Call: 925-294-8062

Matte Matter for Evaluating the Durability of Flat Exterior Paint

Matte Matter for Evaluating the Durability of Flat Exterior Paint


Matte or flat exterior paint finishes have gained popularity in various contexts, including automotive, architectural, and design industries. This appeal can be attributed to several key factors, each catering to aesthetic sensibilities, practical considerations, and the desire for a distinctive look.

Flat finishes in paint and coatings are often chosen for their aesthetic appeal, providing a smooth, matte look that hides imperfections on surfaces. However, the durability of flat finishes is a common concern among consumers and professionals alike. They are generally perceived as less resistant to scratches and marks than glossier finishes. Because they lack the protective high-gloss layer, they can be more susceptible to physical damage, which makes cleaning and touch-ups challenging.

These general perceptions can vary based on specific product formulations and brands. Manufacturers continue to innovate, offering flat-finish products that address these durability concerns.

Understanding paint finishes

The following finishes determine the paint’s final appearance and have various practical applications based on their characteristics:

Matte finish

  • Appearance – Matte finish paint has a flat, non-reflective surface. It provides a smooth look that absorbs light rather than reflects it, which helps hide imperfections on walls or ceilings.
  • Uses – Ideal for low-traffic areas or ceilings with a desired non-reflective surface. It’s often used in living rooms, bedrooms, and dining areas.
  • Maintenance – Less durable and harder to clean than glossier finishes. Matte finishes might require frequent touch-ups or repainting because they are less resistant to marking and cleaning.

Semi-gloss finish

  • Appearance – Semi-gloss paint has a shinier appearance than matte but is less glossy than full gloss. It reflects light, giving surfaces a slight shine that can help spaces feel brighter.
  • Uses – Commonly used in areas that require regular cleaning, such as kitchens, bathrooms, doors, and trim. It’s also used where moisture resistance is needed.
  • Maintenance – More durable and easier to clean than matte finishes. Semi-gloss paint can withstand moisture and grease, making it suitable for high-traffic areas.

Gloss finish

  • Appearance – Gloss paint has a high sheen, offering a bright, reflective surface. It’s the shiniest paint finish available and can make colors appear more vibrant.
  • Uses – Often used for accents, trim, furniture, or areas where durability and easy cleaning are essential. It’s also popular in high moisture areas or on frequently touched surfaces, like railings and banisters.
  • Maintenance – The most durable finish, gloss paint, is easy to clean and can withstand scrubbing. However, it can highlight surface imperfections, so preparation is crucial before applying a gloss finish.

Each finish has its advantages and is chosen based on the specific needs of a project, such as the area’s function, the desired aesthetic, and how much traffic the area will receive.

The characteristics of matte (flat) finishes and their aesthetic appeal

Flat (matte) finishes possess unique characteristics and aesthetic appeal that differentiate them from their glossier counterparts. Here’s a detailed overview:

Characteristics of flat (matte) finishes:

  • Low reflectivity – Unlike glossy finishes that reflect a lot of light, matte surfaces scatter light, which gives them their unique appearance.
  • Texture and feel – Matte finishes often have a softer, more velvety texture than glossy finishes’ slick and smooth feel. It can add a tactile dimension to the aesthetic experience.
  • Color perception – Colors under a matte finish can appear deeper and more saturated. Without the interference of light reflection, the actual hue of the color can be more readily perceived.
  • Concealment of imperfections – Matte finishes are excellent at hiding surface imperfections, such as scratches, dents, or fingerprints. The scattered light does not highlight these imperfections like a reflective surface would.
  • Durability – While matte finishes can be durable, they might be more susceptible to showing wear over time, especially in high-touch areas, because they do not have the same protective high-gloss layer. However, materials and coatings advancements have improved the durability of matte finishes.
  • Maintenance – Matte surfaces can require more careful cleaning, as they can show stains or grease more easily than glossy surfaces. Specific cleaning products may be recommended to maintain appearance without damaging the finish.

Aesthetic appeal

  • Sophistication and elegance – Matte finishes are often associated with sophistication and elegance. The lack of shine adds a subdued, understated quality to the aesthetic, making it a popular choice for luxury products and high-end design.
  • Modern and contemporary – The smooth, non-reflective surface of matte finishes lend a modern and contemporary look. It’s a popular choice in design trends that favor clean lines and minimalistic aesthetics.
  • Warmth and depth – Without the distraction of light reflections, matte finishes can create a sense of warmth and depth, making spaces feel more inviting and colors more profound.
  • Focus on form – By eliminating glare, matte finishes can help focus attention on an object or space’s form and shape, allowing the design to stand out.
  • Versatility – Matte finishes offer great versatility in design and can be used in various contexts, from automotive to interior design and from tech gadgets to cosmetics packaging. Their appeal crosses many boundaries, fitting into both traditional and contemporary settings.

