Difference Between Satin & Semi Gloss Paint

By Macdonald

Many people automatically think that semi gloss paint should be used on trim and in bathrooms and kitchens. However, satin paint is gaining in popularity and the difference between satin and semi gloss paint is slight but significant.


  • Paint comes in many different sheens, and the terminology from one brand to the next may differ. The lowest sheen is flat and sometimes sold as matte finish. This is non-reflective and often very washable, thus used most often on ceilings. However, higher quality, more washable matte or flat paints may have a very slight sheen. Eggshell or low luster finish has a slight, very soft gloss and is a little more stain resistant and washable. Satin has a definite sheen to it and can be hard to tell apart from either eggshell or semi gloss, depending on the brand. Semi or full gloss paint is the shiniest of all, and the most durable.


  • The higher the gloss, the more washable the paint as a general rule of thumb. Therefore, semi gloss paint is a little more washable than satin paint, which is more washable than flat or eggshell paints.


  • Being non-reflective, flat paints disguise surface imperfections and rough surfaces. The higher the paint gloss, the more reflective it is and the more it will show imperfections. Very glossy paint will highlight small flaws that are virtually invisible on a non-reflective surface. Using a satin instead of a semi gloss paint on trim or in kitchens and bathrooms is a good compromise between high washability and a smoother-looking surface.


  • It is a misconception to assume that any semi gloss paint will outlast any satin paint, or be more washable. The overall paint quality should be considered as well. A low-quality semi gloss paint may well be less durable than a satin or eggshell finish in a higher-quality paint. Lower-quality semi gloss paints often have poor adhesion and don’t dry as hard, and scrubbing them too vigorously will lift them from the underlying surface.


  • For practicality and ease of painting, many people use the same paint sheen on all walls and trim. A satin finish is more versatile and will show less glare under strong lights than semi gloss paint, and it will do a better job of hiding imperfections. Overall, a satin sheen will give a softer look than a semi gloss paint.


  • For walls and woodwork that are in great shape, semi gloss paint can look classy and dramatic. It is especially striking for a front door.

Expert Insight

  • When using a semi gloss paint, add a little Floetrol or similar product to the paint before application. It helps the paint flow on more smoothly and minimizes brush and roller marks. Check the link below for more details.