Matte paint is one of two “no sheen” paints. The other one is flat finish paints. Some websites don't even mention matte paint or … imply they're different names for the same type of paint. When you dig further, you can find out what makes matte paint different.
Names matter so lets start by sharing that mat, matt or the British spelling matte (used most often) are different spellings for a paint finish that is dull rather than shiny. Flat and matte paint finishes are the “no sheen” paints.
When & Where to Use a Matte Finish
When describing these paint finishes, an easy way to remember them is no sheen paints don't have a shiny look (no sheen, no shine). Because they absorb light instead of reflecting it (what creates the shine), they're able to cover imperfections in the paint surface and some of the mistakes made while painting.
Matte paints are easier to paint than paints with more gloss. The challenge is keeping no sheen painted surfaces clean because the porous surface absorbs dirt and stains like a sponge. At the same time, painters say touch-up coats of paint are easier to blend than paints with a glossier finish.
To solve the cleaning problem with flat paints, matt finish paints have a small amount of gloss added to make it easier to clean. The gloss though, changes the look of the painted surface a bit:
- Flat paint finish – is described as velvety and contains no gloss.
- Matte finish paint – is also described as having a suede or velvet finish. It contains a small amount of gloss that reflects less than 10% .
Traditionally these no sheen paints have been used in low traffic areas of a house. These include your home's entryway, living room, formal dining rooms and adult bedrooms. There are more ways to use this paint, outlined in this article 5 Ways to Pull Off the Matte Paint Trend.
If a matte sheen isn't what you need for your next painting project, this chart might help you find a better paint finish … but don't forget the condition of the walls matters. To learn more about these paint finishes, read How Many Types of Paint Finishes are There?
Matte Finish Paint vs Flat Paint
The question then is whether you should pay more for a matte paint. There's very little difference in how the two paints look on a wall. The decision probably has more to do with whether you prefer cleaning your walls or touching them up. If you like painting your house every few years, then flat paint might be fine.
Be aware too that touch up paint won't last forever. When stored properly, an unopened can of latex or oil-based paint should have a shelf life of 2 years. The paint should be stored in a cool, dry area, away from extreme hot and cold temperatures.
I used satin paint for my entire house. The color is a light tan. It’s a small bungalow facing north that doesn’t get much light. I feel like flat and matte are the biggest trend right now but I wanted to make the house feel bigger and be more durable if I rent the house out again. I’m just afraid I’ll be judged for using satin and not flat or matte. Is satin in living rooms/bedrooms as tacky as all designers are making it seem?
Zach, You said your house doesn’t get much light so I’m thinking satin was a good choice because it will reflect the limited sunlight better than matte. It’s also a more durable finish and will hold up better to wear & tear from renters if you do rent in the future. I think you made a smart choice and honestly, it’s your house – only you know what’s best for your situation.
Jen @ thelifestuff.co.uk
Thank you for explaining this differences between these paints, I didn’t have a clue! Having bought a new build house, all the walls are done in white matte paint so will definitely have to branch out at some point.
Jen, Congrats on the new house & yes, white is a safe color to start with … although here in the US, greige is also popular.
I liked the blog on Matte Paint (vs Flat). The layout had some nice pictures as examples! And the paint finishes chart is an excellent reference. Clearly written and very helpful.
Thanks Jean, I will be writing more posts on each type of paint finish as I don’t think people understand this important aspect of selecting their paint.