What’s the Difference Between Flat and Matte Paint?

Flat and matte paint are two of the most popular finishes for interior and exterior walls. So, what is the difference between flat and matte paint?

Flat and matte are often used interchangeably, but there are subtle differences between the two. Flat paint has a zero-sheen finish, while matte paint has a slight sheen of 5-10%. Both are known for their dull look, but the added sheen in matte paint makes it more durable and easier to clean. 

In this article, you will learn the following:

  • The characteristics of flat and matte paint
  • The similarities and differences between flat and matte paint
  • How to decide between flat and matte
  • Extra tips on choosing a paint finish

Comparison of Flat and Matte Paint Finishes


One of the most notable similarities between flat and matte paint is their low-sheen finish. This unique quality enables both finishes to create a muted and sophisticated look that does not reflect light the way higher-gloss paints do.

This can be particularly advantageous in spaces with abundant natural light, as it helps to minimize glare and create a more inviting atmosphere.

Another prominent feature shared by flat and matte paint is their exceptional ability to hide imperfections on wall surfaces.

Owing to their low light reflection, these finishes can effectively camouflage minor surface flaws, such as small cracks, rough textures, and uneven patchwork.

This makes flat and matte paint particularly well-suited for older homes or those with imperfect wall surfaces that require a smooth and harmonious appearance.

It is essential to note that flat and matte paint are not as durable as higher-gloss finishes, particularly when it comes to resisting wear and tear. This vulnerability can be particularly problematic in high-traffic areas where walls may be subject to regular bumps and scrapes.


Flat paint has a completely non-reflective surface and a smooth texture, which makes it an excellent choice for covering up imperfections on walls and ceilings.

This is due to its ability to absorb light and give a flawless appearance. Matte paint, on the other hand, has a slightly higher sheen and a lower reflectivity, which can make colors appear somewhat darker, giving rooms a muted, sophisticated ambiance.

In terms of durability, matte paint is a clear winner. It can withstand more wear and tear, making it suitable for areas with medium traffic, especially in homes with children or pets. It is also easier to clean and maintain. 

However, flat paint is often the preferred choice for low-traffic areas where its smooth texture and lack of sheen can conceal flaws effectively.

Keep in mind that flat paint can be challenging to touch up, as it may result in a visible patch, whereas matte paint typically allows for seamless touch-ups.

When it comes to application and cost, flat paint has its advantages. It is easier to apply and generally requires fewer coats for full coverage, which can save both time and money during painting projects.

In contrast, matte paint is typically more expensive, although its durability and ease of maintenance may prove to be a wise investment for certain spaces.

3 Characteristics of Flat Paint


Flat paint is a type of finish that gives walls and other surfaces a velvety, muted appearance. Its flat finish absorbs light rather than reflecting it, giving the surface a dull look.


Flat paint is the least durable of all the paint finishes available. It is more easily scratched than other types. It is perfect for low-traffic areas but not recommended for walls with a lot of wear and tear.

Cleaning and maintenance

Flat paint is not as resilient as other types of paint. It is easily scratched if scrubbed too vigorously, which can cause visible wear and damage the strength of the paint.

3 Advantages of Flat Paint

Hides imperfections

Flat paint can easily conceal imperfections on wall surfaces, such as bumps, scratches, and nail holes. This type of paint does not reflect light like other paints, making it one of the best options for hiding blemishes that may be visible with higher gloss paints.

Easy to touch up

Flat paint is one of the easiest paints to touch up. Its lack of gloss makes blending in with the existing wall color easy. Flat paint has more pigment than other finishes, which allows it to better hide any imperfections on the wall.

Low shine

Flat paint does not have the gloss or sheen of other paints, making it perfect for those who want a subtle look. It is a great option for ceilings and other areas where you don’t want to draw attention to the surfaces.

3 Disadvantages of Flat Paint

Less durable than other finishes 

Flat paint is not the most durable of finishes. It can be susceptible to chipping, fading, and staining. It doesn’t provide a protective layer as strong as other paints, which can lead to cracking and peeling over time.

Hard to clean

One of the most significant drawbacks of flat paint is that it is much more difficult to clean. Flat paint does not have the same level of durability or resistance to dirt and stains, so spills and grime can easily stick to it. This makes it nearly impossible to remove without damaging the wall’s surface. 

Not suitable for high-traffic areas

Since flat paint is not as durable or resistant to wear and tear, it should not be used in high-traffic areas. It is better suited for areas with low foot traffic, like bedrooms and living rooms.

3 Characteristics of Matte Paint


Matte paint has a similar appearance to flat paint and is often mistaken for it. It also has a muted look and absorbs light rather than reflecting it. However, the finish is slightly more gloss than flat paint.


Matte paint is slightly more durable than flat paint but not as durable as other finishes like semi-gloss or gloss. It can hold up to some light scrubbing but is not made for high-traffic areas or environments with a lot of moisture.

