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Types of Sheen: Satin vs Semi-Gloss

Satin paints have long been celebrated for their smooth finish that adds a touch of elegance to whatever surface they are applied. Unlike flat or matte finishes, satin creates a subtle sheen by reflecting light without semi-gloss’s high shine. Striking the right gloss level between practicality and appearance is important for homeowners, and these considerations make satin a popular choice for interior applications.

What is the difference between satin vs semi-gloss paints? The most noticeable difference is the level of glossiness—satin has a moderate sheen whereas semi-gloss has a greater shine. When considering sheen paints, your aesthetic preferences, and intended use will help you decide between the two.

What Is Satin Paint?

Satin paints and finishes are directly in the middle range of interior and exterior painting sheens. Satin paints are glossier than a traditional eggshell finish, but much flatter than a semi-gloss.

Pros of Satin Paint

There are many pros of satin paint, such as:

  • Easier to keep clean
  • Longer-lasting
  • More durable
  • Moisture-resistant
  • Better for high-traffic areas of the home

Unlike gloss or semi-gloss paints, satin paints won’t produce reflections in low light. Satin paints also show off their shine at certain angles or in bright light, meaning the finish is low profile and won’t feel obnoxious or intrusive in a home that gets a lot of light during the day.

Satin paint is frequently favored by DIYers because it’s easy to apply and it dries moderately quickly. Satin paints are easy to clean and have a durable sheen that lets color shine through. These paints are highly versatile, and work great as a finish on both large surfaces and details.

Cons of Satin Paint

There are also cons of satin paint, such as:

  • Shows more imperfections in your walls
  • Has a more complicated application
  • Harder to apply
  • Offer less coverage
  • More difficult to touch up
  • Might require light sanding of surfaces

If your home’s walls have many cracks or divots, satin paint might not be the way to go. Older homes with bumpy plaster walls are also not great for satin paints, as the application will be difficult and the effect won’t be what you expect.

What Is Semi-Gloss Paint?

Semi-gloss paint is frequently compared to a satin finish but bears a much higher sheen. This means that any light from windows or lamps will bounce off of semi-gloss paint with a greater shine than a flat finish, like satin or eggshell.

Pros of Semi-Gloss Paint

Semi-gloss paints are typically favored for high-touch areas. They look amazing in darker spaces, helping to bounce light throughout your home and make these rooms feel larger. Semi-gloss finishes draw the eye and can be repeatedly wiped and cleaned without fear of scratching or damage.

Pros of semi-gloss paint include:

  • Perfect for high-touch, high-traffic areas
  • Great for kids’ bedrooms and kitchens
  • Moisture-resistant
  • Temperature-resistant
  • Rebuffs dirt, stains, mildew, and mold
  • Easy to sterilize and wipe clean
  • Holds up to heavy wear and tear
  • Highly reflective—draws the eye to trim and molding
  • Brightens darker rooms and spaces

Cons of Semi-Gloss Paint

While semi-gloss paint is exceptional for a lot of uses, there are also drawbacks to be considered. Semi-gloss can look darker than other finishes, and highlight existing imperfections and architectural defects. It’s important to consider both the pros and cons when deciding between satin vs semi-gloss.

Cons of semi-gloss paint include:

  • Darker finish than satin or matte
  • Showcases existing dents, dings, and defects
  • Sticky texture
  • Harder to apply, showing streaks and brush strokes
  • Paint damage will be more noticeable
  • Difficult to repaint considering the sleek finish

Satin vs. Semi-Gloss Paint: Main Differences

There are many sheens of paint, including matte, flat, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss, and hi-gloss. Knowing the differences between satin vs semi-gloss can save you time, money, and frustration. Before you make your final purchasing decision, there are some key differences to consider between satin vs semi-gloss paints.


Appearance ultimately comes down to personal preferences and preferred aesthetics. While semi-gloss paints reflect more light (which can help details in darker homes, bring out trim and millwork, enlarge rooms, etc), satin paints are better suited for walls since they have lower reflectivity and help to mask dings and architectural imperfections. 


Since durability is affected by sheen, semi-gloss paints offer longer-lasting durability than satin paints. Semi-gloss can handle more wear and tear over its lifespan, and is better suited for high-traffic areas such as kids’ bedrooms, hallways, and kitchens. If you prefer satin paints, you can save those for lower-traffic areas like adult bedrooms, ceilings, etc.


Gloss and sheen do have a cost, and this preference correlates with a higher budget. Satin paints cost less than semi-gloss on average, but the cost difference is ultimately minimal and probably won’t affect your overall decision. Since the two finishes are suited to different surface types, it’s more than likely that you’ll be utilizing semi-gloss vs satin paints in different areas of your home.


Satin paints do have a high resistance that stands up to frequent cleaning, but these paints don’t hold a candle to semi-gloss in the easy maintenance department. Semi-gloss paints have a slicker surface, meaning they can resist moisture and other damage. Semi-gloss paints can also be scrubbed repeatedly to clean dirt and scuffs, and are altogether more durable than satin paints.


While appearance is left up to personal preference, satin has a much smoother texture than semi-gloss. The lower sheen level gives it a better feel once dried, and when semi-gloss paints are applied improperly they leave behind a tacky feel and an “orange peel” look. If you don’t have much interior painting experience and want your home to look its best, consider hiring professional local painters who have the knowledge, technique, and high-quality tools to accomplish the job.

Choosing The Right Sheen

When it comes to sheen selection, there are a lot of considerations to make, such as eggshell, gloss, hi-gloss, matte, flat paint, gloss paint, flat enamel, satin, and semi-gloss. Satin vs semi-gloss paints have many pros and cons, and you must consider appearance, durability, price, maintenance, texture, and more. There’s also the factor of time and application, and not everyone has the spare hours in the day to lay on multiple coats of paint. If you want a professional-looking finish, it’s important to hire professionals who have the knowledge and experience to make your home look beautiful.

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to the experts. Contact ProServ Painters, who have served their local community for 30 years. They can give you detailed answers to any questions about satin vs semi-gloss paints, application, cost, upkeep, or anything else related to painting and home maintenance. Remember, choosing between satin vs semi-gloss is much more important than personal preference—there are applications for both!

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