Satin Paint vs Flat Paint (Which One Do You Need?)

When you tell your local retailer that you don’t want a glossy finish, they will recommend that you go for satin or flat paint. That’s because both paints offer the lowest level of sheen or gloss. But what’s the difference between both paints?

The difference between satin paint and flat paint is that satin paint has a higher level of sheen or gloss than flat paint. The higher sheen in the satin paint makes the finish a bit shiny and reflective.

Flat paints due to the absence of sheen in the paint are not reflective or shiny. Instead, flat paints give a dull, dry, and textured finish. Satin paint is also harder and offers better moisture resistance than flat paints. Flat paint offers little moisture resistance and is ideal for decorative items.

What is Satin Paint?

What is Satin Paint?

Satin paint is often considered a mid-gloss paint. The paint has the lowest level of sheen among paints and it comes right after flat paints which have little to no sheen.

Satin paint can be water-based or oil-based. Satin paints are durable and offer good moisture resistance. This makes the paint ideal on wood and other porous surfaces that will require a moisture-resistant finish.

Asides from being moisture resistant, the finish of satin paint reflects light. But, the reflective properties of satin paint aren’t as high as that of high gloss finishes. This is why the finish is considered mid-gloss. It’s a mixture of flat paint and glossy paint.

So what is satin paint used for? Let’s find out.

What is Satin Paint Used For?

  • Satin paint is used to give color to wood.
  • Satin paint is common among DIYers that want a finish with a low sheen.
  • Satin paint is used on household furniture due to its moisture-resistant properties.
  • Satin paint is used on heavily used surfaces like tables, desks, and kitchen cabinets.

What is Flat Paint?

What is Flat Paint?

Flat paints are water-based paints. These paints have the simplest formula in the painting world as they usually contain no additive or sheen. Flat paints also known as matte paints are usually color, water, and a binding agent.

Asides from having very little to no sheen, flat paints are also very thin. The water-based nature of the paint coupled with the fact that it contains no additive makes flat paints have a thin or light flow.

Since the paint is thin and water-based, it dries quickly. Under normal drying conditions, flat paint will dry enough for a recoat in less than 30 minutes.

However, you should know that the paint is not reflective, slick, or glossy. Instead, the finish is usually dry and textured. Flat paints don’t offer great protection but the finish gives the clearest color.

So what is flat paint used for? Let’s take a closer look at that.

What Is Flat Paint Used For?

  • Flat paints are used for painting decorative items and ornaments
  • Flat paints are commonly used to tint or add color to clear paints like polyurethane
  • Flat paints are common in arts and crafts and design work
  • Flat paints are used to hide imperfections and spots
  • Flat paints are used to create a glazed finish
  • Flat paints are also used as primer coatings.

So is flat paint better than satin paint? Let’s find out by comparing both paints.

Flat Paint vs Satin Paint

To compare both paints, we’ll use the different features of each paint and see which is superior.

Here is a table that identifies the main differences between satin paint and flat paint:

 Satin PaintFlat Paint
Level of SheenMid or AverageLittle to no sheen
Moisture ResistanceGoodPoor
Strength and DurabilityGoodAverage
Cleaning and MaintenanceEasyDifficult
Dry Time1-2 hours30-45 minutes
Wood ProtectionGoodPoor

Next, let’s check out these differences in detail.

Level of Sheen

Satin paint has more sheen or gloss in its formula than flat paint. Flat or matte paints have little to no level of sheen.

The presence of sheen in satin paints is why the paint gives a mid-gloss finish. This is also why satin finishes reflect light. Since flat paints don’t have any sheen, they give a matte finish.

Cleaning and Maintenance

Satin paint is easier to clean and maintain than flat paint. You should know that the higher the level of sheen, the easier it will be to clean and maintain the paint.

This is because the presence of sheen in the formula means that stains will not stick to the paint. Since satin paint has more sheen than flat paints, it will be easier to clean and maintain.

Flat paints offer a dry and textured finish. This means that stains and filth will easily stick to the painted surface.

So you will need to clean the flat paint regularly which in itself is not a good routine. If you clean the flat paint frequently, the finish will start to come off since flat paint is not very strong.

