The Ultimate Semi Gloss Vs Gloss Comparison!

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With semi gloss and full gloss paint being very popular options for many people due to the paint finish being so durable we often see people reaching out and asking for a dedicated semi gloss vs gloss paint finish comparison. As the two paint finishes are so close to each other as well as seeing so many people reaching out to ask for a comparison between the two paint types, we have decided to publish this article.

Our goal is to be able to help as many of our readers as possible who are looking to use either semi gloss or full gloss paints. Although both options have fallen out of favour for some rooms of the house, they are still the dominant choices for any room with high levels of moisture or that are high trafficked and will required the walls cleaning on a regular basis.

Please also note that there is no one size fits all answer for our readers on if gloss or semi gloss is the best option moving forward. As we will cover throughout the article, there are a number of specific situations where each option can be a better choice than the other and both paint types actually have a light reflectancy range rather than a set number making things slightly more complicated too.

Whats The Difference Between Semi Gloss And Gloss Paint?

Although semi gloss and full gloss are very similar, they do have one main difference in that full gloss reflects 70%-90% of light where as semi gloss reflects 41%-69% of light. Although this is subtle in the grand scheme of things, this can drastically change the atmosphere of the room.

Although a standard gloss paint was the more popular option of the two for many years, semi gloss is rapidly gaining in popularity. That said though, for rooms such as your kitchen and bathroom where there will be constant moisture in the air, full gloss is still the best option in our opinion.

The main reasons that semi gloss paint has seen such a huge spike in its popularity is that it is almost as robust as full gloss paint while being able to reflect considerably less light. This difference has made semi gloss a very popular option for people who are wanting to create a more relaxing atmosphere at home with less light in their rooms.

Is Gloss Or Semi Gloss Paint Better?

Full gloss tends to be better for people with pets or young children that will result in them having to wash their walls on a regular basis. Semi gloss tends to be better for people who want to have less light reflecting around their rooms to help them relax as much as possible.

The term better is hard to define when it comes to using paint as what is better for one persons situation is not necessarily better for another person. That said though, if you stick to the breakdown that we offered above you should be on the right track for finding the better option for you.

Both gloss and semi gloss paints are available across the whole color range too so the actual color of the paint you will be using is not a limiting factor either. Both paint option also tend to deal well with moisture in the room although full gloss is slightly better.

Semi Gloss Vs Gloss Finish

The actual finish of semi gloss and gloss once dry is the main difference between the two with both being great options in a huge range of situations. As we touched on back at the start of the article though, both full gloss and semi gloss actually have a range of light reflectancy depending on the specific formula as shown in the table below:-

  • Full Gloss: 70–90%
  • Semi-Gloss: 41–69%
  • Satin: 26–40%
  • Sheen: 15–25%
  • Eggshell: 10–15%
  • Matte: 5-9%
  • Flat: -0-4%

Although both paints are at the top of the light reflectancy scale, a bright gloss paint finish reflecting 80-90% of light will look very different to a dull semi gloss finish reflecting 41-50% of light. On the flip side of this though, a dull gloss reflecting 70-79% of light will look very similar to a bright semi gloss paint reflecting 51-69% of light.

You have to keep this in mind when it comes to choosing the ideal paint option for you as the differences between the two can be surprisingly different depending if you opt for a bright or dull option. Depending on the specific situation, you may actually be able to use a dull gloss and a bright semi gloss almost interchangeably but we don’t recommend it.

The Advantages Of Gloss Paint!

The main advantage of gloss paint is that it is the most durable paint formula available at the time of writing. This makes it ideal for high trafficked rooms or homes with pets or young children that may require your cleaning the painted surface on a more regular basis than normal.

Although it is a less popular use for gloss paint these days, the high light reflectancy of the paint formula can be used to help brighten up a dull room. This used to be a very common use case for gloss paint in rooms that received little to no sun light throughout the day but it is not as popular now.

Although the standard gloss paint formulas are not technically waterproof, they do also tend to perform very well when it comes to dealing with moisture in the air. This is why we usually recommend our readers use a gloss finish for their paints in their kitchens and bathrooms.

The Advantages Of Semi Gloss Paint!

The main advantage of semi gloss paint is that it is almost as durable as gloss paint while being able to reflect considerably less light. This allows you to use it to help create a more relaxing vibe in your home while still ensuring that the surfaces that you have painted using semi gloss are somewhat durable.