The durability debate

Common concerns

  • Fading – Flat exterior paint is more prone to fading over time due to exposure to sunlight. UV rays can break down the pigment in the paint, leading to a loss of color vibrancy.
  • Moisture damage – Water is an enemy of exterior paint. Flat paint, which tends to absorb more moisture than glossier finishes, can be more susceptible to rain, snow, and humidity damage, leading to issues like peeling, blistering, and mold growth.
  • Dirt and stains – Flat finishes are more challenging to clean than their glossier counterparts. They can retain dirt and stains more readily, which can degrade the appearance over time and require more frequent repainting.
  • Chalking – Over time, the paint may begin to break down into a powdery substance. It is a process known as chalking. This phenomenon is often due to exposure to the elements, leading to a faded and less protective finish.
  • Durability – Generally, flat paint is less durable than higher gloss levels. It can show signs of wear and tear more quickly, especially in high-traffic areas or areas with frequent mechanical impact.

Factors impacting durability

  • Quality of paint – Higher-quality paints with better pigment and binder ratios tend to last longer and resist weathering better than lower-quality alternatives.
  • Preparation and application – Proper surface preparation, including cleaning, sanding, and priming, is crucial for long-lasting paintwork. The method and conditions of application also affect durability; for example, painting in optimal weather conditions ensures better adhesion and curing.
  • Environmental conditions – The local climate plays a significant role in paint longevity. Harsh sunlight, high humidity, salt air, and extreme temperatures can all accelerate wear and degradation.
  • Maintenance – Regular maintenance, such as cleaning and touching up worn areas, can significantly extend the life of an exterior paint job.
  • Color choice – Darker colors absorb more UV radiation and can fade faster than lighter shades. They also heat up more, potentially impacting the paint’s longevity.

Addressing these concerns and factors can help select the right paint products and application methods to ensure the best possible durability and longevity for an exterior paint job. Choosing high-quality paints designed for exterior use, ensuring thorough surface preparation, and applying paint under optimal conditions can mitigate some of the inherent drawbacks of flat exterior paint finishes.

Evaluating flat paint durability

architecture building

Weather resistance

How well does flat paint withstand various weather conditions compared to glossy paint?

Flat paints are generally less resistant to fading under prolonged sun exposure than glossy paints. Due to their lack of sheen, flat paints tend to absorb more ultraviolet (UV) rays, breaking down the pigment over time, which leads to fading.

Flat paints can handle light rain well. However, they’re not as water-resistant as the glossier paints. Also, flat paints do poorly in high humidity as they absorb moisture in the air, which might affect their durability, appearance, and drying time.

While flat paints have their aesthetic advantages, their performance in extreme weather conditions is generally inferior to more resilient finishes like semi-gloss or gloss. For outdoor applications, it’s important to use flat paints specifically designed for exterior use, as these are formulated to be more resistant to weather-related wear and tear.

Color retention

Flat paints are limited compared to glossier finishes when maintaining color over time. 

Flat paints are more prone to fading over time, especially when exposed to direct sunlight. They don’t have the same protective, reflective layer that glossier paints have, which can help protect against UV rays. Also, flat paints are not as washable as glossier finishes. When you attempt to clean a surface with flat paint, there’s a higher risk of wearing down the paint or causing it to look patchy, which can affect the overall appearance and brightness of the color over time.

While flat paints are easier to touch up than glossier finishes—since the lack of sheen helps hide the boundaries of touch-ups—repeated touch-ups in the same area can lead to uneven color and sheen, affecting the uniformity of the wall’s appearance.

Flat paints absorb more light than they reflect, meaning their color can appear truer than the original paint color in various lighting conditions. However, this same characteristic makes flat paints susceptible to fade or discolor if the paint quality isn’t high or if it’s not applied properly.

UV rays and environmental factors can significantly impact the ability of flat paints to retain their color over time.

The sun’s UV rays are one of the primary causes of paint degradation. They can break down the chemical bonds in the paint, leading to fading and losing the vibrant color that was originally applied. This process, known as photodegradation, is more pronounced in areas with high sun exposure. Flat paints, which have a matte finish and lack the protective glossy layer that reflects some UV rays, are particularly vulnerable to this form of degradation.

