Satin vs Flat: Where is it Ideal to Use?

Are you confused about how satin vs flat paints makes a difference in your room? 

Both can give you benefits and drawbacks, depending on your preferred style and most importantly, your budget. Thus, we’re here to give you ideas of satin and flat paint differences.

The big difference between satin vs flat paint finish is their sheen level. Satin paint gives a velvety or pearl-like sheen, ideal to use in high-traffic areas like kitchens and bathrooms. While, flat paint reflects light very low to almost none, giving a matte finish look and suitable for areas like bedrooms, ceilings, and living rooms.

Apart from their level of sheen, satin and flat paint also have gaps in terms of durability, maintenance, and cost. 

So we’re here to further discuss their differences and elements that you need for your preferable rooms or DIY projects.

What is the difference between flat and satin?

Flat and satin paint can be confusing because both give little difference in terms of appearance. However, satin and flat paint do have unique differences regarding their durability, maintenance, preferable areas to use, and cost.

To further know the difference between flat and satin paint, you can check the table below:

Differences in:Satin paintFlat paint
Sheen Level26-40%<5%
Ease to applyharder to apply especially in touch-ups
use top to the bottom technique in applying
easy to apply
blend well in touch-ups
zig-zag method using a roller is applicable
Durabilitymore durableless durable
Usesbest in heavy traffic areas and hardworking rooms like kitchens and bathroomsbest in low-traffic areas like bedrooms, home offices, and study rooms
Maintenanceregular maintenance, easy to cleanlow maintenance, hard to scrub
Visibilityhighlight some dents and marksbetter hides imperfections and holes
Resistancemoisture-resistance, stain-resistance, mold and mildew resistancewater-resistant but rough scrubbing will peel its paint
Coveragefair coveragefull coverage
CostSatin costs $20 more than flat paint on average
RecommendedSatin paint Flat paint

Satin vs flat appearance

Flat paint reflects light very little or almost zero, which gives a richer and more in-depth visual of colors. Its matte finish look is ideal to use if you have dark or strong colors, though it still depends on your preferences.

On the other hand, a satin paint finish velvety look is suitable if you want your rooms to have a cozy atmosphere. Its subtle shine makes white, neutral, or lighter colors ideal to use for satin paint.

Satin vs flat texture

Satin paint gives a smooth-to-the-touch surface, but in terms of coverage, flat paint finish is better suited. 

Although flat paint offers better coverage, its surface gives a smooth chalky-to-touch feeling because it doesn’t have a gloss that makes the surface completely smooth.

Satin vs flat durability

Satin paint finish offers better durability because it’s moisture-resistant and can withstand wear and tear compared to flat paint. Satin paint also can stand against mold and mildew and is easier to clean.

On the contrary, flat paint attracts dirt and dust and doesn’t have stain resistance. It’s also hard to clean and scrubbing might peel its paint. Thus, satin paint is better suited for a long-lasting paint finish.

Satin vs flat cost

Flat and satin paint has about more than a $20 money difference. Take for example this table comparing satin and flat from the same brand of Rust-Oleum. 

Rust-Oleum Interior Wall Paint Flat$41.82
Rust-Oleum Satin Black$71.12

What is satin paint?

Satin paint finish reflects little light, with a 26-40% sheen level, giving a soft glow to your rooms or art crafts. It has more binder than flat paint; the more binder, the glossier, which explains the subtle shine satin paint offers.

The glossier the paint, the more durable it is. Thus, satin paint is highly durable than flat paint. The satin paint finish is also commonly used to make the rooms bigger with an average drying time of 1-2 hours.

