Satin vs Matte vs Gloss: The Ultimate Guide to Selecting the Perfect Paint Finish
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Satin vs Matte vs Gloss: The Ultimate Guide to Selecting the Perfect Paint Finish

Posted on August 2, 2023

They say the devil is in the details, and when it comes to painting, the right finish can make all the difference. Satin, matte, and gloss paint finishes each bring unique elements to the interior painting table. In this ultimate paint finish guide, we’ll walk you through each of these finishes and help you make an informed decision about what paint finish is right for your space.

What’s the Importance of Paint Finish?

First and foremost, it is essential to understand exactly why paint finish matters in the first place. Each type of finish interacts with lighting in a unique way, making it easy to create diverse visual effects. Beyond aesthetics, paint finishes also play a practical role, with each type offering different levels of durability and maintenance. Embracing the significance of paint finishes allows you to tailor your interior spaces precisely to your desired style and functional needs, resulting in a home that truly reflects your personality.

Understanding Satin, Matte, and Gloss

paint finish examples

Now that we understand what exactly your paint finish will determine, let’s dive deeper into your three main options: satin, matte, and gloss.


Satin paint finish, often referred to as the “happy medium” among paint finishes, strikes the balance between the high shine of gloss and the flatness of matte. Many homeowners embrace it for the touch of luxury it brings to their walls, as it creates a gentle, inviting glow onto walls.

Matte (It’s no longer flat!)

Matte paint used to be synonymous with “flat paint” However, over the past decade paint suppliers have made it so matte paint now has a sheen to it, as you can see in the above image. In fact, some matte paint has a higher sheen than satin paint! The amount of sheen in matte paint will now vary anywhere from 10-15%, while flat paint will stay under 5%. Matte paint is the perfect paint finish for spaces that need a few imperfections covered while also needing to be easily cleaned.


Gloss finish is the shiniest of the options, as it reflects the light in the room. Homeowners often choose gloss for its ability to create a polished look. With its smooth, reflective surface, gloss paint finish is easy to clean and maintain.

Selecting the Paint Finish to Use in Your Home

room being painted

Because each paint has its own unique pros and cons, you’ll want to choose a different finish determined by the room’s purpose. The kitchen and the bedroom should not have the same finish, for example. Here’s a general guide you can follow when choosing satin vs matte vs gloss.

Satin for Relaxing Spaces (Bedrooms, Offices)

In spaces such as bedrooms and offices, satin paint finish is often recommended. The finish creates a warm and inviting atmosphere, perfect for spaces meant for relaxation and focus. In bedrooms, satin enhances the coziness and comfort. For offices, the satin finish strikes the right balance between elegance and professionalism.

Matte for Living Areas (Living Rooms, Dining Rooms)

Matte paint is very versatile because of the variety of the sheen. Our painters most frequently use matte paint for spaces with large, flat walls that are prone to just a few imperfections. Living rooms and dining rooms, which see less wear and tear than kitchens and bathrooms, are the perfect example spaces for matte paint.

Gloss for High-Traffic Rooms (Hallways, Kitchens, Bathrooms)

Gloss paint finish takes center stage in bustling areas like hallways, kitchens, and bathrooms. The paint finish is great in high-traffic zones due to its ease of cleaning and overall durability. Additionally, gloss resists moisture and steam, which is essential for restrooms.

Painter’s Tip: Flat paint is best used on ceilings. Being the lowest sheen available, flat paint will help absorb the light in the room.

Choosing Colors for Satin, Matte, and Gloss Finishes

choosing colors for paint finish

After you have chosen the type of paint finish for your room, you’ll want to consider what color will work with your finish. Each finish interacts uniquely with colors, influencing their appearance and overall impact on a room. Here’s a guide to help you make the perfect color choices for each paint finish:

Satin Paint Colors: Earthy Tones

Satin finishes enhance soft and subtle colors, adding depth and elegance to muted tones. For a classic and timeless look, consider earthy neutrals, pale blues, soft grays, or pastels. If you prefer a more daring approach, deep jewel tones and rich shades can also shine in satin.

Matte Paint Colors: Soothing Hues

Matte paint finish suits a wide array of colors, particularly those with a cozy and calming effect. Embrace muted hues and warm tones, like beiges, warm whites, calming greens, and soothing blues. Remember, each manufacturer and each color will have a different sheen level, so make sure to triple check you’re making the right choice for your space.

Gloss Paint Colors: Go Big and Go Bold

Gloss finishes work best with intense colors, as they often create a vibrant atmosphere. When working with a gloss finish, opt for bold hues, such as reds, yellows, and blues. For a modern look, consider modern neutrals like black or white.

Painter’s Tip: You can use tools, such as our paint visualizer, to get a sense of what the right color could be for your room.

CertaPro Painters® Can Help Choose the Right Paint Finish

Selecting the perfect paint finish for your home can be a challenging task. Fortunately, you don’t have to do it alone. CertaPro Painters®, your trusted local painters, is here to help every step of the way. Our team of experienced professionals understands the satin, matte, and gloss finishes, and they are dedicated to helping you find the right option for your space. 

Get started with CertaPro Painters® today by giving us a call, or filing out our free, no-obligation form.