Flat vs. Satin Paint — Which is Better?

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Flat and satin paints are common choices for interior walls. Flat offers a smooth, matte finish that hides imperfections but is less washable. Meanwhile, satin provides a subtle sheen and is easier to clean, making it suitable for higher-traffic areas. 

If you’re still unsure which finish will suit your wood project or living space better, I’ll delve more into their key attributes and help you decide which works best for your project.

What is Flat Paint?

Flat paint, also known as matte paint, is a paint finish with no shine or gloss. It offers a smooth and non-reflective surface, making it ideal for hiding imperfections on walls and ceilings. 

flat paint

However, it’s less resistant to stains and scuffs compared to other finishes, and cleaning may sometimes prove challenging.

What Are the Advantages of Using Flat Paint?

When it comes to choosing the right paint finish for your interior walls and ceilings, flat paint emerges as a compelling option with its unique set of advantages. 

While it might not provide the sheen that some other finishes do, it offers several benefits, making it a popular choice in many situations.

Concealing Imperfections

Flat paint excels at hiding imperfections on walls and ceilings. Its non-reflective surface diffuses light, effectively minimizing the visibility of cracks, dents, and minor surface flaws. 

bedroom walls painted with white flat paint

Flat paint is an excellent choice for older homes or spaces with less-than-perfect surfaces.

Subtle Elegance

Flat paint can be your ally if you’re aiming for a soft and understated aesthetic. Its smooth and matte finish lends a sense of elegance to a room without drawing attention to itself. 

This is particularly advantageous in rooms where you want the furnishings and decor to take center stage.

Cozy Atmosphere

Flat paint contributes to creating a cozy and inviting atmosphere. The lack of sheen adds warmth and depth to the color, making the space feel more intimate. 

blue painted wall

Flat paint is often chosen for bedrooms, living rooms, and other areas where comfort is paramount.

Minimal Glare

Due to its non-reflective nature, flat paint is an excellent choice for rooms with abundant natural light. 

It minimizes glare and harsh reflections, making the space more comfortable and visually pleasing. This is particularly beneficial in rooms with large windows or open layouts.

Artistic Expression

Flat paint provides an ideal backdrop for those who enjoy using walls as a canvas for artistic expression. The lack of gloss makes colors truer and more saturated, allowing artwork, murals, or decorative techniques to stand out with vivid clarity.

Easy Touch-Ups

When it’s time for touch-ups or repainting, flat paint is relatively forgiving. Its lack of sheen means that touch-ups blend in more seamlessly with the existing paint, reducing the chances of noticeable variations in color or texture.

painting wall

Versatility of Use

Flat paint is not limited to walls; it can also be used on ceilings, providing a cohesive look throughout a room. This application’s versatility adds to its appeal, allowing you to create a unified design from top to bottom.

What is Satin Paint?

Satin paint is a paint finish offering a subtle sheen between matte and gloss. It provides a smooth, velvety surface that gently reflects light, creating a soft glow. 

This finish is known for its durability and ease of cleaning, making it a popular choice for areas with higher traffic and exposure to moisture.

What Are the Advantages of Using Satin Paint?

When considering paint finishes for interior spaces, satin paint is a versatile and practical choice. 

satin paint

This finish strikes a balance between matte and gloss, offering a range of advantages that make it a popular option for various applications.

Elegance With a Subtle Sheen

Satin paint brings a touch of sophistication to a room without the high shine of gloss finishes. Its subtle sheen adds depth to the colors, enhancing the visual appeal of the space. 

This makes satin paint an excellent choice for areas where you want a more refined look without the intensity of a high-gloss finish.

Durability and Longevity

One of the key advantages of satin paint is its durability. The smooth surface resists wear, scuffs, and minor abrasions better than flat paint. 

kitchen cabinets with black satin paint

This durability suits high-traffic areas such as hallways, entryways, and children’s rooms well.

Easy to Clean

Satin paint is notably easier to clean compared to flat or matte finishes. Its slight sheen allows for gentle wiping without compromising the finish. 

This makes it a practical option for kitchens, bathrooms, and other spaces where stains and spills are common.

Moisture Resistance

Due to its durability and the protective properties of the finish, satin paint is more moisture-resistant than flat paint. This characteristic makes it a wise choice for rooms with higher humidity levels, like bathrooms and laundry rooms.

Versatility in Application

Satin paint is versatile and suitable for various surfaces, including walls, trim, and furniture. Its smooth finish makes it easy to apply evenly, creating a cohesive look throughout a room or home.

dining room painted with blue satin paint

Reflective Properties

The subtle sheen of satin paint reflects light in a way that can visually open up a space. This quality can make smaller rooms feel more expansive and add a touch of brightness to darker areas.

Hide Imperfections to Some Extent

While not as effective at concealing flaws as flat paint, satin paint can still help to minimize the appearance of minor imperfections. Its reflective nature can distract the eye from small blemishes on the surface.

How is Flat Paint in Comparison With Satin Paint?

When choosing the right paint finish for your interior spaces, understanding the differences between flat and satin paints is crucial. 

