What Type of Paint to Use on Kitchen Cabinets: Revamp Your Kitchen

Are you tired of staring at your outdated and dull kitchen cabinets? A fresh coat of paint can transform your space without breaking the bank. But with so many options on the market, choosing the right paint for your kitchen cabinets can be overwhelming.

Choosing the right type of paint for your DIY job is essential if you want your cabinets to look professionally painted and last for years.

In this article, we’ll guide you through the different types of paint and finishes available and provide recommendations for kitchen cabinet paint.

How To Choose the Kitchen Cabinet Paint?

Factors To Consider

Here are some factors to consider when choosing the right paint for your kitchen cabinets:

1. Type of Paint: The type you choose for your kitchen cabinets can affect the overall longevity and appearance of the cabinets.

2. Color: Choosing the right color for your kitchen cabinet is essential as it influences the look and feel of your kitchen.

3. Finish: Choose a suitable finish, such as matte or semi-gloss.

4. Cost: The cost can vary significantly based on the paint type, brand, and quality.

5. Durability: Choosing a durable product to withstand everyday wear and tear is important, especially in high-traffic areas like the kitchen.

Paint Options For Kitchen Cabinets

Choosing the paint type can be confusing. You’ve got water-based, oil-based, and all kinds of chemical-based products to choose from.

And then there are paints like acrylic, enamel, and lacquer that make things even more complicated!

1. Water-based Cabinet Paints

Water-based latex is the one that we all know, as it is the most commonly used paint type for both interior and exterior painting projects. It is typically used for walls and ceilings. 

Water-based paint dries quickly and has no strong odor, making it a convenient choice for interiors. However, water-based paint may not be as durable as oil-based with kitchen cabinets.

Latex products have come a long way, and cabinets painted with the right finish can withstand cleaning and scrubbing.

Traditionally enamel paints have been oil-based, but water-based enamel has emerged in the market (acrylic enamel). The main difference between acrylic enamel and latex paint is that while they both are water-based, acrylic paint contains chemicals.

Choosing a product specifically designed for cabinets is essential when using water-based products on kitchen cabinets. This will ensure a smooth and durable finish that can withstand the wear and tear of everyday use in the kitchen.


Using water-based products has its benefits, including the following:

  • Dries quickly, allowing for multiple coats to be applied in a shorter amount of time.
  • Most products are low in volatile organic compounds (VOC) and impact indoor air quality less than oil-based products.
  • They come in a wide range of colors and finishes (especially latex).


The drawbacks of water-based products include the following:

  • It may not be as durable as other options and require more frequent touch-ups or repainting.
  • The finish may not be as smooth as with alternatives.
  • It may require more coats to achieve full coverage compared to oil-based products.
Nuvo Plus Cabinet Paint
  • Water-based acrylic paint + primer for superior hiding, even on dark painted, or stained cabinets.
  • Heavily pigmented and optimized for smooth, even coverage, without drips or streaks.

Hybrid Alkyd Enamel Paint

Hybrid alkyd enamel paint offers the best of both worlds, combining the durability of an oil-based product with the ease of use of water-based latex.

It is an advanced version of traditional oil-based alkyd products that require solvents for clean-up. Hybrid alkyd enamel paint has added features such as low VOC (volatile organic compounds) and water clean-up.

It is a safer option for indoor use due to its low odor. You can easily clean the paint brushes and rollers with soap and water as it is water-based.

A paint sprayer is recommended for the best results as it gives a thin, even coat. However, you can also use a foam roller or brush. Once the painting is completed, brush strokes or marks are usually invisible.

Often called waterborne, these are a popular choice for painting kitchen cabinets due to their hard, durable finish that can withstand daily wear and tear.

It is essential to prepare the cabinets before the paint job and to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application.


Hybrid Alkyd Enamel offers several benefits when used on kitchen cabinets:

  • It has a hard, durable finish that resists chipping and scratching.
  • It dries quickly (but a bit slowly as latex).
  • It has low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), making it a more environmentally friendly option (but it has slightly more odor than latex).
  • It can provide a smooth, professional-looking finish that is easy to clean and maintain.


