The best type of paint for kitchen cabinets

Fresh paint can open up a kitchen space.

When designing the kitchen space of your dreams, a fresh coat of paint may be a more practical solution than replacing your cabinets. A high-quality paint job can dramatically transform a dull kitchen into a cheerful gathering spot. Choosing the right paint products is an essential step toward achieving the look you want and making it last. A few suggestions will help you find the right paint for the job.

Water-Based Paint

A high-gloss acrylic enamel paint is an excellent choice for most wood cabinets, and new speciality formulas are making their way to the market. Waterborne paint such as Proclassic High Gloss Waterborne Interior Acrylic Enamel from Sherwin-Williams and Waterborne Satin Impervo from Benjamin Moore are two good examples. They rival an oil-based paint in durability, sheen and hardness. Water-based paints are more appealing to work with because they glide on and clean up easily. They will not yellow with age and can make surfaces easy to clean. Apply at least two coats with a paintbrush or roller over cabinets that have been cleaned with a trisodium phosphate (TSP) solution and made ready with an appropriate primer.

Oil-Based Paint

Oil-based paint is slow-drying, messier and more expensive than latex- or water-based paint, but is a good option for wood cabinets with a tight wood grain or for metal and steel cabinets where adhesion is important. It is also a better choice if you need to cover another oil-based paint layer. This kind of paint dries to a glass sheen and is impervious to grease, grime and scratching. It is known for its durability and strength, and does very well in high-traffic areas. Try RedSeal Interior/Exterior Oil Gloss Enamel paint from Pratt and Lambert for a fast-drying wet look. Use a good quality nylon-polyester brush and make sure you have a separate paintbrush for each coat. Clean brushes with paint thinner or white spirit. Make sure the area is well ventilated or use a low-odour brand.


Priming your cabinets before your painting ensures that the paint will adhere well and glide on evenly. It prolongs the life of your paint job and reduces future chipping, cracking and peeling. Primer also fills in wood grain and lets you paint over glossy or metallic surfaces. It seals in grease stains and old cooking odours. Your paint job is only as good as your primer, so make sure you prepare your cabinets properly. Zinsser and Kilz have several products especially for priming cabinet surfaces. Apply two coats of primer with a paintbrush or roller. Allow surfaces to dry for at least 24 hours before adding your top coat.

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