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

by Charlie
Satin vs. Flat Paint

When choosing which type of paint you will purchase for a decoration project, there are numerous factors to consider. There are various paints that are suited to specific jobs, and each has numerous benefits if used in the correct setting. Two popular types are satin and flat paints, but what are the significant differences? 

The significant difference between flat and satin paints is the level of sheen or gloss that a particular paint will produce. Satin has a medium sheen meaning that it’s a durable and cleanable paint that will reflect around 25% of the light. In contrast, flat paints absorb light, reflecting only around 5% of the light, making them the best for imperfections on walls and ceilings. 

This article will discuss the significant differences between flat and satin paints and what kind of finish you achieve by using them.

What’s the Difference Between Flat and Satin Paints?

Each of the numerous paints available on the market has its own particular finish; thus, when completing a painting project, you’ll want to ensure that you opt for the right paint for the job. This will provide an excellent finish, long-lasting protection against wear and tear, and it can even hide blemishes and imperfections. 

Two of the most common paints professionals and novices use are flat and satin. Both of these paints have their unique advantages and disadvantages and differ significantly in what they are used for when it comes to decorating homes and buildings. 

The most significant difference between flat and satin paints is the finish, which is determined by the level of sheen or reflective properties it has once dry. A high or medium sheen is referred to as a gloss finish as it reflects light and has a particular shine when dry. 

Satin paints are known as a medium sheen or gloss paint as they typically reflect around 25 to 35% of the light that comes into a room, giving the finished surface a slightly reflective or shiny look. They fall right in the middle of the sheen spectrum, as they aren’t reflective like high gloss paints nor dull like matte paints. 

Flat paints, on the other hand, lie at the very bottom of the sheen spectrum as they typically only reflect less than 5% of the light that comes into a room. Instead, flat paint absorbs the light that comes in, making them the prime choice for surfaces with blemishes or imperfections. 

Various painters would agree that flat paints have no gloss or sheen level. The sheen of these two paints is not the only difference, however, as they have variations in their levels of durability, their maintenance, and where they are best utilized. 

What is a Flat Finish?

Various professionals will use one of the most common paints when decorating a home. It is characterized by its low level of luster or sheen, reflecting little to no light but instead absorbing all light that hits the finished surface. 

Flat paints typically reflect less than five percent of the light in the room, making it the lowest of all paints on the sheen spectrum. 

Flat paint contains more pigment than any other paint, which is why it’s typically referred to as a concealer paint. Flat paints are extremely easy to apply and are popular among both professionals and movie painters for various surfaces within the home, such as walls and ceilings. 

As flat paints absorb light instead of reflecting it, you are left with a finished product with no sheen but rather a soft and somewhat velvet finish on the surface, which is perfect for large interior or exterior surface areas. 

The Benefits of a Flat Finish

There are numerous benefits to using a flat paint in your decoration project, and one of the most significant is its ability to hide imperfections. As flat paints do not reflect any light that comes into the room, they are the best for hiding imperfections such as blemishes, scratches, and minor dents on walls and ceilings. 

This also helps with the overall color of the room, as because it has a nonexistent level of luster or sheen, the flat paints typically provide the painted surface with an authentic color that is affected by varying degrees of light.

Flat paints have more pigment when compared to various other paints, such as satins and semi-glosses; thus, they have better coverage per gallon. So, if you’re trying to decorate your home on a budget, using a flat paint will save you a lot of money. 

One further benefit to using flat paints on walls and ceilings is how easy it is to touch up. Sometimes you don’t even have to re-paint an entire wall; because of its low reflective properties, a touch-up will typically blend in nicely over the old paint. 

What is a Satin Finish?

A satin finish provides various surfaces with a medium-gloss sheen which is typically much more reflective or shiny when compared to a flat finish; however, it doesn’t have as much luster as a gloss finish.

A satin finish is usually defined as a mid-range sheen lying right in the middle of a flat and semi-gloss, often drying with a velvet finish that reflects around twenty-five to thirty-five percent of the light that falls on the surface. Depending on the level of light that enters a room, the appearance of the finish can alter. 

A satin paint finish won’t have a shiny or high-gloss finish in rooms with a low level of light; however, if an adequate level of light enters the room and hits the finished surface, it will produce a medium shine. 

The Benefits of a Satin Finish

Satin paints are popular among both novice and professional painters thanks to their high durability; satin will leave any prepared surface with a hard-wearing finish that will hold up well against the test of time and various forms of wear and tear.

Satin paint is known for its high performance and durability making it one of the best paints for high-traffic areas throughout the home. Satin paint’s tight pores make it an excellent choice for areas that need to be cleaned often, withstanding marks from food stains, dirt, markers, and liquids. 

