Satin vs Gloss Lacquer: Which Sheen Reigns Supreme?

By Mego Kimani •  Updated: 04/24/23 •  6 min read

In the world of woodworking, the choice of finish can make or break the final result. Satin vs Gloss Lacquer are two popular choices for adding a protective layer to wood or other surfaces. In this article, we will delve into the differences between the two and discuss their respective advantages and disadvantages.

Related: Applying lacquer over Danish oil

Satin Lacquer vs Gloss Lacquer:

lacquer finishes

It’s important to understand the differences between the various sheen options available for a lacquer finish. Satin lacquer and gloss lacquer are two popular choices, and each has its own unique set of characteristics. In this section, we will take a closer look at satin lacquer.

What is Satin Lacquer?

Satin lacquer falls somewhere between matte and gloss in terms of shine. It is a low-luster finish that provides a subtle sheen, making it a popular choice for those who prefer a more muted look.

Characteristics of Satin Lacquer:

Satin lacquer is known for its smooth, even finish that does not reflect light as much as gloss lacquer. It provides a slightly more muted appearance. Satin lacquer is also known for its durability, as it provides a hard finish that resists scratches and other forms of wear and tear.

Pros and Cons of Satin Lacquer:



What is Gloss Lacquer?

Gloss lacquer is commonly used in cabinetry. It is a clear or colored coating that is applied to surfaces to protect and enhance the appearance of the underlying material. Gloss lacquer is provides a highly reflective, glossy finish to surfaces such as wood, metal, and plastic.

Characteristics of Gloss Lacquer:

One of the most notable characteristics of gloss lacquer is its high gloss finish, which can give surfaces a mirror-like reflection. Other characteristics of gloss lacquer include its ability to resist scratches, heat, and moisture, as well as its fast drying time and ease of application. Gloss lacquer can be applied in multiple layers to achieve a more intense gloss.

Pros and Cons of Gloss Lacquer:



Head to head Comparison: satin lacquer vs gloss lacquer


Satin lacquer and gloss lacquer have distinct differences in their sheen appearance. Satin lacquer has a softer and more muted sheen, while gloss lacquer has a high shine and a reflective surface. The choice between the two will depend on personal preference and the desired aesthetic for the project, as well as the overall space design. For instance, a kitchen table may pair well with gloss lacquer to complement nearby kitchen cabinetry that also has a gloss lacquer finish.

satin lacquer vs gloss lacquer appearance

In some cases, the choice of sheen for a project may be based on practical considerations. For example, the ideal finish for stair treads would be satin, as it provides more traction and helps prevent slipping, thus enhancing safety.

Ease of cleaning and maintenance:

When it comes to cleaning lacquered surfaces, it’s important to take care with satin lacquer. This type of lacquer requires a bit more caution and care during the cleaning process. On the other hand, gloss lacquer is relatively easier to clean. However, due to its highly reflective surface, it can easily reveal fingerprints and smudges. In this regard, satin lacquer is more forgiving, as it tends to hide such imperfections and makes them less noticeable.


Both satin and gloss lacquer provide durable finishes that are resistant to scratches, wear and tear, and moisture. However, gloss lacquer may be more prone to showing wear and tear over time due to its reflective surface, while satin lacquer may hide imperfections better.

Ease of application:

Satin and gloss lacquer have similar application processes. However, gloss lacquer may require more preparation and effort to achieve a flawless finish due to its high sheen, while satin lacquer is more forgiving in this regard.

Price points and surface area coverage:

The price of satin and gloss lacquer can vary depending on the brand and quality. In general, gloss lacquer may be more expensive due to its higher shine and reflective properties. However, both types of lacquer can provide good surface area coverage and can be applied in thin coats to achieve the desired finish.

Verdict: satin lacquer vs gloss lacquer

The choice between satin vs gloss lacquer will depend on various factors, such as personal preference, the desired aesthetic, practical considerations, ease of cleaning and maintenance, durability, ease of application, and price points. Satin lacquer may be a better choice for surfaces that require more traction and safety, while gloss lacquer may be more suitable for achieving a high-shine reflective finish. Below are example of a choice in special circamstances.

Choosing Between Satin and Gloss Lacquer: Project Examples and Recommendations

Project Choice Reason
Stair treads Satin Requires anti-slip
Bathroom cabinets Gloss Easy to clean and maintain
Dining table Satin Less prone to showing wear and tear
Wall paneling Gloss Reflects light and adds depth to the room


choosing the right finish for a woodworking project is critical, as it can significantly impact the final result. Satin and gloss lacquer are two popular options, each with its unique set of characteristics. Satin lacquer offers a subtle, low-luster finish that is durable and can hide imperfections. Gloss lacquer, on the other hand, provides a highly reflective, mirror-like finish that is easy to clean and maintain but may magnify surface imperfections.

Satin vs gloss lacquer ultimately depends on personal preference, the desired aesthetic, practical considerations, ease of cleaning & maintenance, durability, ease of application, and price points. By carefully considering these factors, woodworkers can make an informed decision and choose the most suitable finish for their project.

Mego Kimani

Hi there, my name is Mego Kimani, and I am the owner of Woodmeter, a website dedicated to wood finishing. At Woodmeter, we offer a comprehensive resource for woodworkers and DIY enthusiasts, providing information on everything from achieving the perfect finish to product recommendations and technique guides. Our goal is to empower our community with the knowledge they need to create beautiful, long-lasting finishes on their projects, no matter their skill level or experience.