What Is Satin Paint?

Pouring Paint Into Tray

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Most homeowners shopping for paint know that color is important, but it's easy to overlook paint gloss: Picking the right type of paint gloss, or sheen, is just as important as picking the right color when buying paint.

Satin paint has long been a favorite gloss level for do-it-yourselfers because it is simple to apply and dries moderately quickly. Satin paint holds its own as an easy-to-clean, durable sheen that lets the paint's color fully show through. This highly versatile paint gloss is used on both large surfaces like walls and on details like trim—keep reading to learn more about what satin paint is, where it's best used, and more.

What Is Satin Paint?

Satin is a paint sheen that falls directly in the middle of the range of interior or exterior paint sheens. Satin paint is glossier than eggshell finish paint, but flatter than semi-gloss paint.

Unlike gloss or semi-gloss paint, satin paint won't produce reflections in low light. In certain angles or in bright light, though, satin's shine will be visible.

Early types of satin paint were styled as dulled-down versions of high-gloss paint. One of the first satin paint brands, Satin-Glo, was frequently advertised as having a "dull gloss finish."

Satin Paint Gloss Rating

Paint glosses range from flat to gloss. Flat paint absorbs light and has a velvety texture. Glossy paint reflects light and has a glass-like texture.

Pigment volume concentration (PVC) is how the paint industry measures paint gloss. The ratio of a paint's pigments (color-producing solids) to its binders is the paint's PVC. The higher the PVC number, the flatter the paint.

Satin paint's mid-range 30- to 40-percent PVC rating, means that it has a moderate amount of binders—enough to help with durability and cleaning but still short of producing a glassy, reflective look.

Gloss Type PVC Range PVC Average
Gloss 0-15% 7.5%
Semi-gloss 15-25% 20%
Satin 30-40% 35%
Eggshell 35-40% 37.5%
Flat 40-80% 60%

When and Why to Use Satin Paint

Use satin paint for applications where cleanability and durability are most important. Satin paint can be used on select low-impact surfaces like door casings, door and window trim, doors, and windows. High-impact surfaces should be painted with semi-gloss or high-gloss paint.

Satin paint works well in kitchens, bathrooms, kids' rooms, bedrooms, living rooms, hallways, offices, and finished basements.

If you'd like to avoid reflection, do not use satin paint on walls that receive a lot of direct sunlight. While satin paint can be used on ceilings, flat or matte paint is typically used here.


Prior to the introduction of satin paint, satin finish was created by rubbing fully cured glossy paint with dampened pumice stone powder.

Benefits of Using Satin Paint

Multi-Surface Application

On large paint projects, switching from one paint to another slows progress and drives up costs. So, having one paint that can be used for different types of surfaces is valuable.

While no paint can be used for every application, some paints are better at this than others. Paints in the middle of the gloss ranking—satin and eggshell—are well-suited for a broad range of uses.


Satin paint is an excellent choice for children's rooms and kitchens because it cleans up so well. Satin paint's tight pores mean that markers, food stains, dirt, and liquids clean off better than with flatter paints. Because of these tight pores, satin paint stands up moderately well to water.

So, satin is a good, moisture-resistant paint choice for walls in some bathrooms and kitchens. Satin paint can be used for bathroom ceilings when mold and mildew are a concern.

Easier Application

Satin paint is simple to apply. It's not as easy as flat paint, with its rapid drying time (30 minutes or less) and resistance to lap marks. But it doesn't take as long to dry and cure as gloss paint (2 to 3 hours or more). Plus, lap marks are difficult to avoid in gloss and semi-gloss paint.

Satin paint takes about an hour to dry, in optimal conditions. When applying satin paint, as long as you brush or roll off of a wet edge, lap marks are unlikely to appear.

How Satin Paint Differs From Other Paint Glosses

Satin paint falls between semi-gloss and eggshell paints and is on the center of the overall gloss scale. This center position means that satin paint addresses many factors: gloss, durability, and moisture resistance.

Slightly Glossier Than Eggshell

Satin paint is closer to eggshell than any other paint gloss. Satin paint is glossier than eggshell paint, but only slightly so.

Satin and eggshell paints are sometimes used interchangeably. Some brands of satin and eggshell paints contain the same PVC ratios, so they are essentially the same paint gloss.

Better Moisture Resistance Than Flats

Flat paints soak up moisture and can easily stain. Satin paint sheds moisture and works well in powder rooms or for bathrooms that aren't moisture-heavy.

For high-moisture bathrooms or for crucial areas (such as near a shower), use semi-gloss paint.

More Durable Than Flat, Less Durable Than Gloss

Any paint that has a greater amount of binding agents will last longer. With nearly twice the amount of binders than flat paint, satin paint resists chips and scratches substantially better than flat paint and slightly better than eggshell paint.