How To Choose The Right Sheen For Your Painting Project

How To Choose The Right Sheen For Your Painting Project

Choosing the perfect paint for your home is not just about color; the finish or sheen also plays a crucial role in achieving the desired look and functionality. From flat matte to high gloss and everything in between, each sheen has its unique properties that can affect the appearance and durability of the paint job. However, deciphering the subtle differences between similar sheens, such as Satin and Eggshell or Matte and Flat, can be a daunting task. This blog post is tailored to demystify these concepts, providing you with a clear understanding of what differentiates one sheen from another. We will guide you through the nuances of these paint finishes, helping you select the perfect sheen that not only suits your aesthetic preferences but also meets the practical needs of your house painting project.

Color Sheen Chart

Distinguishing Satin from Matte Paint: Key Contrasts

Matte and satin paints occupy different positions on the sheen scale, with matte offering a non-reflective, smooth look and satin providing a soft, lustrous sheen. Matte paint, with its minimal light reflection, effectively hides wall imperfections but can be prone to damage and harder to clean, making it better suited for low-traffic areas. On the other hand, satin paint offers a subtle shine, imbuing walls with a warm and inviting appearance. Although slightly more reflective, satin is more durable, highly resistant to mildew and stains, and easier to clean, making it ideal for high-traffic areas or rooms exposed to moisture, like kitchens and bathrooms. While both paints are generally similar in price, the increased durability of satin paint may lead to cost savings in the long run given its longevity and less frequent need for touch-ups or repainting.

Satin Paint

Satin paint is a versatile and balanced sheen, offering a glossier finish than eggshell paint yet flatter than semi-gloss paint. It is an excellent choice for a variety of painting projects, providing a middle ground that caters to diverse needs. With its smooth and lustrous finish, it adds elegance and sophistication to any surface it graces. Satin paint is ideal for high-traffic areas like hallways, kids' rooms, and living spaces as it is highly durable, easy to clean, and resistant to moisture. It also works well on exterior surfaces such as doors or trim. However, its reflective properties can potentially highlight wall imperfections or brush strokes, so proper preparation and application are essential.

Pros and Cons Of Using Satin Paint

Matte Paint 

Matte paint, known for its flat sheen, is the most non-reflective option available across various brands. Interestingly, some brands even offer an even flatter alternative aptly named "flat." This low-gloss finish is an excellent choice for both walls and ceilings, particularly for larger, expansive surfaces like interior walls and ceilings. Its minimal reflectivity works wonders in concealing imperfections, making it a go-to option for older home renovations or situations involving patched and repaired walls. Matte paint is often the preferred choice for ceilings, as they can be quite challenging to finish and have a tendency to reveal any imperfections. So, when seeking a paint option that effortlessly hides flaws while providing a smooth, non-reflective finish, matte paint is the way to go!

Pro Tip About Choosing Flat Paint

When you're uncertain, opt for the lowest sheen when painting ceilings. If your paint manufacturer provides a sheen option lower than a matte finish, such as flat or specifically labeled as "ceiling paint," choose that instead. Rest assured, it won't let you down!

Pros and Cons Of Using Flat Paint

The List Goes On...

The choice between satin and matte paint is often the most challenging decision point for homeowners when selecting a sheen. However, there is still an array of other sheens to choose from, each possessing its unique qualities.

  • Flat: As mentioned earlier, flat paint offers the least amount of shine among all sheens. It is perfect for hiding surface imperfections, making it ideal for walls and ceilings.
  • Eggshell Paint: With its velvety soft and subtle glow, eggshell provides a more forgiving alternative to flat paint while still effectively concealing flaws. Its slight luster also makes it easier to clean than flat paint.
  • Semi-gloss Paint: Offering a noticeable shine, semi-gloss paint is more durable than satin and eggshell finishes. Its moisture-resistant properties make it an excellent choice for high-moisture areas such as bathrooms and kitchens.
  • Gloss or High gloss: These sheens provide the highest level of shine and are often used for trim work, doors, and furniture. However, they also highlight imperfections and require extensive surface preparation before application.

So, How Do You Choose the Right Sheen?

Now that you have a better understanding of the different sheens available, how do you know which one is right for your painting project? Here are a few factors to consider:

  • The purpose or function of the room: High-traffic areas may benefit from more durable satin or semi-gloss sheens, while low-traffic areas may do well with the less expensive matte or flat options.
  • Lighting: The amount of natural and artificial light in a room can affect how paint sheen appears on the walls. Rooms with plenty of natural light may benefit from less reflective sheens, such as eggshell or satin, to avoid glare and over-brightening.
  • Surface imperfections: If your walls have noticeable dents, scratches, or other marks, a flatter sheen like matte or flat may be the better choice to conceal these flaws.
  • Personal preference: Ultimately, choosing the perfect sheen for your painting project comes down to personal preference. Consider the overall look you want to achieve and choose a sheen that aligns with that vision.