Other environmental factors, like heat and humidity, pollution and chemical exposure, salt, and chlorides, can accelerate the paint’s chemical reactions, leading to color fading and degradation.

To mitigate these effects, paint manufacturers often incorporate UV inhibitors and stabilizers in their formulations, especially in exterior paints. These additives help absorb or reflect UV light, reducing the degradation rate. High-quality paints also contain more robust pigment particles and binders that offer better adhesion and resistance to environmental factors.

The color choices are also worth considering; darker colors absorb more UV light and heat, leading to quicker fading and degradation than lighter colors. Regular maintenance, including cleaning and occasional repainting, can help preserve the color and integrity of the paint over time.

Maintenance and cleaning

house exterior home residential


Maintaining and cleaning flat-painted surfaces presents a unique set of challenges, largely due to their matte finish and susceptibility to damage. Here are the key challenges and some tips for proper maintenance, along with how the ease of maintenance can influence the perceived durability of these surfaces.

  • Stain retention – Flat paint finishes tend to hold onto stains and marks more stubbornly than glossier finishes. They can absorb oils, dirt, and other substances, making stains more noticeable and difficult to remove.
  • Damage during cleaning – Aggressive cleaning methods can easily damage flat painted surfaces. Scrubbing too hard or using abrasive cleaners can leave shiny patches or even remove the paint.
  • Touch-up difficulties – Matching the original color and finish with touch-up paint can be challenging, especially if the paint has faded over time. This factor can result in noticeable patches.

Tips for maintenance and cleaning

  • Gentle cleaning – Always use a soft, damp cloth for cleaning. For tougher stains, you can use a mild detergent mixed with water. Rinse the area with a clean, damp cloth afterward to remove any soap residue.
  • Regular dusting – To avoid the accumulation of dirt that can become embedded in the paint, dust flat painted surfaces regularly with a soft brush or microfiber cloth.
  • Immediate attention to stains – Address spills and stains immediately to prevent them from setting in. Blot gently instead of scrubbing to avoid damaging the paint.
  • Use the right products – Use cleaning products specifically designed for painted surfaces. Avoid harsh chemicals and abrasive cleaning tools.
  • Spot testing – Before cleaning a larger area, test your cleaning solution on a small, inconspicuous area to ensure it doesn’t damage the finish.

Effect on perceived durability

The ease of maintenance significantly affects the perceived durability of flat-painted surfaces. Surfaces that are easy to clean and maintain without damage are often viewed as more durable, even if their physical resistance to wear and tear is lower. 

In contrast, if a flat painted surface is hard to clean or prone to damage from cleaning, it can be perceived as less durable, regardless of the quality of the paint. This perception can influence both the aesthetic appeal of the surface and its value over time. 

Manufacturers and professionals often recommend specific types of paint and finishes based on balancing desired aesthetic and practical maintenance requirements. Educating users on proper care techniques can help improve flat-painted surfaces’ longevity and perceived durability.

Advances in flat paint technology

Technological advancements in the paint formulation field have led to significant improvements in the durability of flat paints. Here’s an overview of some crucial advancements:

  • Advanced resin systems – Modern flat paints often incorporate advanced resin systems that enhance durability by providing better adhesion, resistance to cracking, and improved scrub resistance.
  • Nano-particle technology – Nano-particles, such as silica or ceramic, are sometimes added to flat paint formulations to increase durability by reinforcing the paint film and making it more resistant to abrasion and damage.
  • Cross-linking polymers – Cross-linking polymers improve the strength and toughness of the paint film, making it more resistant to wear and tear over time.
  • Improved pigments – Advances in pigment technology have led to pigments with better lightfastness and color retention, reducing the likelihood of fading or discoloration over time.
  • Enhanced additives – Various additives, such as mildewcides, UV stabilizers, and anti-blocking agents, are often incorporated into flat paint formulations to improve durability under different environmental conditions.
  • Application techniques – Innovations in application techniques, such as improved spray equipment or methods for achieving more uniform coverage, can also contribute to the durability of flat paint finishes.

