Choosing paint colors for your kitchen can be an exciting yet daunting task. With so many options to consider, it’s important to think about the overall look and feel you want to achieve, as well as practical factors like lighting and cabinetry. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about selecting the perfect paint colors for your kitchen.

How Lighting Affects Paint Color

The lighting in your kitchen makes a big impact on how paint colors will look. Different types of light can drastically change the way a color appears on the walls.

Natural Light

Kitchens with plentiful natural light provide the truest colors during the day. North-facing rooms tend to have cool, blue-toned light while southern exposures get warmer light. Consider how the sun moves through the space and how colors look at different times of day.

Incandescent Light

Incandescent bulbs cast a warm, yellowish light that can make some paint colors appear darker and richer. This traditional lighting works well with deeper hues.

Fluorescent Light

The buzzing fluorescent lights found in many kitchens emit a blue-white artificial light. This can drain the vibrancy from colors, making them look dull or chalky.

LED Light

LED lighting gives off a crisp, bright white tone. While this accentuates some colors, it can also make them seem cold. Be sure to view paint samples under LEDs to test colors.

Mix It Up

Using a combination of lighting types will provide contrast and depth. Paint colors will look more dynamic when illuminated by both warm and cool light sources.

The Effect of Cabinets on Paint Color

The existing cabinetry is a major factor in choosing kitchen paint colors. Whether you have oak cabinets, white appliances or colorful tile backsplash, you’ll want to coordinate the wall color with what’s already there.

Wood Cabinets

Paint colors like sage green, butter yellow or robin’s egg blue look lively against warm wooden cabinetry. Deeper neutrals like gray, navy or charcoal also create an elegant contrast.

White Cabinets

White cabinetry opens up endless paint possibilities. From bright cherry red to metallic silver, vivid paint colors pop against the clean white background. Soft hues like lavender, seafoam and pale peach also work beautifully.

Colorful Cabinets

For kitchens with blue, yellow or green cabinets, opt for an analogous color scheme. Pick a paint color in a similar family to the cabinets. Or go for a contrasting neutral like gray. Avoid matching your cabinets exactly or choosing a clashing complementary color.

Paint Sheen for Kitchens

Sheen refers to the amount of light reflection and shine from a painted surface. The right sheen levels off any wall imperfections while providing washable and moisture-resistant surfaces.

Matte/Flat Finish

With no reflective qualities, flat or matte paint soaks up light, hiding flaws. While great for walls, the lack of durability makes it a poor choice for kitchens. Flat paint scuffs easily and stains over time.

Eggshell Finish

Slightly more luminous than flat, eggshell has a soft glow with minimal shine. It stands up well to cleaning and is ideal for low-traffic kitchen walls and dining rooms. The muted finish works with nearly any color.

Satin Finish

With mid-range luster, satin provides an elegant pearlescent sheen. It’s smooth and durable, resisting moisture, stains and mildew. Satin works wonderfully in kitchens, reflecting just enough light to showcase the colors.

Semi-Gloss Finish

Semi-gloss offers maximum resistance to high-traffic kitchen wear and tear. The radiant glossy finish is easily cleaned but also highlights any wall imperfections. Use it strategically on cabinets, trim or backsplashes.

Paint Color Ideas for Kitchens

From bright and cheerful hues to moody, saturated shades, the spectrum of kitchen paint colors is vast. Keep in mind your goals, tastes and decor when selecting shades.

Neutral Tones

Timeless and versatile, neutral kitchen paint colors act as a subtle backdrop for your cabinets, counters and décor.

  • Soft whites, like Chantilly Lace or Swiss Coffee, make rooms feel light and airy.
  • Warm neutrals like beige, oatmeal or fawn work well in traditional kitchens with wooden cabinetry.
  • Cool grays create a tranquil, soothing aesthetic. Go lighter for a breezy Scandinavian look or deeper for modern chic.

Vibrant Hues

Bring energy into your cooking space with vibrant paint colors. Bold kitchen colors feel fun, youthful and uplifting.

  • Citrus yellows, like lemon or marigold, infuse kitchens with sunlight and vitality.
  • Aquas in different intensities, from pastel seafoam to deep navy, lend a coastal ambiance.
  • Gemstone colors like emerald, ruby and sapphire make for rich, regal kitchens.

Earth Tones

Ground your kitchen with natural earth-inspired hues. These paint colors promote an organic, soothing vibe.

  • Nature greens like sage and moss evoke feelings of growth and renewal.
  • Warm terracotta and brick reds connect to the earthiness of clay.
  • Different woodsy browns, from chestnut to mahogany, add coziness.

Best Paint Colors for North-Facing Kitchens

Kitchens with northern light tend to have a cooler, bluish tone. To balance out the slight darkness, stick with lighter, brighter paint colors.

Cheery Yellow

A coat of vibrant lemon or daffodil yellow brings sunshine into a north-facing kitchen. The lively colors look especially nice against white cabinetry.

Azure Blue

From sky blue to turquoise, bright shades of blue give the illusion of daylight pouring in. Try Benjamin Moore’s Coastal Fog for a crisp, airy look.

Clean White

Extra white paint colors like brilliant white, snowbound white or glossy white reflect light well in darker north rooms. Add contrast with dark grout, hardware and décor.

Best Paint Colors for South-facing Kitchens

Southern light warms up kitchen walls with golden hues and reddish tones. Play off that cozy sunlight with paint colors that enhance it.

Rich Red

Fiery reds like cherry, currant and brick red soak up the warmth of southern sun. Deep red paint pairs perfectly with brown cabinetry.

