How To Get A Matte Or Satin Finish On Resin

Last week, I mentioned that my big pixel flower picture in the music room was down for repair. (You can click here to see how I made that pixel picture.) Well, it’s finally finished and back in its place, but this time rather than having a super shiny resin coating (which is pretty much the standard sheen for resin), it now has a beautiful matte (or maybe satin) finish on it.

It all came about kind of by accident, but I’m so glad it did because after having to move the resined triptych into the music room, I wasn’t really thrilled with the idea of having super shiny resined pieces on both walls in there. So that problem has been taken care of! The triptych has the super shiny (standard) resin coating, and the pixelated flower has a nice matte finish.

So how did this come about? Well, back when I did the original resin coating, I think I did three layers of resin. Anyway, on the final layer, I was short on resin. The recommended coverage is four ounces per square foot, and I think I was short about six ounces. I decided to try it, and learned the hard way that their recommendation really is the minimum. If you try to use less, the product won’t self-level, which is what happened to the flower picture. I had one area that had a low spot in the resin, and when the light reflected off of that spot, it was very noticeable.

Well, a perfectionist like myself can’t live with something like that. So I took the picture down and did another coat of resin, this time making sure that I used just a bit more than recommended. I took such care with that coat. I smoothed it out, making sure it completely covered the entire thing. I used a flashlight and looked at the surface of the resin from every imaginable angle, picking out any tiny pieces of lint I could find with a straight pin. I used my propane torch over and over and over to be sure that not one single bubble remained.

I mean, I did everything I could to make sure this final coat was going to be perfect. And then, after about an hour of fussing with it, I carefully covered it with a piece of MDF to let it cure overnight.

The next morning, I hopped out of bed and headed to the breakfast room, as excited as a kid on Christmas morning. I was anxious to “unwrap” my newly resined piece and admire the perfectly smooth and flawless finish.

So imagine my disappointment when I saw cat fur on about a quarter of the entire thing. Cat fur. It literally looked like I  had held my cat over the freshly poured resin and ran a comb through her fur, letting the fur drop to the resin.

I was furious. How had this happened? I had no idea. The only thing I can think of is that I wiped down one side of the MDF that I used to cover the resin, and then mistakenly placed it with the other side (the non-wiped-down side) towards the resin. And clearly, it was a piece of MDF that my cat had rubbed against or slept on.

So at that point, I had two options. I could either do one more coat and hope that it turned out great (but resin is expensive, each coat was taking 64 ounces of resin, and there was no guarantee that I wouldn’t have another mishap), or I could sand and buff the finish.

I opted for the second solution. I purchased this set of sanding discs that range from 80-grit to 3000-grit, and used them on my 5-inch orbital sander.

I actually started out sanding by hand with 80-grit sandpaper that I already had on hand. I would have been terrified at this except that I have done some sanding on other resin projects, so I know it can take it.

So after sanding the whole thing with 80-grit sandpaper and then cleaning off as much of the dust as possible (both with water and with isopropyl alcohol wipes), this is what it looked like when it dried. Yikes! 😀

Here’s a close up…

But I had faith that the process would work, so I continued on. Next, I used 180-grit and then 240-grit. It still wasn’t looking much better, and it really played tricks on my eyes. The sanded resin made the wood buttons look so blurry that it was like my eyes wouldn’t focus. It was kind of hard to work on at this point.

After I used the 320-grit, I noticed that I still had quite a lot of scratches on the surface…

…so I went back down to 180-grit and worked my way back up, making sure to get all of the scratches out this time. I needed to get the scratches out completely by the time I got to the 320-grit, because anything higher than 320 wouldn’t be rough enough to get those scratches out.

So I continued to work my way up — from 320 to 400 to 800 to 1000 to 1500 to 2000 to 2500 to 3000 — and this is what it looked like…

At that point, it was a definite matte finish. I could have left it like that, but at that sheen, it was still dulling the look of the wood buttons to the point that it was still playing tricks on my eyes. It was slight compared to how it tricked my eyes after the sanding with the lower grits, but I don’t like the feeling of thinking that my eyes aren’t focusing right.