As we are leading busier life’s these days, more and more people are starting to base their home decor around a more relaxing vibe with less light in their rooms. This is to help them relax and chill out after a busy day while also helping to relieve eye fatigue build up from working on computers most of the day.

Although the other paint types such as satin and eggshell reflect even less light than semi gloss paint, they are no where near as robust. Semi gloss offers you a nice middle ground between the the reflected light in your room and how often you are able to wash and clean the painted surface.

The Disadvantages Of Gloss Paint

The main disadvantage of gloss paint is that it reflects so much light that it can be annoying for some people. With so many people working on computers all day, the paint types that reflect less light have seen a spike to help relieve eye fatigue build up.

A bright gloss paint used in a room with direct sunlight for most of the day really can be over whelming for many people. This is why fewer and fewer people are using full gloss paint finishes in their dining rooms, bedrooms, and sitting rooms due to most people wanting the reflected light while not needing the tough, robust properties of the making.

Although a large number of people do still choose to use gloss paint in some rooms of their house, it is usually where they need to take advantage of the robust nature of the paint. This is why it is still commonly used in kitchen and bathrooms due to the high moisture in the air constantly.

The Disadvantages Of Semi Gloss Paint!

Semi gloss is more of a general use paint where it is not the best at anything while also not being the worst at anything. This means that is has very few across the board disadvantages and the disadvantage of the paint formula will depend on your specific needs.

Due to this, the disadvantages of using semi gloss paint will depend on what you are trying to do. For example, if you need a robust paint that reflects a low amount of light then semi-gloss is probably your best options but for some people, a minimum of 41% reflected light may still be an issue for them.

The only other real advantage of semi gloss paint is that it is not as durable as gloss paint losing it some points there. Out of all paint coat finishes on the market right now though, semi gloss is as close to the robustness of gloss that you are going to get without paying over the odds for a specialist formula.

What Is Gloss Paint Used For?

Gloss paint is very commonly used in kitchens and bathrooms due to its robust nature and great performance when it comes to moisture. Gloss is also commonly used in areas of the home with small children or pets so you can wash your walls on a regular basis without the paint suffering.

If you are looking to decorate your kitchen or bathroom the both gloss and semi gloss are great options but in our opinion, gloss does stretch out ahead by the smallest option making it the best option. It will perform better with the moisture in the room and hold its color longer without having issues with peeling and flaking.

There are a number of different gloss paint formulas that all perform well in these areas but a bright gloss is usually the best. It will reflect as much light as possible while also being as robust as possible at the same time too.

What Is Semi Gloss Paint Used For?

Semi gloss paint is often used in areas of your home where you need a tough and robust paint yet also want a relaxing atmosphere due to it reflecting less light. If you have young children or pets in the home this can be any room that they have access too opening up the rooms you can use your semi gloss paint in.

On top of this, there is currently a trend of using a semi gloss paint on the bottom half of a room where pets and children have access to and may cause issues with the walls. People then use a satin paint or an eggshell paint for the top half of the room to reduce the amount of light reflecting around.

This hybrid approach is a very popular use for semi gloss paint in homes with children and pets. It offers the tough, robust paint for the areas that will need to be washed regularly while also helping to create a relaxing atmosphere too.

How Does Gloss And Semi Gloss Paint Deal With Imperfections?

Both gloss and semi gloss paint are bad at hiding imperfections on a painted surface due to reflecting so much light. This can often instantly draw the eye to the imperfection in certain conditions making a crack, bump, or chip in the surface more obvious then it would be with other paint types.

A decent matte paint usually offers you the best possible performance when it comes to hiding imperfections due to it reflecting such a small amount of light. That said though, many people find the lack of light in a room painted with matte paint to be a little depressing.

This is why we usually recommend that our readers use either an eggshell paint or a satin paint on any surfaces that they need to paint that has a lot of imperfections. This should be a good way to hide the imperfections while avoiding the dull nature of matte paint offering a nice middle ground.

Is Gloss And Semi Gloss Paint Washable?

Both gloss and semi gloss paint are washable with their washability and robustness being one of the main advantages of both paint types. Although gloss paint is slightly more robust than semi gloss, they do both perform well when washed on a relatively regular basis.

This is why so many people are using gloss paint in high trafficked areas of their home or where young children or pets are able to get to the walls. It allows them to quickly and easily clean any dirt from the surface without having any major issues.