Apart from these, satin paint still has a lot to offer as well as some of its disadvantages which are the following:

Pros

  • Best in high-traffic areas, trims, moldings, baseboards, and woodwork
  • Gives a pearl-like sheen and smooth surface
  • Ideal to use for kitchen cabinets, desks, and tables
  • Can withstand wear and tear and daily maintenance
  • Stain-resistant
  • Highlight the natural colors of the wood
  • Ideal for DIY crafters for subtle shine
  • Easier to clean than flat paint

Cons

  • Doesn’t hide all imperfections
  • Dirt and dust is noticeable than flat paint
  • Touch-ups tend to create lines, highlighting uneven sheen
  • Dry longer than flat paint
  • Rough scrubbing might lose its sheen

Types of Satin Finish Products

The satin finish offers different varieties of products for the needs of your room, art, or DIY craft. These products provide the subtle shine of a satin finish, though they also differ in their purpose.

Hence, if you’re still stuck on what kind of product to use, we recommend the following:

  • Paint finishes
  • Clear coat finishes
  • Wood stain
  • Aerosol spray paint finishes
  • Varnish finishes
  • Finishing wax
  • Sealants
  • Polyurethane

Satin Paint Finishes

Satin paint finish is not only best for high-traffic areas, but also for hard-working areas, too, like kitchens and bathrooms. For satin paint, we recommend using Rust-Oleum Latex Paint or KILZ Complete Coat.

If you want to use a latex paint finish, we recommend using latex or oil primer. This is also applicable if you use flat latex paint.

Satin Clear Coat Finishes

Satin clear coat finish is ideal to use for workpieces. It also gives a different glow to the existing paint or stain used on a workpiece. We recommend using Krylon for the clear coatings of your paintings.

Satin Wood Stain

Satinwood finish is popular to use in workpieces that usually place in heavy foot traffic areas, like hallways and stairs. It’s available in water-based and oil-based formulas. We recommend using this wood stain for better protection of wood surfaces.

Satin Aerosol Spray Paints

Since touch-ups tend to create lines in a satin finish, using spray paints will give a soft look so touch-ups can blend. With satin spray paints, it’ll also be easier to apply touch-ups.

With this, Rust-Oleum Satin Aerosols got you covered with its fast-drying formula within 30 minutes dry to the touch.

Satin Varnishes

Satin varnishes are a popular choice for your artwork’s subtle glow. It gives protection and retains the color of the paint or wood floors. However, the color may look slightly lighter after using a satin varnish because of how it reflects the light. 

Satin Finishing Wax

Satin finishing wax is not only used to give a slightly glossy look to the wood surfaces, but it also serves as a scratch-remover and polish before applying a new paint finish. Satin finishing wax can also be used on bare wood, highlighting the natural color of the wood.

Satin Sealants

Like primer, sealants are also used as a based product for protection and give a long-lasting paint finish. You can use Folk Art Sealer for your DIY crafts and paintings, for a durable and smooth sealer. 

Satin Polyurethane

Satin polyurethane gives more depth of color and is popular to use indoors. We recommend using oil-based satin polyurethane for a shinier and more in-depth color.


What is satin paint best for?

Satin paint’s subtle glow makes it best to use in certain areas at home, especially if you want a cozy atmosphere. It’s also preferable for homes that have trees outside because satin paint can easily clean algae and mud.

However, its subtle shine can also be used as a finish for your paintings, or DIY crafts. Here we provide lists of where you can use satin paint:

  • Kitchen
  • Bathroom
  • Hallways
  • Dining room
  • Family room
  • Interior trim
  • Garage
  • Furniture
  • Canvas

For a more detailed discussion on where satin paint is best to use, you can check our other posts: satin vs gloss article and Satin vs Matte.


What is flat paint?

The flat paint finish is known for its matte finish look because it has zero reflection of light. It’s also called cover-up paint for it gives a better job of hiding imperfections than satin paint.

Flat paint has a low binder but has more pigment, so it covers well and is cost-effective. This makes flat paint also a popular choice for home builders. 

However, flat paint is usually made of water-soluble, making the paint lose after constant cleaning.

Although flat paint is less durable, it still has many advantages that can offer to you, yet also drawbacks that you need to keep in mind.

