Choosing the Right Paint Finish: Eggshell Vs. Satin

Everything you need to know about perfecting the finishing touch.

satin or eggshell paint
Douglas Friedman

You’ve finally narrowed down your (seemingly endless) options and decided on the perfect paint color. While your decision-making muscles may feel exhausted at this point, there is still more to consider before you get to painting. The finish you choose for your paint has the potential to make or break a space—every finish with distinct differences that affect both the appearance and performance of the paint. It’s important to consider the specific look you are going for, the type of room you are painting, the architecture of the space, the room’s lighting, and more. A high-sheen finish can revive a dull room, while a low-sheen finish can mask any bumps or imperfections. Satin and eggshell are two popular finishes that work well in a variety of spaces, both with a low-to-medium luster. Though satin and eggshell are often grouped together, they have some distinct differences that are important to understand before making a final decision. To help you distinguish the differences between satin and eggshell, and decide which to choose, here's a comprehensive guide to perfecting your finishing touches.

SATIN FINISH

satin or eggshell paint
Kitchen cabinets painted with a satin finish add depth to the space and will hold up over time.
Alex Lukey

Satin finishes have a beautiful luster that is often described as appearing velvety. Satin is slightly less lustrous than semi-gloss, and can appear to be both flat and glossy, depending on the lighting in the room. Satin has a slightly higher sheen than eggshell, meaning that it is more reflective and more durable.


APPEARANCE: While satin finishes do have a degree of luster, they are more commonly described as a glow than a shine. Satin is a great choice if you're looking to create an understated depth in a space, or enliven the paint color you choose.


DURABILITY AND PERFORMANCE: Satin paint is very durable, making it great for high-traffic areas. Satin paint can easily be cleaned, though it can lose it's sheen if scrubbed too roughly. It is advised that you clean it with a wipe and avoid abrasive scrubs.


WHEN TO USE SATIN: Because of its durability, many people choose a satin finish for bathrooms, kitchens, and kids rooms. Satin is also a popular choice for trim, especially if you want to emphasize the architecture of a space. If you're using a satin finish, make sure your walls are smooth and blemish-free, as the luster of it will emphasize any imperfections.

EGGSHELL FINISH

satin or eggshell paint
A black bedroom is painted with an eggshell finish, adding a slight luster that is emphasized in daylight.
Simon Upton

Eggshell finishes are low-luster, with a very subtle sheen that can be compared to the surface of an eggshell. While eggshell does not have too much luster, it will reflect and bounce light throughout a room, creating depth in a space without appearing overly shiny.


APPEARANCE: Eggshell provides a soft sheen that can be emphasized with brighter lighting or toned down with dimmer lighting. It is the lowest luster option before flat or matte finishes.


DURABILITY AND PERFORMANCE: Because eggshell is less lustrous than satin, it is also slightly less durable. That being said, it will still hold up better than flat or matte finishes would. Eggshell is a great option for walls in medium- to low-traffic areas, and can be easily cleaned.


WHEN TO USE EGGSHELL: Eggshell is commonly used in living rooms and dining rooms, as it is durable and does not pick up dirt easily. If your walls have bumps or imperfections, an extra coat of eggshell can disguise them more easily than satin or high-gloss finishes.

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