Can you paint matt over silk?

UK Home Improvement

Can You Paint Matt Over Silk?

One of the most common DIY queries we come across is whether painting matt over silk emulsion is something that should be done.  

In fact, the internet is awash with avid DIYers and amateur decorators looking to find an answer on whether it’s possible. 

It’s understandable that homeowners may want to give their interior walls a refresh with a fresh lick of paint, but if you’re considering painting matt over silk, there are a number of factors you need to consider before going ahead. 

In this blog, we’ll take a look at whether you can paint matt over silk, and provide you with the best painting tips to ensure you’ll be left satisfied when painting walls inside your home.

What are the differences between matt paint and silk paint? 

Before we take a closer look at the question of whether you can cover silk paint with matt emulsion, it’s important to understand the differences between the two. Both matt paint and silk paint are extremely popular choices for interior walls in the home, but there are a number of significant differences between the two. 

The most obvious distinctions are:

Sheen level/reflectivity 

Perhaps the most obvious difference between matt and silk is sheen level and/or reflectivity. Matt emulsion paint is far less reflective and has a lower sheen level. In practice, this means it absorbs light easier and provides a smoother surface to the walls it has been used on. 

In contrast, silk paint has a higher sheen level. This means it reflects light rather than absorbs it, resulting in a brighter look.


As mentioned above, the varying degrees of sheen level in matt and silk paints impacts the appearance of the walls they’re used on. Matt is considered more contemporary and modern, and a great choice for those looking for a more subtle or minimalist aesthetic. 

Whereas walls that use silk paint (also sometimes referred to as eggshell) have a glossier, glowing look that is a bolder yet sophisticated choice.   


Durability and the resilience of the paint also differ between the two options. While matt paint can be more susceptible to marks and scuffs, silk paint typically has a smoother service which makes it suffer less from wear and tear. 

Both matt and silk paint have a number of positive features, and the best option for you really depends on personal preference, the requirements of the space you’re looking to paint and the vibe or ambience you’re looking to create in the room.

Can you paint matt over silk?

While painting over silk isn’t as simple as just whacking on a new layer, if you’re considering doing this you’ll be pleased to learn that it is possible. 

However, there are a few steps you’ll need to take to make sure that you’re left with a successful coat of matt paint over your previously silk wall. 

Keep reading to find out the best way to complete this task, and avoid the pitfalls that could result in you being left with a suboptimal end result.

Problems of painting over silk paint 

As outlined earlier, matt paint and silk paint have very different properties. And it’s these differences that can create problems when it comes to painting matt over silk if you don’t prepare properly. 

The difference in sheen levels is the biggest issue that’s likely to cause you problems. Due to matt having a low sheen, when it’s placed directly on a higher-sheen paint, such as silk, it can crack and cause crazing as it dries. Crazing is when paint does not correctly adhere to a wall, causing it to split and crack and leaving your wall with unpleasant lines all over it. The best way to think of it is to imagine your wall with the look of a dried river bed, not very appealing.   

How to paint matt over silk?

To make sure you don’t experience crazing when painting matt over a silk wall, and to get the smooth look you desire, you should prepare your wall before starting the painting process.

There are two methods that will help matt paint effectively stick to a previously silk wall. We’ll go into detail on both below.

Use sandpaper 

The first technique you can try is to use sandpaper on the wall before you begin painting. This will smooth the area and remove glossy sections that might prevent the paint from adhering properly to the wall. 

Sanding a wall can be a time-consuming process, but if you select this option it’s important you thoroughly sand the wall to ensure the entire area has been covered. If not, it may not work effectively. To help with this, you can use hand sanders and pole sanders for particularly hard to reach areas.

Use a primer 

Alternatively, you can use a primer on the wall. Primers are used to prepare a surface before paint is applied. These primers will then create a platform that is suitable to be painted on, and that will avoid cracks from occurring. There are a wide range of different primers on the market, but we’d recommend taking a look at the Zinsser brand.

Zinsser is regarded as one of the best primers available, and the wall won’t require any sanding prior to use as the primer will do all the work in making your matt paint layer stick. Simply follow the user instructions on the tin, and make sure you leave enough time for the product to dry before applying the matt paint.

Final Thoughts

Whatever method you choose is a personal preference. Sanding the wall is effective but time-consuming, while using a primer may be faster but you’ll have to spend a bit of money. Either way, by properly preparing your wall you can rest assured that you can paint matt over silk without any issues, and you’ll be left with interior walls that look great in any room of the house.


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