Pros

  • Easier to apply since touch-ups blend together
  • Best to use in low-traffic areas like bedrooms, ceilings, and home offices
  • Low-maintenance
  • Dries quickly around 30 minutes or so
  • Gives full coverage

Cons

  • can’t withstand wear and tear
  • attracts dirt and dust
  • harder to clean than satin paint
  • peel off the paint after a few years

Types of Flat Finish Products

Like satin paint, a flat finish also offers different varieties of products for your DIY projects and paint jobs. If you haven’t know what to use, we recommend the following type of flat paint products:

  • Paint finishes
  • Clear coat finishes
  • Wood stain
  • Aerosol spray paint finishes
  • Varnish finishes
  • Sealants
  • Polyurethane

Flat Paint Finishes

The flat paint finish is best to use on walls and even exterior bricks since it can cover blemishes and scuff marks. That also explains why touch-ups are not that difficult when you use flat paint, since lines are almost invisible to sight.

Hence, we recommend using flat paint for an easy-to-apply finish on your ceilings or walls.

Flat Clear Coat Finishes

The flat clear coat is not only ideal to use for walls, but you can also use it for car paint coats, wood, and plastic for your DIY project. Aside from hiding dents and scratches, a flat clear coat also gives your canvas or wall surfaces a vintage look.

Flat Wood Stain

Wood stains certainly give natural wood its life. This is no different if you use a flat wood stain. It will add color and tint to any wood surface without reflection.

Thus, we recommend Minwax finishing wax for it gives better protection to the wood.

Flat Aerosol Spray Paints

Flat spray paints provide the same quality you get when you use flat paint. It can be used for both interior and exterior surfaces such as masonry, bricks, and wood. Its drying time takes about 2-4 hours.

Flat Varnishes

If it’s about varnishes, we recommend using Liquitex products for they give a non-yellowish varnish after it dries. It’s also best at protecting finished canvas or artwork while maintaining its paint color.

However, in terms of varnishes, there is no flat varnish, only matte. Which is technically a bit shinier (around 5% shinier) than flat.

Flat Sealants

Flat sealers are ideal to use for protecting your canvas and maintaining the rich and in-depth color of paint. It’s also easy to apply and dries quickly. Flat sealers are also applicable to use in indoor or outdoor projects.

Flat Polyurethane

Flat polyurethane is available in cans form and sprays. It’s ideal to use in highlighting the natural color of the wood and hiding any scratches on surfaces since it doesn’t reflect light at all. Thus, flat polyurethane is suited for low-foot traffic surfaces. 


When should I use flat paint?

Flat paint is ideal to use in areas that need to cover holes and blemishes on walls. Since it can’t stand against regular cleaning, you should be mindful of where to use flat paint. Thus, we provide recommended areas that you can follow:

  • Bedroom
  • Family room
  • Ceiling
  • Home office
  • Exterior
  • Study room
  • Car paint

A. Bedrooms and Home Offices

Flat paint reflects light very little with less than 5% of the sheen level. Its full coverage and non-reflective surface make it ideal in low-traffic areas such as bedrooms, study rooms, family rooms, and home offices.

These mentioned areas can or can’t be ideal, depending if you use these rooms frequently. However, if your room doesn’t face constant cleaning, then flat paint is a good choice.

If you’ve decided now to choose flat paint, we recommend Sherwin-Williams products. Its flat paints offer exceptional washability, though still depending on how you frequently clean your rooms.

B. Ceilings and Exteriors

Flat paint is also the best choice for ceilings because it gives full coverage and conceals holes and stains. The same goes for exteriors and car paints since flat paint hide flaws and dents plus, it doesn’t require regular maintenance.

For exterior paints, we recommend Glidden products, known for their outstanding protection on wood surfaces. Sherwin-Williams products are best for the automotive finish.


Is satin or flat paint better?

The satin paint finish is better when it comes to durability and long-lasting paint on your walls since it’s moisture-resistant. While flat paint is the ideal choice to hide those holes and patches on the walls and gives full coverage.

