Matte vs. Flat Enamel Paint

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There are many types of paint for different surfaces, including enamel, latex, and acrylic. Usually, each is available in several different sheens, or finishes. The type of paint and finish you select will depend on the specific project at hand, so it is important to understand your options, from the qualities of the paint to the characteristics of the finish. Knowing the difference between flat and matte or semigloss and satin might seem menial, but it can have a drastic effect on the final outcome of your project. The difference between flat and matte paint is that matte gives a smoother finish.

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Matte Paint

  • Has little to no sheen
  • Provides a smooth coating
  • Hides blemishes better than a shinier finish

Flat Paint

  • Has little to no sheen
  • Not as easy to wipe clean as a shinier finish

What Is Enamel Paint?

While all paint could technically be described as enamel (since it provides an opaque, protective coating), enamel is also a specific type of paint. Most often but not always, enamel paint is oil-based and dries to a durable, polished finish. Well regarded as a protective coating for hard surfaces, specifically metal, enamel paint is also applicable for many interior and exterior building materials, especially high-traffic surfaces, such as cabinets and doors.

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Generally, the strong, shiny finish that enamel paint provides is easy to wipe clean and is often scratch- and heat-resistant, making it a good choice for painting wood, metal, ceramic, and more. Rust-Oleum offers protective enamel brush-on paint and protective enamel spray paint, both oil-based and available in several sheens, including flat. A good choice for both indoor and outdoor paint jobs, Rust-Oleum claims to be the best rust-preventive paint available and is also available in an acrylic enamel and an automotive enamel spray paint.

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Water-based enamels are not the norm, but they are out there. Behr makes an acrylic enamel paint and primer combination that is recommended for interior walls, ceilings, trim, and doors. Only available in a semigloss sheen, this paint is resistant to wear and tear along with mold and mildew.

Types of Paint Finishes

Of course, the color of paint is important to any project or room, but so is the finish. Also known as the sheen, this refers to the amount of light the paint reflects or absorbs. Regardless of the type, brand, or color of paint you choose, you will also need to consider the finish because each has its own unique characteristics and benefits. Unfortunately, there are no industry standards for these terms, so there are different interpretations between brands, but all follow similar guidelines.

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Flat and matte finishes have little to no sheen. The levels of pigment in the paint are higher, while the levels of resin are lower, and therefore, they absorb light rather than reflect it. Matte finishes often provide a smooth surface that requires fewer coats and hides nicks and blemishes well but is not as easy to wipe clean.

Satin, semigloss, and high-gloss finishes have a high sheen. They have lower pigment levels and higher resin levels and reflect light, giving them a shiny finish. While providing a sleek appearance, glossier finishes also offer more protective coatings that can be scrubbed clean. They do require a bit more prep work, such as sanding and cleaning the surface beforehand, as well as more coats.

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Flat vs. Matte Enamel Paint

When it comes to enamel paint, glossier finishes are the most readily available and are known to be the most durable. If you can find a less reflective finish of enamel (such as the Rust-Oleum protective enamel brush-on paint and spray paints, which are available in a flat finish or matte for the clear spray paint), the terms "flat" and "matte" are often used interchangeably.

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