What is the Difference Between Flat and Satin Paint?

Satin vs flat paint

Painting often proves a tough, yet rewarding, job.

And while there’s no denying the physical labor involved; the most difficult part of the process often proves mental.

Which rooms should you paint—and what color?

How much should you budget to get the job done? Should you try painting yourself or contract out the work?

The list goes on and on. One of the most important considerations you’ll have to make is choosing which kind of paint is right for your job.

In this case, you’ll likely be choosing between satin and flat paint.

Both of these popular options have their advantages and disadvantages that make them suitable for different uses.

But the basic difference between flat and satin which you must understand is that of sheen or shine.

While satin paint comes with a slight luster, flat paint has virtually no shine.

Below, we’ll go over the details along with the unique characteristics of each of these popular types of paint so that you can get the best use out of them for your project.

Satin Paint Vs Flat PaintSatin PaintFlat Paint
ShineSlightly shiningZero shine
FinishGlossy, added sheenVelvety, matte look
DurabilityHighly durable and longer-lastingLess durable and does not last longer
CleaningCan be easily cleaned and scrubbedCan be cleaned but cant resist scrubbing
MoistureMoisture-resistantCan not resist moisture
Ease of applicationA bit complicated to applyEasy to apply
Hiding imperfectionsHighlights imperfections like cracks, patches, and divots on wallGood to hide all kinds of wall imperfections
Best used for areasHigh traffic areas, brick exteriors, and hardworking rooms, like kitchens and bathroomsLiving rooms, bedrooms, basement, storage, etc

What is Flat Paint?

For starters, let’s take a look at flat paint.

Perhaps one of the most popular types of interior paints, flat paint is a cheaper and easier-to-use option.

It is a type of paint that offers a minimum reflective finish. It has comparatively more pigment than any other finish and it dries very quickly.

Due to the kind of finish, it offers it’s also called concealer paint or matte paint.

Despite this, it does come with a few significant drawbacks of which you should be aware.

Most notably, flat paint collects dust and is very easily damaged when cleaned.

This means that you can’t expect to do any hard scrubbing and could even damage your wall unwittingly with something as mundane as dropped silverware.

For this reason, it is generally recommended that flat paint be used on ceilings and other low-traffic areas of the house.

Keep in mind, however, that flat paint proves great at hiding any blemishes you may have on the walls.

Because it is not reflective, it won’t highlight any of your wall’s imperfections—making it great for low-traffic areas in which you need to cover up a few spots.

This is another reason why it’s so great for the ceiling because it’s here that you often find the most imperfections.

What is Satin Paint?

Satin paint (also known as satinwood) is a kind of paint finish that offers a velvety feel along with a beautiful luster.

It’s slightly less lustrous than semi-gloss.

But the sheen is a bit higher than eggshell which makes them more reflective.

Depending on the lighting conditions in your room it can appear to be flat or glossy.

Since satin finishes are highly durable it is considered a great paint option for high-traffic areas (like bathroom, kitchen, and kid’s room).

Plus, it’s easy to wipe clean satin finishes just by using soapy water.

You should avoid using any abrasive scrubs as they can make the surface lose its sheen.

Difference between Satin and Flat Paint

Satin vs. Flat Paint: Which One is Right for You?

Not sure which type of paint you should use for your job?

Let’s take a look at both satin and flat paint, and compare them over different aspects.

And hopefully, by the end of this article, you will be able to decide which one is the right paint product for you…

1- Cost

If you’re on a tight budget, deciding which paint to use based on cost might be your only option.

Keep in mind, however, that choosing the cheaper paint might not always give you the best look in all rooms or areas.

With that in mind, flat paint proves to be the cheaper of the two options.

While satin paint jobs typically start around $250 and can cost up to double that depending on the size of the room, flat paint generally costs around $200 to $400.

This makes it the better option if you’re looking at price alone, should you decide to contract out the labor.

If you plan to paint the rooms yourself, you can save money, but still, you’ll find that flat paint is cheaper to buy.