Both finishes offer distinct qualities that can significantly influence the overall appearance, durability, maintenance, and suitability of various areas in your home. 

flat vs satin paint

Let’s delve into a comprehensive comparison of flat and satin paint to help you make an informed decision that aligns with your design goals and practical needs.

Introductory Distinctions

Flat paint and satin paint differ significantly in their sheen levels, which is the primary factor that sets them apart. 

While flat paint boasts a matte finish with minimal to no sheen, satin paint provides a gentle luster that falls between matte and gloss finishes.

Appearance and Sheen

Flat paint, also known as matte paint, imparts a subtle elegance to a space with its smooth, non-reflective surface. 

It excels at concealing imperfections on walls and ceilings due to its matte nature, making it an ideal choice for older homes or spaces with less-than-perfect surfaces. 

lady painting wall grey

On the other hand, satin paint offers a soft, velvety sheen that adds depth to colors without the intensity of high-gloss finishes. It balances elegance and practicality, making it suitable for various areas in your home.

Durability and Longevity

Regarding durability, satin paint outperforms flat paint due to its composition. Satin paint contains more binders, providing flexibility and toughness, making it more resistant to scratches, dings, and stains. 

Its sturdier surface also allows for easier cleaning, as gentle washes won’t harm the paint. On the contrary, flat paint contains fewer binders, making it less flexible and durable. 

As a result, flat paint is more susceptible to wear and tear, and cleaning can strip the paint away or reveal underlying materials.

Coverage and Application

Flat paint often offers better coverage than satin paint due to its higher pigment concentration [1]. 

furniture set

This higher pigment content allows flat paint to provide more color in a single coat, potentially reducing the need for multiple coats to achieve full coverage. 

However, applying flat paint is generally simpler, as it blends well and minimizes noticeable lines. Satin paint, with its sheen, requires more attention during application. 

Overlapping wet and dry paint areas can lead to inconsistencies in sheen, causing lines to appear on the surface due to the overlap.

Maintenance and Touch-Ups

Maintenance considerations differ between the two finishes. Satin paint is easier to clean, with gentle soap and water and a soft sponge or cloth often sufficient to remove dirt. 

However, aggressive scrubbing can affect the sheen. On the other hand, flat paint is more challenging to clean, as attempts to remove dirt might also result in paint removal. 

painting kitchen cabinet

Despite this, touch-ups are generally easier with flat paint, as they blend well with the existing surface. 

In contrast, touch-ups on satin paint can be more problematic, as the differences in sheen can cause the touch-up to stand out visually.

Suitability for Different Areas

Both flat and satin paints have specific areas where they shine. Flat paint is well-suited for ceilings and areas with low traffic, such as bedrooms, dining rooms, and home offices. 

Its ability to mask imperfections and softer appearance makes it a great fit for these spaces. 

Satin paint’s durability and moisture resistance make it ideal for high-traffic areas like kitchens and bathrooms. It’s also suitable for trimming, molding, and areas prone to splashes and stains.

Can You Mix Satin With Flat Paint?

You can technically blend satin paint with flat paint, resulting in an intermediary sheen, often resembling an eggshell finish. 

kitchen countertop and empty cabinets

However, combining paints with more than one level of sheen difference, such as mixing flat and satin paints, can be challenging. 

Poor mixing might lead to streaks or uneven sheen variations after applying the paint, causing an inconsistent appearance. 

When mixing satin and flat paint, a mechanical mixer might be essential, as it’s more effective at achieving a consistent blend than manual mixing. 

Alternatively, if you desire a sheen between flat and satin, it might be simpler to purchase your preferred color in an eggshell finish. Eggshell finish sits between flat and satin on the sheen spectrum, offering a subtle gleam.

How to Make Satin Paint Flat?

If you’re dealing with satin paint on a wall or furniture piece and want to reduce its glossiness, you have a few options available.

rubber wood table and cabinet

Applying a Clear Flat Topcoat

The simplest method involves applying a clear, flat topcoat. This single coat will alter the sheen without affecting the underlying color. This straightforward solution offers a quick way to achieve your desired finish.

Using Commercial Deglossing Agents

Commercial deglossing agents are also available. Following the manufacturer’s instructions, apply the liquid to achieve a matte finish. However, results can vary, so it’s wise to conduct a test before treating an entire area. 

Keep in mind that deglossing agents can contain strong chemicals, so they’re not suitable for poorly ventilated spaces. For safety, wear gloves and a mask during application.

Lightly Sanding the Surface

Another option involves lightly sanding the surface. Start with sandpaper of a high grit number, as higher grit numbers indicate less coarseness, minimizing the risk of gouges or excessive paint removal. 

person holding sanding block

Begin by testing in an inconspicuous spot to ensure the desired outcome. However, sanding can be time-consuming. You’ll need to gently scuff the entire surface, wiping away dust with a damp cloth as you go. 

While sanding requires labor, it can be effective if you’re not concerned about the effort involved.


In choosing between flat and satin paint, consider sheen, durability, and usage. Flat conceals flaws, suitable for ceilings and low-traffic spaces. Satin’s gentle gloss suits high-traffic areas, moisture-prone zones, and easy cleaning. 

Each has its merits, align your choice with practical needs and aesthetic preferences. 

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You've probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.
Robert Johnson

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