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Living in color — The 7-point checklist for choosing the best kitchen cabinet paint

So, you’re thinking about giving your kitchen cabinets a new lease on life with a fresh lick of paint. 

Nice move. 

There’s something special about changing up your kitchen, right?  

That fresh paint smell is a sure sign of transformation in the air. But let’s be real, standing in the paint aisle trying to choose the best kitchen cabinet paint can feel a bit like being a kid in a candy store – a little overwhelming.

This isn’t just any paint job; it’s the backdrop to your family’s chatter and laughter over home-cooked meals.

Your cabinets will need to handle everything from the splash of spaghetti sauce to the fingerprints of an after-school snack raid.  

It’s not just about what looks good – it’s also about what lasts, what cleans easily, and what makes your heart sing every time you walk in for a cup of morning brew.

So, have your paint brushes at the ready – we’re about to get into the nitty-gritty of cabinet paints. 

1. Brush up on your kitchen cabinet’s history

Before you start dreaming up a color palette, let’s get to know your cabinets a bit better. Are they the sturdy wood type that’s seen a few family gatherings, or are they made of something else?

The material your cabinets are made of is going to decide just what kind of paint you’ll need to buy from the store. Wooden cabinets can handle a variety of paints, but if you’re working with laminate, you’ll need a paint that’s up for clinging to that slick surface.

Solid Wood

Absorbs paint well and offers a classic, long-lasting finish that can be easily refreshed over time.


Requires specific bonding primers for the paint to adhere properly, as its smooth surface is not naturally paint-friendly.


Often needs a thorough cleaning and a coat of special metal primer to ensure that the paint sticks and doesn’t flake.


Can be tricky to paint over due to its plastic coating; sanding and an appropriate primer are key for paint adhesion.

MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard)

Smooth and consistent, it paints well but is prone to swelling if not properly sealed.


Budget-friendly but absorbs moisture; sealing with a good primer is critical before painting.


Versatile and takes paint well, but knots and grain may show through, so it often requires an initial sanding and quality primer.

Take a peek at the current state of affairs, too. How’s it holding up? If the paint job’s got more chips than your favorite snack aisle, that’s a telltale sign. You’ll want a paint that can stay the course, come what may, in your culinary arena.

Understanding the nuts and bolts of your cabinets’ construction – be it solid oak or sleek laminate – isn’t just helpful. 

Because in the end, knowing what you’re working with is half the battle in finding what is the best paint for kitchen cabinets. Plus, you’re aiming for a finish that sticks around longer than last night’s leftovers.

2. ‘Hue’ are you? Personalize your kitchen cabinets with color

Color isn’t just a matter of taste; it’s a reflection of your personality. 

Think of your cabinets as a suit or dress that your kitchen wears every day – you’d want it to make the right statement, right? So choosing a hue for your custom kitchen cabinets that feels like ‘you’ is important. 

Paint can be transformative, so consider the vibe you want it to give off. 

Are you all about the calm serenity of a modern, minimalist look, or does the warm and cozy embrace of a rustic palette speak to you? This is where you tune into your personal style and let it lead the way.

And if you’re looking for a bit of trend-driven inspiration, the 2024 kitchen cabinet paint color trends are all about blending comfort with chic. 

Think earthy tones that bring warmth, deep blues that evoke stability, or even a pop of pastel to brighten the mood. 

These trends can be a great starting point to find a color that not only suits the present but will carry you stylishly into the future. 

Deciding what is the best paint for kitchen cabinets isn’t just about quality; it’s about capturing the essence of your home’s heart.

3. Let the light linger

Lighting also plays a huge role in how paint looks on your cabinets. 

That swatch that stole your heart under the hardware store’s fluorescent lights might look different under your kitchen’s natural light. 

Take samples home and test them out. 

Watch how they change throughout the day and in different weather. This little bit of homework will help you avoid color surprises after the paint dries.

Here’s a pro tip: Paint large swatches on different parts of your cabinets, or on a portable board you can move around. 

Then, play the waiting game. 

Observe how the light at dawn, midday, and twilight interacts with your potential palette. Take into account how the paint responds to both a stormy grey sky and the dazzling brightness of a clear day.

Doing this homework is an insurance policy against that “Wait, what?” moment post-paint job when the color just isn’t what you expected.

4. Find a paint that fights spills and thrills

We all know that every kitchen sees more foot traffic than a downtown sidewalk. 

So the endurance of your cabinet paint is not something to gloss over. 

It’s essential to choose a paint that doesn’t just apply smoothly but also stands its ground.

Why does this matter? 

Well, your kitchen isn’t a museum exhibit; it’s a functional space where cooking splatters and tiny fingerprint artists are part of the daily grind.

The best paint for kitchen cabinets is one that takes a licking and keeps on ticking, so to speak. 

