Satin Paint vs. Matte Paint: What’s the Difference?

Paint comes in many finishes, each with their own aesthetic qualities and practical advantages. Two of the most popular options for interior walls are satin and matte paint. But what exactly sets them apart?

An Overview of Satin and Matte Paint

Satin and matte paints both provide a low luster finish, but satin has a hint of shine that matte lacks. Satin paint has a smooth, velvety appearance. It reflects some light, allowing the color to stand out more. Matte paint has more of a flat, dull finish that hides reflections.

Both satin and matte paints are considered “low-sheen” options. They have less gloss than higher-sheen paints like eggshell or semi-gloss. Low-sheen paints are popular for walls, especially in bedrooms, living rooms, and dining rooms.

While satin and matte finishes are similar, there are some key differences that set them apart:

Light Reflection

As mentioned above, satin paint reflects more light than matte paint does. The soft glow of satin paint brings out the color and visual texture of the paint. Matte paint absorbs light, resulting in a flatter appearance.


Satin paint is more durable and scuff-resistant than matte paint. Its smoother finish allows satin paint to stand up better to cleaning, scrubbing, and everyday wear and tear. Matte paint is more prone to scuffing and staining.


Touch-ups are less visible with satin paint than they are with matte paint. The natural luster of satin paint helps hide imperfections. With matte paint, touch-ups tend to stick out more.

Consistency of Finish

It’s easier to achieve a uniform finish on trim and molding with satin paint. The shine allows for crisp, smooth results. Matte paint can end up looking patchy since it hides reflection and flaws.

Key Differences Between Satin and Matte Paint

  • Light reflection – Satin reflects more light for added depth and color vibrancy, while matte has a flatter, low-light finish.
  • Durability – Satin paint holds up better against frequent cleaning, scrubbing, and natural wear and tear over time.
  • Touch-ups – Brush marks and roller lines blend in better and are less obvious with satin paint.
  • Uniformity of finish -Satin paint lends itself to a more uniform surface on trim and moldings.
  • Washability – Satin paint can be repeatedly washed without damaging the finish, while matte paint is prone to washing off.
  • Ideal rooms – Satin works well in any room but is especially nice for hallways and kitchens. Matte paint suits bedrooms, dining rooms, and low-traffic areas.

When to Choose Satin Paint

Satin paint offers distinctive advantages that make it preferable in certain situations:

High-Traffic Areas

Kitchens, hallways, playrooms, and laundry rooms tend to get lots of wear. Satin paint holds up better under heavy use, moisture, scrubbing, and cleaning. The subtle shine also hides scuffs well. Matte paint would quickly show signs of damage in a high-traffic area.

Molding and Trim

The subtle luster of satin paint allows for a smooth, consistent finish on architectural details like baseboards, crown molding, and window trim. Matte paint can sometimes end up looking patchy or uneven on molding with lots of grooves and edges.


In bathrooms, satin paint resists mildew and moisture better than flat paints like matte. The reflective quality helps prevent stains from clinging to walls around sinks, tubs, and showers. Matte paint would absorb moisture and need frequent repainting in a bathroom.

Large Walls and Ceilings

Satin paint minimizes flaws in application on expansive walls and ceilings. The shine makes it easier to achieve a flawless finish without roller marks or inconsistencies. Large flat spaces painted in matte paint often highlight imperfections.

When to Choose Matte Paint

While satin paint has its benefits, there are many situations where matte paint is the better choice:

Bedrooms and Dining Rooms

Matte paint has a soft, inviting finish perfect for bedrooms and dining rooms. The understated, subtle finish encourages relaxation. Satin paint might come across as too shiny for these low-traffic spaces.

Covering Up Flaws

Matte paint is exceptional at hiding flaws – from dents and cracks to uneven drywall seams. The lack of light reflection allows matte paint to disguise imperfections other finishes would highlight.

Ceiling Paint

Flat matte paint helps ceilings virtually disappear, making the space appear bigger. Ceiling paint with any sheen could create unwanted glare or reflections. Matte paint absorbs light and blends the ceiling into the background.

DIY Paint Jobs

For DIY painters, matte paint proves more forgiving than satin. The matte finish camouflages lap marks, brush strokes, and other amateur painting flaws. Satin paint puts imperfect technique on full display.

Bold or Dark Colors

Matte paint mutes and softens bold, intense colors like crimson or navy. It allows you to use dark, dramatic colors without them feeling overwhelming. Satin paint could make these shades feel too harsh.

Achieving the Best Finish

To get the most flawless finish with satin or matte paint, proper preparation and application techniques are key:

  • Thoroughly prep and prime walls to create an even, uniform painting surface. Fill dents, holes, cracks with spackle. Sand glossy areas. Wipe away dust.
  • When painting satin, use a high-quality roller sleeve and apply paint in a V or W shape, rather than a back and forth motion. Smooth out lines and lap marks immediately using downward strokes.
  • With matte paint, use a thin nap roller to avoid bubbles and texture. Roll in sections and maintain a wet edge to prevent flashing.
  • Use high-quality brushes when brushing near edges and corners. Apply paint in a consistent direction.
  • Add a paint extender to matte paint to slow drying time allowing marks to smooth out.
  • Apply multiple thin coats rather than one heavy coat for a smoother finish. Give each coat sufficient drying time.
  • Work methodically in sections. Keep a wet edge to prevent lap marks and variations in sheen.
  • Finish with a high-quality microfiber roller for a smooth, consistent texture.

