Choosing the right paint sheen for your home can make the difference between a good looking room and a great looking room. Paint sheens range from a high gloss to a completely flat with no shine. But how do you know which to choose? What works best and in what type of room? Here’s our guide to semi-gloss vs. satin paint to try and demystify home decorating.

Satin vs. Semi-Gloss

Once you’ve picked the right sheen for your room, it’s time to consider the paint color. Matte or flat, gloss, or satin? It’s difficult to make that decision unless you know a little bit about what each of these paint sheens is and how it can affect the look of your room.

What is satin paint? Satin is an oil or latex-based paint that’s not as glossy as a full gloss but still has light-reflective qualities, unlike matte paint. What about semi-gloss paint? Semi-gloss is almost the same, but has more reflective qualities than satin paint, and can be slightly more durable.

In general, the glossier the paint, the more durable it is, although some paints are designed specifically to be very durable, regardless of sheen. So, glossier paints are great for high traffic areas, or places where they may need to be cleaned frequently- like the kids’ bedroom or the kitchen.

Satin vs. Eggshell

Another paint sheen you might come across when choosing the right paint sheen for your room is eggshell. Here are the key points when considering eggshell vs. satin:

Eggshell is not as reflective as satin.

Satin paint tends to be more durable than an eggshell paint.

Bumps and imperfections in the wall surface might be covered better by eggshell vs. satin paint.

Satin vs. Matte

Matte paint or flat paint is paint with no reflective qualities whatsoever. Matte paint can still have very rich, deep colors in all shades, but it’s designed specifically not to be glossy at all. Matte vs. satin key points:

Matte paint flattens a wall by absorbing light which hides imperfections.

Matte paint comes in the same shade as gloss.

Where to Use Semi-Gloss Paint

Semi-gloss paint is more durable and as such, ideal for any rooms which encounter:





If you’ve just had a modern bathroom installed, you’ll want to keep it looking clean and bright. Semi-gloss paint stands up to regular cleaning, and the higher-quality brands can even withstand scrubbing when stubborn stains become a problem.

Kitchens are another place where semi-gloss paint comes into its own. Anyone who cooks knows how easy it is to get grease stains and sauce splashes up the walls- especially if you’re running around after children at the same time. Semi-gloss paint allows you to clean these without the worry that the paint is going to come off along with the dirt.

Where to Use Satin Paint

Where to Use Satin Paint

Satin finish paint is great for rooms with large walls, as it draws the eye away from any imperfections- almost inevitable in all except the newest buildings. Holes that have been filled or patched up immediately become flatter and less noticeable under satin paint, yet satin paint is more durable than matte paint- especially if you spend the money on a high-quality brand of satin paint.

If you are painting large expanses of a wall in a family home, look out for satin paint with low VOC. VOC stands for volatile organic compounds, and the higher the VOC, the more you’ll get that “fresh paint” smell that hangs around for days- not great when you have kids, pets, or are expecting guests.

Combining Satin and Semi-Gloss Paint

Of course, there’s no need to stick to just one paint sheen. The more adventurous home decorator will recognize that they can use these differing sheens to great effect within the same room. It’s quite common to paint a large expanse of wall with satin paint, for a little reflectivity, then use the semi-gloss to highlight features and accents. Door frames, moldings, and other architectural points of interest can all be made more eye-catching with a lick of semi-gloss paint.

A high-quality, durable satin paint could be ideal for the kids’ bedroom, as it allows dirty fingerprints and other stains to be scrubbed off, but it’s not as reflective as semi-gloss, so it can make the room seem calmer and more relaxed. For a playroom, though, semi-gloss gives the peace of mind of extra durability, standing up to dings and abuse, and the scrubbing necessary when the kids have gone nuts with the crayons. The reflective semi-gloss paint can make even a small playroom seem bright and welcoming.

Consider using full gloss to highlight the features in a room you’ve painted with semi-gloss, or combine satin and matte for the same effect but with a lower rate of reflection all around. Remember, the exact same shade of color in semi-gloss may appear darker than in satin. If you’re unsure how the colors are going to work together, patch test before committing to painting your whole room.

What About Cost?


The cost of the right paint tends to be more about the brand and quality than the level of gloss. As a general rule, the glossier the paint is, the more expensive it will be, but this will equate to only a few cents difference per gallon. But you will pay more for a highly durable, guaranteed paint by a reputable brand than you will for a budget paint, even of the same color and glossiness.

Working with different paint sheens is a great way to bring any room to life. Satin paint is a little cheaper, which is great as it works well over larger areas. Semi-gloss may cost a little more but is more durable and perfect for accents and features- and for keeping your home looking fresh and clean.

Takeaway: When it comes to satin vs. gloss paint, it’s all about knowing where you need to use the paint and the look you’re going for. Satin may absorb more light and hide imperfections in the wall’s surface. Semi-gloss reflects more light, which may create the illusion of space. Semi-gloss paint can also be more durable.