Whereas flat paint typically runs anywhere from $10 to $45 a gallon, you’ll spend about $20 to $50 per gallon on satin paint.

Primer is typically more expensive for satin paint, too–$30-$60 for satin, as opposed to $10-35 for flat.

2- Appearance

If cost isn’t your main concern, you likely care about the appearance of your completed project.

In this case, you’ll also see an appreciable difference in flat and satin paint.

Because the two paints have a different chemical makeup, they’re each better suited for certain types of surfaces.

For instance, flat paint has a matte finish which makes it a better option for painting walls and surfaces that have blemishes and imperfections.

That’s because they’ll better hide little bumps and cracks and keep them from being visible in the final paint job.

Satin paint, on the other hand, boasts a sleeker, glossier finish that reflects light differently.

Because of this, using satin paint to cover a wall that’s not perfectly smooth will draw attention to any imperfections.

3- Intended Use

With this in mind, it makes sense to consider which paint you choose based on what you intend to use it for.

Though flat paint better hides surface blemishes, it also attracts dirt and proves harder to clean.

In fact, you may find that trying to clean a wall covered in flat paint actually removes a portion of the paint.

Because of that, it is typically recommended that flat paint be used to cover surfaces that aren’t frequently touched—such as ceilings or walls in rooms not often used.

Satin paint, on the other hand, proves durable—even in moist environments.

Because of this, it’s a great option for painting family rooms, bedrooms, and even bathrooms.

4- Ease of Application

In many ways, the application process starts off the same.

That’s because you’re going to want to make sure that your wall is clean and devoid of any debris before you start your paint job.

Additionally, it’s a good idea to sand down any bumps or blemishes so that you have a clean, even finish when you’re done.

As mentioned, this proves especially important if you’re painting a wall with satin paint, as its reflective nature will eventually highlight any blemishes you’ve left behind.

Next, you’ll want to invest in a quality primer so that you can get more out of your paint job.

By using a primer first, you can ensure that your paint stays on your wall longer.

When you get to the meat of the application process, you’ll find that flat latex paint is the easier of the two to apply.

What makes the two different is that, unlike satin paint that has a sheen, flat paint can be applied to the wall without regard to maintaining a leading edge of wet paint.

For this reason, many simply apply flat paint with a roller in zig-zagging patterns before filling in the gaps.

For the best results, be sure to apply more than one coat.

Satin paint proves much more difficult to apply because if you apply wet paint over dry paint, it will show up as darker when dry.

For this reason, make sure that you apply satin paint top to bottom, leading with the wet edge.

Make sure to space evenly so that you don’t have to worry about accidentally applying another coat of paint over your dry coat.

5- Durability

As mentioned, flat paint absorbs different dirt and debris.

This means that you’ll likely need to repaint more often if you choose to go with flat paint.

Satin paint, though more expensive and harder to apply, lasts longer and doesn’t need to be cleaned as often.

When it does need to be cleaned, it can usually be very easily washed, making it the far more durable of the two.

6- Maintenance

Finally, flat paint is harder to maintain because of the difficulty in cleaning it.

Not only does it trap dirt and debris, but it proves especially hard to clean without accidentally removing the paint.

Satin latex paint, on the other hand, can stand up to scrubbing, making it the easier of the two options to clean.

For this reason, consider using satin paint in high-traffic areas of your house.

can you mix flat and satin paint

Can You Make Flat Paint Satin?

The glossiness, the shine, or the finish of a particular paint is generally decided by the ratio of pigment volume and binder it contains.

Simply saying, the more pigment your paint contains, the flatter it will look when painted on the walls.

For any reason, if you want to make flat paint satin (i.e. to look glossier or shinier) you can do it by adding more binder to it.

Whereas if you want to flatten glossy paint, you can do that by adding more pigment.

With all the above information in mind, we have 3 easy ways by which you can turn flat paint into satin. These are:

1- Mix flat and satin

This is the simplest method where you can mix flat and satin paints together to get the right finish.

For turning flat paint into satin, you will need to add the flat and satin paint in about the same ratio.

Mixing more satin can give you semigloss or glossy finishes. So make sure you add the amount according to the finish you want to get.

