Is it semantics, or is there a difference between satin and matte? And if there is a difference, where does the difference lie? This inquiry is a great question because there are many details, and the difference is significant, whether you choose to dress up your whole car or just black out your wheels.
Contrasting satin and matte paints is a bit of a conundrum because while one of these is likely to have been factory applied to an expensive European car, the other is most likely to be seen as an aftermarket modification on pickups and SUVs.
Matte paints have a finish like a rough, old-school chalkboard. They show damage and scratches pretty easily, and they don't exactly slip through the wind. That's why they're great for pickups, SUVs, and even military surplus. Matte black gives these rides a rugged, menacing look.
A satin paint job is something else entirely. Satin has a very slight sheen and seems to glow in the light. On the right car, it looks expensive - because it is. Black satin exudes style and class, giving a car a look that says, Move aside and let the speed come through.
Satin vs. Matte
The more gloss the sheen of a finish has, the more light it reflects. This feature is important to the look of the object in question, whether you're thinking about the whole car or just the wheels.
A high-gloss finish reflects light like a mirror, while a matte finish is at the opposite end of the spectrum, seeming to absorb light, even trapping it within. Satin lies somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. A matte finish reflects less than 10% of the light that hits it, whereas a satin finish, depending on variables, can reflect 25% to 40%.
Satin finish is called "satin" because that's what it looks like: as if your car or wheels were draped in satin fabric. It tends to have an expensive glow about it.
Because it's a little more slippery than matte, it also slices through the air better. And while it doesn't shrug off environmental fallout like bird droppings and insects the way gloss does, satin is far easier to clean than matte.
What to Look Out for Before a Repaint
If you're considering repainting your vehicle to dress it up a little, or if you want a whole new look and you think either matte or satin black would look great, there are things to know before you hit "go":
- All body panels should look as perfect as possible: new paint shows every flaw
- Painting over rust and dents actually makes them more obvious, not less
- Sometimes you just need to dress up your wheels with a fresh paint job
Whether you choose matte or satin, it has the potential to change the whole look of your vehicle, even if you just decide to repaint your wheels. To get the best effect from either paint style, definitely hire a pro.