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Paint samples of flat, satin, and semi-gloss finishes

Matte Finish vs. Satin and Gloss: A Guide to Paint Finish Types

You've chosen your interior paint colors, and you may be asking yourself, what’s the difference between paint finishes? There are several variables to consider when selecting a paint finish. By using this paint finish guide from Five Star Painting, you will be well on your way to a fresh coat of the right paint on your walls.

What’s the Difference Between Matte, Satin, Flat and Gloss Paint?

Matte and Flat

These paint finishes deliver a smooth, subtle look and show little to no sheen when dry since they absorb light.

  • Pros: Matte and flat finishes cover imperfections in surface and application, making them a great choice for ceilings as well as walls in the bedroom, dining room and living room. You can easily touch up this finish.
  • Cons: In general, they hold dirt and are difficult to clean because cleaning can actually remove the finish. Some manufacturers, such as Behr, Sherwin Williams and Benjamin Moore, make scrubbable versions that allow for easier cleaning. Do not use in bathrooms, the kitchen or a kid's room.


This silky, smooth paint finish retains its pearl-like sheen when dry. This finish is also called eggshell.

  • Pros: A satin finish reflects more light than matte and stands up well to washing. Use in high-traffic areas such as bathrooms, the kitchen and a kid's room as well as on trim and molding throughout the house.
  • Cons: This finish does not hide imperfections in surface or application; any touch-ups will stand out.

Semi-gloss and Gloss

When dry, these paint finishes reflect the most light, providing a bright sheen.

  • Pros: Semi-gloss and gloss finishes prove durable and scrubbable, with semi-gloss offering high resistance to moisture. Use in the kitchen and bathrooms as well as on trim and molding throughout the house.
  • Cons: These finishes show every single imperfection in surface and application, requiring additional prep work and sanding to create a smooth surface. Touch-ups of this finish also will stand out because of the difference in sheen.

Satin vs matte vs glossy paint


Tips for Selecting Paint Finishes

In addition to choosing a paint finish that falls into one of these types, you also can combine types to create the perfect finish. Before meeting with your professional painter, use the guide below for our professional recommendation based on each room in your house:


  • Requirements – Easy to clean and durable paint in a high traffic area
  • Recommendation – Semi-gloss or high gloss paint


  • Requirements – Moisture resistance and easy-to-clean walls
  • Recommendation – Semi-gloss or high gloss paint


  • Requirements – Low traffic area with little light reflection
  • Recommendation – Flat or matte finish


  • Requirements: Easy-to-clean walls that reflect light
  • Recommendation – Semi-gloss of gloss finish

Dining Room

  • Requirements – Clean-looking, smooth-looking, elegant finish
  • Recommendation – Semi-gloss, satin, or eggshell finish

Family Room

  • Requirements – Clean-looking walls that hide imperfections in high-traffic area
  • Recommendation – Semi-gloss or stain finish


  • Requirements – Inexpensive paint that hides imperfections and doesn’t need to be cleaned
  • Recommendation – Flat or matte finish

Interior Trim

  • Requirements – Durable paint that is easy to clean and helps windows pop.
  • Recommendation – High-gloss paint

Other Paint Finish Considerations

  • Matte and flat paint finish have more pigment and often provide more coverage, which can save you money.
  • Do you regularly scrub your walls and perform touch-ups? Some paint finishes make this easy, others not so much. Ask our professionals for advice.

Professional Interior Painting Services

Five Star Painting will take the time to fix imperfections in your drywall before we paint. If your builder left behind imperfect taping or porous joint compound between drywall panels, a flat or matte sheen will be the best solution. On the other hand, if your builder created smooth surfaces, a paint finish with a high level of gloss is a good option.

When you're ready to paint your home’s interior and/or exterior, be sure to contact your local Five Star Painting at (888) 261-3633 or request a free estimate online.