What Kind of Paint and Primer Is Best for Kitchen Cabinets?

If your kitchen cabinets look old and worn, you may consider painting them to give them a fresh look. But with so many types of paint and primer available, choosing the right one can be overwhelming.

When painting kitchen cabinets, water-based paint is the best option. These paints are easy to apply and clean up quickly. The best primer to use is a shellac-based primer. Shellac-based primers are water-resistant and provide excellent adhesion to the surface of your kitchen cabinets.

In this article, you will learn:

  • The 7 factors to consider when choosing paint for kitchen cabinets
  • What type of paint to use
  • What paint finish is best
  • My top picks for the best paint and primer for kitchen cabinets

The 7 Factors to Consider When Choosing Paint for Kitchen Cabinets

1. Cabinet Material

Cabinet materials vary, such as; solid wood, MDF, and particleboard. The material of your cabinet will affect the type of paint that will be best for it.

Solid wood cabinets typically accept paint well and absorb it properly without issues. Painted MDF and particleboard cabinets may crack, bubble, or peel over time, so you’ll want to use an adhesive primer with the paint.

2. Ease of Application

Painting kitchen cabinets can be a time-consuming task, so you want to choose a paint that is easy to apply. To make the job easier, look for a paint with good coverage and flow properties.

It should also have a smooth finish and an even sheen. Additionally, choose a paint that is easy to clean up with just soap and water.

3. Durability

When choosing paint for your kitchen cabinets, you have to consider durability. Your cabinets will be exposed to moisture, heat, and greasy hands, so you want to opt for a paint finish that can withstand all these factors.

4. Paint Finish

Glossy finishes are perfect for those who want to make a statement. They are shiny and reflect light, making a small kitchen look bigger.

Conversely, specially formulated matte finishes give a more modern look and are ideal for those who want a subtle effect. It’s essential to pick a paint finish you love, as you’ll likely want to keep it for some time.

5. Application Method

The application can make a significant difference in the overall look of your kitchen cabinets. Some paints will require you to use a primer, while others won’t. Choose a paint that can work with your preferred method of application.

6. Quality

When it comes to painting kitchen cabinets, quality should be your top priority. You want paint that can withstand a busy kitchen’s daily wear and tear, resist stains, and maintain its finish over time.

Look for paints specifically designed for cabinets with a durable, hard, and smooth finish. Avoid using cheap, low-quality paints that can result in chipping, peeling, or cracking over time.

7. Cost

The cost will also be a critical factor to consider. Although painting your cabinets is cheaper than replacing them, the paint cost may vary. There’s a wide range of options, and you’d want to choose the best quality of paint you can afford while still staying within your budget.

What Type of Paint Is Best?

Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paint is a fast-drying paint made of pigment suspended in acrylic polymer emulsion. It’s water-soluble but becomes water-resistant when dry.


  • Durability: Extremely durable and resists cracks and chipping.
  • Professional Finish: You can achieve a professional finish with the right type of cabinet paint.
  • Versatility: Suitable for detail work and dry-brush work.
  • Long-lasting: It retains its visual appeal for many decades.


  • Maintenance: Might require reapplications over time due to wear and tear.
  • Surface Preparation: Proper surface preparation and priming are necessary for the best results.

Latex Paint

Latex paint, classified as an emulsion paint, utilizes water-soluble polymers as its binder. Being water-based, it offers easy cleanup and eco-friendly characteristics.


  • Quick Drying: Latex paint typically dries faster than oil-based paints.
  • Easy to Use: It’s generally easier to work with compared to other types of paint.
  • Non-yellowing: Unlike oil-based paint, latex paint does not yellow over time.
  • Easy Clean-up: Being water-based, it’s easier to clean brushes and spills with soap and water.
  • Low VOCs: Latex paint has lower volatile organic compounds (VOCs) than oil-based paint.


  • Durability: It may not be as resistant to scratches or abrasions as other types of paint.
  • Coverage: May require multiple coats for complete coverage, especially over darker colors or stains.

Alkyd Paint

Alkyd paint is a type of paint that combines the durability and hard finish of oil-based alkyd paint with the easy cleanup and low VOCs of water-based paint.


  • Durability: Harder and more durable than regular acrylic enamel, ideal for kitchen cabinets.
  • Finish: Dries to a hard enamel finish that handles temperature changes well.
  • Easy Clean-up: Clean brushes and spills with soap and water.
  • Low VOCs: Lower volatile organic compounds make it safer and more environmentally friendly.
  • No Yellowing: Unlike oil-based paints, water-based alkyd paint does not yellow over time.


  • Cure Time: It can take longer to fully cure to its hardest finish.
  • Not as Hard: Although durable, it’s not as hard as traditional oil-based paint.
  • Cost: May be more expensive than other types of paint.

Enamel Paint

Enamel paint is a type of paint that air dries to a hard, usually glossy, finish. It is commonly applied to outdoor surfaces or surfaces subjected to wear and tear.


  • Durability: Known for its hard and durable finish, making it suitable for high-use areas like kitchen cabinets.
  • Easy to Clean: The glossy finish of enamel paint makes it easy to wipe down and clean.
  • Self-leveling: Has good flow and leveling abilities, providing a smoother finish.
  • Low-maintenance: Hybrid enamel paints are often considered the best for kitchen cabinets due to their low-maintenance properties.
  • Good Adhesion: It sticks well to surfaces, providing a long-lasting finish.