Semi gloss paint is also washable though and there is a good chance that you will be able to wash a surface painted with a semi gloss finish as often as needed without issue too. That said though, the majority of semi gloss paint formulas are not as robust as their full gloss counter parts so keep that in mind if you will be needing to wash the surface on a very regular basis.

How Does Gloss And Semi Gloss Paint Deal With Moisture?

Semi gloss and full gloss both perform very well in rooms with high moisture such as kitchens and bathrooms. This is one of the main advantages of semi gloss and gloss paint finishes over the other paint finishes as they can deal with moisture with ease.

Opting to use a gloss paint or a semi gloss paint in a room such as your kitchen or bathroom where there will be lots of moisture helps to protect the color of your paint too. On top of this, it can also help to prevent you from having issues such as your paint flaking and peeling too.

A surface painted with a gloss or semi gloss paint will last you much longer than if you had used satin, eggshell or matte paint. Although there are sealants available and special formulas for these paints to help them deal with moisture, it does push your costs up considerably compared to gloss and semi gloss doing it well right out of the tin.

How Long Does It Take For Gloss And Semi Gloss Paint To Dry?

The majority of gloss and semi gloss paint formulas should take less than 24 hours to dry in ideal conditions with semi gloss usually drying slightly quicker than full gloss. That said though, it can take longer for both paints to fully dry and for the fresh paint smell to fade.

If you are using an oil based gloss or semi gloss paint then the paint will dry via an oxidisation process rather than via water evaporating in it. This can take longer than a water based paint but increasing air flow to a room by opening a window or using fans can speed this up.

Water based gloss and semi gloss does usually dry much quicker than oil based formulas. If you do need your gloss or semi gloss to dry as fast as possible then you are also able to increase the temperature to the room via your central heating system to help the water evaporate from the paint as fast as possible to dry it quicker.

How Does Gloss And Semi Gloss Paint Perform On Walls?

Using gloss or semi gloss paint on a wall is probably the most common use case for both paint types. Gloss and semi gloss are very popular for home decoration and are often used to change the look of the walls in a room.

Unlike some other paint types, both semi gloss and gloss perform well with a brush or a roller making it very easy to apply your chosen paint to the wall in question. This allows you to quickly and easily apply the paint to your required surface without having to waste time.

Some other paint types usually require a modern paint roller and a soft brush to allow you to apply them to a wall. Semi gloss and full gloss both perform well with older style rollers and brushes as well as previously used brushes too.

How Does Gloss And Semi Gloss Paint Perform On Wood?

Gloss and semi gloss paint do tend to perform well on wood but you do need to use an indoor or outdoor formula for optimal performance depending on the location of the wood. Many of the indoor gloss and semi gloss paint formulas will perform well on indoor wood and walls but will struggle for outdoor use.

If the wood that you are wanting to paint is located outdoors then be sure to get a suitable, outdoor gloss or semi gloss designed for use with wood. This will ensure you get the best results possible while protecting the wood and the paint from the elements too.

If your wood is indoors and a part of your furniture then the gloss or semi gloss paint formula that you use for your walls may work well on your wood too. Read the label of the specific paint formula that you are using for more specific advice on if the paint will work on both of if you will need an indoor paint for wood use too.

Can Gloss Or Semi Gloss Paint Prevent Rusting?

Some gloss and semi gloss paints can prevent rusting as standard but the best option is to get a specific paint formula designed for rust prevention. These do tend to be more expensive than the regular gloss and semi gloss paint formulas but if there is a rust risk, they are worth it.

We constantly see people trying to cut corners when it comes to using paint to prevent rust and this can be a mistake and cost you a lot of time and money down the line. Although some paint formulas will offer some rust protection, this is not their main use case and is more of an accidental benefit than an intended feature.

We would always recommend that our readers do opt to use a specific paint formula that has been designed for use to protect the surface against rust build up if needed. Although the initial costs will be higher, it will offer much better protection in the long run making it worth the higher initial costs.


That brings our article going over our ultimate semi gloss vs gloss breakdown to a close. In our opinion gloss is probably the best option for the majority of our readers due to it being more robust and offering better performance with moisture. That said though, the lower amount of reflected light with semi gloss paint does score it a lot of points for anyone looking to create a more relaxing vibe in their room.