The Complete Guide to Painting Over Semi-Gloss Paint

When it comes to revamping a room in your home, painting is one of the simplest and most budget-friendly methods. However, there are a few important factors to consider when painting over semi-gloss paint.

Painting over semi-gloss paint can be done with the right prep work, tools, and techniques. It is possible to achieve a smooth and even finish by scuffing the surface, using high-quality paint, and ensuring the application process is done properly. A bonding primer is also needed to help the new paint adhere properly.

In this article, you will learn:

  • What kind of paint can you use over semi-gloss
  • What you need to know about sanding
  • What you need to know about priming
  • How to paint over semi-gloss paint

What Kind of Paint Can You Use Over Semi-Gloss?

Paint Finishes

Painting over semi-gloss requires some preparation before applying a new coat of paint. Since semi-gloss has a layer of gloss, albeit less than full gloss, painting over it directly is not recommended.

The finish will not adhere properly, and the new coat will peel off over time. 

The semi-gloss surface must be cleaned and the glossy spots removed to ensure a successful paint job. A rough surface is needed so that the new paint can adhere properly. 

Once the surface of semi-gloss paint is prepared properly by cleaning and sanding, you can use any kind of paint finish to create your desired look. From high-gloss and satin finishes to matte, eggshell, and flat, there are numerous options available for painting over semi-gloss.

Paint Types

You can use a variety of paint types over semi-gloss. Latex and oil-based paints are all suitable. However, the type of paint you choose will depend on the surface you’re painting and the desired finish. Let’s look at the various types of paint and what they are best suited for.

Oil-based Paints

Oil-based paint is a type of paint that uses oil as the main component in its composition. It is often used for painting surfaces such as wood, metal, and concrete because it provides better protection from damage caused by moisture or wear and tear.


  • Oil-based paint goes smoothly and provides excellent coverage with just one coat, saving you time and money.
  • It has a longer drying time, allowing more flexibility when working on the project.
  • Due to its high durability, oil-based paint is ideal for high-traffic areas like floors, doors, and trim.
  • It has excellent adhesion to surfaces, making it a great choice for painting over previously painted surfaces or uneven textures.


  • Over time, oil-based paint is prone to cracking, fading, and yellowing, especially when exposed to direct sunlight.
  • The fumes from oil-based paint are strong and can be overwhelming. It’s recommended to use it in well-ventilated areas and wear protective gear.
  • Cleanup requires hazardous chemicals like mineral spirits or turpentine, which must be disposed of carefully.

Water-based Paints

Water-based paint, also known as acrylic or latex paint, is a type of paint that uses water as the main carrier for the pigment and binders. It is commonly used on walls and ceilings and is less toxic and easier to clean than oil-based paints. 


  • More environmentally friendly than oil-based paint. It contains fewer volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which release fewer harmful chemicals into the air.
  • Dries faster than oil-based paint, which means you can apply multiple coats in less time.
  • Cleanup is a breeze with water-based paint. All you need is soap and water. No harsh solvents are required.
  • More forgiving than oil-based paint. If you make a mistake, you can easily fix it without starting over.


  • Doesn’t adhere as well to certain surfaces, such as metal and shiny surfaces. You may need to use a special primer or sand the surface before painting.
  • It can swell the grain of the wood, so you must sand between coats to achieve a smooth finish.
  • Water-based paint may require more coats than oil-based paint to achieve the same level of coverage.
  • It may not be as durable as oil-based paint in high-traffic areas, such as floors and doors.

Using Water-Based Paint over Oil-Based Gloss

You cannot use water-based paint over oil-based paint, nor vice-versa. Each paint type has a different chemical composition, making it impossible for them to bond properly.

If you attempt to paint over oil-based paint with water-based paint, the result will be a peeling and unsightly finish.

However, there are ways to prepare the surface for the paint to ensure a successful outcome. Before painting, properly clean and sand the surface to remove any dirt, grease, or gloss.

This will help create a rougher surface for the water-based paint to adhere to and improve the chances of a successful bond.

It’s important to note that switching from oil-based paint to water-based paint, or vice-versa, requires proper preparation to ensure the paint adheres correctly and lasts longer. Additionally, certain types of surfaces require specific paint types.

While it’s possible to use water-based paint over oil-based paint or vice-versa, it’s important to note that you must take the necessary steps to ensure a successful outcome. Failure to do so can result in a poorly finished project that must be redone.

Why Choosing the Appropriate Paint Matters

Choosing the appropriate paint for a project is important because it can provide added durability, longevity, and aesthetic appeal. Oil- or water-based paints have different properties, so using the right type for your specific needs is key.

If you use the wrong type of paint, you may find yourself needing more frequent coats or experiencing improper adhesion to your surfaces, which could result in peeling over time.

