Paint?

Difference Between Satin and Matte Paint

By comparing satin and matte paint directly on specific points, you can see how the various characteristics make them stand apart. That way, you can choose the right option for your project.

Here’s a deep dive into how satin and matte paint stand apart.


When it comes to appearance, satin has a velvety sheen, while matte paint has almost none. As a result, the color of satin paint can be influenced by lighting hitting the surface, including if it bounces off another object of a different hue nearby. This can cause the paint to look lighter under some conditions. If an item is near the painted surface, it may even create visual color variations.

With matte paint, the lower sheen keeps the color truer. Additionally, light isn’t bouncing off surface imperfections as it can with satin paint, making the issues less noticeable.

However, the lack of sheen also means that matte paint doesn’t have the same visual depth. While this can be ideal for some situations, it can make the color overwhelming, particularly in small areas like bathrooms or hallways.


For the finish, satin paint is glossier than matte. The soft glow is usually described as pearl-like or velvety, as it isn’t highly noticeable in many situations. It isn’t nearly as shiny as semi-gloss or gloss, both of which have a dramatic sheen.

Matte paint has almost no sheen. While light can technically bounce off the surface, its ability to do so is limited that you typically won’t see it except under extreme circumstances.

While the two paints have different sheens, both others usually look quite smooth once applied. While application issues are more common with satin, which leads to potential inconsistencies, the final look is consistent when painted on correctly. Matte paint is easier to get right when applying, making smooth applications relatively easy to achieve.


On the durability front, the winner of the satin vs. matte finish debate is satin. The higher amount of binders makes satin paint tougher, allowing it to resist staining, scratches, and dings. Plus, it holds up against wear and tear and can handle a bit of light scrubbing when cleaning.

Thanks to the binders, satin paint is also moisture-resistant. That can make it ideal for spaces like bathrooms, decreasing the odds of mold or mildew problems.

Since matte paint is low on binders, it isn’t as durable. Staining and scratches are more common, as well as scuffs. Additionally, you’re more likely to see thin spots caused by wear-and-tear, and the paint isn’t water-resistant.

Finally, cleaning matte paint is tricky. Even a gentle wipe down can remove paint, exposing the underlying surface if too much is rubbed away.


Since matte paint has more pigment, it offers better coverage. Your odds of covering a surface in a single coat are much higher, giving you the perfect final look with less work and a smaller price tag.

With satin finish paint, you get more binders, resulting in less pigment. In some cases, that could mean that one coat isn’t enough. However, it is important to point out that there are one-coat paints available in various sheens. If you go with one of those, you may be able to get a satin finish without coverage issues.


Both satin and matte paint have some pros and cons on the maintenance front. Matte paint isn’t as durable, so you may have to address wear-related issues more frequently. Additionally, cleaning the surface can take off paint, potentially revealing the surface underneath.

Luckily, touchups blend well with matte paint. As a result, you may be able to repaint over the area without anyone being able to see that a touchup happened once the surface dries.

Satin paint is easier to clean. Usually, a bit of soapy water and a soft rag will handle most issues, and you won’t see any change in the finish unless you scrub too hard.

However, touchups usually show with satin paint because it creates inconsistencies in the sheen. As a result, it’s easier to see where the touchup was done.

Ease of Use

On the application front, matte paint is easier to use. Since there isn’t much sheen, you won’t get noticeable lines if the application is uneven and a second pass is required or if there is accidental crossover in some spots. You can use a classic W technique to paint large areas without any noticeable lines, even if the paint is already drying.

With satin paint, the crossover can cause inconsistencies in the sheen. You might see lines on the surface in spots where there was overlapping, which makes the W technique a potentially poor fit. Instead, you have to do single passes that line up next to each other, such as a series of vertical stripes going from ceiling to floor.

Otherwise, you may want to use a paint sprayer if you go with satin paint. You can get even coverage without the risk of harsh lines, ensuring the sheen remains even.

As for touchups, you may see sheen inconsistencies with satin paint. However, touchups usually blend if you’re using matte since there isn’t much shine.


Generally speaking, matte paint costs less on average than satin. If you’re looking at the same brand of paint and a specific product line, you may see a per-gallon price difference of around $5. However, the actual amount of the cans will vary by can be higher or lower, as every brand and line has unique price point structures.

For a one-can project, $5 can seem negligible. However, if your project requires several cans, the price difference does add up. If it takes three or four cans to cover an area, you’re spending $15 to $20 more by going with satin.

Additionally, satin may not offer the one-coat coverage you get with matte. In that case, you may be spending the extra $5 for one can and the whole cost of a second can for a follow-up coat by not going with matte. For large projects – like repainting your entire interior – the price difference could ultimately be hundreds of dollars.


First, it’s important to understand that you can technically use any paint you’d like for practically any project. However, some finishes are better fits for specific applications.

Satin paint works well for higher traffic areas or high-touch surfaces and rooms where moisture-resistances are preferred. Along with kitchens and bathrooms (including cabinetry), satin is a solid choice for hallways, kid’s rooms, or any space where durability is preferred. You may also want to use it on trim and molding, particularly if you like to highlight the designs.

However, satin paint might feel overwhelming if it’s on a ceiling. The light-reflecting qualities could highlight any texture, causing it to stand out and potentially distract from the rest of the space. As a result, matte paint can be a better fit there.

Additionally, matte paint can work well in low-traffic rooms, such as master or guest bedrooms. It may also be a solid choice for a formal dining room or even a home office.

For living rooms or family rooms, using the space should play a role. Satin may be best if you like to entertain or have children playing in those spaces. The same is true if you have active pets, like a dog, that use the room. If the areas are more formal, you could use matte paint in the main living rooms without much issue.

