What’s the Difference Between Semi-Gloss and Satin Paint?

Satin vs Semi-Gloss Paint

When you go to the paint store, you will see many different types of colors, types, and finishes that might be confusing at first.

This includes different amounts of gloss which means that the finish may range from almost matte to very bright and reflective.

It’s not surprising that semi-gloss (between high gloss and matte) is one of the most popular types of finishes for paints you can find.

Semi-gloss strikes the balance of being easy to clean while not being so reflective that it is unattractive or overwhelming.

In other words, when it’s doubtful most people choose semi-gloss and they are happy with the results.

However, many semi-gloss paints are confused with a type of paint finish known as satin.

So, let’s get into the difference between them to solve the issue which will help you choose the right one.

Satin Vs. Semi-Gloss Paint

The main difference between satin vs semi-gloss paint is in the shine that is achieved on the surface once the paint has been applied.

In simple terms, a glossy or a semigloss paint finish reflects relatively more light and hence it’s shinier than a finish achieved by satin paint.

Satin paints, which are sometimes called eggshell paints because they give off the appearance of an eggshell.

These finishes are smooth which makes them easy to clean with just a little scrubbing.

Standard semi-gloss and satin finishes are both available in a variety of different refinishing products such as:

  • Paints and stains
  • Aerosol spray paints
  • Polyurethane, clear coats and varnishes
  • Wood sealants and furniture waxes

If you find yourself at the paint store and choosing between semi-gloss and satin paints, here are a few key differences that you need to know.

Satin Vs. Semi-Gloss PaintSatin PaintSemi-Gloss Paint
ShineDull shineRich glossy shine
Used forWindows, doors, trim, or ceilingsWalls in bedroom, living room
DurabilityLess durableMore durable
AppearanceThe smooth, velvety lookThe smooth, shining look
Ease of cleaningRequires more effort for cleaningEasier to clean off
WaterproofSlightly waterproofWater-resistant and can be washed
Ability to hide imperfectionsShows only major imperfectionsShows even the minor imperfections
semi gloss vs satin paint finish

How Paints are Used?

Although both paints can be used on the same surfaces, semi-gloss tends to be more popular for areas of the home such as the bathroom, kitchen, and cabinets.

Mostly because it is easier to clean and maintain compared to satin paints.

Satin paints tend to be used more around windows, ceilings, walls, and doors.

You will often find them used in bedrooms with children.

The lower amount of gloss and velvet appearance is generally more appealing for such rooms compared to semi-gloss.

Gloss Percentage

The most basic difference is that semi-gloss paint has about a 50% mix of gloss.

Whereas satin paint has about a 30% mix of gloss.

While the 20% difference may not seem like much at first, it does mean getting different results.

Different Finishes

The most subtle difference between the satin and semi-gloss paint is in their finishing.

This is one of the most important for those who want to get a specific kind of finishing from the paint.

Semi-gloss paints tend to show all the bumps, dips, and imperfections of the wall surface.

This means that any imperfection that you covered with the semi-gloss paint will still show.

Satin paints however offer less of a shine which helps to cover such imperfections especially if they are small.

The result is a clear paint finish that gives off the appearance of a smooth surface when in fact there are bumps, dips, and other imperfections present.

The Difference in the Price

The difference you may notice right away while at the paint store is the price.

Semi-gloss paints tend to be more expensive compared to satin paints.

That is because semi-gloss tends to be easier to clean and more durable which puts them in higher demand.

While satin paints have their uses, they tend to be less expensive, less durable, and somewhat harder to clean.

Now that you know the basic differences, you can choose the best one suited for your needs.

Just remember that while both are similar, clear semi-gloss is easier to clean and maintain which is why it costs more.

Can You Paint Satin Over Semi-Gloss?

There are few paints that can match the luster and shine of satin.

Satin offers other advantages as well which include being easier to clean compared to flat paint, hiding surface imperfections, and even not showing dirt to the same degree as semi-gloss.

For those who want to give their current semi-gloss paint a once-over, adding a couple of coats of satin paint may do the trick.

This is particularly true if you do not want to sand away the old semi-gloss. Or, if the semi-gloss present may contain lead.

