Satin paint is neither glossy nor completely flat or matte -- it's a mid-range choice between the two. While it is durable and washable, it may not be the best option for high-moisture areas such as the bathroom, or in the kitchen where cooking grease is a concern.

Satin Paint Basics

Satin refers to the level of shininess or sheen of the paint, particularly when it comes to interior paints such as latex wall paint. Satin paint does not reflect light as much as a high-gloss or semi-gloss finish, but it isn't completely flat or dull either.

The Sheen Scale

Paint sheen determines not only how shiny the paint looks when dry -- it also determines how washable and durable the paint is. The more glossy the paint, the better it holds up to moisture. A high-gloss paint can be washed or even scrubbed without the paint washing off, while some of the color may come off onto your sponge or rag if you wipe a flat paint with water. Paint finishes, ranked from least to most glossy, include:

  • Flat or matte paint doesn't reflect light back; the paint is not shiny at all. It is ideal for covering up flaws such as tiny dents or bumps in a wall. Since it isn't meant to be washed, it is best for areas such as adult bedrooms and closets.
  • Eggshell paint offers a bit more durability without adding much shine. It still hides imperfections, but it isn't great for areas that require a lot of cleanup. Bedrooms, dining rooms and living rooms are all places you may use eggshell paint.
  • Satin paint adds just enough more shine and durability to be washable without reflecting much light back into the room. It doesn't hide flaws in walls as well as eggshell or flat paint, but it holds up to moisture a little better, so it can be wiped down or cleaned as necessary. It's durable enough for hallways and even children's bedrooms.
  • Semi-gloss is durable enough to use on trim around doors and windows, or as the primary paint in the bathroom or kitchen.
  • Glossy paint is both the shiniest and the most durable of all finishes. The downside, however, is that it shows flaws; every ding or nail head protruding from the wall will be visible due to the paint reflecting light. Glossy is an ideal option for areas such as the trim around the doorway entering the kitchen, as well as kitchen cabinets and walls near the stove.