Cost  Of Satin and Eggshell Paints vs Matt and Flat Paints.

When it comes to cost, satin paint is generally more expensive than flat paint due to the differences in the raw materials used in their production. Satin paint requires a higher volume of high-quality resins and pigments to produce its distinctive soft shine and durability. These superior materials contribute to its superior performance and longevity. While the initial cost may be higher, it's important to consider the long-term cost benefits of satin paint. Its robust, easy-to-clean finish and superior resistance to stains, smudges, and mildew can reduce the need for frequent touch-ups or repainting. Consequently, despite the increased upfront cost, opting for satin paint could lead to significant savings over time, making it a cost-effective investment for your painting project.


With this guide in hand, we hope you feel more confident navigating the world of paint sheens and making an informed decision for your next home painting project. Happy painting!  So, whether you opt for a luxurious satin finish or a minimalistic matte look, be sure to keep these key differences in mind when selecting the perfect sheen for your project. With a little bit of understanding and consideration, you can make the best choice that not only suits your aesthetic preferences but also meets the practical needs of your house painting project.  So go ahead, express your style and transform your living spaces with a fresh coat of paint! Happy painting! 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is satin paint for?

Satin paint is commonly used for interior and exterior walls, as well as trim and doors. It is a popular choice for high-traffic areas due to its durability and easy maintenance.

  • What are flat or matte finishes used for?

Matte paint is great for hiding imperfections on walls, making it a good choice for older or uneven surfaces. It is also known for giving a sophisticated and modern look to rooms.

  • What is eggshell paint used for?

Eggshell paint is often used for low-traffic areas such as bedrooms, living rooms, and dining rooms. It has a slight sheen that can help reflect light in the room and give a cozy warmth to the space.

  • Which is better gloss or satin paint?

Both gloss and satin paints have their unique purposes. Gloss paint is typically used for high-traffic areas like kitchens and bathrooms, as it is more durable and easier to clean than satin paint. Satin paint, on the other hand, has a softer sheen that can help hide imperfections in walls while still being easy to clean.

  • What is the difference between latex and satin paint?

Latex paint is a type of water-based paint, while satin paint refers to the finish or sheen level. Latex paint can come in different finishes, including satin, so it is important to consider both factors when choosing a paint for your project.

  • Is satin paint shiny?

Satin paint has a slight sheen, but it is not as shiny as gloss or semi-gloss paint. It is often described as having a velvety or pearl-like appearance.

What are the paint sheens?

Across various brands, the most frequently used paint sheens include matte, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss, and high-gloss. Nevertheless, certain brands also offer additional sheens such as flat, pearl, and velvet.

  • Is satin paint considered low sheen? 

Yes, satin paint is considered to have a low sheen. It falls between matte and semi-gloss in terms of sheen levels

  • Can you use satin paint over matte paint?

Yes, you can use satin paint over matte paint as long as the surface is properly prepped and

  • What is satin paint used for? 

A satin paint finish is commonly used for interior and exterior walls, as well as trim and doors. It is a popular choice for high-traffic areas due to its durability and easy maintenance. It can also be used on furniture and cabinets for a sleek finish.  Overall, satin paint is versatile and can be used in many different areas of the home.  However, it is not recommended for floors or surfaces that will be frequently exposed to water or heavy wear and tear.

  • Can you use satin paint on wood?

Yes, satin paint can be used on wood surfaces. It is a popular choice for furniture and cabinets as it provides a smooth finish and is easy to clean. However, it may not be the best option for outdoor wood surfaces that are exposed to harsh weather conditions. In those cases, a more durable paint specifically designed for outdoor use may be better.  It's always important to properly prep the wood surface before painting to ensure a smooth and long-lasting finish.  Additionally, using a primer designed for use on wood can help the paint adhere better and result in a more professional-looking finish. 

  • Is satin paint washable?

Yes, satin paint is washable but it may not be as durable as semi-gloss or gloss paints when it comes to cleaning. It is important to use a non-abrasive cleaner and gently wipe the surface with a soft cloth or sponge to avoid damaging the finish. 

  • How do you clean satin paint?

To clean satin paint, use a non-abrasive cleaner and gently wipe the surface with a soft cloth or sponge. Avoid using harsh chemicals or scrubbing too hard as this can damage the finish. For tougher stains, you may need to use a mild soap and water solution or a specialized paint cleaner recommended for use on satin paints. Always test any cleaning product on a small, inconspicuous area before using it on the entire surface.  It is also important to avoid excessive moisture when cleaning satin paint as this can cause the paint to peel or become discolored.

  • Can you use satin paint in a bathroom? 

Yes, satin paint can be used in a bathroom, but it may not be the best option for areas that are frequently exposed to moisture. In bathrooms with proper ventilation and minimal moisture, satin paint can provide a sleek and durable finish. However, in high humidity or poorly ventilated bathrooms, using a semi-gloss or gloss paint specifically designed for bathroom use may be a better choice