There are also some drawbacks:

  • It can be more expensive than other types of paint.
  • It requires careful preparation and application to achieve a smooth finish.
  • It may turn yellow over time (but less than traditional alkyd products), especially in areas that receive a lot of sunlight.
Benjamin Moore Advance Waterborne Interior Alkyd Paint
  • For color : Send Message to Amazon seller.
  • Available Colors : All Colors, 1x,2x,3x,4x, White & Black.
  • Sheen : Satin

Related: Benjamin Moore Advance vs. Aura

Oil-Based Paints

Thanks to their resilient finish, oil-based products are often the first option most people consider when painting their kitchen cabinets.

The surface won’t wear out easily due to scrubbing such cabinets and cleaning is easy. That’s excellent since people often open cabinets with greasy or sticky hands amidst cooking.

Nevertheless, these products have a long dry time and strong odor during application. Therefore, you must wait 16-24 hours after painting a coat before adding a new one.


Using oil paint has its benefits, including the following:

  • They provide a smooth, durable finish that withstands heavy use and frequent cleaning.
  • Its coverage is usually great when dealing with wood grain
  • You can clean and scrub surfaces without worrying about destroying them since they can withstand it


The drawbacks of oil-based products include the following:

  • Oil-based products have a strong odor and require good ventilation during application.
  • They take a long time to dry and cure.
  • They tend to yellow over time.
  • They are more challenging to clean up and require solvents like mineral spirits or turpentine, which can be messy.
Rust-Oleum 7797502 Protective Enamel Paint
  • Weather and corrosion resistant coating protects exterior/interior surfaces like wood, metal, concrete, masonry and more
  • Oil-based formula provides a durable protective coating with excellent rust prevention

Chalk Paint

Chalk paint is a DIY technique that makes achieving a distressed, vintage look easy.

Chalk paint is ideal for kitchen cabinets because they adhere to wood smoothly.

While the effect of chalk won’t be as durable as enamels or primers, it’s still an excellent choice for those looking for an easy way to give their cabinets a facelift.

Whether or not chalk is a viable option for your kitchen cabinet doors will depend on your specific needs and preferences.


Some of the pros of using chalk paint:

  • Its matte finish can give cabinets a vintage or shabby chic look.
  • It dries quickly.
  • It is an easy-to-use DIY paint job option that quickly lets you achieve a distressed, vintage look.
  • It adheres well to wood and goes on smoothly.
  • It has little odor, is easier to clean than oil-based products, and doesn’t require harsh solvents.


Some of the cons of using chalk:

  • It’s less durable and may not be as easy to keep clean as other options.
  • It doesn’t provide a glossy finish, which some prefer in kitchen cabinets.
  • It isn’t suitable for areas with a lot of wear and tear or high moisture levels (but you can use protective sealant on top of it).
Amy Howard at Home Chalk Finish Paint
  • Effortlessly Transform Furniture: Revamp your space effortlessly with Amy Howard at Home One Step Paint. Say goodbye to tedious prep work – no stripping, no sanding, and no priming needed to refinish your furniture with a velvety and creamy chalk-based paint that coats your furniture beautifully.
  • Versatile Chalk-Based Formula: Unlock your creativity with our chalk-based paint, perfect for furniture, cabinetry, and more. Whether it’s a vintage dresser or modern kitchen cabinets, achieve stunning results every time. Our chalk-based formula provides the perfect base coat for countless creative finishes.
  • Save Lots of Time: Streamline your DIY projects with One Step Paint. Skip the hassle of multiple coats and lengthy drying times! Our all-in-one formula delivers vibrant, long-lasting color in just one application.

Different Kitchen Cabinet Materials: Which Type of Paint to Use

You might have different kinds of surfaces in your kitchen. Doors might be solid wood, and boxes might be MDF, laminate, or melamine.

Check Old Paint

Different kinds of old paints on the surfaces might affect what to do next.

