Matte black vs. satin black

Updated February 21, 2017

When painting, there are many choices of colours and finishes. Matt black and satin black do not refer to two different paint colours, but different finishes. Some finishes are dull, some are shiny. A matt black has less reflective qualities and will be less shiny than a satin black.

Reflective Scale

While the terms used may vary slightly by manufacturer, in general, the reflective scale consists of flat, matt, eggshell, satin, semigloss and gloss. Flat black has no shine, matt has little shine, satin has more shine and gloss has the most shine.


Matt paints are dull in appearance and work well when covering existing colours. They also work well for hiding imperfections. If you are painting a wall that is uneven, has cracks or other imperfections, a matt paint would be recommended. However, matt paints tend to get dirty faster and are harder to clean. As matt paints are less durable than gloss paints, they tend to scuff and stain easily and do not hold up well with frequent cleanings or moisture.


Satin paints have more reflective qualities than matt paints and thus appear shinier. A slight sheen can add depth to the paint. The shinier the paint, the more durable and easier to clean. However, paints that are shinier tend to show imperfections more than a matt paint.

When to Use

Finishes can influence how a colour looks. When choosing a finish to use with black, it is important to know where the paint will be used. You can choose to use a matt or satin black paint on your car. Whether someone prefers a more dull or shiny colour depends on personal preferences. In the home, matt paint is mostly used on interior walls with imperfections or in low traffic rooms. Satin paint is mostly used for trims and high traffic rooms such as kids' rooms and bathrooms. As these rooms tend to get dirty more often and require more cleaning, a more durable paint is recommended.

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About the Author

Lisa Hall began writing professionally in 1998. In addition to freelance writing, she worked as a graphic designer for international nonprofit organizations for six years until she started a home staging business in 2009. She frequently writes about art, design and home improvement. She holds a Master of Science in European social policy from The London School of Economics.