Satin vs. Semi Gloss Kitchen Cabinets

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A fresh coat of paint can instantly update an older kitchen.
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Homeowners looking to give their kitchens a face-lift don't have to spend a lot of money. Simple jobs such as updating kitchen paint can give your kitchen a whole new look without the cost of a professional contractor. When considering which paint to use for your refinishing job, you'll need to choose between various sheens.


According to Paintcare, the sheen you choose for your paint will affect its cleanability and durability. Two popular sheens for kitchen cabinets are satin and semi-gloss. The following information will help you choose the type of sheen that is ideal for your kitchen.

Paint Finish Basics

The term "finish" in painting refers to the sheen or shine of the surface after the paint dries. Satin finishes offer a mildly glossy finish and are similar to eggshell finishes; both of which are common due to their durability. Satin paint for painting outdated kitchen is ideal for molding, such as window and door frames. This type of finish resists scuffs and stains. It is often an ideal choice for bathrooms and kitchens, which get a lot of traffic.


Semi-gloss finishes have an even glossier shine than satin. When the paint dries, the paint becomes shiny and reflects light. Due to the light that this glossier finish reflects, semi-gloss finishes show imperfections under the paint surface more clearly than satin finishes. You'll be more likely to see dents, dings and scratches when updating kitchen paint with semi-gloss paint finish.

Semi-gloss paint finish is especially resistant to scratches and dents, and even smudges. Consider using semi-gloss paint on anything that gets touched often. This includes trim in high-traffic areas, as well as doorways and banisters.


Durability of Paint Finishes

All the paint finishes vary somewhat in their durability and ease of cleaning. When painting outdated kitchen cabinets, use a paint that is durable enough to withstand the oil, grease, fingerprints and even scratches or mold common in kitchens. Satin finishes are long-lasting and highly durable for high-traffic areas, but they don't hold up quite as well as semi-gloss against mold and mildew. For that reason, semi-gloss is often recommended for cabinets in high-moisture environments such as kitchens.

Cleaning and Touching Up Painted Surfaces

Painted surfaces typically require cleaning and touching up at some point. Both satin and semi-gloss paints are durable for cleaning. Semigloss paint has an extra protective coating that can be scrubbed, however, so it's easier to clean up stains from markers, crayons and other substances on semi-gloss surfaces.


Whereas semi-gloss is better for cleanup, satin is better for touchups. If you wish to touch up cabinets to cover or obscure scratches or recently patched areas, satin paint is the better choice. This type of sheen is preferable, because it doesn't amplify imperfections like semi-gloss sheen does. Touching up areas when painting a kitchen with semi-gloss paint tends to amplify imperfections; making touched-up areas more noticeable.

Application and Appearance

Both satin and semi-gloss paints are easy to apply to cabinets when painting a kitchen. Since semi-gloss finishes amplify imperfections, however, cabinets that have not been properly sanded might show imperfections that a satin finish would hide. Semi-gloss finishes will also show brushstrokes or drips easier than satin finishes. Therefore, when applying a semi-gloss paint, use even brushstrokes and apply each coat lightly, rather than using a heavy amount of paint on one coat.



Shailynn Krow

Shailynn Krow began writing professionally in 2002. She has contributed articles on food, weddings, travel, human resources/management and parenting to numerous online and offline publications. Krow holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles and an Associate of Science in pastry arts from the International Culinary Institute of America.