Do you need help figuring out the best paint for your kitchen cabinets? A fresh coat of paint is the best way to make a huge difference. Use our DIY experience to help you find the best kitchen cabinet paint.
Should you paint your cabinets?
If your cabinets are in good shape and you like the layout, then painting your cabinets is a great idea. You can hire a professional painter or do this as a DIY project to really update your kitchen cheaply.
Factors To Consider
Everyone has their own opinions when picking different types of paint. Paint brand, finish, color and ease of use will all factor into your decision. When choosing the right paint you will want to consider the following things:
- What finish you would like your cabinets to have?
- How are you applying the paint?
- What color you would like your cabinets to be
- How fast do you want your cabinets to try?
- What is the budget?
Best Finish For Kitchen Cabinets
The most popular kitchen cabinet paint finish is satin. However, we like using semi-gloss paint because you are able to wipe and clean cabinets easily. We would not recommend going with anything less than a satin finish.
Options For Cabinet Paint
- Oil-Based Paint
- Acrylic Latex Enamel Paint
- Chalk Paint
- Alkyd Based Paints
- Hybrid Paints
Painting kitchen cabinets can give your home an updated clean look for less money than you might expect. Instead of hiring professional painters to do the job, here are some recommendations for choosing the right type of paint so this DIY paint job will go smoothly.
In the past, oil-based paint and oil-based primer was the way to go. It self-levels and gives a uniform finish with fewer coats. It also has a very durable finish.
Cons Of Oil-Based Paints
The downside is it contains Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) which is harmful to both you and the ozone. You can’t even buy it in California and other states are following their lead. Not to mention that we have such a hard time using these due to the strong smell.
While oil-based paints cure well, they are smelly, harder to use, harder to clean and take longer to dry. For these reasons, we tend to stay away from oil-based paints because there are so many other water-based and durable paint options out there.
Latex Enamel Paint
Latex paint is natural and much safer. It is easy to clean which is key for a kitchen area. However, it dries much quicker making it difficult to get a smooth surface and clean look. You can use a paint sprayer to help eliminate brush marks, but now there is a better option available!
Examples Of Water-based Paints For Cabinets
Paints such as Behr Cabinet Cabinet Door and Trim paint and SW Proclasic are meant for cabinets with ease of cleaning up. However, they will not cure as hard as some of their hybrid counterparts.
Our Experience With Latex Enamel
We have always been an SW ProClassic paint user and always had great success. Here are a few projects you can see where we used this line of paint.
- Painting Our Oak Stair Railing
- Painting Columns In Our Basement
- First Time Painting Our Kitchen Cabinets White
- Painting Our Bathroom Cabinets with Behr Cabinet and Trim Enamel in Charcoal Blue
Chalk paint is known for being super easy to apply to any surface. No need to prime, but you will need to seal the surface if you want it to last. We are fans of this paint for diy furniture makeovers but do not think it will stand up to the wear and tear of cabinet use.
It doesn’t mean that we haven’t seen some awesome cabinets painted with this, but we would be careful if going this route.
We don’t recommend using plain latex paint or chalk paint on your cabinets. If you are using latex, make sure to choose a latex enamel meant for woodwork.
The hybrid paints listed below are meant for cabinetry and woodwork, are lower VOC than regular oil-based, and are more durable when cured.
Hybrid Alkyd Enamel Paint
While researching low-VOC paints, scientists have developed a hybrid paint called Acrylic-Alkyd paint. This is an excellent choice because not only does it give you a smooth finish, but it is also easy to clean. It is quickly becoming the popular choice among professionals and DIYers like myself. For best results, a paint sprayer will give you a thin even coat, but you can also use a foam roller with these hybrid enamels.
Best Hybrid Enamel Paint
- Benjamin Moore Advance provides not only the most sheens from a matte to a high-gloss finish but also a high-quality primer that comes in numerous colors.
- Sherwin Williams Pro-Classic Interior Water-based Acrylic Alkyd is available in semi-gloss and satin is a great choice as well.
- Valspar Oil-Enriched Enamel stands up to scuffs and scratches. Another bonus is that it does not require sanding and a primer.
- Sherwin Williams Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel has great durability and self-leveling capabilities.
All of these paints are really a combination of the best of both worlds. You get excellent durability with all the benefits of water-based paint.
Cons To Hyrbid Paints
The biggest con to these paints is the price. Make sure to buy them when they go on sale. We always buy are paint during Sherwin Williams’s % off sales.
Our Favorite Cabinet Paints
Recently our kitchen remodel included using a new line from Sherwin Williams. While the Proclassic was a great paint, the Sherwin Williams Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel really updated our kitchen when we repaint the cabinets.
