Satin Or Semi Gloss For Exterior Trim

Satin Or Semi Gloss For Exterior Trim?

Satin_Or_Semi Gloss_For_Exterior_Trim

Determining satin or semi-gloss for exterior trim, siding, soffits, gutters, fascia, also garage doors is much easier than you might have thought. Explaining the difference between the two, giving a background of these finishes, from a paint industry prescriptive.

You are getting ready to either buy some exterior paint, painting your trim, or hiring this out by a reputable painting contractor, makes no difference. Will guide you what is the norm of exterior paint finishes, a little background , with a little more expertise.

Being in the paint industry well over 40 years, can give you my expert opinion on this subject, using either satin or semi-gloss for exterior surfaces.

Most have heard of semi-gloss, thinking to use this outside, but that's an interior term. If you really want to be on point, mention satin for exterior surfaces.

What Is The Best Finish For Exterior Trim Paint

What_Is_The_Best_Finish_For_Exterior _Trim_Paint

  • Universal finish
  • Less reflection than gloss
  • Seals, repelling moisture
  • Available with paint brands
  • Sound like you know what your talking about, asking for satin

Today, the very best finish for exterior trim paint is satin. Satin paint finish is an universal finish with all major paint manufactures. The term satin is synopsis or similar to what an interior paint finish called semi-gloss. Not to confuse the issue, satin has a tad less shine than semi-gloss, which was originally meant to tone down gloss for exteriors before 1990's.

Less reflection satin offers, than so called semi-gloss, there is one or two paint manufactures offering semi-gloss exterior paint, but historically speaking, semi-gloss is an interior paint finish. All paint stores offer satin exterior, only a few like BEHR™ offers semi-gloss exterior.

Satin finish for exterior trim seals, repels moisture, and protects, lasting the longest. Climbing up the ladder with exterior paint qualities, satin is available with all paint brands. Giving you the best of both worlds. Satin is by far the best paint, also having most convenience finding it anywhere you choose.

Satin finish is to exterior paint, like chocolate is to dip cones or motor oil is to combustible engines.

If you were to step foot into a Sherwin-Williams™ paint store, explaining you were fixing to paint your exterior, satin would be suggested, not semi-gloss.

You'll sound much more knowledgeable requesting satin for exterior, than requesting semi-gloss. Semi-gloss is an interior paint finish, and satin is a common choice in both areas, interior as well as exterior.

Interior Vs. Exterior Finishes


Naval Blue siding, Alabaster White exterior trim both painted with satin paint finish.

The term semi-gloss is automatically thought of as an interior paint finish, painting interior trim, baseboards, doors, shelving, and wood moldings.

Just as semi-gloss is thought of as an interior paint finish, satin is it's equal for outside. As we'll get into why you should not have a glossier finish outside.

Also why satin makes for a more universal finish for all exterior surfaces, including trim.


  • Satin = Exterior paint finish
  • Exterior windows, siding is best served painted with satin
  • Exterior doors, wood trim are best painted with satin finish also
  • Flat paint sheen best used on Stucco and/or Efis


  • Semi-gloss = Interior paint finish
  • Over used term
  • Interior doors, baseboards, moldings are painted with semi-gloss
  • Semi-gloss is a common finish for interior trim

95% of all exterior trim, satin paint finish is used, where as 95% of all interior trim, semi-gloss is applied.

Reason for the confusion, is most know only a few paint finish terms. Having experience painting inside, but rarely painting outside. So semi-gloss is an over-used term, when thinking of a type of gloss finish for exteriors.

A more specific finish outside is satin, similar to semi-gloss inside.

What Type Of Exterior Trim Paint is Best


How Satin & Semi-gloss Finishes Collided, Coming About

Back prior to 1990, there were basically two types of exterior finishes, flat & gloss.

In early 90's, a third exterior finish was rolled out, giving everyone a medium finish, being satin. Before then, semi-gloss had less reflection than gloss, but both terms used internally.

Why Satin Exterior Trim?

Several reasons why a middle exterior sheen was needed, and provided by Sherwin-Williams™ back in early 90's. Ever since then, satin has taken center stage being the best exterior trim finish, without a doubt.

Satin exterior finishes are the mainstay to all paint professionals, painters, contractors, and home builders across the country.

Giving the ability to repel water very well, without it looking too shinny. Nothing like a marine paint for boats, satin paints is just what the public needed. Lets' face it, no one wants a flying saucer or neon sign for an exterior paint scheme, not being too shinny.

Not wanting to have different paint sheens outside, giving the ability having one finish doing it all. Same sheen on siding as well as trim, gutters, soffits, also fascias.

