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

Two of the most common finishes among DIYers are satin paint and gloss paint. But what’s the difference between both types of paint?

The difference between satin paint and gloss paint is the level of sheen in both paints. Glossy paints are high-gloss finishes because the paint has a high level of sheen which makes the paint shiny when dry. Satin paint on the other hand is a mid-gloss finish because the paint has a lower level of gloss in its formula.

So the finish of satin paint is not as shiny as that of glossy paints. You should know that the high gloss finish of glossy paint is stronger than the mid-gloss finish of satin paints but satin paints dry faster.

What is Satin Paint?

What is Satin Paint?

Satin paint is a mid-gloss finish that can be either water-based or oil-based. Satin paints have more gloss in their formula than flat paints which makes satin finishes look more reflective. However, satin paints aren’t as reflective as semi-gloss or high-gloss finishes.

Satin paints are strong and durable which is why the paint is commonly used on furniture, cabinets, and door trims. The paint also offers a good level of moisture resistance but satin paints take a while to dry. On average, a coat of satin paint will become dry enough for recoat 2 hours after it was applied.

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

What is Satin Paint Used For?

  • Satin paint is commonly used on household furniture
  • Satin paints are used to give color to woods.
  • Satin paints are used to get a glazed finish
  • Satin paints hide imperfections and spots in the surface better than glossier paints

What is Gloss Paint?

What is Gloss Paint?

Gloss or glossy paints are paints that have a high level of sheen in the paint formula. Glossy paints are usually oil-based which is another reason for the very shiny appearance.

You should know that the term “gloss” is a family name. Glossy paint doesn’t refer to one particular paint. Instead, glossy is a term used to refer to paints that generally have a high sheen or gloss in the paint formula.

Due to the high level of gloss in the paint formula, glossy paints reflect the most light. Glossy paints also take a long time to dry. On average, glossy paint will take at least 4 hours to dry enough for recoat and 24 hours to cure. However, you should also know that glossy paints offer great wood protection and moisture resistance.

So what are glossy paints used for? Let’s find out.

What are Glossy Paints Used For?

  • Glossy paints are used to protect wood
  • Glossy paints are commonly used as the final coat of a paint job
  • Glossy paints offer moisture-resistance
  • Glossy paints are used over high traffic or heavily used surfaces
  • The paint is used to achieve a reflective or shiny finish

So is glossy paint better than satin paint? Let’s compare both types of paints to find out.

Glossy Paints vs Satin Paint

To compare gloss and satin paint, we would use the features of each paint.

Here is a table that identifies the major differences between gloss and satin paint:

 Satin PaintGlossy Paint
Level of SheenMid or AverageHigh
Dry TimeSatin paints dry under 2 hoursGlossy paints take about 4 hours to dry
Wood ProtectionGoodBetter
Moisture ResistanceAverageVery good
Cleaning and MaintenanceAverageEasy
The FinishLow or mid-glossHigh-gloss or shiny

Next, let’s check out the differences between both paints in detail.

Level of Sheen

Glossy paints have a higher level of sheen in their formula than satin paints. The fact that most glossy paints are oil or solvent-based also enhances the gloss in the paint formula and this is why the finish is usually very reflective.

Satin paints have the lowest amount of sheen among paints. Satin paints come after flat or matte paint which has no sheen at all. This explains why the finish of satin paint is not as reflective or as bright as that of glossy paints.

Paint Thickness

Glossy paints are thicker than satin paints. The high level of gloss coupled with the fact that the paint is usually oil-based makes glossy paints have a very thick flow.

Painters usually advise DIYers to thin glossy paints before spraying because, in its natural state, glossy paint is usually too thick to be sprayed.

Satin paints on the other hand require no thinning to be sprayed. This is because satin paint is not as thick as glossy paint. The low level of gloss and the fact that satin paint is usually water-based make the paint thinner.

Dry Time

You already know that glossy paints will take longer to dry than satin paints. Painting 101 teaches that the thicker the paint, the longer it will take to dry.

Since glossy paints are thicker than satin paints, the satin paint will dry faster. On average, satin paint will dry in less than 2 hours. Glossy paints on the other hand can take over 4 hours to dry enough for a recoat.


When choosing a paint type, durability matters a lot as this determines how long the finish will last. Glossy paints are more durable than satin paint.

