Semi Gloss Vs Satin Paint – What Is The Actual Differences?

As we have seen a huge number of people asking about the different types of paint finishes available, we have decided to publish more articles going over the different types of paint finish and how they compare to each other. One of the more frequently requested comparisons that we see people asking for month in and month out is for a semi gloss vs satin paint finish comparison.

Due to the sheer volume of people reaching out about the differences between semi gloss and satin paint finishes, we have decided to publish this detailed article going over the advantages and disadvantages of each. Both paints are beginner friendly and very easy to use for home decor, arts and crafts, and other use cases too.

Thankfully, both semi gloss and satin tend to be around the same price point in the market too making them both very budget friendly. This ensures that the majority of our readers should easily be able to opt to use the paint finish that they prefer without having issues with budget after reading the article to discover the best option for their needs.

Whats The Difference Between Satin And Semi Gloss Paint?

The main difference between satin paint and semi gloss paint is their light reflective properties with semi gloss reflecting 41%-69% of light and satin paint reflecting 26%-40% of light. This gives the two paint finishes different use cases that can dramatically change the look of a room when used.

Although a regular gloss paint has been a very popular option for decades with its light reflection of 70%-90% both semi gloss and satin paint have seen a spike in their popularity in recent years. A decent semi gloss paint offers a nice middle ground between a regular gloss and a satin paint.

At the time of writing, satin paint is probably more popular than semi gloss paint and rapidly catching the popularity of gloss paint too. This is due to the lower light reflectance of satin paint making it an ideal option for a relaxing home design that is very popular right now.

Is Semi Gloss Or Satin Paint Better?

Both satin paint and semi gloss paint finishes are very popular and the best one for your needs will depend on your goals. At the time of writing, satin paint is more popular than semi gloss but as trends change, so does the popularity of the paint finishes used.

Although satin paint is currently more popular than semi gloss paint, its popularity is only in some very specific colors and shades. Due to most people using satin paint to give their room a more relaxing feel with less light being reflected, it is usually used in light or pastel colors to help with the relaxing feeling.

When it comes to neutral rooms based around a white or black color scheme, semi gloss paint does still beat satin paint. On top of this, semi gloss paint also has the advantages of being more robust so it is easy to wash so it is a popular option for homes with children or pets.

Satin Vs Semi Gloss Finish!

Most people tend to think that the actual finishes of satin and semi gloss paint will be similar due to how close they are to each other on the light reflectancy table shown below. This is due to them being so close to each other when it comes to their placements in the table but their actual light reflectancy ranges can make their end results very different.

  • Full Gloss: 70–90%
  • Semi-Gloss: 41–69%
  • Satin: 26–40%
  • Sheen: 15–25%
  • Eggshell: 10–15%
  • Matte: <10%

As you can see from the table above, you can theoretically have a semi gloss paint that reflects as much as 69% of the light that hits it and a satin paint that reflects as little as 26% of the light that hits it. As you can imagine this results in a totally different look to the paints once dry even though they are close to each other in the table.

An estimation of the light reflectancy rate of the paint should be shown on the tub or tin of paint prior to purchasing it though. So you can see if your semi gloss is bright or dull to get an idea of what end of the reflectancy range it is helping you get a better idea of what you can expect from them.

The Advantages Of Semi Gloss Paint!

The main advantage of a decent semi gloss paint is that it can reflect more light making it an ideal option for a dull room that gets little to no light. You are able to use a semi gloss paint to help you brighten up the room by reflecting the light that it does get over and over again.

Additional advantages of using a decent semi gloss paint is that it is usually more robust and tough than a satin paint making it easier to wash. If you do have small children or pets that may cause a mess on the surface you need to paint resulting in you having to paint it more often then semi gloss is often a better option that satin.

If you are looking to paint your bathroom or kitchen then the higher level of moisture resistance of semi gloss helps to score it points over satin paint too. This helps to ensure that your paint won’t be having issues with feeling or flaking due to the exposure to constant moisture.

The Advantages Of Satin Paint!

The main advantage of satin paint is that it absorbs a large amount of the light that hits it rather than reflecting the light. With so many of us leading busy life’s these days, this helps to score satin paint points for any rooms you like to relax in.

As we touched on earlier, the satin pastel colors are very popular due to so many people opting for a more relaxing feel for the rooms in their home. It is common for sitting rooms, dining rooms, and bedrooms to be painted in a satin paint these days to help you relax after a busy day.

The main competitor to satin paint is an Eggshell paint that reflects even less light but satin paint tends to be popular as it avoid the dull look that eggshell paint can provide that can add a slightly depressive feeling to the room. If your goal is to make a room that you want to relax in then you want to avoid doom and gloom as much as possible making satin the better option.

The Disadvantages Of Semi Gloss Paint

Although a semi gloss paint will reflect less light than a regular gloss pain, it still has the disadvantage that it can potentially reflect a huge amount of light. This can make it a paint if used in a room that already gets lots of light throughout the day causing it to be too bright for many people tastes.

The cheaper semi gloss paints tend to be of a very low quality too and will often result in color fade quickly. To avoid this we would always recommend that you go for a decent semi gloss paint that has a good reputation and will hold its color well for many years to come.

Another disadvantage of semi gloss paint finishes is that is can often be too bright for an all in one paint, especially for home decoration. You will often have to have an additional type of paint such as stain or eggshell finishes for the rooms of your home that get more light to help reduce the amount of total light in the room.

The Disadvantages Of Satin Paint!

