Satin Paint vs Flat Paint (Which One is Better?)

If you don’t want a glossy finish, you should go for satin or flat paint. Both paints offer the lowest level of sheen or gloss. But, what’s the difference between both paints?

The main difference is that satin paint has a higher level of gloss than flat paint. The higher level of 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 harder and has 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 considered a mid-gloss paint. The paint has one of the lowest levels of sheen among paints, 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 for wood and other porous surfaces that will require a moisture-resistant finish.

The finish of satin paint reflects light, but as much as other high-gloss finishes.  This is why the finish is considered mid-gloss. It’s a mixture of flat paint and glossy paint.

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, they contain no additive or sheen. Flat paints, known as matte paints, have a formula of 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, 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.

 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 (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. The higher the level of sheen, the easier it will be to clean and maintain the paint.

Because of the glossy finish satin paint has, the stains and dirt won’t stick to the paint. Since flat paint doesn’t have a sheen finish, the dirt and stains stick easier to the finish. Flat paint has a dry and textured finish.

You have to clean flat paint regularly, and that can make the finish come off since flat paint isn’t durable. 

Dry Time

Flat paint dries faster than satin paint. Flat paints are water-based, and their solvent (water) evaporates faster. So, the absence of gloss makes flat paints dry faster. Flat paint dries enough for a recoat within 30 minutes.

On the other hand, satin paint takes longer to dry. Satin paint is usually oil-based, and their solvent (oil) takes longer to evaporate. Plus, the glossy formula makes the paint dry slower. Satin paint dries enough for a recoat within 1 hour. 

Strength and Durability

Satin paints are stronger and more durable than flat paints. Satin paint takes longer to dry, so the paint particles have more time to bond and become more durable. 

Plus, the glossy formula the satin paint has makes the finish harder and more durable than flat paint. Satin paint lasts longer and can withstand dents and scratches better than flat paint. 

Satin paint will last for about 6 years, while flat paint for 5 years. But, if flat paint is heavily used the paint won’t last a year. 

Moisture Resistance

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

Flat paints are water-soluble. Flat paint will absorb moisture if it’s used on a surface that is washed frequently. The constant contact with water makes the flat paint bubble and peel off the surface.

If you want a moisture-resistant paint, you should pick a high-gloss finish. The more gloss the paint has on its formula, the better it repeals moisture. 

Paint Application

Since satin is thicker, the paint application is harder. To spray satin paint, you need to thin the paint first. Plus, you need to sand each layer of satin paint before you add the next one. This makes the paint application harder for satin paint. 

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

Since satin paint is thicker, you get more coverage with each coat, so you don’t need a lot of coats. On average, you only need two coats of satin paint.

Since flat paint is thinner, you need 3 or more coats to properly cover a surface. However, you can apply more than 3 coats of flat paint as long as you let each coat to dry. 

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.

Flat paint also protects 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 paint offers a low gloss finish that is dull and dry. However, flat paints offer the best color and are a great choice for design work.

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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