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 paint is the level of sheen in the paint 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 on its formula. 

The finish of satin isn’t as shiny or reflective as that of gloss. Gloss paint is stronger and more durable than satin paint, but satin paint dries faster. 

There are more differences we discuss down below. Check them out. 


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. Satin paint can be water or oil-based. 

Since satin paint is durable, you can use it on high-traffic surfaces such as furniture, cabinets, or door trims. On average, satin paint will dry within 1.5 hours. When dry, satin paint 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. Satin will hide imperfections (and spots) better than glossy paints. 


What is Gloss Paint?

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

Because of the high levels of sheen, the high-gloss finish takes longer to dry. High-gloss finish (or gloss paint) 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 gloss and satin paint, we will use the features of each paint and see which one is better. 

Level of Sheen

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

On the other hand, satin paint 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. That’s because gloss paints have more sheen on the formula and are usually oil-based. This makes the oil-based glossy finish have a thicker flow. Therefore, you must thin gloss paint before applying it.

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

Dry Time

Satin paint dries faster than gloss paint. That’s because satin paint has a lighter flow and has less gloss on the paint formula. So, the paint 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 paint has a thicker flow and takes longer to dry. On average, gloss paint takes 2 hours to dry enough for a re-coat. 


Gloss paint is more durable than satin paint. 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. Since gloss paint takes longer to dry, the paint particles have more to harden, and the gloss finish becomes more durable. Also, the gloss paint has a glossy finish that makes the finish 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. Also, the high-gloss protects wood from dents, scratches, and stains. 

On the other hand, satin paint offers good wood protection but not as good as gloss paint. 

Water Resistance

Gloss paint has better water-resistant features than satin paint. Compared to satin paint, gloss paint will remain water-resistant for several years. In comparison, satin paint will remain water-resistant for a few months. After a few months, water will wash off the glossy finish of satin and will penetrate the surface.

The Finish

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

On the other hand, the satin finish isn’t as glossy or reflective as the gloss paint. But, the satin paint won’t reflect light as much, so satin paint hides imperfections better than gloss paint. 

Cleaning and Maintenance

Satin paints are harder to clean and maintain than gloss paints. That’s because satin paint isn’t slick and attracts dust much more. So you need to clean the satin paint frequently.

On the other hand, gloss paints are easier to clean and maintain. This is because the gloss paint 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. That’s because gloss paint 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. 

Do You Need Gloss or Satin?

When trying to decide whether to go for satin paint or glossy paint, you should consider the factors below:

  • Durability – If you paint high-traffic surfaces, use gloss paint. That’s because gloss paint is more durable than satin paint. For mid and low-traffic surfaces, you can use satin paint. 
  • Moisture-resistant –  To paint surfaces that will experience moisture, use gloss paint. Gloss paint 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. That’s because the satin paint doesn’t have a slick finish, so dirt sticks better. 

Final Words

The difference between gloss and satin paint is the level of paint sheen. The finish of gloss paint is more durable, has better moisture-resistant features, and is easier to clean than satin paint. However, satin paint dries faster and is easier to apply than gloss paint. 

Leave a Comment