Any area where satin has been used throughout the home can easily be cleaned using various everyday cleaning products and will not damage the paint any further. 

While satin doesn’t hide the various imperfections on surfaces as well as flat or matte paints, it still hides minor imperfections because of its mid-sheen. This makes it a better choice than high-gloss paints for areas with numerous minor imperfections. 

Satin will provide finished surfaces with relatively accurate colors as they typically only reflect a portion of light when compared to high gloss paints. This means that in a light with an average amount of natural light shining in, the color should remain consistent throughout the room. 

The Downside to Flat Finishes

While there are numerous benefits to using flat finishes, such as their excellent coverage and ability to hide various imperfections, they also have a few disadvantages, which we will talk about below. 

Flat paints are typically much less flexible and tough when compared to durable paints such as satin and gloss. This makes it more susceptible to various issues, such as everyday wear and tear, and will typically need to be touched up more often than satin paints. 

Because of their low durability, this makes them the wrong choice for areas of the home that have a high traffic level, such as doorways and hallways, as you’ll typically end up with finger and hand prints on the walls. Nor are they suitable for anywhere that receives an adequate amount of moisture, as the finished surface will soak it up.

Scratches and scuffs appear much more often in flat paints than in any other variety, and scrubbing can actually remove the paint. So, cleaning a flat finish usually isn’t the best idea as it will typically damage the paint job. 

The Downside to Satin Finishes

There are various advantages to satin finishes, such as their long-term durability and the cleaning aspects, which makes them an excellent choice; however, there are also a few disadvantages which we will list below: 

Satin paints are typically much harder to touch up when compared to flat or matte finishes. This is due to their reflective nature and thick finish. Thus, when you try to touch up a satin surface, you’ll often see the border of the touched-up area, as it doesn’t blend in very well. 

They aren’t suitable for walls or ceilings with various medium to large imperfections. While satin can be considered better at hiding minor imperfections when compared to high gloss finishes, they don’t hide imperfections as well as flat finishes. This is because the light that they do reflect can highlight the medium-sized blemishes and dents. 

If you’re trying to paint your room or home on a budget, then satin is probably not the best choice as it usually costs a lot more per gallon when compared to matte or flat paint and doesn’t cover as much surface area per gallon as the latter. 

Where to Use Flat Paints?

Flat paints are best suited to jobs and rooms around the home, which cover a large surface area such as walls and ceiling and can help aid in hiding various imperfections that are on this surface, such as minor dents, bumps, and scratches, because of its low reflective nature. 

A flat finish is an excellent choice for anywhere in the home with a low level of human traffic, such as the ceiling and bedroom walls. On top of this, as they are harder to clean, it is advised that they are not used on doors, wooden frames, and window sills. However, they are the best choice for new construction projects which have a lot of drywall. 

So overall, flat paints are an excellent choice for large surface areas both inside the home and on the exterior. They are much cheaper than satin and gloss paints per gallon. Thus, they are great for anyone who’s trying to paint their home on a budget. 

Where to Use Satin Paints?

Satin paints provide a durable and long-lasting finish that can easily be cleaned, making them the best choice for various high-traffic areas such as doorways, doors, wooden frames, banisters, and wooden trim throughout the home. 

Because of their durability and lacquer-like finish, they are an excellent choice for various rooms within the home that receive a high level of moisture, such as bathrooms and kitchens. This is because the paint will not seep into the wall but instead be pushed back out towards the extraction fan. 

What to Go For: Satin or Flat Paint?

So, as you can see, there are various differences between flat and satin points, and each of them has its various advantages and disadvantages; it’s easy to see why these are two of the most used paints for various decoration and construction projects. 

The major difference between flat and satin paints is the level of sheen you’ll receive on a finished surface. So, depending on what you are planning to paint within the home will ultimately decide which finish you opt for. 

If you’re going to be painting walls and ceilings, you’ll more than likely opt for a flat finish, as this will hide the various small imperfections and blemishes. This will give your rooms a smooth finish that absorbs light as opposed to reflecting it. 

Flat also offers you better coverage per gallon; thus, it’s cheaper to use. This means that if you have large surface areas to cover, such as ceilings and bedroom walls throughout the home, you’ll probably want to opt for a flat finish. 

However, if you’re going to be painting doors and the wooden trim throughout the home or bathroom and kitchen walls which receive an adequate amount of moisture, then you’ll probably want to go for a durable satin finish. 

Final Thoughts

So, now that we have discussed all the various differences between flat and satin paints, you’re ready to decide for yourself which finish will suit your next project. Just remember to plan out the project first and use the tips provided in this article to ensure that you choose the correct finish for the specific job. 

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