Matte vs. Flat Paint

Matte and flat paint both have low-sheen finishes. However, flat paint is essentially sheenless, while matte may have just the slightest hint of sheen. Mainly, this is because the amount of binder is slightly higher with matte paint.

However, the two are so similar that you can typically use either for applications where they’re appropriate options. They are both easy to apply and touch up and offer comparable coverage. Their price tends to be similar, and they’ll have the same durability challenges.

Satin vs. Eggshell

Satin and eggshell paint has neighboring finishes, with eggshell having less sheen. However, since eggshell is lower on the binder, it doesn’t have some of the benefits you get with satin. It isn’t necessarily moisture-resistant or easy to clean, as scrubbing can wipe paint.

But you get some benefits with eggshell, like easier application and better coverage. It will also disguise minor imperfections and may be a tad more affordable.

Still, satin paint is typically a better option for higher traffic zones or areas where moisture may be an issue. Additionally, satin may feel more dynamic, which may be a bonus depending on the look you’re after.

Is Matte Finish Paint Good for Walls?

Is Matte Finish Paint Good for Walls

Matte paint is a good choice for walls if you need to hide imperfections and the area is lower traffic. Additionally, the lack of distinct sheen could be ideal for larger spaces, as the lack of shine could make bold colors less overwhelming.

However, durability concerns could make it a less-than-ideal choice for high-traffic areas where contact or dirt issues are likely. It isn’t easy to clean matte paint without wiping some away, potentially revealing what lies beneath. If you don’t mind regular touchups – which fortunately blend well – this may not be an issue. However, if you prefer not to add fresh paint regularly, matte finish paint might not be the best choice.

Can You Use Matte Paint on Wood?

You can use matte paint on wood. If you’re trying to hide surface imperfections, matte finish paint could be an excellent choice. The lack of sheen makes issues less identifiable, which works in your favor.

However, if you’re considering painting a furniture piece, whether matte paint is a good fit depends on the item and how it’s used. For example, painting a dining room chair seat with matte paint isn’t ideal. The paint doesn’t stand up to wear-and-tear as much as some other paints, so it may wear away far quicker than you’d hope.

How to Make Matte Paint Satin

If you have a furniture piece or wall with a matte finish, but you’d prefer a stronger sheen, it’s possible to get one. Your best bet is to apply a satin finish clear coat in most cases. You’ll add shine without altering the color, and you can usually get it done in just one coat.

However, satin clear coats can come with the same application challenges as satin paint. You need to apply it carefully, limiting overlap. Since a clearcoat is hard to see, going with a sprayer may be best, as it’s easier to avoid harsh lines that way.

If you have a can of matte paint and want to increase the sheen, there are glass additives that can potentially do the trick. However, it may be challenging to achieve a specific shine level. You may accidentally end up with another sheen, such as eggshell or semi-gloss if you get the ratio wrong.

Additionally, you’ll need to mix it thoroughly. Otherwise, you could end up with streaks or other inconsistencies. Plus, the gloss additives don’t contain pigment, effectively thinning the paint. As a result, you may not get the coverage you’d expect with a single coat.

How to Make Satin Paint Matte

If you’ve painted a wall or furniture piece with satin paint but want to achieve a matte finish, it is possible to pull it off. One of the easiest ways is to find a matte clearcoat that you can apply over the top. With that, you can eliminate the sheen without changing the paint color below. Plus, a single coat of the clearcoat is typically all you need to get the job done.

Another option you could potentially explore is a deglossing agent. However, the chemicals involved can be harsh, so this approach should only be used in well-ventilated spaces and while wearing protective gear, like mask and gloves.

With deglossing agents, you’ll follow the manufacturer’s directions. Every product is a bit different, so you need to check the instructions carefully before you begin, ensuring you apply it safely. If you do, you should end up with less sheen once you’re done. Just consider doing a test spot before you begin so that you can determine if the final look is what you want.

If you don’t mind using a bit of elbow grease, you could lightly sand the painted surface to bring down the amount of sheen. While this may work well for smaller projects, the amount of work involved for entire walls is cumbersome. Additionally, you need to make sure you’re consistent and gentle. Otherwise, you’ll see streaks or sheen variations.

Typically, you’ll want to use a finer grit, like a 350 or 400. Additionally, a test run is a wise move, allowing you to see if the sanding alters the amount of sheen enough to meet your needs. If it doesn’t, you could try a lower grit number. However, choosing a grit under 200 isn’t recommended, as the coarseness could harm the surface.

Can You Mix Satin and Matte Paint?

You can technically mix satin and matte paint, which would create a finish that resembles eggshell. However, combining paint that’s more than a single step apart regarding sheen isn’t easy. If it isn’t mixed incredibly thoroughly, your odds of having sheen variations or streaks go up significantly.

In most cases, you should only mix matte and satin paint if you have access to a mechanical paint mixer. That way, you have the best chance of getting a consistent finish when you use the paint.

However, it may be easier to simply purchase the color you want in an eggshell finish. That way, you won’t have to worry about consistency issues during application.

What Paint Is Better: Satin or Matte?

When it comes to satin vs. matte finish paint, one isn’t technically better than the other; one just may work better for specific purposes. If you need durability or prefer a light shine, satin could be the way to go. For accurate color, lower-traffic areas, or places where you don’t want a sheen, matte is a solid choice. However, in the end, it’s just up to you.

Did you learn everything you wanted to know about satin vs. matte finish paint? If so, let us know by heading to the comments section below. Additionally, if you know someone who could use the information, please share the article.