At this point, I could have used water with the sanding discs. (They are wet/dry sanding discs.) But I was afraid that wet sanding the resin would have given it a higher sheen than I wanted. So I opted instead for buffing compound. This is the one I used just because I happened to have it on hand, but you can also use something like carnuba car wax, which is generally locally available at any car parts/supply store.

When I applied that, it turned it right back to the shiny resin coating I had originally, with the crystal clear wood buttons and bright colors.

But I continued to buff it by hand with paper towels until all of the streaks were gone, and that left me with a really nice matte/satin finish.

It’s really beautiful, and no matter what direction I looked, there was no bright glare or reflection on the surface. Just a beautiful satin finish. And I wish y’all could touch it. I love to touch it. 😀 It feels like some sort of glass/velvet hybrid.

So that was a real pain in the neck, but I’ve always wondered if it’s possible to get a matte or satin finish on resin, and now I know!

It’s a very long process, but I think it was worth it. I no longer have a cat hair finish. There are no divots or low points to catch the light. And the finish is just beautiful. Here’s how it looked with the original super shiny resin coating on it…

And here it is with its beautiful matte finish resin coating on it…

And no matter where I stood to take the picture, I couldn’t detect any reflection on the surface at all. You can see from the resined pictures on the opposite wall that shiny resin pretty much reflects anything around it.

So it took a long time, but I’m so glad I did it. I love learning more and more about how to use resin and the various things it can be used for. And as much as I love a super shiny finish on some things, there are just times when I’d rather opt for a matte or satin finish. And now I know how to accomplish that!

Of course, Peeve probably prefers the cat hair finish. We can agree to disagree on that. 😀

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  1. Beautiful! and it goes to prove the old adage “necessity is the mother of invention”

    I wonder if there was no “problem” in the first place if you could go straight to the higher count sanding disks and then the buffing? Or do you think the coarser grades are needed to take down the high shine?

    1. If I hadn’t needed to fix the imperfections, and just simply wanted to turn a high gloss finish to matte or satin, I’d probably start with either 150 or 220.

  2. Very nice! For the next matte finish project, I imagine that if there were not cat hair that required the 80 grit, you could instead start with a much much finer sandpaper that would not make scratches and it would take fewer steps.

  3. The matte finish IS really nice. And about the cat hair. I used to do decorative painting for a living (and still do, on rare occasion) and I swear, there was a part of either of my cats left at every job. Used to drive me bonkers! It’s such a challenge to not have it get into everything.

  4. Of all the art projects you have done this is, without a single doubt, my absolute favorite. I come back to your blog and stare longingly at it for periods of time! I’m not sure what’s wrong with me but it invokes some sort of childhood happy memory – ohhhhh it’s just so darn beautiful 🙂 🙂 🙂

  5. I am amazed at the risks you are willing to take with a finished project. And then they turn out even better. You go girl.

    1. It’s very heavy. 😃 It’s so heavy now with all of the resin layers that I can no longer get lift it myself. My brother had to help me move it into the music room and get it back on the wall. And yes, it’s hanging on a French cleat rated for 200 pounds. It’s nowhere near that heavy, but I like to be safe.

  6. Jsyk, while you are calmly retelling these remediation processes, you are making ME feel sick to my stomach with worry…even though I know the end of the story. I’m not sure if I can take any more of your accidents. You’re making me a nervous wreck!!!

    🤣 Glad (for both of us) that it turned out the way you wanted!

    Cooler heads prevail.

  7. Cat hair! lol Well at least you found out you can achieve the matte look. I mostly work with polymer clay so I am just doomed no matter what. I try to keep my craft room closed and put away all my clay and projects and wipe off my tools and glass work surface. I have a routine I do when I’m going to be using light colors but other than that, pet hair is life! Sometimes I wish I had one of those clean room chambers that they have in labs. lol

    I wish I could touch your resin piece- it’s so fascinating! I’m still trying to figure out how I can do something like that on a small scale. I am hoping to make some resin pendants with your alcohol ink tutorial as well.

    As always, thanks for sharing!

  8. What a process you went through but I love the matte finish. Through some trial and error (and lots of work) you know have a new technique in your arsenal.

    I see Peeve (no surprise) decided you needed one more point of focus in your photo. So cute!