  • Satin not too shinny
  • Satin simplifies exterior painting
  • This finish repels water
  • Satin easier to apply
  • Satin offers universal paint finish
  • Simplifies painting process
  • Universal exterior paint finish
  • Satin requested by most home builders
  • Cannot compare quality to sheen or finish
  • Satin sheen saves time & money

Having one paint sheen is much quicker to apply, than switching out paints with different finishes. Especially changing out paints from an airless spray rig. Having different paint finishes outside gets too busy, and convoluted. Time is money, saving time building homes today. Satin finish was just what the national home builders were crying for.

Once satin was rolled out, it has never looked back, being the sheen or finish most homes are painted today. This goes for previously painted homes, needing repainting across the USA. Most new homes, older homes are painted with satin, instead of semi-gloss outside.

Same time satin finish was being introduced, so was eggshell for interior. Having one interior paint finish for ceilings, bathrooms, and kitchens, instead of flat for living, semi-gloss kitchens, eggshell was the perfect answer, only needing one.

Exterior surfaces are similar to interior surfaces in that wood surfaces needing a finish easy to clean, protecting. Allowing an ability to receive moisture, like water rolling off on a duck's back. This finish inside is semi-gloss, where exteriors need satin.

The building industry has always guided major paint companies products they develop. Just as they request finishes, they also asking for newer paint colors. Major paint companies spend millions each year testing new paints through Research & Development (R&D).


As well as studying new colors from our infamous color wheel, much money spent each year with that research also. This is why every home builder has a preference which paint brand to use, painting new homes.

Speaking of quality, satin finish opposed to semi-gloss, the paint quality or warranty is in the actual formulation, or paint base, not the sheen. So trying to compare a finish having a higher paint quality is inconceivable.

Homes which need to be repainted automatically receive most current paint colors, with most popular finishes anyone could ask for. There are many high grade flat paints, having a higher quality than a satin or semi-gloss. Which your wallet will be able to tell the difference.

Biggest reason a middle paint sheen needed for outside home's surfaces was to simplify the painting process. Having a more universal look and feel, most durable, no matter what color, or what surfaces being painted. Again saving time & money while painting.

Best Paint Finish Sheen On Exterior Home


Most homes painted in the US are painted with satin paint finish (depicted above). Satin paint finishes have a slight gloss, repelling moisture, most important. Also understanding semi-gloss is a term generally thought of for interior surfaces.

Garage doors have a smooth metal surface. Applying satin gives the appearance of a much glossier finish to begin with. Using a semi-gloss or gloss finish would make a garage door stand out like a sore thumb.


Recapping, satin trim paint is by far your best choice for an exterior. Matter of fact, satin works for all exterior surfaces, having a universal paint sheen. Not bringing attention to gutters, wood trim around windows, or corner boards. Like "Hey, look at me, I'm a new gutter".

Satin has a smooth slick finish, not too shiny, protecting from moisture, very easy to apply. Most universal exterior paint finish, used extensively across the country, with any paint brand you choose. Satin finishes found with every top paint brand. Including Sherwin-Williams™, Benjamin-Moore™, BEHR™, PPG™, Valspar™, and Glidden™ all provide satin exterior finishes.


Clearing the air, why semi-gloss is typically thought of as an interior paint trim finish. And satin is your equal outside what semi-gloss is inside.

Much R&D has gone into exterior paints, their sheens, also colors each year.

If you are in the market painting exterior trim, chances are your siding is just as old as the trim paint you are fixing to cover. You'd be best served painting full exterior, than only a portion of the outside. Main reason is the cost of painting trim.

There are only a few exterior surfaces which do not require satin or (internally speaking) semi-gloss trim.

Lastly, giving you the knowledge next time walking into a paint store, buying exterior paint. Remembering satin best for exterior wood trim. Few other exterior surfaces require different paint finishes, especially Stucco or Efis, as you diffidently want to use Flat paint sheen. This is highly important, not wanting to ruin the natural look of stone.

Keep in mind; Flat is best for Stucco and/or Efis!

Now you know satin exterior is the choice for most exterior homes, simplifying the finishes, making them all the same outside. Your biggest decision is determining colors, as you've got the sheen narrowed down.

Next time painting outside, you'll know satin paint finish is the most popular choice for all portions of exterior, including trim.

If you are in need of a professional exterior painting job near Denver, CO. look no further than Eco Paint, employing top notch seasoned painters, handling all this for you.

We'd love to hear from you with your painting questions, either by commenting, like, sharing, linking below.

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