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A full kitchen remodel is a time-consuming, expensive, “how long can I survive without a sink?” undertaking. If you don’t have the heart or the budget for a renovation right now, the fastest, easiest way to spruce up your space is with a fresh coat of paint on your kitchen cabinets. It can give new life to tired cabinets, and is far less costly.
The hardest part? Choosing the right paint (and paint brand) for your cabinets. Picking a color is just one of several important decisions you’ll have to make. Gloss or semi-gloss? Oil or latex? We’re here to help you narrow down the best options.
Scroll on for the best brands of kitchen cabinet paint.
Best White: Valspar Pro Contractor Coat
If you want to paint your cabinets white, one of the best paints you can use is Valspar Pro Contractor Coat, an alkyd enamel or oil-based paint. This professional-grade paint is great for trim, cabinets, and other accents, especially because its high-gloss finish easily wipes clean and keeps its shine, even after being washed multiple times.
Valspar Pro Contractor Coat has excellent flow and leveling, which results in an incredibly smooth, uniform finish, and it can be brushed or sprayed on. Plus, this affordable paint is easy to apply and has a beautiful finish.
Best Colors: Sherwin-Williams Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel
For a paint that’s both stain- and scratch-resistant—two important characteristics for kitchen cabinets—and comes in a wide range of colors, you can’t go wrong with Sherwin-Williams Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel paints. This line of paints is designed for high-traffic surfaces such as doors and trim, and you can choose from dozens of Sherwin-Williams colors and custom tints, as well as satin, semi-gloss, and gloss finishes.
Semi-gloss is the best choice for durability, as it can withstand frequent cleaning, and reviewers say the Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel delivers smooth, consistent coverage with just two or three coats. However, several people say it can be tricky to apply and is not very forgiving, so it’s not the best option for novice DIYers.
Best Splurge: Farrow & Ball Full Gloss Paint
Another high-gloss paint that will give kitchen cabinets a beautiful shiny finish is Farrow & Ball Full Gloss—a high-end water-based variety that’s a favorite of many designers.
This line of paint is available in a variety of colors, including both neutral and bold shades. For example, Stiffkey Blue is perfect for making a statement in your kitchen or dining room. For a more traditional approach, opt for a color like Ammonite, which is a soft and understated gray.
While it delivers a beautiful, durable finish, this brand of paint is quite the splurge, retailing for more than $100 per gallon.
Best Semi-Gloss: BEHR Premium Interior Cabinet & Trim Enamel
If you don’t want a glossy finish on your cabinets, BEHR Premium Interior Cabinet & Trim Enamel is a budget-friendly semi-gloss paint. This water-based product delivers a durable finish that resists dirt, grime, and mildew, and it dries quickly, allowing you to recoat in just two hours.
It provides a sleek and radiant sheen that is perfect for both high-traffic areas and high-moisture areas. Reviewers like that this paint is low-odor and easy to apply, but several note that it takes quite a few coats of paint to completely cover dark materials.
Best Satin: Insl-x Cabinet Coat
Another popular paint finish is satin, which is a good middle ground between flat and glossy paint. If this is the finish you prefer, Insl-x Cabinet Coat is a water-based formula that’s specially designed for refinishing kitchen and bathroom cabinets. This brand of paint has superior adhesion, allowing you to paint over a variety of difficult surfaces, such as polyurethane and varnish, without primer, and its excellent flow and leveling will give you a smooth, professional-looking finish.
Insl-x Cabinet Coat dries to a durable satin finish that resists chipping, scuffing, grease, and water, making it easy to clean and an ideal choice for kitchen cabinets. Reviewers highly recommend this brand, writing that it’s easy to apply with a brush or roller and wears extremely well, holding up over years of wear and tear. However, it does take several coats to fully cover darker surfaces.
Best Matte: BEHR Chalk Decorative Paint
For a trendy farmhouse look, you can paint your cabinets with matte or flat paint like the BEHR Chalk Decorative Paint. This line of paint comes in a wide range of muted colors, and it delivers a smooth, velvety matte finish that creates a more rustic look on your cabinets.