  9. It looks beautiful! I love the matte finish. Just a heads up: I took a resin jewelry class once and the instructor warned us that epoxy resin dust could dangerous to inhale and recommended that we use wet sanding. I haven’t researched this thoroughly by any means, but thought I would pass it along.

  10. Pet hair – the bane of all of us pet lovers! You worked so hard on that piece to have to go through repairing it, and I don’t know that I would have even tried! Hopefully you will keep your studio off limits to the pets, to minimize the problems we have with them. I have one room in the house that is off limits with the door closed. It isn’t totally free of the “floaties” that find their way through cracks/gaps, but it is greatly minimized.
    Having said that,I like the matte finish a lot better. Have to agree that some things are better in matte! (HA! That sounds like I’m talking about your hubby! LOL!) Hi MATT!

  11. Kristi,

    It’s just so beautiful – I really love your artwork. The house is interesting, beautiful and very special – as is it’s owner.


  12. I so loved the original piece with the ‘button’ texture…just curious was it always your intention to resin it maybe for protection or something. It is just stunning and continue to be in awe of all you do😍

  13. You continue to amaze me. I’m not a diy type..I find things in thrift shops, etsy, and of course EBay. I could never try to create anything from scratch like you do. But your designers eye and energy makes your home so perfect. Thank you for letting us into your home.

  14. This painting is awesome! I want to do one! It reminds me of when I was in college for art my teacher gave us a project of recreating a picture from a famous artist using anything except paint. I did a Picasso (Lady in the Looking Glass) I think was the name. I used construction paper cut into tiny pieces and glued them onto a panel. I kept it for eons. Dont even remember what happened to it. The year I did it was 1967!

  15. Can you take some more wide angle pics with your new lens? I liked those. It showed how the rooms flow into each other and how the whole decorating scheme looks.

  16. I love flowers and I especially love how this picture re-do turned out. Simply gorgeous, and yes I imagine it’s much better without all the reflections and glare.
    Poor Peeve….she lived up to her name, heh? She is beautiful, regardless.
    Glad it all turned out so well.

  17. so much better matte than shiny…from spouse of an owner of a auto body shop…the reason body work is expensive … is to make it look good, the sanding using graduated sand paper is the only way to get the auto to look pristine. And the wet sanding was a part of the job, everyone should remember that when they have a “small scratch/damage” and they receive a quote.

    He is such a perfectionist; I had to forbide him to sand walls in our home before painting. No expects a glass like smoothness on their painted surfaces (walls, etc). We used to refinish furniture and the clear finish we put on was like glass.

  18. I love how you’ve used your creativity and skill to roll with the punches when your pets have ‘participated’ in your decorating (Cooper) and art (Peeve) projects and ended up with improved results. Way to go!

  19. Looking at this beautiful picture and thinking about all the painstaking work you put into it, I noticed the wall and was reminded of you making the wallpaper over to perfection, and I just have to say, you have the patience of a saint.

  20. Wow!!! What a difference!!! You have more determination than even ME!!! Thanks for the tutorial!! Not sure I’ll ever use resin, But if I do I hope I remember your posts!

  21. I think you made a great decision to go with a satin finish. I’ve been a professional picture framer for years and the biggest complaint people make about any wall art, is that reflections don’t allow you to see the art. I always suggest non reflective- not non-glare- glass. It isn’t cheap but worth it. Many customers that opt out will come back and upgrade to non reflective glass. As much as I love resin wall paintings, I would probably only buy one with a satin finish. The high gloss works well for table surfaces- especially if you have interesting accessories that mirror themselves on the surface. Your satin finish is the first I’ve seen on resin paintings- that’s an advantage if you sell your work.

  22. Hi I’m considering doing this to our table that we just did a glaze coat on to hide a few imperfections- do you have any recommendations on if this would work with that type of surface that is regularly being used / wiped etc. ? Thank you!!

    1. I have no personal experience with it, so I can’t say definitively. If you do try it, just be sure that you get the full range of sandpaper, because you’ll need it all the way up to the very finest you can find. And then the buffing compound and on an electric buffer would probably be required for a surface like that. I didn’t use a buffer since mine is just hanging on the wall, but I’d probably take a bit more time and care with it if I were making a table.