Eggshell vs Satin: How to Decide Which Paint to Use

a room with wall panelling painted in brown satin
(Image credit: French + Tye, c/o Farrow & Ball)

You know what colour you want, now you need to decide on a finish — but when it comes to eggshell vs satin, which should you pick? 

Are you looking for a low sheen finish on your doors and skirting boards? Then eggshell could be the answer. But do you want something that is durable and washable? Is satin a better choice? Do you want something more robust and durable than matt when painting a wall?

Check out our quick guide to get the answers and help you make the right choice for your next paint project. 

What's the Difference Between Eggshell vs Satin?

Eggshell and satin differ through the sheen of the finish that they offer. Eggshell has a lower duller sheen than satin and is close to a matt or flat finish that you find in a lot of emulsions. 

It is reminiscent of the shell of an egg — hence its name. Satin has a glossier finish than eggshell and reflects more light, so is more likely to show up any imperfections. 

What is More Durable, Eggshell or Satin? 

Of the two, satin is more durable and is slightly less likely to scuff or mark than eggshell and it's easier to clean when it does get marked. 

This makes it a better choice, especially for woodwork such as painting skirting boards, than eggshell for high traffic areas like hallways and living rooms. Eggshell is better suited for areas that don’t get so much traffic such as ceilings, bedrooms and less used areas of a kitchen. 

But, it's also a good alternative to flat paint in high traffic areas because it's more durable and easier to clean than flat or matt paint.  

Best skirting board paint guide

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Which is Easier to Clean, Eggshell or Satin?  

The mildly glossier finish of satin makes it slightly easier to clean and maintain than eggshell, but in reality there isn't a great deal of difference. Satin is easier to wipe clean while eggshell typically needs a little more effect to clean. 

Ideally use a cloth and warm soapy water to wipe clean both. But eggshell’s slightly rougher surface means it will typically take longer to get it clean. If you have a stubborn stain use well diluted sugar soap, but be gentle.

Which is Easier to Apply?

When it comes to application there isn’t a great deal of difference between how to paint a room with eggshell and satin. They have very similar viscosity, but this can vary from brand to brand. 

Typically eggshell is more forgiving when applying and doesn’t need quite so much painting experience to get a decent finish — ideal for novice DIYers especially when painting woodwork. 

What Looks Better, Eggshell or Satin? 

There isn’t a great deal of difference in the sheen between eggshell and satin, but as always when choosing a finish for your paint project, it’s a matter of personal choice. 

If you want a very low sheen with a soft touch finish that isn’t quite matt then eggshell is the one for you. If you want something with a little more lustre then satin is the better choice. But consider how it fits in with the style of your home. 

Eggshell is great in period homes and works well on woodwork and walls, while satin is typically suited to a more modern home.

Where to Use Satin and Eggshell

Eggshell and satin are both commonly used on woodwork such as doors, windows, and skirting boards to get a low sheen and forgiving finish. 

But, as eggshell sits just above matt in the paint reflective hierarchy, it is a good choice as an alternative to a matt emulsion finish. It will still offer a low sheen and help hide imperfections, but is a little more durable than matt and has a smoother finish. 

Steve Jenkins

Steve is Homebuilding & Renovating's DIY content editor, and has been a writer and editor for two decades. He is an avid DIYer with over 20 years of experience in transforming and renovating homes. He specialises in painting and decorating, but has strong all-round building skills, having previously worked in the industry for 10 years.