  • Longer Drying Time: Typically takes longer to dry than latex or acrylic paint.
  • Difficult to Touch up: Due to its hard finish, enamel paint can be difficult to touch up without noticeable differences.
  • Requires More Prep Work: Proper surface preparation and priming are necessary for the best results.
  • Potentially Hazardous: Some enamel paints can release harmful fumes and require proper ventilation during application.
  • Less Flexible: It is less flexible than latex or acrylic paint, which may lead to cracking over time.

What Paint Finish Is Best?

The kitchen is one of the busiest rooms in the house, and cabinets often take a lot of wear and tear. Therefore, the finish you choose must be durable and long-lasting.

The most popular finishes for kitchen cabinets are eggshell, satin, semi-gloss, and high-gloss.

A gloss finish, also known as high-gloss or ultra-gloss, is a popular choice for kitchen cabinets. It offers a shiny, reflective surface that is both easy to clean and maintain.

However, it can highlight imperfections in the wood and may not be suitable for cabinets with dents or scratches. A gloss finish is also known to show fingerprints and smudges easily.

A semi-gloss finish provides a slightly less shiny surface than a gloss finish. It is known for its durability and resistance to moisture and stains, making it a popular choice for kitchen cabinets.

Unlike gloss, a semi-gloss finish does not highlight imperfections so much and can help hide dings and scratches.

A satin finish has a subtle sheen, making it an ideal choice for those who want a less shiny look without sacrificing the durability of a gloss or semi-gloss finish.

A satin finish is versatile and works well with modern and traditional kitchen designs. It is also easier to touch up than gloss or semi-gloss finish.

A specially formulated durable eggshell finish also works effectively for kitchen cabinets. It offers a subtle shine that is less reflective compared to satin or semi-gloss finishes.

This durable finish can withstand scuffs and scrapes, making it perfect for those seeking a hint of shine without an overly glossy appearance for their cabinets.

The final decision of which finish to choose for your kitchen cabinets will depend on your personal preferences and style.

The Best Paint and Primer for Kitchen Cabinets

Best Brush-on Paint

Behr Premium Hybrid Urethane Alkyd Semi-Gloss Enamel Paint is the recommended brush-on paint for kitchen cabinets. This high-quality paint offers the ease and convenience of water-based paint with the performance of traditional oil-based paint.

One of the standout features of this paint is its outstanding flow and leveling. This means the paint will glide smoothly and evenly, resulting in a flawless finish.

Additionally, it has excellent adhesion, which means it will easily adhere to the cabinet surface and prevent peeling or cracking.

Another great feature of Behr Premium Hybrid Urethane Alkyd Semi-Gloss Enamel Paint is its versatility. It can be used on various surfaces, including doors, trim, molding, walls, railings, and even wrought iron. This makes it a fantastic all-purpose paint to have in your arsenal.

One gallon (3.8L) can cover anywhere from 350 to 550 square feet (32-51m²), depending on the application method and substrate porosity. However, it’s important to note that this figure does not include any material loss from spraying.


Best Spray Paint

Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch 2X Ultra Cover is the go-to choice for painting kitchen cabinets. It’s breakthrough Double Coverage Technology offers ultimate coverage, which means your cabinets will look beautiful with fewer coats of paint.

This not only saves you time but also money. The any-angle spray system allows you to spray at any angle to reach those difficult areas, ensuring complete coverage and a smooth finish.

This premium general-purpose spray paint is perfect for painting a variety of surfaces. This means that regardless of the type of material your kitchen cabinets are made of, Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch 2X Ultra Cover is a reliable and efficient choice.

Its high gloss finish gives a professional touch to your cabinets and leaves a lasting impression for years to come.

With indoor and outdoor durability, you can rest assured that your cabinets will withstand the daily use and abuse of a busy kitchen.

The Comfort Spray Tip helps eliminate finger fatigue, making it ideal for larger cabinet projects. And the fast-drying formula means your cabinets will be ready to use in no time, saving you time and allowing you to enjoy your newly painted kitchen sooner.

Best Primer

Choosing the right primer is important when painting kitchen cabinets. That’s why contractors and seasoned DIYers all have one thing in common: they trust and recommend Zinsser B-I-N Shellac-Based Primer.

This primer-sealer is specially designed to provide unparalleled stain-blocking and odor-sealing properties. Its shellac-base formula creates a permanent barrier that covers even the most stubborn stains, such as grease marks, smoke damage, and water stains.

Not only that, but it also seals knots and sap streaks, ensuring that wood resins won’t bleed through the paint.

Among its standout features, it seals pet odors, smoke odor, and musty odors. These odors can linger in kitchen cabinets and become a major nuisance, but they are effectively blocked and eliminated with this primer.

Another major benefit of this primer-sealer is that it sticks to all surfaces without sanding, making prep work much quicker and easier.

Its lightning-fast drying time means you can recoat in just 45 minutes, making the painting process much faster. Zinsser B-I-N Primer can be used on both interior and spot exterior surfaces and is the greatest stain sealer available.

Joshua Milton

Joshua Milton is a passionate DIY and home improvement enthusiast. With his expertise in various projects, he provides practical tips, step-by-step guides, and creative ideas for transforming your living space.

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