Whether you’re sautéing veggies or packing school lunches, your cabinets need a coat of armor that remains unflappable in the face of action.

When weighing your options, think beyond the prettiest tin on the shelf. 

Water-based paints might be quick to dry and easy to clean, but are they as tough as their oil-based counterparts? 

Meanwhile, oil-based paints are praised for their durability and resistance to wear and tear, but they can be trickier to work with.

What you’re looking for is a robust finish that resists stains and easily wipes clean, something that will stand up to the test of time and look good doing it. 

A tough finish will make sure that even after countless meals and memories, your kitchen cabinets will still be the stars of your home. Go beyond stylish choices, and make smart, long-term decisions.

5. Refine your technique to get that pro-quality paint job

Getting that sleek, professional-quality finish on your kitchen cabinets is about mastering the science of application. 

The path to picture-perfect cabinets is paved with preparation and technique, starting with a clean, smooth base.

First up, let’s talk surface prep. 

Cleaning thoroughly to remove grease and grime, followed by a light sanding, will make sure your primer and paint adhere as they should. 

As for the primer, choose one that’s compatible with your cabinet material and the type of paint you’re using – it’s the secret to making sure your paint job sticks.

Now, onto the main event: painting. 

Whether you’re team brush, roller, or spray, each method has its own set of rules.

Brushes are great for detail work and corners, while rollers can give you that even, texture-free finish on larger surfaces. 

Sprayers cover evenly and get into all the nooks and crannies – just make sure you mask off areas you don’t want painted.

And let’s not forget the base and finish combo. 

For durability that also catches the eye, a semi-gloss or satin finish on a well-prepped surface is often your best bet. 

They’re sturdy, easy to clean, and give your kitchen the glow-up it deserves.

In the end, a flawless finish is all in the prep and the application. Handle those right, and you’ll turn your kitchen into a showstopper that lasts.

6. Trust paint brands that brush above the rest

When finding what’s the best paint for your kitchen cabinets, the right brand can make a world of difference. 

It’s not about falling for slick marketing; it’s about who has the track record of transforming kitchens from blah to breathtaking.

Let’s talk about a few brands that have earned a spot at the top through consistent performance. 

Take Benjamin Moore, for example — a staple in the paint world known for its durable finishes and a spectrum of colors that can satisfy the most demanding of palettes. 

Then there’s Sherwin-Williams, with its lineup that’s as robust as it is vibrant, perfect for both the weekend DIY-er and the paint virtuoso.

But it’s not just about the finish and longevity; many homeowners are now looking for products that are kinder to the planet and their health. 

Brands like Behr and Valspar offer low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) options, helping you keep the indoor air quality as fresh as your cabinets.

Each brand has its own strengths. Find the one that aligns with your specific needs, whether that’s long-lasting durability, color variety, or eco-friendly formulas. 

Ultimately, a brand’s reputation is built on its ability to meet customer expectations, so those that consistently deliver quality and satisfaction are the ones that rise to the top.

7. Penny-wise palettes can spare your wallet without skimping on style

Budgeting for a kitchen project is a balancing act, especially when it comes to choosing what is the best paint for your cabinets. 

It’s tempting to go for the bargain bin, but skimping on quality can lead to a less stellar finish that might not go the distance.

To blend cost-effectiveness with quality, start with a clear budget in mind and stick to it. 

Research paints within your price range and read up on their performance reviews.

Often, it’s worth it to shell out a bit more for paint that promises durability and a stunning finish that lasts.

Don’t overlook the DIY route as a cost-saving avenue. 

You might be surprised at how much you can save by doing the job yourself. 

Taking the time to learn the tricks of the trade can pay off, giving you professional results without the extra labor costs. 

Quality isn’t just about the upfront cost; it’s about value over time. So, put your money down where it matters and enjoy your vibrant, long-lasting results without breaking the bank.

Brushing to a finale before the grand unveiling

We’ve covered a lot of ground in choosing what is the best paint for your kitchen cabinets, tackling each important decision one brushstroke at a time. 

Remember, it all starts with knowing your cabinets’ past adventures and pairing them with a color that tells your unique story. 

Durability is key in a room that’s the hub of your home, so choose a paint that’s as tough as it is beautiful. 

Technique matters, from prep to finish, and the right brand can make all the difference, offering quality and peace of mind. 

All while keeping an eye on the budget to make sure your project doesn’t eat into your savings.

As you gear up for your next kitchen project, remember the value of each check we’ve covered. 

You’re well-equipped to make choices that will bring out the best in your kitchen. It’s time to let those cabinets shine with a high-quality finish that’s as functional as it is fetching.

Take a moment, and give yourself a pat on the back for doing the homework. When you’re ready, take a deep breath, grab that brush with confidence, and let the painting begin. 

Your kitchen is about to get a whole lot brighter, thanks to a little bit of paint and a whole lot of you.

Go on, that finish line is just a few strokes away.