Cleaning and maintenance

Matte paint can tolerate a bit of scrubbing, but it must still be handled carefully. It’s not as water-resistant as glossier finishes, so spills should be wiped up quickly and gently to avoid damaging the finish.

3 Advantages of Matte Paint

Hides imperfections

Matte paint is also good at hiding imperfections on wall surfaces. Since it only has a subtle sheen, light is still absorbed rather than reflected, making it a great choice for concealing blemishes or marks.

Low shine

Matte paint is a great option for those who still want to avoid the shine of other finishes but don’t quite want the muted look of flat paint. It offers just enough gloss to create visual interest without being too bright or reflective.

Conceals scratches and scuffs

Matte paint is also good at concealing any scratches or scuffs that may occur over time. Its low shine helps disguise minor flaws and keep the walls fresh and neat.

3 Disadvantages of Matte Paint

Easily damaged

Because of its low sheen, matte paint can be easily damaged if improperly handled. It can also be difficult to clean since spills and dirt are more likely to stick to the walls.

Hard to clean

Matte paint also tends to be harder to clean since its low-sheen finish does not repel dirt, stains, or other finishes. This means that any spills or dirt must be wiped up quickly and gently to avoid damaging the paint job.

Not suitable for high-traffic areas

Finally, matte paint is unsuitable for high-traffic areas since it is more prone to damage and wear. It should be used in low-traffic areas like bedrooms or living rooms with less foot traffic and dirt.

Flat or Matte Paint: Which Is the Best Choice for Your Home?

Here are some factors to consider when deciding between flat and matte paint for your home interior. 

Room function and traffic

The purpose and usage of the room play a crucial role in selecting the appropriate finish. Flat paint, with its chalky, non-reflective surface, generally works well in less-trafficked areas such as bedrooms, ceilings, and formal living rooms.

However, it is less suitable for high-traffic areas like kitchens, hallways, and entryways due to its susceptibility to scuff marks and dirt.

Matte finish, on the other hand, offers slightly more durability and can handle light scrubbing, making it a better choice for rooms that are more frequently used.

Surface condition

Flat paint is particularly effective at concealing imperfections, such as dents, nail holes, and uneven textures. Its lack of sheen minimizes the appearance of wall flaws by absorbing light, rather than reflecting it.

A matte finish, while still good at hiding minor imperfections, possesses a slight sheen that may reveal surface irregularities more than a flat finish. If the walls in question are not perfectly smooth, flat paint may be the better option.

Aesthetic preferences

The visual appeal of a paint finish is subjective and depends on personal preferences. Flat paint offers a smooth, velvety appearance, ideal for creating a cozy, intimate atmosphere in spaces such as bedrooms or living rooms.

Matte paint, with its minimal sheen, provides a slightly more sophisticated and modern look that works well in contemporary designs. To determine the preferred aesthetic, consider the desired ambiance of the room, as well as the style and decor elements present.

Maintenance and cleaning

Durability and ease of cleaning are important factors when choosing between flat and matte paint finishes. Flat paint tends to be less resistant to stains, scuffs, and general wear, making it harder to clean without damaging the surface.

Flat finishes may require more frequent touch-ups or repainting and are not ideal for households with children or pets. Matte finish, while not as durable as satin or semi-gloss options, offers improved stain resistance and can be cleaned with gentle scrubbing, making it a more practical choice for spaces prone to dirt and stains.

Light reflection

The way a room’s natural and artificial light interacts with a paint finish should also be considered. Flat paint’s ability to absorb light provides a uniform, glare-free appearance, making the color appear deeper and more saturated.

Matte finish, with its subtle sheen, produces a soft, subtle glow when illuminated, adding a touch of visual interest without overwhelming the space.

4 Tips for Choosing the Right Paint Finish

Match the paint to the room

The first step in choosing the right paint finish is knowing where the paint will be used. Different rooms in your home have different needs when it comes to paint, so consider what type of environment each room has before making a decision.

Consider durability

Kitchens and bathrooms need more durable finishes as they handle higher moisture and humidity levels, while bedrooms may require something softer and more inviting. Think about how much traffic each room gets. Choose a more durable finish if there’s high foot traffic in a particular area.  

Think about the reflectivity level

The higher the sheen, the more light will reflect off of it. This means that shiny finishes can make a room appear brighter but can also create glare. If the room needs more light, opt for higher sheen levels. If it’s already well-lit, choose something lower. 

Test out samples

The best way to be sure you’re choosing the right paint finish is to test out a few samples. Paint a small area on the wall and look at how it reflects light. If you’re happy with the results, choose that finish.

Joshua Milton

I want to share everything I know about home improvement in order to help you. Whether you're a home enthusiast or an industry professional, I have the information that you need.

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