This water-based chalk paint can be applied to almost any surface without primer, and it provides great coverage so that you can use fewer coats. However, if you’re using this matte paint on a high-traffic surface such as kitchen cabinets, you’ll want to seal it with wax or water-based clear sealers to improve its durability.
Best Multi-Step: Rust-Oleum Cabinet Transformations
If your cabinets are worn or dated, they might need more than just a coat of paint. The Rust-Oleum Cabinet Transformations is a multi-step DIY cabinet transformation system that will help to totally redo your cabinets, making them look as good as new. It includes all the supplies you need to cover up to 100 square feet of cabinets, and you can choose from white, gray, or espresso finishes.
The first step in the Rust-Oleum Cabinet Transformations kit is a de-glosser that saves you from having to sand or prime previously finished surfaces. Next, you apply two layers of the tinted bond coat, which provides maximum adhesion. And finally, you top it off with a durable, protective topcoat, which makes the surface scratch-resistant and gives your cabinets a satin finish. There’s also an optional decorative glaze.
Reviewers love that this cabinet transformation kit is so affordable and includes everything you need to completely redo kitchen cabinets. Many note that it’s easy to use, but it can take several days to complete all the steps carefully.
What to Look for When Buying Kitchen Cabinet Paint
As if choosing a cabinet paint color wasn’t hard enough, you’ll also need to select a finish: semi-gloss, gloss, or eggshell/flat. Semi-gloss is considered the best for kitchen cabinets, as it is durable —super important in a high traffic area like a kitchen—and easy to clean. Gloss is another great, durable option if you like a shiny, modern look. Steer away from eggshell or flat finishes though, as they aren’t as washable, a must for all the splatters and spills that inevitably end up in kitchens.
Type of Cabinet
The material of your cabinets will determine the best paint for them. Do you have solid wood cabinets, or are they made from MDF? Are they laminate or composed of wood veneer over particle board? The material will determine how much (if any) sanding is necessary, and if you’ll need an oil-based primer. See The Best Types of Kitchen Cabinet Paint for the full breakdown of cabinet materials, and which paint is best for them.
Oil vs. Latex
There are pros and cons of both oil and latex paints, which you’ll need to consider when choosing kitchen cabinet paint. While oil-based paints provide good coverage and a durable finish, they’re rough on the environment and take long stretches of time to dry between coats. Latex-based paints, meanwhile, dries quickly and is a friendlier choice for Mother Nature but is less durable in terms of scrubbing and requires more prepping to ensure an even finish.
What type of paint is best for kitchen cabinets?
Both oil and latex paints provide a good finish for kitchen cabinets. Latex paints dry quickly and clean up easily with water and soap, making them fool-proof for novice painters. Oil paints, however, covers the wood more smoothly but takes much longer to dry (we’re talking anywhere from a day to weeks to fully cure) and requires chemicals for clean up.
How do you prep cabinets for paint?
If the existing paint is in rough shape, or if the existing finish is a clear coat, it’s best to strip your cabinets down to the bare wood. (That way there won’t be any adhesion issues between the old finish and the new paint.) If that’s one step too many for you, oftentimes you can get away with simply thoroughly cleaning the cabinets, then lightly sanding them. That’s oftentimes enough to prep the cabinets for a fresh coat of color.
How do you sand cabinets before painting?
Before painting your kitchen cabinets, you’ll need to deconstruct them as much as possible. Remove the doors and drawers, as well as hardware, then set up a sanding station outside. Using 120 to 180 grit sandpaper, lightly roughen the front surfaces and visible edges. You don’t need to sand off the old paint entirely; you just want to roughen the surface to give the new coat of paint a clean base to grip to. Remember to wear a dust mask and safety goggles.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This roundup was researched and written by Camryn Rabideau, a freelance writer for The Spruce and an expert on all things home. She has a bachelor’s degree in Fashion Merchandising and Design, and she’s taken several courses in interior decorating. Additional research was done by Megan McCarty, a writer for The Spruce and MyDomaine with over 13 years of experience in both print and digital media. She regularly contributes to design-focused outlets such as Architectural Digest, Domino, House & Home, and Hunker.