Is It Easier to Apply Flat Paint or Satin Paint?

Satin and eggshell paints tend to be more popular than flat (also called matte) paint.  The first two have a slight sheen; the second two have no reflective qualities at all.  Their look is a matter of personal taste.  But when applying them, which is easier?

Best Answer

Flat paint is easier to apply than satin and eggshell sheens because flashing (sheen inconsistency) is not an issue.


Though it looks great on your ceiling and walls, flat paint has a lot going against it.  It’s not the most popular paint sheen out there for a few reasons.  It’s difficult to clean.  It doesn’t stand up well against moisture, meaning you won’t be applying it in the bathroom.  it needs constant touching up.

However, flat does have one tremendous quality:  it is far easier to work with than any of the paints that have a sheen:  eggshell, satin, semi-gloss, and gloss.

Less Resins = No Leading Edge to Worry About

When brushing or rolling paint that has any type of sheen, you need to be aware of the leading edge.  Working off of this wet leading edge (the last part that you painted) is key to a good finish.

Sometimes, when you let that leading edge dry, then try to work off of it later, a dull line develops where the old finish and new finish meet.  Sheen inconsistency is called flashing.

Flat paint has a greater pigment-to-resins ratio than all other paint sheens.  Resins help a paint resist water better, yet they are also the cause behind flashing.  With flat paint, you can essentially paint with abandon, without worrying about ending up with those dreaded start-and-stop marks on your wall.


By consulting perms, you can see the tremendous spread in resin content between flat paint and other sheens.  A perm is a standard unit that measures water vapor transmission.  Any perm rating above 1.0 means that the surface is not considered a water vapor barrier.

Barrier:  Yes

  • Epoxy-polyamide (gloss) 0.14
  • Alkyd semigloss 0.57

Barrier:  No

  • Latex semigloss 4.98
  • Alkyd flat 19.9
  • Latex flat 27.0


Mixing Still Required

Applying flat paint is not completely foolproof, though.  Like other paints, it still needs to be thoroughly mixed.  It is still possible, with flat, to create a difference between two areas of paint because pigment has been dispensed differently between the two.

Limited Scope of Discussion

Though I don’t usually remind readers of the topic of an article, in this case it’s important.  We are only discussing which is easier to apply, flat paint or satin/eggshell paint.  Post-application, the script is flipped.  Flat is far more difficult to maintain than eggshell, stain, semi-gloss, or glossy paints.

Best Sources

Company Site

Paint manufacturer Dulux discusses the moisture vapor transmission ratings, called “perms,” of several types of paint sheens.

Trade Forum

Professional painters in the forum Paint Talk discuss the difficulty of maintaining a wet edge (and preventing flashing) when working with eggshell sheen paint.

6 Steps to Accent Wall Design

But corny metaphors aside, painting an accent wall is just about the no-brainer-easiest and fastest things you can do to spiff up a room, in less than a couple of hours.

But before you go out and buy $45/gallon Ralph Lauren Orange Frenzy (or whatever) for that accent wall of yours, you’ll want to observe a few conventions:

1. Most Prominent Wall

You’ll want your accent wall to be the first, or one of the first, things you see as you enter a room.  This is not a you’ll-die-if-you-don’t-do-it type of rule, but rather nice to observe.  At the very least don’t make it the back wall.

2. Anchoring

What area of the room do you want to highlight or define?  An accent wall is great at separating areas within larger areas, such as a family sitting area that happens to be within a larger room.  Think in terms of sub-rooms, not just rooms.

3. Focal Point

Do not put make your accent wall a blank wall with nothing around it.  You’ll want a fireplace, music center, flat-screen TV, bed, fountain, or something of this nature to highlight.

Accent Wall

4. Bold Against Neutral

The most common method of painting an accent wall is to make the “target wall” something vibrant (red, pink, orange, dark green or blue) and to make surrounding walls neutral.  But you can also make the surrounding walls a lighter, paler version of the accent wall.

Color coordinating your accent wall doesn’t necessarily mean matching.  It can mean complementary colors.

5. Color Coordination

Coordinate your accent wall with a few key items in your room:  sofa, pillows, throw rug, etc.  Don’t go overboard, though.

6. Media Other Than Paint

Paint isn’t the only material you can use for your accent wall.  Think:  tile or wallpaper, too.  In addition, you can frame your accent wall in molding.