Best Paint for Kitchen Cabinets for a Fresh, Shiny Look

Ian Mutuli
Updated on
Ian Mutuli

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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Are your kitchen and bathroom cabinets starting to look rundown and dull? Giving them a fresh coat of paint may be all you need to have them looking as good as new. Given the absurd cost of replacing cabinets, it makes sense to use a more cost-effective alternative of sprucing them up, which is paint. The question most people have though is, which is the best paint for kitchen cabinets?

The easy answer to that question is that you need a hardy paint that can withstand the constant touching, banging, and cleaning cabinets go through. With the rise of cancer cases and other illnesses caused by toxicity, there is a need for more environmental-friendly paint, free of volatile organic compounds. What you need is a paint that's meant specifically for wood cabinets or at least deemed to be cabinet-friendly.

With that out of the way, let's look at the best paint for kitchen cabinets that you can always count on for rock-hard, smooth, and beautiful surfaces.

1. Benjamin Moore Advance- The Best Water-based Alkyd Paint

INSL-X CC550109A-01 Cabinet Coat Enamel, Satin Sheen...
  • The ultimate acrylic cabinet paint for a “factory-like”...
  • Delivers an ultra smooth, durable finish.
  • Super adhesion to hard-to-coat surfaces without primer.
  • Durable satin cabinet finish that resists chipping, scuffing,...
  • 350 - 450 square foot coverage per gallon.

Alkyd paint is basically oil paint suspended in a water base. It is a favorite among many homeowners and professional painters because it has all the good properties of oil-based paint without the bad. What do we mean? Alkyd paints are easy to apply, they level well and the end is a tough, beautiful finish. As a plus, the paint doesn't smell bad, and it's easy to clean with some water and soap.

Benjamin Moore Advance is hands down the best Waterborne Alkyd Paint if you want that long-lasting, beautiful finish without poisoning your family with VOCs. It gives you a choice of finishes that include matte, satin, high-gloss, and semi-gloss. For cabinets, we recommend the satin finish which gives that luster and can hide flaws and fingerprints.

When using this paint, it’s necessary to spend a bit of time preparing the cabinets so you can get the perfect finish. While you can get away with just priming before the paint job, the results will be much better if you start with sanding. That said, the time you spend prepping the surface will be recovered later since you don't need to apply a topcoat.


  • You can mix the paint in any color.
  • They are readily available at Benjamin Moore.
  • Incredibly beautiful and durable finish.
  • Easy to apply.
  • The paint is tough enough to withstand everyday banging and cleaning.


  • It's labor-intensive and requires sanding and priming.
  • It takes a bit longer to dry.

2. DecoArt Satin Enamels- Best Satin Enamel

DecoArt Americana Decor Satin Enamels Acrylic Paint,...
  • Smooth Brushability
  • Minimizes grain raising on wood
  • Non-Toxic
  • Water-Based
  • Made in the USA

If sanding, priming, and finishing doesn't sound like fun to you, satin enamels may be your best option. Top on the list of satin enamels is DecorArt products, which you can easily slap on your cabinets just the way they are. Of course, you may need to wipe all the grime and dust off the wood, but that is all the prep you will need to do.

DecorArt satin enamel paint doesn't drip or smudge whether you decide to use a brush or spray. Once it dries up, nothing can stick or stain the smooth slick surface on your cabinets. Most importantly, this paint gives you long-lasting results, and you can easily clean the cabinets without worrying about the paint coming off.


  • Exceptionally easy to use and apply.
  • Durable solid and smooth finish.
  • No sanding or priming required.
  • No topcoat needed to finish the paint.


  • The color selection is not vast.
  • The product is no longer available on Amazon, but you can still find on the DecorArt website.
  • Only comes in a satin finish and semi-gloss.
  • It’s a bit pricier.

