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

pink paint on brush with wood in the back

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Choosing satin paint vs. matte paint will yield very different results, but what is it that differentiates these two popular paint sheens? Even the exact same paint color can take on totally different looks based on the sheen you choose.

There are many advantages and disadvantages associated with choosing both matte paint and satin paint and getting to know the pros and cons will help you determine which paint sheen will look and perform best in your space. Read on to learn the differences between matte and satin paint, so you can choose the right paint sheen for your project.

Satin vs Matte Paint: Major Differences

Matte and satin are close on the paint sheen scale, separated only by eggshell. While their close proximity may lead you to believe they aren't that different, matte and satin paints have significant differences in appearance, durability, texture, and even cost.

Satin Paint

Satin paint is a balanced, mid-level paint sheen that is glossier than eggshell and flatter than semi-gloss. Its position between the two sheens makes it a great middle-ground for most paint projects.

Satin's high reflectivity and durability have made it a standard sheen for doors, trim, cabinets, and moldings, especially when semi-gloss and high-gloss are deemed too shiny. However, satin isn't too shiny for walls and it's often used in spaces like bathrooms, kitchens, and other high-traffic areas, due to its great durability to withstand frequent cleanings.

  • Offers an average gloss that works with most paint colors

  • Creates a durable surface

  • Withstands frequent cleanings and wipe-downs

  • Can be used on both walls and trim

  • Shows more imperfections than flatter options like eggshell and matte

  • Shows more mistakes, such as paint lines, orange peel, and runs

  • More expensive than matte

Matte Paint

Matte paint is the flattest paint sheen on most brands' scales, though some designate an even flatter sheen simply called "flat." Its low gloss makes it a good option for most walls and ceilings.

Matte paint is commonly used on large flat surfaces like interior walls and ceilings, as its low reflectivity hides imperfections well. This makes it ideal for older home renovations or any situation in which you're dealing with walls that have been patched and repaired. Matte is commonly used on ceilings for this reason, as these surfaces are notoriously hard to finish and prone to showing imperfections.


When in doubt, always use the lowest sheen for painting ceilings. If your paint manufacturer offers a lower sheen than matte, such as flat, or paint designated as ceiling paint, go with it instead.

Matte paint is recommended for walls in low-traffic areas, such as dining rooms, bedrooms, and living rooms, as its lower durability doesn't lend itself to frequent cleanings and abuse. Traditionally, matte has never been recommended for kitchens, bathrooms, or anywhere that requires the walls to be wiped down or scrubbed on a regular basis. However, certain brands offer modern matte solutions that are more durable and can hold up to regular wipe-downs.

  • Hides imperfections extremely well

  • Easy to apply without visible mistakes

  • Smooth, velvety appearance

  • Costs less than satin

  • Higher pigment content results in excellent coverage

  • Can't withstand frequent cleanings and wipe-downs

  • Won't last in areas like bathrooms and kitchens

  • Not durable enough for trim and moldings

  • Should only be used on walls and ceilings


Satin paint is glossier than matte paint. Depending on the surface you're painting, this could be an advantage or a disadvantage.

Satin Paint

Satin's higher light reflectivity results in a shinier look than matte paint, showing more details and giving paints more luster. However, the tradeoff is that satin paint will highlight imperfections in the wall and show more paint mishaps, such as runs and orange peel. When used on walls, satin paint should be avoided in rooms with a high amount of natural light, as its surface may appear too reflective.

Matte Paint

Matte paint's lower light reflectivity makes it perfect for hiding imperfections. This is advantageous for those looking to hide dings and divots, dull the look of unwanted texture, or minimize the visibility of paint mishaps and mistakes. Matte paint should be avoided in smaller rooms with low light, as its light-absorbing qualities tend to make the space look even smaller and darker.


Satin paint is more durable than matte paint. Satin's higher sheen creates a more durable surface that has more longevity than matte.

Satin Paint

Satin paint's higher durability is directly linked to its higher sheen, which comes as a result of additional binders in the paint. These binders make the paint more elastic and scuff-resistant, making satin ideal for spots like entryways, hallways, kids' bedrooms, and any other spot that has high traffic.

Matte Paint

Matte paint's lower sheen leads to lower durability overall. While matte paint is great at hiding damage, it's not so good at preventing it. Its lower elasticity doesn't hold up well to impact, resulting in quickly formed scuffs and marks if applied in high-traffic areas of the home.


Matte paint has a smoother, less tacky feel than satin paint. Satin paint's higher sheen creates a finish that is slightly tacky to the touch.

Satin Paint

Satin paint has a slightly tacky feel. As paint gets glossier, it gets smoother and glassier. However, it also gets tackier as a result of the additional resins in the paint.

Matte Paint

Matte paint has a smooth feel with a slightly chalky texture. Its low sheen prevents any tackiness that you find in higher-gloss paints. Opting for matte paint with darker colors can create a subtly velvety surface that has luxurious depth.


Matte paint is a great option for DIY painters because it's easy to apply, allowing even beginner painters to create smooth surfaces with minimal imperfections. Its high pigment content makes for effortless coverage.


Matte paint is around $6 cheaper per gallon than satin paint. As paint sheen decreases, so does the cost.

Satin Paint

The additional components needed to create satin paint's higher sheen lead to a slightly higher cost. While a few dollars per gallon can add up on big paint projects, the savings may not be worth it if your project calls for the look and durability of satin paint.

Matte Paint

On average, you can save around $6 per gallon by opting for matte paint over satin paint. Generally, paint sheens are around $2 to $3 cheaper each time you move down on the sheen scale. However, while there are some differences from sheen to sheen, the price of paint is mostly determined by the manufacturer and the quality of the paint you're buying.

  • Are matte paint and flat paint the same?

    Matte paint and flat paint are largely the same things. However, some paint manufacturers use the term "flat" to identify a paint sheen that is slightly duller than matte.

  • Can you paint walls with satin paint?

    While satin paint is a great option for trim, cabinetry, doors, windows, and moldings, its mid-level sheen makes it a good candidate for wall paint. It will create a beautiful, durable surface that's easy to clean.

  • What are the paint sheens?

    The most common paint sheens across brands are matte, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss, and high-gloss. However, some brands feature other sheens like flat, pearl, and velvet.