Painting your kitchen cabinets can give your kitchen a fresh new look without the high cost of replacing the cabinets. With so many paint options to choose from, it can be overwhelming to select the best paint for your kitchen cabinets. Following some key considerations when choosing cabinet paint will ensure you end up with a finish you’ll love.

Assess Your Cabinets

Before choosing a paint, carefully examine the current condition of your cabinets.

  • Are there any damaged or missing areas that will need repairs? Sand and fill any holes or imperfections for the best painting results.
  • Look at the type of wood and current finish. Paint adheres best to sanded, stripped wood or veneers. If the cabinets have an existing glossy finish, it will need to be dulled for the paint to properly adhere.
  • Consider the color and style of your kitchen. Think about the look you want to achieve from the painted cabinets to help guide your paint selection.

Choose Latex or Alkyd/Oil-Based Paint

When selecting cabinet paint, you’ll typically be deciding between latex (water-based) or alkyd/oil-based paint. Both have pros and cons.

Latex paint:

  • Dries more quickly than oil-based
  • Lower odor than oil-based
  • Easier cleanup with water
  • More color options available
  • Chalky finish prone to showing fingerprints

Alkyd/Oil-based paint:

  • Longer drying time than latex
  • Strong odor
  • Cleanup requires mineral spirits/solvent
  • More limited color selection
  • Durable, hard finish resists fingerprints

For most DIY cabinet painting projects, a high-quality latex paint is recommended. Latex dries faster with less odor and is easier to work with. Be sure to choose one specifically formulated for cabinets and trim for maximum durability.

Choose the Right Sheen

Paint sheen refers to the glossiness or flatness of the finish. Sheen affects durability, ease of cleaning, and visibility of imperfections. Consider these guidelines for sheen selection:

  • Flat/Matte – Shows flaws, scuffs easily, hardest to clean
  • Eggshell – Soft velvety appearance, hides imperfections
  • Satin – Subtle sheen, resists stains/scuffs
  • Semi-Gloss – Reflective shine, most durable, highlights flaws
  • Gloss – High shine, magnifies imperfections, easiest to clean

For cabinets, satin or semi-gloss sheens are ideal choices. They offer shine while still hiding minor flaws, and are durable and easy to wipe clean.

Opt for Cabinet-Specific Paint

Instead of standard wall paint, choose a paint formulated specifically for kitchen cabinets for the most durable finish. Features to look for include:

  • Excellent adhesion and binding to wood surfaces
  • Resistance to moisture, grease, and dirt
  • Easy-clean finish that resists yellowing
  • Maximum scratch and scuff resistance

Quality cabinet paints also contain extra binding resins and hardeners for a tougher and more flexible finish than standard paint.

Some top brands to consider: Benjamin Moore Advance, Sherwin Williams ProClassic, Rust-Oleum Cabinet Transformations

Prepare Your Cabinets Thoroughly

Proper prep work before painting is vital for achieving a smooth, lasting finish. Be sure to:

  • Clean cabinets thoroughly with a degreaser to remove dirt and oils
  • Lightly sand to rough up the surface for paint adhesion
  • Fill any holes or defects with wood filler and sand smooth
  • Remove doors, drawers and hardware
  • Prime bare wood with suitable primer before painting

Don’t skip these important steps—good prep leads to better results!

Apply in a Dust-Free Area

Paint your cabinets in a clean, dust-free, well-ventilated area for best results. Temperature and humidity also affect paint drying and finish, so aim for 60-80°F and 30-50% humidity.

Work methodically and systematically, coating all surfaces evenly and smoothing out drips or runs. Allow sufficient drying time between coats based on manufacturer guidelines. Rushing the job can lead to problems like tacky paint or brush marks.

Be Patient During Drying/Curing

Oil-based paints take longer to fully cure compared to latex—up to 2 weeks until the finish is hardened. Latex paint dries quickly but will continue curing and off-gassing for several days.

Avoid slamming doors or putting excess strain on the fresh paint during the curing process. The final bond strength will increase over time as the paint fully dries.

With patience and proper planning, you can achieve stunning, professional-looking results by painting your own kitchen cabinets. Follow these tips for choosing the ideal paint and application process. Soon you’ll have a kitchen updated with beautiful new cabinets!

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I prepare laminate cabinets for painting?

Lightly scuff sand laminate cabinets before painting to rough up the glossy surface. Prime first with a bonding primer or product like Gripper that helps paint adhere to slick surfaces.

What kind of paint adheres best to melamine cabinets?

An oil-based primer followed by a quality latex cabinet paint works well on melamine’s hard plastic finish. Latex paint alone may not bond as effectively.

What mistakes should I avoid when painting cabinets?

  • Skipping proper prep work
  • Applying paint too thickly so it drips
  • Not allowing adequate dry time between coats
  • Forgetting to use painter’s tape to mask off adjacent surfaces
  • Failing to remove doors, drawers, and hardware before painting

Should I use a paint sprayer or brush/roller?

Paint sprayers allow for a smooth, consistent finish but require masking off the whole kitchen to avoid overspray. Brushing or rolling by hand takes longer but contains mess. Use high-quality applicator tools and thin paints appropriately.

How do I achieve an antique or distressed look?

Glaze or gel stains applied over properly dried paint can create an antique, weathered effect. Or use wax paper to “distress” edges and corners after painting for a cottage look.

What’s the best way to clean and care for painted cabinets?

Use a soft microfiber cloth with mild soap and warm water to gently wipe painted cabinet surfaces. Avoid harsh cleaners, abrasive pads, or excessive moisture that could damage the finish. Reapply a fresh coat of cabinet paint every 2-3 years for optimal appearance and protection.


Choosing the right paint makes all the difference when painting kitchen cabinets. Assess your cabinets’ current condition, select latex or oil-based paint in an appropriate sheen, and use a high-quality cabinet paint for superior results. Proper surface prep, patient drying time, and gentle care will help your painted cabinets look freshly updated for years to come. With some thoughtful planning and effort, you can transform the look of your kitchen.