What's the difference between matt and silk paint?

Are you tired of staring at your walls and not knowing what paint finish they need?

Or perhaps you entered your local paint shop and didn’t have a clue what any of the labels on the paint meant. Silk. Matt. Vinyl Matt. Gloss. Satin. 5 minutes in, and you’re just fed up.

Don’t worry!

I’m here to clear up the confusion. I’ll tell you exactly what matt and silk paints are. I’ll delve into the differences between the two and tell you what paint you should use to decorate each room in your house.

What Is Matt Paint?

Matt paint is a type of paint finish. Matt is characterised by having a low level of sheen. It gets this look by absorbing light instead of reflecting it like high-sheen paint finishes do.

What Is Silk Paint?

Silk is also a type of paint finish. Silk has a higher level of sheen than matt and reflects light instead of absorbing it.

Matt paint finish next to silk paint finish

What's the difference between matt and silk paint?

Now we have covered what matt and silk paint finishes are. Let’s compare the difference between matt and silk paints.

Appearance

One of the main differences between matt and silk paint is in the appearance of the paint finishes.

Matt paint has a flat and velvety appearance. So, it’s great for giving off an understated, elegant look. The best way to picture a matt finish is to imagine a clean chalkboard with its soft and untextured appearance.

On the other hand, silk paint has a slightly more glossy look than matt paint. Since light bounces off of silk finishes, it gives off a reflective finish. The best way to visualise silk paint is to think about silk fabric. Just like silk, it has a low sheen, creating a bright and elegant look.

Durability

There is a difference between matt and silk paint in terms of durability.

As a general rule of thumb, the higher the paint sheen, the more durable the finish. That’s because the shine in paints comes from additives like gloss or semi-gloss, which acts as a protective coating on the finish.

Matt paint has the least amount of sheen of all finishes. So, as you can guess, matt is the least durable type of paint finish.

As a result, scuffs, scratches, and fingerprints show up easily on a matt finish. So, if you paint your property with a matt finish, avoid leaning on your walls with dirty hands – unless you’re aiming for that authentic ‘abstract art’ look.

Silk paint comes with higher durability than a matt finish. As silk can reflect light and has a slight sheen to it, scratches and scuffs won’t show up as much on a silk finish. That makes it better suited to high-traffic areas, such as hallways.

So, when it comes to durability, silk paint is the clear winner.

Application method

There’s not much of a difference between matt and silk when it comes to application methods.

You can apply matt paint with rollers, a spray gun, or a brush.

Similarly, silk will paint beautifully with brushes, rollers or when you spray it.

How easy it is to clean

In terms of cleaning, the difference between matt and silk is minimal.

Cleaning matt walls is relatively straightforward. Most dirt marks will come off using a soft sponge and warm, soapy water. But you need to be careful. Matt finishes wash off easily, so don’t apply too much pressure when cleaning.

Similarly, silk paint is washable. You can easily remove dirt marks, scuffs, or fingerprints with a soft cloth and soapy water. So, when you use silk paint, you can quickly wash the surface and have it looking as good as new without having to start painting the area.

Matt vs Silk Paint

So far, we have covered what matt and silk paint are and the main differences between the two.

Now, let’s compare the pros and cons of satin and matt paint finishes.

Pros of Matt Paint

  • Matt paint has a slighly dull appearance. As a result, it’s great at hiding imperfections in the surfaces you are painting.
  • With a matt finish, touch-ups are easy. That’s because matt paint has the ability to blend more easily with the surrounding surface. So, matt paint saves you from the agony of having to repaint an entire room every time you get a few scuff marks.

Cons of Matt Paint

  • Matt paint is not the most durable type of paint finish. Certainly it’s less durable than silk paint. So, if you use it for your interior walls, be prepared to regularly touch-up the painted surfaces.
  • Matt paint is not as easy to clean as silk paint. Therefore, if you choose matt over silk, you’ll need to spend extra time and care when you clean your walls.

My favourite matt paint

I’ve tried and tested hundreds of matt paints.

I think the best Matt paint on the market is Optiva Matt by Tikkurila. It contains zero VOCs and has encapsulation technology, making it more resistant to dirt.

However, if you are on a budget and want to paint your house with a matt finish, I’d recommend Crown Trade Vinyl Matt. It will give you a lot of bang for your buck.