To determine whether the old surface is oil-based, perform a simple test using acetone (or nail polish remover with acetone).

Dampen a clean white rag and rub the rag onto the painted surface. If the color does not come off, it is likely oil-based. It is likely water-based if the color comes off onto the rag.

Wooden Kitchen Cabinets

Use a paint that is specifically formulated for wood surfaces. It can be hybrid alkyd enamel or water-based latex (If using latex, choose one for woodwork). If using oil-based products, they provide good coverage over wood.

Benjamin Moore Advance Waterborne Interior Alkyd Paint
  • For color : Send Message to Amazon seller.
  • Available Colors : All Colors, 1x,2x,3x,4x, White & Black.
  • Sheen : Satin

MDF Cabinets

There are many ways to paint MDF cabinets. Some use extra steps to prevent new paint from peeling off.

It is important to properly prep the cabinets by sanding and cleaning them before painting to ensure the best results.

This is a simple approach: Apply a dry wood primer undercoat first, then sand the edges to smooth the end grain. If needed, apply a second coat to the edges. Then apply two coats of Satin/ Gloss. Lightly sand the edges between the coats.

For MDF kitchen cabinets, you can use both oil-based and water-based products. Use water-based paint with a primer specifically designed for MDF. Water-based paints are suitable for DIY’ers as they are easier to use and clean up than oil-based paints.

Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Primer
  • Designed for interior & exterior use
  • Binds moderately chalky surfaces
Nuvo Plus Cabinet Paint
  • Water-based acrylic paint + primer for superior hiding, even on dark painted, or stained cabinets.
  • Heavily pigmented and optimized for smooth, even coverage, without drips or streaks.

Laminate Cabinets

When painting laminate kitchen cabinets, it is recommended to use a product that is specifically designed for laminate surfaces.

This type of paint is typically a high-quality acrylic or oil-based paint that contains a bonding agent to help it adhere to the smooth surface of the laminate. If the product has no built-in primer, use a separate primer before painting to ensure proper adhesion.

Using a sprayer or a high-quality brush to apply the finish is commended.

INSL-X Cabinet Coat Enamel (Urethane acrylic paint)
  • The ultimate acrylic cabinet paint for a “factory-like” finish when refurbishing kitchen and bathroom cabinets, shelving, furniture, trim, and crown molding.
  • Delivers an ultra smooth, durable finish.
  • Super adhesion to hard-to-coat surfaces without primer.

Tips for Painting Cabinets

Choose the Best Color

Neutral colors like white, cream, gray, and beige are popular in various styles. They can even make oak kitchen cabinets look modern.

Consider bold colors like navy blue, emerald green, or black for a more dramatic look.

Before committing to a full paint job, it’s a good idea to test a few different colors on a small section of your cabinets to see how they look in your space.

Remember to consider the finish, whether matte or glossy, to achieve the desired look.

Satin vs. Semi-Gloss Kitchen Cabinets?

Two popular options are matte and semi-gloss. Matte has a smooth, non-reflective finish that can hide imperfections. In contrast, semi-gloss has a slightly shiny finish that is easy to clean and can reflect light in the room.

Semi-gloss finish is durable, making it a good choice for high-traffic areas like kitchens. They also reflect more light, making a small kitchen brighter and more open.

The decision between matte or semi-gloss depends on your personal preference and the style of your kitchen.

Can You Use Wall Paint for Kitchen Cabinets?

Some cabinet paints, such as Behr Marquee, can also be used on walls. But not all wall paints perform well in cabinets, though.

Good cabinet paints are highly durable, non-yellowing, and settle well for a smooth surface.

The Bottom Line

Whether you opt for oil-based or water-based products, take your time and follow the proper prep and application steps for a flawless finish.

If you are a DIYer, hybrid alkyd enamel paints are the most popular option nowadays.

With some time and effort, you can transform your kitchen and give it a fresh, new look that will last for years.

Related: How to Choose Kitchen Cabinet Hardware?

Get everything you need to paint your kitchen cabinets

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Paint Roller
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Paint Roller Covers
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Paint Cup
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