Some specific brands or product lines known for their durable flat finishes include:

  • Benjamin Moore Aura® — Known for its exceptional durability and color retention, Aura® offers a stain- and scrub-resistant matte finish.
  • Sherwin-Williams Emerald® Interior Matte Emerald® Interior Matte paint is formulated with advanced stain-blocking technology and boasts excellent durability and washability.
  • Behr Ultra® Scuff Defense™ — Behr Ultra® Scuff Defense™ is designed to resist scuffs and stains, offering a durable matte finish suitable for high-traffic areas.
  • Valspar Reserve™ — Valspar Reserve™ flat paint is known for its exceptional durability and stain resistance, making it suitable for use in kitchens, bathrooms, and other high-moisture areas. 

Practical considerations for choosing flat exterior paint

Choosing the right paint finish involves considering various factors such as architectural style, climate, personal preference, and your space’s specific requirements. Flat paint has a smooth, non-reflective finish and is often preferred for certain situations. Here’s a breakdown of when to choose flat paint over other finishes and some tips for its application and primer used to enhance durability:

Architectural style

  • Flat paint is often preferred for older or more traditional architectural styles such as Victorian, Colonial, or Craftsman homes. These styles typically have more intricate details and imperfections that flat paint can help to conceal.
  • Conversely, modern or contemporary architectural styles may benefit from other finishes like eggshell or satin, which offer a slight sheen and are easier to clean.


  • Flat paint may be more susceptible to moisture absorption and staining in humid climates. However, proper priming and sealing can mitigate these issues.
  • Flat paint may be prone to cracking or fading over time in areas with extreme temperature fluctuations. Again, proper surface preparation and primer use can help maintain durability.

Personal preference

  • Flat paint is popular for spaces where a more subtle, understated look is desired. It provides a velvety texture and can help to soften the appearance of walls.
  • Some individuals prefer flat paint for its ability to hide imperfections and surface irregularities better than other finishes.

Application tips

  • Proper surface preparation is crucial for a successful paint job. Clean the surface thoroughly, repair imperfections, and sand rough areas before painting.
  • Use a high-quality primer for surface material to enhance adhesion and durability. For example, use a latex primer for latex paint and an oil-based primer for oil-based paint.
  • Stir the paint thoroughly before application to ensure consistent color and texture.
  • Apply the paint evenly using a high-quality brush or roller, working in small sections to avoid visible brush strokes or roller marks.
  • Allow the paint to dry completely between coats, following the manufacturer’s recommended drying time.
  • Consider applying a clear matte topcoat for added protection, especially in high-traffic areas where the walls are prone to moisture exposure.

Primer use for durability

  • Choose a primer specifically formulated for the surface material and the type of paint you’ll be using.
  • Primer helps to seal the surface, improve adhesion, and enhance the durability of the paint finish.
  • Apply the primer evenly and allow it to dry completely before applying the paint.
  • If you paint over a dark or highly porous surface, consider using a tinted primer to improve coverage and color consistency.


Flat paint is popular for its smooth, non-reflective finish and ability to hide imperfections. However, its durability and color retention are common concerns among consumers and professionals. Addressing these concerns and factors can help select the right paint products and application methods to ensure the best possible durability and longevity for an exterior paint job. 

Fortunately, modern technological advancements in paint formulations have resulted in flat or matte paint products that are much more forgiving to daily wear and tear and environmental elements. Many popular paint brands have earned reputations for producing flat paints that offer a desired matte finish and superior durability and longevity, thanks to advancements in paint technology.

Choosing high-quality paints designed for exterior use, ensuring thorough surface preparation, and applying paint under optimal conditions can mitigate some of the inherent drawbacks of flat exterior paint finishes.

So, do matte paints matter when it comes to exterior applications? The answer is yes –matte paints matter in exterior applications, depending on various factors, including climate, desired aesthetic, and durability requirements. When choosing between matte, flat, or higher-sheen paints for exterior surfaces, it’s essential to consider these requirements and considerations in your painting project.

Custom Painting, Inc. has licensed, insured, and highly trained professional painters and carpenters. Our crew is fast, clean, reliable, and always exceeds expectations in quality and efficiency.

If you would like to learn more about paint and renovation or want to request a free job estimate for your next paint project, call Custom Painting, Inc. at 925-294-8062 or use this form to message us.


Swatch Book

Custom Painting Inc

Tell A Friend

Fremont, Hayward Area
(510) 795-0903
Livermore, Dublin, Pleasanton Area
(925) 294-8062
San Ramon, Danville, Alamo Area
(925) 866-9610
Walnut Creek, Concord Clayton,
Pleasant Hill Lafayette, Orinda Area
(925) 686-0903