Pros of silk Paint

  • One advantage of silk over matt is that it is more moisture-resistant due to the sheen in its finish. As a result, you would want to choose silk paint over matt for high-moisture environments like a kitchen or bathroom.
  • Silk paints have a better resistance to stains than matt paint.

Cons of silk Paint

  • Silk is a mid-sheen paint, which gives it reflecting properties. A negative of this is that imperfections in the surface you are painting will appear more easily with silk paint.
  • Silk paint doesn’t blend as well with surroundings as matt paints do. As a result, painting and decorating with silk paint requires a skilled decorator to avoid brush marks on the finish.

My favourite silk paint

As a professional painter in Chelsea, I’ve tried too many silk emulsion paints to count. I think the best silk paint available is Berger Silk Emulsion.

Again, if you want to paint your property and need a silk interior paint that offers excellent value, Dulux Trade Vinyl Silk paint is a great choice.

Bedroom painted with Dulux silk paint

Should you use matt or silk?

Choosing between matt and silk paint is like deciding between a cosy sweater and a sleek blazer—both have their charms, but which one suits your style?

So, while it’s ultimately up to you what paint finish you use to decorate your house, I’m going to give you my personal recommendations.

Matt or Silk paint for Living Room

As a professional painter, I’ve found that matt works better in living rooms than silk paint.

Why?

For starters, matt finishes give a soft and understated look, which makes them perfect for creating an elegant look. When you paint your living with matt, it’s like choosing a classic black dress – it’s timeless.

Also, living rooms usually have a lot of natural light, so using a non-reflective paint reduces glare in the room.

Not only that, but matt paint will easily cover any imperfections on your surface when you are painting.

Matt or Silk paint for Bedroom

In my day-to-day practice, I always recommend clients use matt paints for their bedrooms.

I like matt paint for bedrooms because it’s great for giving a room a smooth and soft finish, which is perfect for creating a sense of relaxation.

And since bedrooms are not high-traffic rooms in a house, you won’t expect your walls to get that dirty. So, you don’t need to worry about the lack of durability with matt paints.

But, there is a caveat to this piece of advice. And it’s that if you are painting your child’s bedroom, silk is the best option.

Why, you ask?

For the simple reason, children and paint don’t mix. Let’s face it. Within a week of painting your child’s room, you’ll have crayons, toys, and everything they can find thrown at the walls.

Silk brings an extra layer of durability to defend against this. So, it might just be the unsung hero we’ve been searching for.

Matt or Silk paint for Hallway

I’d recommend using silk paint for hallways.

I prefer silk over matt paint for hallways because they tend to be high-traffic areas of the house, so it’s more likely to get scuffed and dirty. When you use silk paint for your hallway, it will hold up better against these marks.

Also, I like the bright look silk paint gives a hallway.

Matt or Silk paint for Kitchen

Through my own trial and error, I have found that silk paint works better for kitchens.

Kitchens tend to be high-traffic areas of the home, and silk paint offers better durability and protection against scuffs and dirt. So, if you use silk paint for your kitchen, you’ll be spared the hassle of having to repaint your kitchen every five minutes.

Also, silk paint has better moisture resistance than matt paint. Kitchens tend to be high-moisture environments, so using silk paint here prevents paint from bubbling or peeling as a result of moisture damage.

Frequently Asked Questions

What paint finish is best for walls?

The best paint finish for your walls will depend on your personal preferences and what you want the rest of your interior to look like.

But as we have discussed there are advantages and disadvantages that come with each type of paint finish.

So, you should consider the following before making a decision:

  • What is the room used for?
  • How much natural light is there in the room?
  • What does the rest of the interior look like?
  • Is the room likely to get dirty?

Should I use silk or matt for my ceilings?

You can paint the walls of the room in any finish you like. But matt emulsion is the best paint for your ceilings. Flat matt emulsion is the best option for a ceiling because it won’t reflect light in the room, so it will prevent there being a glare.

Can you paint silk over matt?

It’s totally possible to paint silk over matt. However, you’ll need to complete a few preparation tasks before painting to ensure a good quality finish. The prep work will involve sanding down the surfaces and applying a primer. Following these steps will ensure a perfect finish. Similarly, you can paint matt over silk.

Can you mix matt and silk paints?

Yes, you can mix silk paint with a matt. However, you probably won’t get the results you expect. Instead of the mixed paint having a sheen finish somewhere in between matt and silk, the paint will just become matt paint.

So, unless you are simply trying to use up your leftover silk paint, you are better off just purchasing matt paint directly from your local DIY store.