3. Valspar Cabinet Enamel Latex Paint- Best Water Latex Paint

Valspar 27-2400 QT 2400 Interior Latex Paint, 32 Fl Oz...
  • This item is 1 Quart White Medallion 100% Acrylic Interior Paint...
  • Used For Painting Supplies, Paint & Stains Accessories
  • The product is manufactured in United States

Since its creation in the late 1940s, water latex enamel paint has come a long way to become the best cabinet and furniture paint today. Its safety, ease of use, and environmental friendliness has motivated its ongoing development. Water latex paint is just as durable and polished as oil-based paint, and it dries much faster.

Valspar Cabinet Enamel Latex Paint gives the exact same results as satin enamel paints. The end finish is strong, fade and scratch-resistant, and easy to clean with just water and soap. Like the satin enamels, you also don't need to sand or prime the surface unless you want to. Two or three coats of this oil-enriched enamel, and you have yourself a long-lasting transformation.

That said, water latex enamels have a thinner consistency than satin enamel which may result in dripping if you aren’t careful. For this reason, you should apply the paint lightly and do three coats instead of two.


  • You can mix the paint in any colors you want.
  • It is readily available at Home Depo and Lowes.
  • It is available in satin and semi-gloss finish.
  • It requires no sanding, no priming, and no topcoat.
  • It’s easy to apply and clean up.
  • Safe for the environment.
  • Quick drying time.


  • It’s not as durable as some oil-based paints.

4. Sherwin-Williams Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel- Best Water-based Paint

PRESTIGE P100-P-SW7015 Interior Paint and Primer in...
  • Prestige Paints has created a comparable color based on color...
  • This Sherwin Williams paint color name is a trademark of Sherwin...
  • Smooth Application ideal for living rooms, family rooms, media...
  • 100% Acrylic latex paint for easy soap and water clean-up
  • Low VOC: less than 5 g/l prior to tinting

The benefits of water-based paint are clear; they are easy to apply, odor-free dries much faster and incredibly easy to clean. Today, water-based paint stands the test of time and gives that elastic, flexible finish that's resistant to peeling and yellowing. Sherwin-Williams Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel is a quality water-based enamel and one of their newest formulation. It creates a hard and durable finish that withstands wear and tear and can be cleaned frequently.

Sherwin Williams water-based paint comes highly recommended by professional painters for cabinets because you only need a few coats. However, they warn against using the wrong brushes and rollers because they can result in subpar results and brush marks. While the paint is light and easy to apply, you need to do it lightly and only do a few coats.


  • Smooth and luxurious finish.
  • Its solid and durable, making it perfect for areas that are cleaned regularly.
  • It's available in many colors and custom tints like satin, semi-gloss, and gloss sheen.
  • It's able to resist yellowing, so you can apply it to the interior of the cabinets and drawers.
  • It is a perfect top coat for kitchen and bathroom cabinets.


  • The paint needs ample time to cure without touching it.
  • Some prepping and sanding might be important before you apply the paint.

5. Nuvo Cabinet Paint- Best White Paint

Nuvo Cabinet Paint (Titanium Infusion) Quart
  • Nuvo is a D.I.Y. one-weekend cabinet makeover process that does...
  • One quart can covers approximately 50 square feet (20 linear...
  • Titanium Infusion is an ultra white, satin finish cabinet paint
  • Water-Based Acrylic Paint, Safe, Low on Odor, and VOCs.

As a DIY project fan looking to transform your cabinets, the Nuvo Cabinet Paint should be your number one choice. This water-based acrylic paint is specifically made for painting cabinets, and it's a much affordable option than most of the other paints we have discussed. With a good brush or roller, a few coats of this paint will give you professional-looking results, without costing you a small fortune.

While you will need to sand the surface of the cabinets to clean up any previous paint and make it smooth, the Nuvo Cabinet Paint comes with primer in it, so you don't need to prime it. Another feature that makes it one of the best paint for kitchen cabinets is the titanium infusion that creates an ultra-white satin finish. As you can expect from any water-based paint, it is safe, free of foul odor, easy to apply, and low on VOCs.


  • Gives the best ultra-white finish.
  • Easy application and you don't need to remove the cabinets.
  • Very affordable.
  • It's specifically designed for cabinets.
  • Dries quite fast.


  • It can be expensive if you are doing a big job.