Choosing the right paint will ensure that your project has a successful outcome with improved performance over time.

Priming Semi-Gloss Paint Before Painting: What You Need to Know

What is Primer and Its Role in Painting Over Semi-Gloss Paint

Primer is crucial in preparing a surface for a fresh coat of paint. It acts as a foundation layer between the old and new coats of paint.

Primer would provide an ideal base for the new layer to adhere to when painting over semi-gloss paint.

Glossy surfaces are smooth and shiny, making it difficult for the new coat of paint to grip onto, causing it to easily peel off or crack.

By applying primer before painting, you can enhance adhesion, improve coverage, and increase the durability of the new coat.

Primers are designed to create a porous surface for better paint adhesion. This helps to ensure that the paint adheres well to the surface, providing a smooth and long-lasting finish.

Moreover, primers can seal porous surfaces, such as drywall, wood, or masonry, to prevent the paint from being absorbed, which can lead to color distortion and/or unevenness.

Types of Primers

In the world of painting, primers are crucial to guarantee the longevity and durability of a paint job. There are various types of primers, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages.

Oil-based Primer

Oil-based primer is a commonly used product in the painting industry due to its versatility and effectiveness on various surfaces. It is compatible with oil and latex paints, making it a reliable option for many painting projects.

This primer is often used on unpainted or painted wood, steel, and other metals and interior and exterior walls with existing paint.

One of the biggest advantages of oil-based primer is its ability to prevent stains from showing through the new coats of paint.

It is an effective “stain killer,” blocking stains caused by ink, nicotine, and water. This is particularly useful for surfaces prone to frequent staining, such as walls in high-traffic areas.

However, it is important to note that oil-based primers and paints release high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can be harmful to humans if inhaled in substantial concentrations or over prolonged periods.

This is a common drawback of oil-based products, as they can contribute to poor indoor air quality and negatively impact the environment.

Another factor to consider is that oil-based primers are often slow-drying, which can add time to the painting process. However, many painters find that the benefits of using an oil-based primer outweigh the longer drying time.

Latex or Water-based Primer

Latex primers are a great option if you’re looking for a versatile and effective primer for your household painting projects. Water-based primers have some benefits that make them ideal for preparing various surfaces for painting. 

One of the key advantages of latex primers is their flexibility. Unlike oil-based primers, which can be brittle and prone to cracking and peeling, latex primers are more pliable, which allows them to move and expand with the wall or surface they are applied to. This means they are less likely to crack or peel over time, which can help your paint job last longer.

Latex primers are also fast-drying, which can be a big advantage if you’re looking to complete your painting project quickly.

They are typically ready to paint over within a few hours of application, which can help speed up the painting process and get your room or space back in use sooner.

In addition to their flexibility and fast-drying properties, latex primers are great at covering imperfections and preparing surfaces for painting.

Whether working with unfinished drywall, softwood, brick, concrete, or galvanized metal, latex primers can help out the surface and provide a smooth, consistent base for your paint.

Finally, one of the best things about latex primers is that they are easy to clean up. Because they are water-soluble, you can simply use soap and water to clean your brushes and other painting tools when you’re finished using them.

And if you’re looking for an eco-friendly option, many latex primers come in low- or no-VOC formulas, which can help reduce your exposure to harmful chemicals and fumes while you’re painting.

Shellac Primer

Shellac primer is a highly effective and time-tested wood and surface sealer used for centuries. Its ability to block tough stains and seal in unpleasant odors makes it a go-to product for interior painting jobs.

Additionally, it is excellent at preventing water, rust, and smoke stains and works well on various surfaces, including wood, metal, plaster, and plastic.

One major feature of shellac-based primers is their fast drying time, making them ideal for use in time-sensitive projects. They are also highly adhesive and can be used with oil-based and latex paints, making them versatile.

However, it is essential to note that they give off more fumes than other primers and require denatured alcohol for thinning and cleaning.

For severe water and smoke damage, shellac-based primers are possibly the best stain-blocking primers available. In addition, they are ideal for preventing wood tannins from bleeding through new paint.

While they may have a few drawbacks, such as their limited versatility and fumes, it’s hard to deny the effectiveness of shellac primer for various indoor painting projects.

Sanding Semi-Gloss Paint Before Painting: What You Need to Know

When you sand the surface, you’re creating little scratches in the gloss surface of the paint. Although it does not sound necessary, these tiny grooves provide a rough enough texture for the new coat to hold on to.

Without the abrasion, the new coating of paint will peel and look rough. You need ideal bonding between the new coat of paint and the substrate, which means the surface has to be abraded lightly, allowing the new paint to adhere correctly.