Either way, adding a coat of satin paint may save you considerable time and effort compared to preparing the surface for fixing up the semi-gloss.

Getting Started

You’ll need to know if the semi-gloss paint that currently covers the walls or ceiling is either oil or water-based.

You will want to choose a satin paint that uses the same base and color.

If you are not sure, test a small area of the paint with a cotton ball you have soaked with rubbing alcohol.

Rub the cotton ball against the paint in that one spot and if you see color on the ball, it is water-based.

Oil-based paints will not transfer to the cotton ball.


Before covering with satin paint, you will need to clean the walls using the following solution.

  • ½ Cup of Ammonia per Gallon of Warm Water

Use a clean rag to dip into the solution and wipe the walls clean.

Although highly diluted, you may want to wear rubber or latex gloves and keep the room well ventilated.

If you are in the kitchen, then focus on getting rid of any grease or grime buildup.

After you clean with the solution, wipe the walls again with warm water only to remove any ammonia residue.

Prepare the Surface

Now, remove all objects including hooks, plates, handles, and the like from the walls.

Remember that if you have chosen the color of satin paint that closely matches the semi-gloss paint on the walls, you will not have to do any further preparation.

But if the colors are significantly different, then you will need to sand and prime the walls.

  • Use drop cloths on the floors and furnishings to catch drips
  • Secure edges of the drop cloths with painter’s tape
  • Improve paint adhesion by etching with stiff-bristle brush, especially around door and window edges.
  • Open can and stir paint with wooden stick
  • Use two-inch brush to apply paint to door and window edges

Painting Satin Paint Over Semi-Gloss

Once the edges are completed, use a paint roller to cover the rest of the walls. Paint in sections of four to six feet with a single coat.

Keep going until all the surfaces are covered with the first coat of paint.

Paint the second coat using a side-to-side method. Paint all the walls until it looks even.

After the paint dries, touch up any areas that are needed. And that is how you can put satin paint over semi-gloss.

If you need more assistance, you can work with a professional house painter.

They can help you get the work done with all professionalism and with little to no mess.

can you paint satin over semi gloss

Can You Change Semigloss Paint into Satin?

Yes, it is certainly possible to turn semigloss paint into satin.

However, there are few reasons you should not do it in the first place.

The first and the most obvious is, semigloss paint is comparatively expensive and comes with a better finish than satin.

Secondly, the problem with making semi-gloss paint into satin is you cannot exactly know how shiny or flat the finish will turn out to be.

Plus, you will also require mixing some flat paint (of the same shade) to mix with the semigloss for making it satin.

This will again be messy to recreate if you happen to finish the prepared paint early without completing the entire project.

However, if you want to change semigloss paint into satin for a fairly small project it will not be an issue.

You can follow the steps below for making this up;

Step 1 – Add semigloss paint

Pour some of the semigloss paint into a bucket while keeping the other remaining part aside.

Step 2 – Add flat paint

Add the same amount of matching flat paint to the bucket.

Step 3 – Mix both paints

Mix them well.

You can use a stirrer or a drill and an attachment tool for mixing the paints evenly.

Step 4 – Test on a small surface

Apply a sample of paint by dabbing a bit of prepared paint to the small surface you intend to paint.

After it has dried, look at the applied paint from different angles to examine the finish.

Step 5 – Add more if required

Since you are getting the customized sheen this way, you can add a bit more paint according to the finish you want to have.

Add some semigloss for more sheen OR add more flat paint for less sheen, until you get the satisfactory gloss and sheen.

Step 6 – Retest to get the desired look

Re-test by applying the paint to a small area.

So, Which One is Better Semi-Gloss or Satin Finish?

Well, as both types of paints have their own pros and cons, the answer will majorly depend on your project requirements.

A semigloss is an ideal finish that can protect surfaces better.

It can take all the possible scrubbing in the areas like the living room, bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom.

Also, its ability to resist water or moisture makes it a viable option for high-traffic areas such as these.

Although satin paint (with a sheen between flat and semigloss) also serves all these purposes, its less sheen makes it a lesser attractive.

However, its ability to hide the imperfections better makes it better than semigloss, especially if you have bare walls that are not well-finished or smoothened.

Considering the advantages and disadvantages of both, you should pick the one that is easily manageable for you.

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