Satin vs flat spray paint

Satin spray paint gives a velvety and smooth surface on the walls, while flat spray paint gives a matte finish look. Since flat paint has no shine at all, it’s best to use hiding scuff marks and flaws.

On the other hand, satin paint offers a subtle shine, around 26-40%, making it reflective and easier to clean. This makes satin paint finish an ideal choice if you want to achieve a durable and long-lasting paint finish.


Can you make flat paint satin?

Yes, it’s possible to change your flat paint into satin paint by applying a layer of a clear coat of gloss paint. However, before applying, clean any dirt or dust and cover holes for a smooth surface. You can use a wet and soft cloth while lightly tapping to clean the surface.

If you want to do some tests before the full application, you can try the sample finish on the surface and let it dry for 2-4 hours. We recommend using a varnish if you want to add a more glossy finish until you achieve the subtle shine of satin paint.


Can you make the satin paint flat?

Yes, you can turn satin paint into flat paint, by applying a flat coat. Before applying, make sure to clean the surface, and cover the holes and patches using a putty knife. It’s advisable to apply a primer using a roller or brush before applying the flat paint for long-lasting painting.

Sanding can be another option because it has higher grit which makes the paint stay on the wall. However, it’s more time-consuming and needs more work.

Always put masks and gloves while applying and avoid putting new paint in unventilated areas for its hazardous chemicals might affect your health. For testing, you can put some finish and let it dry for 2-4 hours before applying for the full coverage.

Can you mix satin and flat paint?

Yes, mixing satin and flat paint gives an eggshell finish look. However, if not properly mixed, it’ll result in an uneven sheen. For better results in mixing, we recommend using a mechanical mixer.


Satin vs flat vs semi gloss vs eggshell

Among satin vs flat vs semi-gloss vs eggshell, you can actually differentiate them by their level of sheen. Flat paint is the lowest sheen of all, with only less than 5% of gloss. Eggshell only has a little difference in gloss, with 10-25%. Next in line is satin paint with 26-40% and semi-gloss with 41-69%.

Semi-gloss paint has the highest gloss among the four paints, so it’s more reflective. With their level of sheens, we recommend where to use them in certain areas at home where you can check below:

AreasFlatEggshellSatinSemi-gloss
Bedrooms
Living rooms
Playrooms
Dining rooms
Family rooms
Hallways
Exterior
Kitchens
Bathrooms
Ceilings
Trims
Doors
Interior furniture
Skirting boards
Garage
Car paint

FAQs

Does flat paint look lighter than satin?

Flat paint has more pigment which makes the paint stay true to its color. However, it may look a little lighter than a satin finish because, with satin, color may alter from its subtle shine.

Does satin or flat paint cost more?

Since flat paint has no shine at all, it’s cheaper than satin paint. On average, satin vs flat paint cost has a $5 difference. Thus, many home builders use flat paint because it’s cost-effective and gives full coverage than a satin finish.

Is white paint better satin or flat?

It all depends on the purpose if you’re stuck between satin vs flat white paint. If you want to patch holes and imperfections, then flat paint is the better option. Flat white paint is the best to use in ceilings.

However, if you’ll use white paint for fresh new paint, a satin finish can help you achieve a smooth new surface.

Is black better satin or flat black?

Using satin vs flat black can give a different look to your car paint. If you want easy-to-clean and a little reflective paint, then go for satin black. But if you’re looking for low maintenance and hides dents and scratches, we recommend using flat black.

Can you use flat paint over satin or satin paint over flat?

You can both apply paint over another paint. It’s possible to change the sheen by applying flat over satin. But if you want to add gloss to your flat paint, putting satin over flat paint is also possible. In fact, you can even mix the two, giving an eggshell finish if it’s mixed properly.


Final Note

When it comes to hiding holes and imperfections, flat paint is best to do the job. But if you want a soft glow, durable and long-lasting paint, satin paint is preferable. 

We hope that we helped you decide what’s the best sheen to use between flat and satin finish with all this information. May you have a good day!