The Best Method for Painting Kitchen Cabinets

Finding the absolute best paint for kitchen cabinets is only the beginning. You also need to know how to paint the cabinets if you are not a professional painter. The method you use to paint really depends on the paint itself. Some of them are better done with a brush, while others require a sprayer. Some require a lot of prep work, while others don't.

Whichever paint you choose to use, here are some secrets that can make your paint job look professional and perfect.

1. Prepare the surface

Even with the best paint for kitchen cabinets in your hands, prepping is still the most crucial aspect of the paint job. Prepping, in this case, doesn't always mean sanding and priming, but also removing dust and grime on the surface. Kitchen cabinets are covered with grease, soot, and dust, which is the perfect recipe for peeling and a blotched paint job. Before you open that can of paint, do yourself a favor and wipe clean every corner of that cabinet with warm soapy water, making sure to get the crevices as well. Whether you need to sand the surface or not depends on how it looks and the type of paint you will use.

2. Label and remove accessories

Most people skip this part to save time, but it's absolutely essential. Remove knobs and handles from the cabinet doors and cover the hinges. You also need to carefully tape over the countertops and fill in any holes and imperfections before painting. Be sure to label every part you take off so they can be properly reattached later.

3. Prime, prime, prime

Yes, priming is the secret to seamless, long-lasting results. Not only does a primer helps to get a nice perfect finish, but it also acts as a transition phase if you are moving from a darker color to a brighter one or vice versa. Without a primer, your cabinets will still look amateurish even after using the best paint for kitchen cabinets. Since most primers dry up quickly, you can add an extender to give you time to coat the entire surface without smudging.

4. Always go for the gloss

While you have leeway on what kind of finish you can have in other places in your house, the best paint for kitchen cabinets should always be glossy. With all the banging and cleaning cabinet doors go through, a higher gloss finish stands a better chance of survival without dulling and chipping over time. Gloss is also easy to wipe off regularly when grease and dust start covering the cabinets. If you were considering matte, eggshell, and flat finishes, you could still have them on the interior of the cabinets.

5. Give enough time for drying

What many people don’t know about painting cabinets is that they don’t dry up quite as fast as walls. This means you might need to give them more time to dry in between coats and also after the job is done. If you are using water-based paint, 24 hours may be sufficient if it’s not too cold. Oil-based paint and alkyd may need more than that to be rock hard and not smudge when you touch them. To be on the safe side, consider not touching the cabinets for a week and just let them cure in peace.

Frequently Asked Questions about Painting Cabinets

1. What is the best paint for cabinets?

When given the option between oil paint and latex, and asked to pick the best paint for kitchen cabinets, always go with latex. The latter dries much faster, and it's safe from volatile organic compounds. Water-based paints are also resistant to yellowing which is especially important if you are painting your cabinets white. As for sheen, always go for gloss, semi-gloss, or satin. This will provide a surface that's durable, easy to wipe, and beautiful looking.

2. Is there a special paint for kitchen cabinets?

Yes. While you can use any high-quality paint to transform your kitchen cabinets, there are special cabinet paints on the market. The Nuvo Cabinet Paint is one such paint specifically made for cabinets and even comes with special features like titanium infusion to make cabinet doors more beautiful.

3. What do professionals use to paint kitchen cabinets?

If you have tried a DIY paint job, you may have noticed some dead giveaways that say you are not a professional. Brushstrokes, visible roller marks, and outright streaks are among them. If you want to paint like professionals, you must first know the best paint for kitchen cabinets and how to use it for a quality finish.

To begin with, professionals always take down the doors and drawers so they can work on them from the floor. Next, they sand, prime, and take care of any imperfections on the surface. After priming again, they use a sprayer (yes, a sprayer, not a roller or a brush) to seamlessly spray the paint on the surface without touching the cabinets.


Painting cabinets is the cheapest way to give your old run-down kitchen a lift. However, it's not an easy job even if you find the best paint for kitchen cabinets. Take the time to learn how professionals do it and learn how the specific paint you chose works. After all is done, ventilate the room and give the painted cabinets ample time to dry before reattaching the knobs or putting back your dishes.

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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