In a world of Pinterest mood boards and DIY videos, home improvement can be exciting. You spend hours, days, or weeks scouring the Internet for inspiration on your newest painting project. When you finally get to the home improvement store, though, you may find that you feel stuck between all the color and sheen options.
So how do you choose? You want to paint over your color with a clear coat to really seal in your hard work.
So what’s the difference between clear satin vs clear gloss? A clear satin finish is less reflective than a clear gloss finish. Instead of a super shiny appearance, it has a soft and smooth shine, like an eggshell. A clear gloss finish will be so shiny it almost looks wet.
Let’s talk a bit about what this means for your projects.
The sheen level in paint refers to the level of light, or shine, you can see reflecting off the surface. This is determined by the ratio of binders to other chemicals and pigments in the mixture.
A higher sheen level, such as gloss, will contain more binder. This helps the paint have a higher reflective quality, creating a mirror-like surface. Gloss can be particularly helpful in bathrooms or kitchens due to its resistance to stains and moisture.
A lower sheen level, such as satin, will contain less binder. This creates a softer look with lower reflective quality. Satin is ideal for high-traffic rooms as it can hide scrapes and scuffs better than gloss.
If you’re looking for the shiniest finish available, gloss is the right pick for you. It reflects the highest amount of light, which can really help brighten up a room – especially if you’re using a dark color in a room with no windows.
Because of the highly reflective quality of a gloss finish, it also shows imperfections more than a lower sheen. The light will catch in every scrape and scuff on the walls, highlighting it and making it much more apparent.
Although a gloss finish has a weakness in the way it shows scuffs, it’s also highly stain and moisture resistant. This can be more important in rooms that tend to have a higher instance of water/moisture collection on walls.
Ways To Use A Clear Gloss Finish
If you want to really use the high sheen of gloss to your advantage, here are a few of the best ways to apply it:
- Bathrooms: Most bathrooms tend to have small windows, or none at all. To help brighten the room without the help of natural light, use a gloss finish to reflect your lighting as much as possible. The moisture-resistant nature of gloss will also work well in a bathroom.
- Kitchens: Similar to the moisture in a bathroom, kitchens tend to have high moisture content in the air from cooking. A gloss finish will help prevent too much condensation build-up on your walls.
- Baseboards: For high-traffic rooms such as the living room, a satin finish may be best. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use gloss! Create a contrast that draws the eye and gives the room a dynamic feel by using a gloss finish on baseboards, trims, or doors.
A satin finish, as mentioned above, has a lower light-reflective quality. It’s been described as having an eggshell-like appearance due to the soft, smooth sheen.
One of the best qualities about a satin finish is its durability. While a gloss finish highlights imperfections, a satin finish hides them. It stands up against scrapes and scratches, and hides the ones it can’t resist.
Satin finishes are also great in the way they stand up to cleaning. This can be especially important in rooms that get a lot of dirt, debris, or crayon marks from little ones on the walls.
Ways To Use A Clear Satin Finish
A few ideas on how to use satin paint have been stated, such as high-traffic rooms, but now we’ll give you a more detailed list:
- Living Rooms: A living room is one of the most-used rooms in the house. Satin finish paint is an excellent choice to stand up against furniture scuffs, toy throwing, dog scratches, and more.
- Hallways: People can touch the walls when they’re passing through a hallway. The satin finish will help stand up against the constant touching, as well as scuffs that might occur from people passing and brushing against the wall with a purse or belt buckle. It can also help reduce scuffs from moving furniture.
- Bedrooms/Children’s Rooms: Children’s bedrooms are generally cleaned pretty regularly, and a satin finish can withstand that level and consistency of cleaning. Satin is also generally best in bedrooms due to its lower reflective nature, as gloss may be too bright.
- Outdoor Projects: Satin paint is commonly used on outdoor projects due to its higher level of mold resistance and durability.
Satin Vs Gloss – Direct Comparison
Now that we’ve reviewed the qualities of satin and gloss, let’s compare!
When you’re looking at a satin and a gloss finish side-by-side, the satin finish can tend to look a little matte. This is due to the high shine of a gloss finish. However, when you look at satin on its own, you can see the soft shine this finish offers.
If you take the colors into consideration, gloss and satin offer different qualities. A satin finish will give you a more true and authentic color experience. Due to the high shine of gloss, it tends to distort the color because of the way it bounces light. The same color with gloss shine can look different based on the room, the amount of natural light, and the time of day.
Their durability is around the same level, with different advantages. While a satin finish provides durability against scratches, scuffs, and sometimes mold, a gloss finish provides durability against stains and moisture. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses that can be exactly what you need, depending on the room.
Satin tends to be the most popular sheen for wall paint as it tends to be more versatile from room to room. It’s strong enough to stand up to wear and tear, but doesn’t alter the color.
However, gloss finishes have their place too. If you really want to make a room pop or brighten up a naturally dark area, gloss is the best option.
How Do I Choose?
Evaluate the needs of your project. Talk with friends who’ve done similar projects or the employees at your local hardware or paint store. Consider the following:
- The size of your room. Will a gloss finish cause too much light to bounce around in a large room, or do you need that extra light in your small powder room?
- The visual style you’re looking for. Are you looking for a finish as dynamic as your Pinterest mood board?
- The level of traffic in the room. Will this room endure lots of scuffs and shuffle, or is it a lower-use room?
- The potential need for cleaning. Will you be scrubbing the walls once a week, or once a year?
- Your personal taste! Sometimes when it comes down to it, you just have a visual preference for high or low sheen.
There are more factors to consider, but these are the primary factors that might make a difference. If you’re still unsure, try using a sample of each to see how it looks in your room with your level of light and your color of paint. You might be leaning in one direction, but see it in the space and decide to choose the other option!
Whether you pick satin or gloss, you can’t go wrong. Each of them will help elevate your room and take your fresh coat of paint to the next level.
Is Satin Better Than Gloss?
In short, no. As we have discussed in this article, there are advantages and disadvantages to each type. Certain finishes are generally better for certain rooms or projects, but they’re both a great choice!
Is A Satin Clear Coat Shiny?
Satin gives a soft shine. It’s not as highly reflective as gloss, but it definitely has a more distinct shine than flat or matte. It’s a nice middle ground!
Is Satin Or Gloss Better For Wood?
This is especially related to baseboards, and just as with question 1, there is no right answer. Choosing gloss will create a shiny, reflective surface and provide high durability. Choosing satin will create a softer shine and stay true to your chosen color.
Can You Put Satin Over Gloss?
Yes, but be sure to take the preliminary steps first. Depending on your current gloss coat, you’ll either want to use a primer, or simply clean and sand the surface before applying your new coat of satin.
Is Gloss Better For Dark Colored Paint?
Yes and no. Gloss can help brighten up a room with dark-colored walls by reflecting a higher degree of light. However, if you chose a dark color because you wanted the room to have a darker ambience, satin would be a great choice.