Dry Time

Flat paints dry quicker than satin paints. This is because flat paints are water-based. For paint to dry, all the solvent in the paint has to be evaporated.

Since flat paints are usually water-based, the paint will dry faster because the water (or solvent) in the paint will evaporate faster than the oils and gloss in satin paints.

The absence of gloss in flat paints also makes them dry faster than satin paints. On average, flat paints will dry enough for recoat in 30 minutes while satin paints will take at least an hour to become dry enough.

Strength and Durability

Satin paints are stronger and more durable than flat paints. You guessed right – This is because of the presence of gloss in the paint.

The slightly glossy finish of satin paints means that the finish is harder and stronger than the finish of flat paints. As such, satin paints will withstand dents and impacts better than flat paints. Satin paints also last longer than flat paints.

On average, satin paint will last about 6 years if properly maintained before you need to repair it. Flat paints last 5 years at best. On average, flat paints last just about 2 to 3 years. Flat paints generally don’t last a year if the paint is cleaned or used heavily.

Moisture Resistance

Satin paint offers superior moisture resistance. Again, this is because of the slightly glossy finish. The finish repels moisture making it difficult for water to penetrate the satin paint.

Flat paints however are usually water-soluble. Flat paints will absorb moisture if you use them on a surface that will be washed frequently. This will cause the flat paint to bubble and peel off the surface.

You should know that if moisture resistance is what you need, you are better off with a high gloss finish. A high gloss finish repels moisture better than satin, flat, or even semi-gloss finishes.

Paint Application

Paint application of semi-gloss paint is somewhat difficult due to the thick nature of the paint. For instance, to spray the paint, you have to thin it because satin paints are usually too thick to be sprayed on smoothly.

Also, you have to sand off the glossy layer of satin finish before you can apply a recoat. All of these make the paint application more difficult than flat paints.

For flat paints, you don’t have to thin before spraying because the paint is thin enough. You also don’t need to sand between coats because the flat paint has no glossy top coat in its formula.

Number of Coats Required

For proper coverage, you will need more coats of flat paint than satin paint. Since satin paint is thicker, you get more coverage with each coat that you apply.

On average, you only need two coats of satin paint. For flat paints, you need more than 2 coats. 3 coats of flat paint are usually the standard number of coats. This is because flat paint is thinner so you need more for coverage.

However, you should know that this doesn’t affect the flat paint. As long as you leave enough dry time (30 minutes) between coats of flat paint, you can apply more than 3 coats.

For satin paints, you can’t apply more than 3 coats because it will affect the quality of the finish. Also, you would need to sand between coats of satin paint so applying more coats will be tedious.

Wood Protection

Satin paint protects wood better than flat paints because satin paint is stronger and more durable. Also, satin paint offers superior moisture resistance so water wouldn’t damage the wood easily.

Flat paint will also protect your wood but not as well as satin paints. This makes flat paints ideal for decorative surfaces and objects as these items wouldn’t see much use. To make flat paint more protective of wood, you can seal the paint with water-based polyurethane.

The Finish

Satin paints give a mid-gloss finish that reflects light. The finish is also moisture resistant, durable, and strong. Flat paints offer a low gloss finish that is dull and dry. However, flat paints offer the best color and are a great choice for design work.

Should You Buy Satin Paint or Flat Paint?

Here are a few factors to consider before choosing flat or satin paint:

The Paint Cost

Though there isn’t much difference in the costs of both paints, satin paints will cost you a bit more. This should be considered if you want to tackle a large-scale task.

Cleaning and Maintenance

Satin paints are easier to maintain than flat paints. So consider this especially if you have pets in the home. Pet waste, spills, and the likes will come off satin paint better than flat paints.

Moisture Resistance

Satin paints offer superior moisture resistance than flat paints. So if the surface you want to paint will be washed or cleaned with water, it’s better to avoid flat paints.

Dry Time

Flat paints dry faster than satin paints. This makes flat paints ideal for quick fixes and touch-ups.

Final Words

In summary, flat paints and satin paints are both great paints. Both will look good on your surface and offer a low sheen.

The paint you pick ultimately depends on your taste and needs. You should pick satin paint for superior protection and flat paints for a colorful finish.

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