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Clear Satin Vs Clear Gloss | What Is The Difference?

clear satin vs clear gloss paint

What to use for surface finishes is always a big decision for me, whether I’m covering a side table, or renovating the whole house. Being faced with a gazillion different options doesn’t help too much either.

However, when I have to choose between clear satin vs clear gloss, I usually know the right answer.

Clear satin has a moderate sheen, which is only a step higher than matt finishes. On the other hand, clear gloss is quite shiny, which is a feature that I can really put to good use.

In this article, I’ll share with you my finest tricks of the trade regarding clear satin and clear gloss! 

What Is Clear Satin Paint?

Clear satin paint is a top protective and decorative layer of paint that you can apply to almost everything.

It’s a versatile kind of paint that adheres easily to many kinds of surfaces like walls, wood, outdoor furniture, plastics, glass, and metals.

Satin paints are the middle ground between matt paints and glossy ones. A clear coat has a slight sheen that adds a glimmer of light to the different surfaces.

At the same time, it doesn’t magnify the small defects inherent in the surface the way glossy paints would.

In addition to that, clear satin provides extra protection to the layer beneath it, without altering its inherent texture, grain, or color.

The delicate name, satin, might suggest that this coating is rather delicate, but it’s quite hardy.     

What Is It Made of?

Clear satin paint comes in three basic categories: water-based, acrylic-based, and oil-based paints.

You can get the same amazing velvety finish from any of these types, but I personally prefer the former. Water-based clear satin paints tend to remain just transparent, while oil-based satin clear coats eventually yellow a little.

Satin has a 30-40% PVC (pigment volume concentration) rating range, which means that it has a balanced amount of binders. This explains the low sheen and high durability.

To give some perspective here, a glossy finish has a 0-15% range, while a flat one has a 40-80% range. 

How Much Does It Cost?

Prices vary depending on the brand, applicator, and clear coat type. On average, it costs around one dollar per ounce.

A spray acrylic-based satin coat variety comes at around $5 from Krylon for an 11 oz container.

An oil-based spray from Rust-Oleum sells for approximately $8 for a similarly-sized container.

These sprayers are convenient for small projects or touch-ups only though.

For larger coverage, you can get a quart of Rust-Oleum oil-based clear satin for about $28.

In comparison, a water-based satin clear paint from Minwax costs on average $20. Water-based clear satin doesn’t always come with that budget-friendly price tag though.

What Colors Are Classed as Satin Paint?

In addition to clear satin, this finish also comes with pigmented varieties. White is among the favorite colors that you can see everywhere.

Additionally, there are also some stunning ivory shades, silver-tinted paints, beach-glass, espresso, spring grass, plus a whole range of beautiful colors. 

The basic feature of all these colors is the ratio of binder to pigment. As long as it remains around the 35% average, then it’s satin.

The paint would have a smooth velvety texture and a slight sheen.

Where Is Clear Satin Paint Commonly Used?

man painting clear satin paint in room

Clear satin is a durable paint that accentuates the color of the surface it’s applied on.

It doesn’t change the inherent hue of the surface it covers, or its unique details, like wood grain.

A satin finish is halfway between matt and glossy finishes, so it’s not deeply affected by ambient light.

The sheen of satin is flattering without being overwhelming, thus it adds a bit of extra light demurely.

This versatile paint works well on many kinds of surfaces. Thus, if the project you’re working on has different components, you can still cover them all with the same clear satin paint.

It also provides extra protection from wear and tear, scratching, and humidity. It doesn’t get dusty easily, but even if it needs a bit of cleaning, that’s often possible. Just don’t use harsh materials while you’re at it.

Here are some of the common uses of clear satin paint:

  • Bathroom walls and ceilings
  • Kids playing areas 
  • Bedrooms and living areas
  • Hallways and corridors
  • Skirting, baseboards, moldings, and trims
  • Doors and windows
  • Wooden furniture

What Is Clear Gloss Paint?

Clear gloss is a shiny top layer that looks like a sheet of glass has been added to a finished surface.

Besides the aesthetic contribution it adds to a surface, clear gloss is also a strong and durable material that offers plenty of protection to the material covered.

What Is It Made Of?

The two basic forms of clear gloss are an acrylic-based form, which usually comes in a sprayer, and a polyurethane-based form, which is available in quart containers.

The oil base comes with a big plus and a similarly big limitation. It seals the surface that it covers effectively, but it turns yellow as it ages.

Clear gloss paint has an average PVC rating of 7.5%, which makes it the shiniest finish known to us. It reflects almost all the light that falls on it, which makes it extra glam.

This easily lights up any area, as it would catch any source of light and multiply it many times over.

This finish is highly durable, stains can’t cling to it, and it’s quite resistant to moisture. That’s why you’d often see it in high-traffic areas. 

How Much Does It Cost?

Gloss paints aren’t too expensive, and they’re often within the same range as matt or satin.