In our opinion, the main disadvantage of satin paint is that it is not as durable as semi gloss meaning that it can’t be washed as easily or as often. If you do have children or pets then this can be an issue and although there are robust satin paint formulas on the market, they are often double the price of regular satin paint potentially causing issues with your budget.

Another problem with satin paint is that it is usually not as moisture resistant as semi gloss too. If you are specifically looking to paint a surface in your kitchen or bathroom that has high levels of moisture around it constantly then satin paint is probably not the best option and a semi gloss or full gloss will often be better.

Although this will depend on your preference and goals for the surfaces you are painting, some colors can be hard to find in satin. This is due to the bulk of the satin paint market being in lighter colors or pastel colors as most people use it for a relaxing finish so brighter colors can be hard to find.

What Is Semi Gloss Paint Used For?

The majority of people who use semi gloss paint will be using it in either dull rooms to increase light or rooms with lots of moisture due to it holding up well with constant moisture. This makes it a common option for bathrooms, kitchens, and any other surface with high exposure to moisture.

As we touched on earlier in the article, many people will also choose to use semi gloss paint if they have children or pets that can cause a mess. This is due to semi gloss usually being easier to wash than satin paint making it much more durable and effective.

If you are wanting to use your semi gloss paint in rooms that will have small children or pets in them on a regular basis then you may want to consider a “dull” semi gloss paint with a light reflection ratio of 41%-50% rather than the higher brackets. This tends to help keep the amount of light in some rooms under control and prevent them from being too bright to comfortably sit in.

What Is Satin Paint Used For?

Satin paint has a number of use case with the most popular one being to add to a relaxing atmosphere for a room. The lower light reflection ratio of the paint helps to ensure that it can easily add to that calm and relaxing vibe with there being plenty of pastel and light colors to choose from too.

The majority of use cases for a satin paint are based around rooms you like to relax in such as your bedroom, dining room, or sitting room but it also can be useful in rooms that have a large amount of light. Imagine a room that gets lots of sun throughout the day due to the location of the windows in the room and how you can use satin paint to help keep the overall light in the room under control.

Another popular use for satin paint is for outdoor areas such as your decking and outdoor furniture but more and more people are starting to switch over to Chalk paint for this. Although this does seem to be more of a trend than a long term switch so we do feel that satin finish paints will make a come back for outdoor use soon.

How Does Semi Gloss And Satin Paint Deal With Imperfections?

Although satin paint definatley does a better job of hiding imperfections than semigloss paint, a semi gloss paint in the 41%-50% light reflection range isn’t as bad as most people think. This allows you to hide any imperfections in your surface with either option but satin paint is usually the better option.

If your surface does have a large number of imperfections on it such as cracks, dents, or bumps then a decent satin paint will probably be the better option to use. It tends to be better at hiding the more obvious imperfections due to it reflecting considerably less light than semi gloss paint.

If you do go for a dull finish semi gloss paint that sits in the 41%-50% light reflection range then it doesn’t do too bad of a job at hiding imperfections for you. Although many people instantly think that semi gloss paint will be terrible at hiding imperfections, its not as bad as most people initially think due to it reflecting considerably less light than full gloss.

Is Semi Gloss And Satin Paint Washable?

Although both semi gloss and satin paint are washable, semi gloss is definatley the better option and will be able to put up with considerably more punishment than a satin paint. You can find satin paint formulas that are as robust as a semi gloss paint but they tend to be double the price of regular paint.

If you know that you will have to be washing the surface that you are planning to paint on a regular basis then going with a semi gloss paint is definitely going to be the better option. It can be washed on a regular basis and shouldn’t have any problems with flaking, peeling, or color fade due to washing it.

Although some modern satin paint formulas can perform well when used in this way, the majority of the tougher satin paint formulas that can take constant punishment are more expensive. This is simply due to the ingredients in the paint formula and it is pretty much unavoidable for a satin paint finish.

How Does Semi Gloss And Satin Paint Perform On Walls?

Both satin paint and semi gloss paint perform well on indoor walls with it being one of the main use cases for both paint types. They are excellent options for home decoration if you follow the various situations for each paint type covered earlier in the article.

As we touched on earlier in the article, different rooms of your home will often have a different paint finish to the other rooms in your house. For example, the bathroom and kitchen will often be semi gloss or full gloss where as the bedroom, dining room, and bedrooms will be stain or eggshell finish.

You are able to mix this up as required as we covered earlier too with some people who have young children and pets using semi gloss or full gloss for most of their home. This helps to ensure that they are able to quickly and easily wash their walls as needed without having issues with their paint too.

How Does Semi Gloss And Satin Paint Perform On Wood?

The semi gloss and satin paint finishes are both popular options for use on wood inside of your house with most of their modern paint formulas working on both walls and wood. Depending on your style and taste you may choose one over the other but both types of paint have been used on everything from bookcases to cup coasters with great results.

When it comes to wood that is outdoors you will usually have to get a specific semi gloss or satin paint to be able to take the punishment from the elements. The UV light from the sun, wind, and rain all take their toll but both semi gloss and satin outdoor formulas are priced around the same price points anyway.

As we mentioned earlier in the article, Chalk paint is seeing a huge spike in its popularity right now for outdoor use on wood and dominates the space. Depending on the overall look and feel that you are wanting you may want to consider chalk paint for any wood surfaces that you have outside.


That brings our semi gloss vs satin paint finish comparison article to an end. We hope that you have found it helpful and that we have been able to help you decide if you want to go with a semi gloss or satin paint for your task at hand. Both are great options but the subtle differences explained throughout the article do usually dominate what you can use the paints for in most cases so be sure to have read the whole article prior to making your decision.

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