What is Satinwood Paint – a Full Guide

Updated May 15, 2024 | Posted Sep 28, 2023 | Professional insight, Product Advice | 0 comments

Satinwood is the name given to a paint finish with around 40% sheen, which is part way between gloss (90% sheen), and eggshell (20% sheen). Satinwood is often used to paint interior and exterior wood and metal, including doors, skirting boards, windows, and soffits.

When I started my working life as a Painter and Decorator some two decades ago, the most popular choice for interior and exterior trim was gloss. However, over the years peoples’ tastes have changed (including mine). Satinwood can look very contemporary in modern homes, and it even suits old woodwork because it doesn’t highlight imperfections like gloss does.

There are different types of satinwood paint, including water-based, oil-based, hybrids, interior and exterior. In this blog, I’m going to take you through everything you need to know about this type of paint, and even recommend a few products as we go along.


Does Satinwood Paint Turn Yellow?


The oil in oil-based paint is an alkyd, and one of the properties of an alkyd is it discolours over time, especially in the absence of UV light (behind furniture, inside cupboards etc). There are a lot of good quality water-based paints now (which I’ll get into later), but let’s focus on oil-based for the time being.

One of the reasons people started making the switch from gloss to satinwood is because oil-based satinwood does not yellow as quickly as oil-based gloss does. This is because gloss contains a lot more alkyd oil than satinwood does.

All oil-based satinwood will yellow over a period, but providing you choose a good quality trade satinwood, you’ll get years of it looking pristine. I used Dulux Trade satinwood in a friend’s house about 7 years ago and it still looks lovely and white now.


Can You Buy Satinwood Paint in Different Colours?


In short, yes. More and more of my clients have coloured satinwood in their home, and it can look lovely. If you buy trade paint, you can normally have it tinted into any colour you like.

If you have found a colour you like in a paint brand that doesn’t offer tinted satinwood, then it may be worth checking out Decorating Centre Online. These guys can match the colour from one brand to products from other brands with relative ease and they’re generally very accurate.

Can You Use Satinwood Outside?


Yes, you can use satinwood outside, providing you use a product designed for the job. An exterior satinwood needs to be flexible so it can cope with expanding and contracting timber. It also needs to have UV protectors.

I never understood why some people opt for cheap paints for outside work, simply because it doesn’t last as long, or protect your property as well, so it’s false economy. Exterior water-based satinwood can last longer than oil-based alternatives because it is more flexible.


Zinsser AllCoat

This would be my recommendation for an exterior satinwood. It has fantastic adhesion qualities, so doesn’t need an undercoat unless you’re going for a big colour change. The opacity in white is a bit iffy, so can take an extra coat, but the opacity in colours is bob on.

Zinsser AllCoat is an easy paint to use, is durable, stands up well to bleaching from UV rays, and is flexible enough to last for years. It’s easily tough enough to be used on front doors or exterior windows.

Water-Based Satinwood


There has been a bit of a race over recent years between manufacturers who all want to develop the best water-based trim paints they can. Although the market is saturated with a lot of poor quality options, generally speaking, a good water-based satinwood will yield a fantastic finish, will remain durable, and will retain its colour.

I’m going to give you my recommendations on water-based satinwood now. One is a high-end paint, the other is probably the most popular trade water-based satinwood on the UK market amongst Professional Decorators.

Benjamin Moore Scuff X

This is the high-end option. Benjamin Moore Scuff X is expensive , but unlike a lot of the designer brands, it is worth every penny. There is no need for an adhesion primer when using this paint over old oil-based coatings. Two coats of Scuff X are all you need.

You’ll find this paint glides on, and it’s very easy to achieve a flawless finish. They don’t sell “brilliant White”, but “Super White” is as white as it needs to be. This satinwood looks rich and luxurious! I know it’s expensive, but you really can tell the difference as soon as you walk into a room.

Johnstone’s Aqua Guard

This is the popular trade version. You must use the Johnstone’s Aqua undercoat before applying Aqua Guard, and you need to catch any runs as you apply the satin. These are the only negatives I can think of.

This paint is everything a water-based satinwood should be. Great opacity and a lovely finish. Not just that, but it’s extremely durable. Easily as durable as most of its oil-based counterparts. I recently used it on a hand painted kitchen, and it was fantastic. It is expensive compared to some other trade paints, but it’s better and cheaper than most designer brands.

The Best Oil-Based Satinwood


There are many reasons to choose water-based satinwood nowadays, but a lot of Decorators I know still opt for the traditional oil-based products. I will recommend an oil-based satinwood I think is brilliant, but if you opt for something different, at least choose another trade option. Stay away from “one coat” satinwood paints because they do yellow quite quickly.

Dulux Trade Satinwood

When people ask, “what is satinwood paint”, I can’t think of a better example than Dulux Trade. It’s easy to apply, self-undercoating, and leaves you with a fantastic finish! It’s silky smooth off the brush! When it first dries, it’s got quite a sheen to it, but it calms down to a true satin finish and it looks absolutely gorgeous. Plus, it’s very durable and will keep its colour for years.

Can satinwood paint be used on walls?


As a Professional Decorator, I only really use trade paint and some designer brands (as anyone who cares about overall paint finish should). The only trade satinwood I know of that can be used as an emulsion is Benjamin Moore Scuff X. It can look trendy when you use the same paint on the woodwork as you do walls. However, it is easier to use emulsion on woodwork than it is to use satinwood on walls.

This is because satinwood isn’t designed to be applied over large areas, so you’d see defects like flashing etc.


How to prepare surfaces for satinwood paint?


Oil-based satinwood doesn’t require an undercoat when being applied over a previously painted surfaces. Simply abrade the surface, carry out any caulking or filling, remove any dust, then apply the satinwood.

Water-based satinwood can be a bit trickier. Most water-based products come as a system, so you would use the primer recommended on the instructions that come with the satin. Some water-based satinwood paints can be applied directly to old paint. I can’t give you an answer that covers every product unfortunately, but just take advice from the tin or read the product data sheet.


How to clean and maintain satinwood-painted surfaces?


If you have used a good quality trade satinwood, then it will be resilient to light abrasion and some cleaning products. To clean satinwood painted surfaces, I’d recommend adding a squirt of washing up liquid to warm water, then use that and a dish cloth to wipe your surfaces.


Can I use satinwood paint on kitchen cabinets?


Yes, satinwood and eggshell paints are very popular paint finishes for kitchen cabinets. It’s easier to achieve a good finish on kitchen cabinets with satin than it is with gloss. It also better suits both traditional and contemporary kitchens.

You will need to carry out proper prep, then apply a coat of adhesion primer. Click here for more information.


Final Thoughts


I hope you’ve found this blog useful. You now know what satinwood paint is, and you have a couple of recommendations on the best products to use. I use satinwood on almost every job now. Oil-based gloss has had its day, both in terms of desirability and performance (although it still has its place in exterior decorating). Satinwood is the way forward.

Updated May 15, 2024 | Posted Sep 28, 2023 | 0 comments

About the Author

About the Author

Mike Cupit has been in the decorating industry since 2002 and has mostly worked as a Trade Decorator in the domestic sector (peoples’ homes). Self-proclaimed “product geek”, Mike has a passion for paint and decorating tools. Mike now spends most of his time testing paint products and tools, comparing them to similar products on the market, and blogging about the industry in general.
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