For example, a quart of Minwax clear gloss comes at around $18, which is also the price of the fast-drying variety. The Rust-Oleum Acrylic comes at an even cheaper price of around $12.

The spray can usually be found at $12 for the 11-oz Krylon UV-resistant clear gloss.

There are more expensive options as well with some extra perks, like the 12-oz Eastwood Durable clear gloss spray, which sells for about $35.

What Colors Are Classed As Gloss Paint?

different clear satin and clear gloss colors

Several basic and compound colors come as gloss paints. Some of the popular colors are off-white, machine green, safety blue, sandy beige, and battleship.

There are more options that should cover the requirements of most spaces and surfaces. The variety of available colors is also wide enough to suit individual styles.

Where Is Clear Gloss Paint Commonly Used?

Clear gloss paint is remarkably shiny, so it should be used in a manner that brings out the beauty of surfaces and textures. Some people like to apply it on small decorative pieces, or parts of walls.

They deliberately set it in stark contrast with a matt finish for an artistic effect.

The high capacity of catching and reflecting light brightens up dark places considerably.

However, it comes with a little snag. The slightest dent, scratch, or defect in the surface would be magnified as it gets covered by a clear gloss coat.

Another application is covering wooden or stone floors. The highly glossy layer takes an ordinary floor to the next level of glam.

These paints are known for their effective sealing capabilities, moisture resistance, and also for repelling stains.

That makes clear gloss paints a nice solution for outdoor furniture, patio covering, kitchens, and bathrooms.

Here are some of the common applications of clear gloss paint:

  • Accent pieces, like side tables
  • Artistic objects, such as sculptures
  • Outdoor furniture
  • Wooden floor covering
  • Kitchens and bathrooms
  • Cabinets
  • Doors, windows, and trims
  • Decorative walls

Key Difference Between Clear Satin vs Clear Gloss

The main difference between clear satin and clear gloss is in the sheen of each coating.

Satin has a calm shine that doesn’t steal the light from every corner of the room and reflects it.

Clear gloss does exactly that, which is why it appears so shimmery.

These optical properties also cause clear gloss to emphasize surface irregularities and defects.

Contrary to that, clear satin is much more tolerant of these imperfections.  

The other properties of these paints, like durability, cleanability, and resistance to stains aren’t too drastically different.

Is Clear Satin Better Than Clear Gloss?

There’s no real competition between satin and clear gloss. Each one comes with some great features and a few limitations.

Thus, it all depends on what you are painting or which room you plan to cover.

Can I Paint Clear Satin Over Semi-Gloss or Vice Versa?

different paint colors

This is a question I hear all the time, whether or not it’s possible to add an extra layer of clear satin over gloss. The opposite situation comes up pretty frequently too.

The main concerns are adherence, the necessary prep work, and the appearance of the final finish. 

Painting Clear Satin Over Semi-Gloss

Applying a coat of clear satin over a semi-gloss finish might be necessary to get a certain ‘look’.

Luckily, this move is quite possible, and it doesn’t even need plenty of prep work, like in the case of painting clear satin over gloss.

The main condition is that both the clean satin and the semi-gloss finish need to be oil-based.

This is also the case if the semi-gloss is lead-based paint, and the clear satin topcoat is water-based. 

If both paints are latex-based, the paint-over is still possible, but in this case, you’d need to use a primer for optimal results. It’s worth mentioning that semi-gloss is a bit difficult to paint on.

Its surface is designed to be slick, so substances don’t adhere to it easily.

Generally speaking, sanding the semi-gloss surface first is recommended to increase the adherence to the next coat. Also, to decrease the time required to apply a clear satin coat.  

Painting Semi-Gloss Over Clear Satin

You can apply semi-gloss over satin in a similar manner to painting these coats in the reverse order.

I’d still recommend sanding the satin clear coat first, applying a primer, then going for a semi-gloss.

That’s because the semi-gloss would have a hard time adhering to the satin, and also ironing out any surface irregularities. 

Final Thoughts – Which Paint To Choose?

Clear satin is a great choice for rooms, living areas, kitchens, and bathrooms.

Additionally, it’s perfect for indoor furniture, baseboards, moldings, and trims. Its moderate sheen and durability make it just right for these spaces.

Clear gloss is more of an accent coating, so it has wide application in decoration and artistic pieces, small pieces of furniture, doors, and moldings.

It’s also widely used as an extravagant covering for wooden or stone floors.

About Lisa Bohrer

Lisa is a native Texan who says she wears many hats. She is a wife, mother, grandmother, farmer, animal lover, fisherwoman, gardener, and college student. Lisa is a sophomore at Liberty University where she is taking classes to earn her Associates Degree in Creative Writing. She and her husband of 35 years fill their days with life on the farm raising goats and chickens, and then most evenings she can be found at the computer writing, or researching a topic that has piqued her interest.

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