Satin vs Gloss (What’s the Difference?)

Two common finishes that you can choose for your surface are satin and gloss finishes. But, what’s the difference between these two finishes?

The main difference between satin and gloss is the level of sheen in their formula. Glossy paints are high-gloss finishes because they have a high level of sheen. On the other hand, satin paint is a mid-gloss finish because it contains less sheen in its formula. 

The finish of satin isn’t as shiny or reflective, but it dries faster. On the other hand, the gloss has a shiny finish that is stronger and more durable.


What is Satin Paint?

Satin paint is a mid-gloss finish with more paint sheen than eggshell and flat (matte) paint but less paint sheen than semi-gloss and high-gloss finish. It can be water or oil-based. 

Since satin is durable, you can use it on high-traffic surfaces such as furniture, cabinets, or door trims. On average, it will dry within 1.5 hours. When dry, it produces a glossy (and reflective) finish resistant to moisture, water, and scratches. 

You can use satin paint for:

  1. Household furniture. 
  2. To give color to woods.
  3. To get a glazed finish.
  4. For imperfect surfaces. It will hide imperfections (and spots).


What is Gloss Paint?

Gloss paints have the highest level of sheen in the paint formula. Due to the high level of sheen in the paint formula, it reflects the most light. When dry, it produces a high-gloss layer that protects the surface underneath from moisture, water, and other damage. 

Because of the high levels of sheen, the high-gloss finish takes longer to dry. The high-gloss finish takes 4 hours to dry enough for a re-coat and 24 hours to cure. 

You can use high-gloss paint:

  1. To protect the wood.
  2. As the final coat of a paint job.
  3. To protect the surface from water. 
  4. For high-traffic surfaces. 
  5. To get a reflective or shiny finish. 

Gloss vs Satin

To compare these two sheens, we will use the features of each of them and see which one is better. 

Level of Sheen

High-gloss paint has a higher level of sheen than satin paint. That’s because most glossy paints are oil-based, so this increases the sheen in the paint formula. 

On the other hand, satin has less sheen than high-gloss and semi-gloss paints but more gloss than eggshell and flat paints. 

Paint Thickness

Gloss paints are thicker than satin paints because they have more sheen on their formula and are usually oil-based. This makes the oil-based glossy finish have a thicker flow. So, you must thin it before applying it.

On the other hand, satin paint isn’t as thick because it doesn’t have as much gloss on the formula and the paint is usually water-based. So, you don’t have to thin it before applying. 

Dry Time

Satin dries faster than gloss because it has a lighter flow and less sheen on the formula. So, the solvent (water or oil) evaporates faster since the flow is lighter. On average, satin paint will dry within 1.5 hours. 

On the other hand, gloss has a thicker flow and takes longer to dry. On average, gloss takes 2 hours to dry enough for a re-coat. 


Gloss is more durable than satin. On average, gloss paint will last 10 years, while satin paint will last 6 years. 

Gloss paints are more durable because the paint dries harder and takes longer to dry. Since it takes longer to dry, the paint particles have more to harden, so the finish becomes more durable. Also, its glossy finish makes it resistant to scratches, water, and moisture.

Wood Protection

The high-gloss finish will protect wooden surfaces better than the satin finish. When dry, the high-gloss finish produces a glossy film that repels moisture and water and protects wood from dents, scratches, and stains. 

Water Resistance

Gloss paint has better water-resistant features than satin, and will remain water-resistant for several years.

In comparison, satin will remain water-resistant for a few months only. After a few months, water will wash off its finish and penetrate the surface.

The Finish

Glossy paint offers a high-gloss finish. Its finish is reflective because the light bounces off the finish. But, its finish will reveal imperfections and gouges in surfaces. 

On the other hand, the satin finish isn’t as glossy or reflective. Since it doesn’t reflect light as much, it will hide imperfections from the surface better.

Cleaning and Maintenance

Satin paints are harder to clean and maintain than gloss because their surface isn’t slick and attracts dust much more. So you need to clean it more frequently.

On the other hand, gloss is easier to clean and maintain because it has a slick finish, making it hard for stains and dust to stick.

To remove stains from both finishes, you must use a mild solvent. 

Number of Coats Needed

For gloss paints, you need 1-2 coats at most because it is thick enough to cover large surfaces. To apply the second coat of gloss paint, you must sand the first coat. 

For satin paint, you need 2 coats. 

Which One Do You Need?

When trying to decide which paint to use, you should consider the factors below:

  • Durability – If you paint high-traffic surfaces, use gloss because it’s more durable. For mid and low-traffic surfaces, use satin.
  • Moisture-resistant –  To paint surfaces that will experience moisture, use gloss as it offers impressive moisture-resistant features. 
  • Cleaning – Gloss paint is easier to clean. In most cases, you just need to wipe the surface with a clean rag. On the other hand, satin paints are harder to clean because it doesn’t have a slick finish, so dirt sticks better. 

Final Words

The difference between gloss and satin paint is the level of the sheen. The finish of gloss paint is more durable, has better moisture-resistant features, and is easier to clean because it has more sheen on its formula. However, satin paint dries faster and is easier to apply since it has less sheen.

Tony Adams

Tony Adams

Woodworker, Interior and Exterior Painter, Flooring Specialist

Tony is a professional painter and an author of DIY Geeks. Tony has completed over 1,000 painting projects for his clients. It's safe to say he knows what he Is talking about.

Eral Kadrija

Eral Kadrija

Lead Editor, Home Renovator

Eral has a passion for home renovation and repair. Over the years, he has bought, renovated, and sold 7 old homes. Using his experience from different DIY projects he created DIY Geeks.

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