Satin vs Matte Paint: Which is Right for You?

With their similar matte finishes yet different aesthetic qualities, both satin and matte paint have their merits. Choosing between the two depends mainly on the room, your priorities for durability and appearance, and personal preference.

Satin paint lends itself well to high-traffic areas where scrubbing resistance is key. Matte paint suits bedrooms, dining rooms, and other spaces where you want a relaxed, inviting mood. For the best guidance when deciding between satin vs matte, consult with a painting professional. An expert can recommend the right finish for each room in your home. With the proper prep and application, both satin and matte paint can provide beautiful, flawless results.

Satin Paint vs. Matte Paint: What’s the Difference?

Satin and matte are two of the most popular paint finishes for interior walls. They both provide subtle sheen, but there are some important differences between satin and matte paint.

Light Reflection

The main difference lies in light reflection. Satin paint has a smooth, pearl-like appearance that reflects some light. Matte paint has more of a flat, understated finish that conceals light. The color and texture of satin paint really pops as light bounces off its velvety surface. Matte paint absorbs light for a more muted effect.


In terms of durability, satin reigns supreme. The subtle gloss of satin paint provides much better resistance to moisture, scrubbing, and regular wear and tear. Matte paint is more prone to staining, burning, and wearing down to expose underlying paint. Satin paint can handle cleaning and accidental scuffs with minimal damage to the finish.

Ease of Touch-Up

Fixing imperfections and flaws is easier with satin paint. The light reflective quality helps hide touch-ups so they seamlessly blend in. Matte paint shows touch-ups more clearly since it lacks shine. Quick fixes stand out against the flat finish.

Surface Smoothness

Satin paint lends itself to ultra smooth finishes, ideal for trimwork, molding, and creating sharp lines. Matte paint tends to not fully hide brush strokes and roller marks, especially in direct lighting. Satin offers a more perfectly uniform surface.


Because of its durable finish, satin paint can stand up to repeated washing without wearing down. Matte paint is susceptible to turning patchy or fading when cleaned frequently. Satin paint retains its finish and color even with regular maintenance cleaning.

Choosing by Room

Satin paint works wonderfully in kitchens, bathrooms, hallways and any high-traffic area. The subtle sheen hides scuffs while standing up to cleaning. Matte paint fits beautifully in more relaxing rooms like living rooms and bedrooms. Its understated finish complements decorative accents without competing.

Application Tips

Proper application is key to achieving a flawless finish:

  • Use quality roller sleeves and brushes suited to the paint’s sheen level
  • Maintain a wet edge and work in sections to prevent lap marks
  • Roll or brush in a consistent direction, gently smoothing out strokes
  • Apply multiple thin coats for best results
  • Make sure conditions are optimal – no drafts, proper temperature, low humidity


While satin and matte finishes have some similarities, from durability to light reflection there are clear differences between them. Consider where the paint will be used most when deciding between these two versatile interior paint finishes. With careful application, both satin and matte paint can create a beautiful, flawless finish.

FAQs About Satin and Matte Paint

Is satin or matte paint better for walls?

It depends on the room. Satin paint is ideal for kitchens, bathrooms, hallways and other high-traffic areas that need wiping and scrubbing. Matte paint fits best in formal living rooms, dining rooms, and bedrooms where its understated finish sets the perfect mood.

Does satin or matte paint have more shine?

Satin paint has a smooth, velvety sheen that reflects some light. Matte has more of a non-reflective, flat finish. Satin paint has a hint of shine while matte paint is devoid of any sheen or gloss.

Is satin paint good for bathrooms?

Yes, satin paint works extremely well in bathrooms. Its durable, moisture-resistant finish prevents mildew growth while also withstanding scrubbing and frequent cleaning. The slight shine also makes bathrooms feel brighter and airier.

Can you clean matte paint?

Matte paint can be cleaned gently but loses its finish with frequent washing. It’s prone to turning patchy when scrubbed or repeatedly wiped down. Satin paint is highly washable and retains its sheen even with regular cleaning.

Does matte hide imperfections better?

Yes. Because it lacks any reflective quality, matte paint does an excellent job hiding small dents, dings, and other minor wall imperfections. The eye doesn’t catch imperfections as easily with matte paint.

Is satin paint shiny?

Satin paint has a smooth, pearl-like sheen but is considered low-gloss. It reflects some light while still providing an understated finish. Satin does have more lustrous shine than matte paint but significantly less than high-gloss paint.


Satin and matte paint finishes both provide attractive options for interior walls. Consider where the paint will be used most when deciding between them. Satin offers incredible durability and scrub-resistance perfect for kitchens, bathrooms, and hallways. For a relaxed mood in bedrooms or living areas, choose matte for its subtle, understated finish. With proper primers and application techniques, both satin and matte paint can create beautiful results. Pay attention to the amount of light reflection, ease of cleaning, and overall aesthetic to choose the best finish for each room.