On average, glossy paint will last 10 years on a surface that is applied and maintained properly. Satin paints generally don’t last that long. At best, satin paint will last about 6 years. The paint doesn’t even last that long on high-traffic surfaces like walkways or patios.

Glossy paints are usually more durable because the paint dries harder. The longer dry time of glossy paints means that the paint particles and resins in the paint have more time to solidify. This and the glossy nature of the finish make glossy paints more durable than satin paints.

Wood Protection

Glossy paints win this round as well. The high gloss finish of glossy paints offers more protection than satin paints.

The presence of a glossy film on the finish makes it impossible for moisture or water to penetrate the paint. The hard finish also protects wood from dents, scratches, and claw marks of pets. Satin paints don’t offer this much protection to wood.

Satin paints are not as moisture-resistant, scratch-resistant, or hard as glossy paints. So the finish wouldn’t protect your wood as much.

Water Resistance

Satin paints offer moisture resistance but glossy paints are almost waterproof. When you cover a surface with satin paint, the surface will be protected from moisture but this is usually for the first few months after the paint was applied. As time passes and the surface is used, the satin finish will gradually lose its water-resistance. Glossy paints however remain water-resistant for several years.

Asides from this, the moisture resistance offered by satin paint repels moisture for about an hour. This means after an hour, the paint will begin to absorb the moisture if you don’t wipe it off.

Glossy paints however wouldn’t absorb the moisture even if you leave it on the glossy paint for several hours. Instead, the spot on the glossy paint will turn whitish till you wipe the water off.

Paint Cost

Glossy paints cost a few more dollars than satin paints. The higher sheen level, better protection, and other perks offered by glossy paints justify the higher cost. However, you should know that the differences in the cost isn’t massive. For instance, you can get a gallon of either paint for less than $25.

The Finish

Glossy paints offer a high-gloss finish. The finish of glossy paint is usually very reflective as light bounces off the finish. A satin finish is not as glossy as reflective. Satin paints offer the color of flat paints but the texture is a bit slicker. So a satin finish will not reflect light as much as a glossy finish.

However, you should know that the glossy finish of glossy paints means that the paint will reveal imperfections and gouges in the wood. Since satin paint doesn’t reflect as much light, then satin finish will hide imperfections better than glossy paints.

Cleaning and Maintenance

Glossy paints are much easier to clean and maintain than satin paints. This is because glossy paints have a slick finish. The slick nature of the surface makes it very hard for stains or filth to stick to it.

So you wouldn’t have much to clean off of a glossy finish. Any stain that you see on a glossy finish can be easily wiped off with a damp rag.

Satin paints are not as easy to clean or maintain. For starters, satin paint is not slick. This means that stains can stick and as such, you’ll have to wipe the satin paint more frequently. You should also know that you’ll need a mild solvent to clean stains off of satin paints.

Number of Coats Needed

With both paints, you don’t need many coats. For glossy paints, you’ll need a coat in most cases. This is because the paint is thick enough for proper coverage and sealing. So you usually don’t need another coat.

In fact, applying another coat of glossy paint will be difficult since each coat dries to form a hard and moisture-resistant layer. Satin paints require at least 2 coats for proper coverage. Remember to sand lightly between each coat of satin paint.

Should You Buy Satin Paint or Glossy Paint?

When trying to decide whether to go for satin paint or glossy paint, you should consider the factors below as a buyer’s guide.

Strength and Durability

Glossy paints are stronger and more durable than satin paints. So glossy paints will fit high-traffic areas like walkways better. Satin paints are more suited to low or mid-traffic areas like tables and desks since the finish is not as strong as glossy paints.

Moisture Resistance

Since glossy paint offers superior moisture resistance, you should use it on surfaces that will experience moisture like kitchen slabs. Satin paint shouldn’t be used on a surface that will be washed because the paint will eventually come off.

Cleaning and Maintenance

Glossy paints are easier to clean so maintenance will be easier than satin paints. You should consider this if you have kids in the house. Pencil marks, drawings, colors, and stains will come off of a glossy finish easily. With satin paints, you might struggle to get these stains off of the painted surface.

Final Words

In summary, satin paint and glossy paint are both great choices. The choice for you will ultimately depend on your taste and needs.

For busy surfaces, you should use glossy paint. Satin paint should be reserved for low-traffic areas and walls.

Finally, remember that glossy paints offer superior moisture and scratch resistance so this paint is ideal for soft and porous surfaces like wood that can get damaged by moisture.,

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