Satin or Semi-Gloss for Kitchen Cabinets: Which to Choose?

By MWB-Team •  Updated: 09/21/23 • 

When choosing a finish for your kitchen cabinets, consider different factors. You should consider the overall look, ease of cleaning, durability, and preferences, among other factors. Satin and semi-gloss sheen levels are two popular options you can check out. In this article, we’ll compare these two to help you decide the best one for your kitchen cabinets. You can also check out our best clear coats for painted kitchen cabinets.

Satin Finish

A satin finish is a low-sheen smooth finish that is quite popular in today’s kitchens. It gives your kitchen cabinets a modern and even surface that reflects light beautifully without appearing too shiny.

Satin painted kitchen cabinets

Most of the factory-done coatings these days are satin. They are fairly easy to clean and can hide imperfections for a smooth pro finish. However, satin finishes can be harder to apply and can also show imperfections.

Pros of Satin Finishes

Cons of Satin Finishes

Semi-Gloss Finish

A semi-gloss cabinet finish sits somewhere between a satin and glossy finish. This means it is shiner than satin but not as shiny as a glossy finish. While a shiny semi-gloss finish looks good to the eye, it slightly obscures the base color used.

Semi Gloss Painted Kitchen Cabinets

However, semi-gloss finishes are easier to clean and maintain and resistant to scratches, dents, and smudges. It also leaves behind a cleaner and sharper look compared to satin finishes.

Pros of Semi-Gloss Finishes

Cons of Semi-Gloss Finishes

Satin vs. Semi-Gloss For Kitchen Cabinets

Ease of Application

If you’re looking for an easier finish to apply between satin and semi-gloss, semi-gloss is the best option. This is because it has a higher viscosity due to a higher resin content. A higher viscosity makes it less likely to drip or run and leaves behind a smoother finish.

Satin finishes have a lower resin content, which makes them less viscous. This makes it harder to apply, and you might notice drips or runs if you need to be more careful when applying. Check out our article on brushing vs spraying kitchen cabinets.

Sheen and Overall Appearance

Satin finishes have a lower sheen compared to semi-gloss finishes. Rather than reflecting light, satin finishes absorb it, which makes it harder to show fingerprints and smudges. Satin finishes are also great for bringing out the paint of your cabinets or grain without altering it. The low-sheen luster also makes give your kitchen a warm and inviting look.

Semi-gloss finishes have a higher sheen, which means they reflect more light than absorb it. Because of the higher reflectivity of light, fingerprints, smudges, and other little imperfections will show easily. The look of semi-gloss finishes also does not bring out the color or grain of the wood, which creates an artificial but elegant look. 

If you’re looking to compare different sheens, check out our article on matte vs. satin vs. gloss finishes

Durability and Maintenance

The higher the gloss in a finish, the more durable it is. Satin finishes are good and can be scrubbed to remove stains, smudges, and dirt. However, semi-gloss finishes can stand up to alot of more abuse and can also be easily cleaned. For a heavily used kitchen, semi-gloss finishes are a better option than satin.

Moisture and Scratch Resistance

Semi-gloss finishes are more moisture and scratch resistance compared to satin finishes. The higher resin content makes semi-gloss finishes have a better barrier against moisture. Also, it creates a harder glossy surface which is more resistant to scratches.

Although satin finishes are fairly resistant to moisture, they cannot match semi-gloss finishes. This makes them more likely to be damaged by water or moisture over a period of time. If you choose a satin finish for your kitchen cabinets, ensure you’re wiping spills and moisture to keep them in good condition.

For scratch resistance, satin finishes might not be good as semi-gloss finishes, but they can also stand up to daily abuse without much of a problem. Satin can also be easily repaired in case you scratch the cabinets.

Which one Should You Choose?

There is no right or wrong option when deciding between satin and semi-gloss finishes. Each of these sheens has its own pros and cons which you should look out for to make an informed decision. However, these two have very similar benefits and drawbacks.

Ultimately, choose a finish that matches your preferences and works best for your space. For a modern look, choose semi-gloss, and go with satin for an elegant and warm appearance.


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