2- Gloss up the flat finish

Another good way to make flat paint look satin is by adding a coat of clear, glossy varnish over the already painted wall with flat paint (no matter latex or oil).

This will easily give a glossy facelift to your walls without the hassle of removing old paint and repainting it with something new.

3- Add glazing compound or varnish

Just as we mixed flat and satin paint in the 1st method, this method requires you to add a bit of glazing compound or varnish to the flat paint.

The only difference here is you will need to add the varnish and flat paint in a ratio of 1:10.

If you want an extra shinier look from the flat paint you can add more varnish incrementally.

Tips and Precautions when Mixing Flat and Satin Paints

1)- Remember – flat paint is coarse and if you are mixing other finishes to transform its look the two of them should be mixed thoroughly for getting the best results.

You should start slowly by pouring half of the flat paint into a bucket.

Then add the semi-gloss or satin finish gradually to attain the right finish. Stir the mixture properly to ensure smooth application on walls.

2)- Since you can always add more satin, but can’t remove the excess of it, you should always start with small quantities.

Note down the amounts you are mixing. This will help replicate the process in case you require mixing more paint in the future.

3)- To get the desired finish and color apply a small test patch on the surface. Let it dry for 2-4 hours.

And if you get the desired sheen go ahead.

If you are not satisfied with the glossiness you can add more to the mixture and retest.

Make sure you keep on testing the paint on the wall surface until you get the right finish.

Can You Use Flat Paint Over Satin Paint?

Yes, you can paint over satin paint with flat to get the desired finish.

However, you will need to prepare your walls first for the change and then follow the right steps.

Plus, you will also need to consider the type of paint that is already present on your walls – whether flat or shiny.  

When you are ready you can follow the following steps:

Step 1:

As a first step, you will need to prep your wall surface for painting.

Start by filling the holes and smoothing the surface using a putty knife.

Step 2:

Make sure you also clean the surface of any dirt or dust.

You can use a damp washcloth for cleaning the walls lightly.

Step 3:

Lightly sand the walls that are already painted with satin to ensure that the primer and flat paint sticks to the wall and remains there for long.

Step 4:

For protection, tape all the ceiling lines, edges, and trim.

Using a good painter’s tape will ensure that the flat paint you use on satin-painted walls does not spread where you don’t want them to.

Step 5:

Before you repaint the walls with a flat, apply the primer using a roller or a brush.

You can use a roller on the entire wall surface and then finish the corners/edges using a small brush.

Reapply the primer once again after drying if required.

Step 6:

After letting the primer dry it’s time to paint the satin-coated walls with a flat finish.

Pour the paint into a bucket/tray.

Then using a roller and brush complete the job. Let the paint dry and recoat if needed.

Reasons Why Builders Prefer Using Flat Paint in New Homes

If flat paint is the more basic of the two options, why is it that it’s commonly used by builders in new homes?

The reasons are simple:

1- It’s Cost-Effective:

Flat paint is cheaper—meaning that they can get their job done with less money and make a bigger profit.

2- It’s Easier to Do Touchups:

The composition of flat paint makes it great for doing a touchup.

Because flat paint can be used to paint over blemishes and dry coats of paint, it’s easy to give walls a touchup when needed—reducing hassle, stress, and cost.

3- It’s Easier to Remember:

If all the walls are done in flat paint, it’s easier to explain to the new homeowner and easier for the homeowner to remember and redo.

4- It’s Good at Hiding Blemishes:

If the builders don’t do a good job, they can better hide imperfections with flat paint.

For these reasons, flat paint is the most popular option among builders when they build a new home.

Remember, however, it’s not the one that you have to use!

The Bottom Line

When discussing the different paints and sheen they provide, flat and satin are the two most important to understand.

Since both of them comes with their pros and cons, there is no one variety that can suit the purpose for all.

After you understand the basic differences between them, it’s important to analyze your budget, requirements, surfaces you want to paint, etc.

While picking the one, ensure that you make the right decision so that you get the right finish while hiding any imperfections.

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