Vibrant Orange

Saturated oranges and burnt oranges like tiger lily or pumpkin feel energizing in a bright south kitchen. Try Dunn-Edwards Sparky Orange for a fun retro vibe.

Chocolate Brown

Who doesn’t love chocolate? Deep, dark browns like chocolate truffle, espresso or cocoa bean ground a sun-drenched space.

Best Paint Colors for Small Kitchens

When dealing with a pint-sized kitchen, use light paint colors strategically to visually expand the space.

All White

Painting the entire kitchen bright white maximizes the light and makes it feel more expansive. Different white finishes add dimension.

Light Gray

Soft, airy grays like winds breath, cadet gray or silver drop give small rooms an open, spacious ambience. Benjamin Moore Wickham Gray is a designer favorite.


Powdery pastels like blush, lilac, mint and buttercream also trick the eye into seeing bigger proportions. Just take care not to go too pale.

Best Paint Colors for Large Kitchens

For sizable kitchens, embrace rich, mood-enhancing colors that provide a sense of intimacy.

Navy Blue

From midnight blue to majestic blue, the dark intensity of navy immediately warms up cavernous kitchens. Especially pretty paired with brass accents.

Forest Green

Lush forest greens like emerald, jade and pine tree green bring vibrancy to oversized kitchens. Green walls make the space feel more personal.

Charcoal Gray

Bold charcoal grounds big kitchens by adding cozy enveloping warmth. Benjamin Moore’s Essex Green or Sherwin-Williams’ Caviar are stunning smoky grays.

Paint Color Combinations for Kitchens

Complex, multi-tone paint schemes layer on visual interest and personality.

Analogous Colors

Analogous colors sit next to each other on the color wheel, creating harmonious combinations like…

  • chartreuse, lime green and sage
  • dusty blue, slate blue and blueberry
  • salmon, pink and coral

Accent Wall

Make one wall a different color from the rest for a striking focal point. Try sage green walls with a mustard yellow accent wall.

Two-Tone Kitchen

Paint upper and lower cabinets in contrasting colors to define the space. Midnight blue lowers with cloud white uppers is a popular look.

Tonal Contrast

Vary depths of a single color for subtle effect. Go from pale sky blue on top to deep navy below or soft peach walls with burnt peach cabinets.

Techniques for Painting a Kitchen

Preparation and proper technique will ensure your kitchen paint job looks polished and professional.

Prep the Space

  • Remove cabinet doors and drawers to paint separately.
  • Clean surfaces thoroughly then fill any holes or cracks in the walls.
  • Sand glossy areas to help paint adhere.
  • Tape off ceilings, trim, floors and any areas not being painted.
  • Drape drop cloths over counters, appliances and fixtures.

Prime Before Painting

  • Priming creates a smooth, uniform surface that allows truer paint color.
  • For painting previously painted walls, use a water-based all-purpose primer.
  • On raw drywall or plaster, use drywall primer sealer to prevent absorption.
  • For stained or glossy surfaces, apply an oil-based bonding primer.

Cut In With a Brush

  • Use high quality angled brushes for best results.
  • Dip halfway into the paint and tap lightly on the side of the can.
  • Start by neatly “cutting in” corners, edges and trim with the brush.

Roll on Paint

  • Pour paint into a paint tray and fully load the roller by rolling in “W” motions.
  • Roll on paint in approx. 3 x 3 foot sections using vertical “M” strokes.
  • Work methodically around the room, blending sections together by lightly rolling over dry edges.

Double Check Coverage

  • Inspect walls for any missed spots and apply additional paint as needed.
  • Two coats are recommended for full coverage and opacity.

Remove Tape Carefully

  • Let paint fully dry before removing any tape (at least 24 hrs).
  • Pull tape straight down and away from freshly painted edges.

Frequently Asked Questions About Painting Kitchens

What kind of paint should I use in the kitchen?

For kitchen walls, use satin, eggshell or semi-gloss latex enamel paint. Avoid flat paints as they are hard to clean. Make sure paint is marked as “kitchen & bath” and “scrub-able.”

How do I choose kitchen cabinet paint colors?

Coordinate your cabinet color with the wall color. Lighter wall colors work well with darker cabinet colors and vice versa. Whites, grays and navy blues make great cabinet colors.

Should I paint my kitchen cabinets or replace them?

Painting cabinets costs a fraction of replacing them. With proper prep and primers, you can paint cabinets for a like-new look. Replace cabinets only if they are severely damaged.

What sheen should I use on kitchen cabinets?

Use a satin, semi-gloss or high-gloss paint when painting cabinets. These durable, wipeable finishes are perfect for the wear and tear of cabinets. Stay away from flat and eggshell.

How long does it take to paint kitchen cabinets?

Plan on devoting 1 full weekend to painting kitchen cabinets. It takes about 1 day to empty cabinets, clean surfaces, sand, prime and apply first coats. Second coats, followed by reinstalling doors and hardware will take another full day.

Should I paint my kitchen ceiling?

Kitchen ceilings get dirty from spills and splatters, so they require frequent repainting. Use flat or matte ceiling paints that can be easily touched up as needed. Any sheen will highlight imperfections.

What order should I paint a kitchen?

Paint from top to bottom, doing ceilings first, then walls, then trim/molding, doors and cabinets. Paint upper cabinets before lower ones. Let each layer fully dry before moving on.


The array of enticing paint colors for kitchens is endless, but keeping lighting,cabinets, sheen and other factors in mind will help you select a shade you’ll enjoy for years. Always prepare surfaces properly and apply paint in careful sequence. With some thoughtful color considerations and sound techniques, you’re sure to end up with a kitchen paint job that brings you joy whenever you enter the room.