Ready to give your kitchen cabinets a coat of paint? That’s great! It can be stressful determining what kind of paint to use on cabinets though, right? This guide lays out the best paint for cabinets and the pros and cons of each, as well as my personal experience with each.
I get multiple painting questions every week. I thought I had covered most all painting topics with my Complete Guide to Painting Anything, but getting those questions tells me that I haven’t. And that’s totally ok! That’s what I’m here for – to answer as many of your DIY questions as I can or be helpful in other ways.
I’ve had quite a few questions about painting cabinetry – both kitchen cabinets and bathroom vanity cabinets, so I thought I would go over the different types of paint you can use for painting cabinets.
As I always say with posts like this, I am not a professional painter. While I have painted more things than I could ever possibly count, I don’t have a piece of paper that certifies I have a degree in painting. 😉 I have painted around 10 sets of kitchen cabinets, bathroom vanities, etc. though with multiple different types of paints so I have learned a little bit.
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What Kind of Paint to Use on Kitchen Cabinets
There are various types of paint that can be used on kitchen cabinets, bathroom cabinets, etc. The main ones being:
Cabinet Painting Kits
I’ve used each of these, as well as others, when painting cabinets in the past. Here’s my experience with each.
Best Paint for Kitchen Cabinets
Let’s start with the first time I painted cabinets…
Rust-Oleum Cabinet Transformations Kit
When we bought the Beloved Foreclosure, I didn’t really have much knowledge about painting cabinetry at all. However, our kitchen cabinets there were in great need of a makeover. Since I was such a novice and since this was before the days of Pinterest and I had no idea people actually wrote blogs about painting cabinets, I felt better about having a kit that would guide me step-by-step along the way. I used a Rust-Oleum Cabinet Transformations Kit to paint all the cabinets in the kitchen. The kit walked me through everything and it was easy to do, yet time consuming. The kit even came with a deglosser to use for priming the cabinets to paint.
Walks you through everything step-by-step, usually no sanding required, everything you need sans the paintbrush is in the box. Easy cleanup.
There were brush strokes in the finish. More expensive than just buying each product in the kit individually.
Pretty good. If I remember correctly, this finish stayed on the cabinets for about 2 years before I decided that I wanted a different look. I don’t remember lots of scratches or the paint peeling off.
Would I use the kit again?
Yes, if I still didn’t have much knowledge about painting cabinetry, but since I know everything about painting that I do now, I wouldn’t spend my money on the kit, instead I would just buy the paint, deglosser, and whatever else I needed separately as it would be cheaper and just the same.
Velvet Finishes Paint
When I decided I wanted a different look for our kitchen cabinets at the Beloved Foreclosure, I used Velvet Finishes paint on them. At that point, I had used Velvet Finishes on lots of furniture pieces and wanted to give it a whirl on my cabinets. Before painting the cabinets, we removed the shiny finish with Ready (a spray on primer/deglosser), then painted the cabinets and finally finished them off with a topcoat of Protect.
Definitely one of the easiest paints to use, good variety of colors to choose from. Easy cleanup of brushes / paint supplies.
This paint is more expensive than regular paint you get from a local hardware store. There were some brushstrokes in the finish, but that could have been due to the fact that the previous finish had brushstrokes.
Good. Before we moved out of that house, there were a few scratches in the paint here and there on our cabinets. I will say that we are tough on our house, so some of that could be due to us.
Would I use it again?
Yes, but I think I am more partial to it for furniture rather than larger projects like cabinets.
Latex Paint (Satin, Semi-Gloss, Gloss Finishes)
I have used regular latex paint on bathroom vanities multiple times. I tend to lean toward semi-gloss and gloss finishes for the paint as it holds up better to wear and tear and you don’t always have to use a topcoat with it. If you use a satin finish latex paint, then I suggest giving it a topcoat of polycrylic as well for added protection. When priming your surface before using this kind of paint, you’ll want a shine-free surface. You can sand to get this or use a deglosser. I also like to give cabinets a coat of primer, such as KILZ or Zinnser after sanding/deglossing and before painting when using latex paints. I think it helps to give the paint a better grip on the cabinets.
Definitely the cheapest route, but do choose a good quality latex paint. My go-to is usually Behr. Can use Floetrol with the paint to prevent brush strokes. Easy clean-up. Can usually wipe any spills right off the cabinet with a wet cloth.
Latex paints are more prone to scratching and peeling off more so than other paints. There are more steps involved with priming and top coating as well.
Ok, if you aren’t going to be giving the cabinetry super hard use. The durability is even better if you top it with a polycrylic topcoat.
Would I use it again?
When we bought the 70’s Landing Pad, it was obvious the kitchen cabinets needed a new paint job. Honestly, they really need to be replaced, but that wasn’t in the budget then and still isn’t quite yet. A paint job had to work for now. I did a lot of research and had heard about an Alkyd paint called Benjamin Moore Advance that was supposed to be great for cabinets. I decided to give it a whirl. It’s durability is supposed to be like that of an oil-based paint, but it goes on like a latex paint. Before painting the cabinets, I still had to degloss them all before painting. No topcoat is needed with this paint though.
Easy cleanup. No topcoat needed. No brush strokes.
More expensive than regular latex paint. Smelly, but not as much as oil-based paint.
I do think this paint is more durable than regular latex paints, but I don’t think it is as durable as oil-based paint. We don’t have any big scratches in the finish or anything like that on our cabinets that are painted with it, but there are some spots around the cabinet knobs where the paint is wearing off.
Would I use it again?
I used oil-based paint on the bathroom vanity cabinet in our guest bathroom. This was the first time I ever used oil-based paint on cabinetry and I have to say – I was impressed.
No, oil-based paint is not the easiest paint to work with, it’s smelly and the clean-up afterward isn’t super fun either, but it’s hard to beat the durability of oil-based paint. This paint dries to a hard finish that’s hard to scratch off. If you need to wipe up any dirt or marks, just use a damp cloth. On top of that, oil-based paint leaves virtually no brush strokes.
I have also used oil-based paint on my office desk and it has held up wonderfully. My desk works hard and I’m not always nice to it, but the paint has stood strong.
Most durable. No brush marks. Usually takes fewer coats than other paints.
Would I use it again?
You can see more of this bathroom makeover where I used oil-based paint on the vanity cabinet here.
Stain + Polyurethane
If you’re looking to go with the wood grain look instead of the painted look, then you’re probably going to be using stain. I have stained cabinets before and have been very happy with the results. I stained the vanity in our master bathroom and it has held up extremely well. Of course, if you want to stain your cabinets, they will either need to be already unfinished cabinets or be stripped. You can read more about stripping pieces here. If you stain something, you will want to topcoat it with a polyurethane to keep it from fading and protect the piece. Stains themselves don’t have much protection in them.
Probably a little cheaper than using some of the more expensive paints. No brush stokes.
If you have to strip your pieces, it’s going to take some time and might be more difficult depending on how much you have to strip off.
Would I use it again?
One thing to keep in mind when painting cabinets is that any paint is going to chip over time. That is just the nature of the beast. The key is choosing the best paint for your project and yourself that will keep that from happening as long as possible.
If you’ve got any other cabinet painting questions or anything you can add from personal experience, please drop it in the comments below!
What type of paint for kitchen cabinets have you used before?
Looking for more painting help or DIY kitchen ideas?
Painting 101: The Complete Guide to Painting Anything – all your questions answered.
DIY Kitchen Island – we made this out of old barn wood and salvaged porch posts.
If you’d like to refer to this post in the future, pin it below!