What Sandpaper to Use for Sanding Semi-Gloss?

The grit of the sandpaper is critical when sanding semi-gloss paint before painting. You need to be careful not to sand away too much of the top layer of your existing paintwork.

Start sanding with a little less abrasive sandpaper, then work up to the grit you require. A good start is to use 120 grit sandpaper and gradually move up to 220.

How Much Do You Need to Sand Semi-Gloss Before Painting?

When sanding, use light, gentle strokes. Avoid sanding in just one direction since that might create visible lines and cause the color to appear uneven.

Begin at the top of the wall and work your way down to avoid creating streaks or smudges by accidentally dislodging dust from the higher point. Enable your sandpaper to move across the wall in a back-and-forth motion. Wipe the wall clean as often as necessary.

Sand lightly to not remove the existing paint but flatten the gloss. Stop sanding and clean off any residue when you can no longer feel the glossy texture. When in doubt, under-sanding is better than over-sanding. You can always re-sand if necessary.

Can You Paint Over Semi-Gloss Without Sanding?

In most cases, it is not recommended to paint over semi-gloss without sanding. The glossy finish of the existing paint will create a barrier that prevents proper adhesion of the new coat.

Advantages of Painting Over Semi-Gloss Without Sanding

The primary benefit of painting over gloss without sanding is that you don’t have to worry about creating dust and debris in your home.

However, it’s important to note that the paint may not adhere properly and could bubble or peel off eventually if the gloss layer is not removed.

Disadvantages of Painting Over Semi-Gloss Without Sanding

The biggest issue with painting over semi-gloss without sanding is that the new coat of paint may not last as long. It might also have an uneven finish or appear blotchy due to improper adhesion. Additionally, you’ll have to use a much heavier coating than normal, increasing cost.

Other Options for Painting Over Semi-Gloss

Sanding may not always be the best option. Fortunately, other alternatives can save you time and effort. One option is to use a deglosser, a chemical solution that removes the gloss from the paint’s surface.

This method is effective and quick, as it works by breaking down the gloss and making it easier to paint over. However, it’s important to note that deglossers contain harsh chemicals and should be used in a well-ventilated area with protective gear.

Another option is to use a paint stripper, a chemical solution that removes paint and gloss from a surface. This method is more aggressive than a deglosser, as it completely strips off the old paint and allows you to start with a fresh surface. However, paint strippers are also harsh chemicals and should be handled carefully.

It’s important to remember that using these alternative methods still requires proper prep work, such as cleaning the surface and making any necessary repairs.

It’s recommended to test a small area before using any new product and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. 

How to Paint Over Semi-Gloss Paint

Tools and Materials

Step 1: Prepare and Protect the Surrounding Areas

Before you start painting, it’s important to prepare the area by covering any furnishings or objects that can’t be moved. Make sure to tape down plastic sheeting around the edges of your work area.

Remove any hardware, such as doorknobs, light switches, and outlet covers. Clean the walls with a damp sponge to remove any dust or grime.

Step 2: Remove the Gloss Layer

After prepping and protecting the surrounding areas, it’s time to remove the gloss layer on the walls. Here are the options you can use to remove the gloss:

Option 1: Using a Sandpaper

Using sandpaper is the most common method for removing the glossy layer. Start with 120-grit paper and move on to 220-grit. Make sure to sand lightly to not remove too much of the existing paint.

Option 2: Using a Liquid Deglosser

Liquid deglossers are a quick and effective way to remove the gloss from surfaces. It works by breaking down the glossy surface, making it easier to paint. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using liquid deglossers.

Option 3: Using Paint Stripper

Paint strippers are a more aggressive option for removing semi-gloss paint. This method removes the old paint, so you can start with a fresh surface before painting. Use protective gear when using paint strippers, as they contain harsh chemicals.

Step 3: Clean and Prime

Once you’ve removed the gloss layer, cleaning and priming the walls before painting is important. Use a damp sponge to wipe away any sanding dust. Then, use a tack cloth to ensure the surface is dust- and dirt-free.

Finally, you must apply a primer such as Zinsser’s B-I-N Primer Sealer. This will help ensure that your paint adheres properly and lasts longer on the walls.

Step 4: Paint

Now you can finally start painting. Make sure to use quality paint and tools, such as a paintbrush and roller, specific to your painting room. Follow the’s instructions when applying the paint.

Allow each coat of paint to dry completely before applying another. Once everything is dry, replace the hardware and remove any coverings you put in place to protect the surrounding areas. You can enjoy your newly painted room.

Joshua Milton

Joshua Milton is a passionate DIY and home improvement enthusiast. With his expertise in various projects, he provides practical tips, step-by-step guides, and creative ideas for transforming your living space.

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