Why do we love SW Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel?
- The self-leveling capabilities were awesome. Even the brush strokes will level out as this paint dries.
- It can be applied with a brush and a small foam roller. Be aware some people state that they have trouble doing this, but it is how we painted all of our kitchen cabinets. Working in thin layers and taking your time in between coats will help you in this process.
- Variety of different colors and finishes
- Easy to clean-up
- Lack of strong odor (compared to oil)
Make sure not to confuse the trim enamel paint with the regular Emerald line of paint. When you go to the paint store, make sure to explain your project to ensure you are getting the right type of paint.
Choosing A Color
Picking a cabinet paint color is one of the toughest things. Looking for different cabinet color inspirations, considering how much natural light your kitchen gets, and what style you are going for.
Remember it is your kitchen and pick colors you like. We never thought that we would go for a two-toned green cabinet look in our kitchen, but we absolutely love having a darker color on the lower cabinets.
Choose A Finish
Once you have chosen the type of paint, it’s time to decide on the right kitchen cabinet color. Most experts will recommend using a semi-gloss finish as opposed to flat or glossy finish. The shine will make it easier to clean and is more stain-resistant.
Best White Paint Colors
White cabinets are still a classic choice, and the variety of neutral white tones is endless. Do you want pure white or warm whites? It depends on the amount of natural light in your kitchen. It is important to bring home some large paint samples to see how they look in your home.
A lot of people are choosing to paint upper cabinets a different color from the lower cabinets or kitchen island. You can be bold with a darker color accent on the lower cabinets for a modern look.
Popular White Colors
A few popular choices include
- Benjamin Moore White Dove, Chantilly Lace, or Swiss Coffee
- Sherwin-Williams Pure White, Alabaster, or Snowbound
You can check out my previous post on the white cabinet paint colors to gain inspiration.
Best Type Of Paint For DIY Projects
Benjamin Moore Waterbased Aklyd Paint or Sherwin Williams Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel
Best Budget Cabinet Paint
Behr Trim Enamel: You can see below how our bathroom cabinet turned out using this paint.
Recommend Cabinet Painting Supplies
- Old Rag
- Sherwin Williams Urethane Trim Enamel
- Brush- We like using Purdy 2 ½” Angular Trim Brush or equivalent from Wooster
- Small Roller Handle
- Small High-Density Foam Roller (these are a must for a variety of DIY projects)
- Painter’s Tape Multi-Surface Tape
- 220 Sandpaper
- Optional: Wood Filler
- Drop Cloth
Real-Life DIY Cabinet Painting
You can see how we used SW Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel to paint our oak kitchen cabinet doors using only a brush and a small foam roller. They almost look like they were sprayed with a paint sprayer instead of painted by hand.
How To Prep Cabinets
We go into a lot of detail with step-by-step instructions in other posts about how to paint cabinets and doors here.
Our cabinet painting tutorials all include lightly sanding the cabinet surface, cleaning and wiping with Krud Kutter on a tack cloth and then using a primer.
You can also use a product like trisodium phosphate to clean your cabinets instead of Krud Kutter.
Primers To Consider
One of the most important parts when painting bathroom cabinets is to make sure you have an even coat of primer on all surfaces to be painted. Here are a few primers to consider:
- Zinsser Water-Based Primer
- Zinsser Oil-Based Stainblocking Primer: if you don’t mind the smell, but will do a better job sealing your wood cabinets than a latex-based primer.
- If you are going to be painting your cabinets white, you may want to consider using an oil-based primer so that the wood tannins don’t bleed through. Wood tannins are colors that may bleed through in your paint and will create yellowish or brownish spots.
Other DIY Kitchen Cabinet Paint FAQs
You can use these fillers before sanding to help fill in the grain. This is an extra step that will take time. We don’t mind seeing the grain on our painted cabinets.
It really doesn’t bother us, therefore we didn’t take this extra step.
Find small paint samples you like first. Narrow it down and use large peel-and-stick paint samples to test out colors. You can just tape them with painter’s tape if you are worried about the finish on your cabinet.
Click the link to get our full Samplize review.
For the smoothest finish you will want to use a paint sprayer. However, you can get an almost as smooth finish with higher-end paints like SW Emerald and Pro Advance due to their awesome self-leveling capabilities. Just be careful about drips along the way as those will leave bumps.
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Related Cabinet Painting Posts
- How To Paint Cabinet Doors
- 20+ DIY Painting Projects To Try Today
- 14 Unique DIY Bathroom Vanity Makeovers
We hope this post helps you pick the right kitchen cabinet paint for your budget-friendly kitchen remodel.