Satin vs Flat Paint sheen chart

What is the Difference in Satin vs. Flat Paint for Your Walls?

“Which is the best?” This is probably the #1 question I receive when doing an interior residential painting project or commercial painting project. Many owners are confused while deciding between which paint sheen for the walls in their home or business. I understand the confusion as it seems that 99% of all paint sales people tend to suggest satin paint on walls (or eggshell, depending on the brand) paint. We all want something that is easy to clean or prevent scuffs altogether and a gloss finish seems the obvious choice for that…but is that true?

Think about this….as a painting contractor, I can go to my local paint supplier and buy interior wall paint mixed to Agreeable Gray in 12-15 grades of paint and up to 10 sheens (see above). The same color in 120-150 different lines of paint and that is just from one interior paint manufacturer! That paint can range from $12.00 a gallon to $130.00 a gallon. 

First let me say, basically all manufacturers make really good interior paints. Both made of pigments, binders, solvents, and additives. So, if all paint has basically those same ingredients, what makes them so different? The difference is in the quality of the ingredients and the amount of water is in each gallon. Water is the carrier for what is in the paint. Once the water evaporates (paint dries), all that is left is the solids in the paint.

Satin vs Flat Paint, So What Makes it Different?

What is the difference between builder-grade flat and good flat  paint? I am glad you asked. The QUALITY of the ingredients is different. With a better pigment you will get a richer color, better hiding, and more controlled sheen. With a better binder you get better adhesion to the surface you are painting. And with better additives you will get better properties such as ease of brushing, moisture resistance, mold resistance, scuff resistance, drying, and sag resistance. Also a higher quality means less water and more solids per gallon.

People who are in a home that has the original “builder-grade” paint are usually the ones more apt to want to change from flat to basically anything else because they are so unhappy when they attempt to clean their walls and the paint comes off all the way to the drywall. This isn’t the fault of the painter but it’s what the builder pays the painter to use. It is a low quality paint and is mostly water with a small amount of pigment and binders. 

The “builder-grade” paint can also come in all the other sheens as well so don’t be fooled by the sheen only. Satin and flat paint in a builder grade paint is low quality when it comes to lasting performance.

Why are you telling me all this?

90% of the time Carolina Painting and Pressure Cleaning will recommend a high quality interior flat paint for interior painting. Our average flat paint is about $50-$75 per gallon and it takes 2 gallons to paint an average bedroom. We do sometimes use a quality satin paint for bathrooms. Let me list a few pros and cons for satin and flat paint.

High Quality Flat Wall Paint



Common Areas For Flat Paint

  • High Walls
  • Brightly Lit Rooms
  • Stairways
  • Living Rooms
  • Halls
  • Bedrooms
  • Closets
  • Rooms with lots of natural light

Satin (or Eggshell) Wall Paint



Common Areas For Satin Paint

  • Kitchens
  • Dining Rooms
  • Bathrooms
  • Laundry Rooms

Final Thoughts on Satin vs Flat Paint?

Satin Wall sheen touch upThere is no absolute right answer. Both have positives and negatives and both have a place in the home. As a professional painting contractor, Carolina Painting and Pressure Cleaning finds that flat paint usually gives a better job and touches up better year after year. What doesn’t clean off can be touched up and blends in to match exceptionally well. That is something most satin paints (or even matte paint) can’t usually do.

An opposite approach to the norm is our take on when satin paint should be used. As most people choose a satin paint because of “cleanability” and the potential for little fingers and pets to get the surface dirty, we would suggests a high quality flat paint because of their touch-up capabilities. Satin is better for a home with less activity, less need for touch-ups, and when you know the integrity of the finish will not be damaged.

Changing your wall paint can make a big improvement after years of the same look. If you would like to update your interior, give us a call at 803-957-4567 and we will be glad to come out and give you an estimate.

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