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The Absolute Best Paint for Cabinets in 2021

You might be wondering, why bother researching the best paint for cabinets?

There’s a reason everyone congregation in the kitchen during a party. It’s the heart of your home. Plus, all the snacks are there. But what about when the center of your home reflects the taste of the previous owners? Or some impulsive cabinet purchases you made years ago?

Enameled Kitchen Cabinets

If you dread spending even a minute in your kitchen, it’s time to treat yourself to an upgrade. You can get a stylish kitchen without the expense and hassle of a major renovation. Did you know you can paint kitchen cupboards?

It’s true, with just a little planning and the best paint for cabinets, you can transform your kitchen. Make sure 2021 is the year when your house feels like a home. Using the best kitchen paint for cupboards, you’ll change a regular room in your house into the heart of your home.

Common Types of Kitchen Cupboard Paint

The best paint for cabinets is a latex hybrid which has the benefits of both latex and oil paint.
The types of paint for kitchen cabinets can be overwhelming at first.

Painting your kitchen cabinets isn’t quite as easy as grabbing a gallon of eggshell and going to town. It takes a little more prep than painting a room. You’ll have to remove the doors from the cabinets, for starters. And there’s special paint for kitchen cabinets.

It used to be the case that professionals swore by oil-based paint. As you’ll read in the following section, technology’s improved paint formulas. Oil-based paint is no longer the best paint for cabinets, just as it’s no longer suitable for residential applications. Many professionals now use latex paint, citing the improvements to the formula and the as-good-as finish they can get on most surfaces. We actually prefer a third type of paint for cabinets, the hybrid enamel.

There are three common types of kitchen cabinet paint:

Oil-Based Paint

Oil-based use to be the best paint for cabinets, but VOCs and difficult cleanup rendered it obsolete.
Traditionally preferred by professionals, the quality of latex and toxicity of oil paint has rendered it obsolete.

Oil-based paint is the go-big-or-go-home of interior paints. In it, the color pigment is suspended in oil and then thinned with an agent like mineral spirits. It was the preferred type of slow-drying paint to use on wood in homes because of the uniform paint surface. Plus, it’s durable–perfect for things like trim and cabinets that experience a lot of wear. Historically, it’s considered the best paint for cabinets.

You can’t even buy oil-based paint in California anymore, and more states are following suit. Not because California hates lustrous, hardy paint in the home. It’s high in Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), which is dangerous to breathe and harmful to the ozone.

It’s also messy and wasteful. You need mineral spirits on hand to clean up any mistakes and spills. You have to take special precautions when disposing of leftover paint, painting equipment, and used-mineral spirits.

Oil-based paint is a lot of hassle, dangerous, and bad for the environment. Also, you can get a durable, beautiful finish on your kitchen cabinet doors with other kinds of paint.

Latex, Water Enamel Paint

Latex paint works great for interior rooms, but the best paint for cabinets needs a more even finish than water-based paint.
Latex paint is safer and easier to clean up but doesn’t provide the finish of oil paint.

Compared to the history of paint, latex paint is still the new kid on the block. Sherwin-Williams used a synthetic rubber, latex, in the 1940s to create the first water enamel paint. Since then, its safety, environmental friendliness, and ease of use have motivated the ongoing development of latex paint technology.

Because of the improvements in latex paint formulas, it’s almost as durable and polished as the finish you’d get from oil-based paint. Almost, but not entirely. Latex paint dries much faster than oil-paint, making it difficult to get as even and lustrous of a finish. Using a paint sprayer will minimize unevenness. But if you’re using a roller or brush–you’ll notice a difference while painting kitchen cabinets.

So what’s the solution? Oil-based is dangerous and a hassle, latex is natural and safe but compromises quality. Luckily, you can have the best of both worlds.

Hybrid Enamels

The best paint for cabinets is hybrid enamels with high-luster finish, no VOCs, and easy clean up.
Hybrid enamels give you the best of both worlds–pristine finish with easy cleanup.

Science didn’t stop with just latex. In developing low VOC paints, pursuing an exceptional finish and excellent protection when painting wood kept researchers going. Within the past few years, they came up with the answer–Acrylic Alkyd paint. It gives you oil paint’s beautiful finish, but with the easy clean-up of waterbased paint. An oil molecule surrounded by water molecules carries the pigment. As the water evaporates, it leaves behind the oil–and that lustrous, durable finish we talked about earlier.

Plus, it takes just soap and water to clean up. If you have leftover paint, just let it dry out and throw it right into the garbage–no annoying trips to the hazardous waste disposal sites. And you can pick your method to paint kitchen cabinets. A paint sprayer will give you the easiest, even coat. But with hybrid enamel paint, your wood cabinets will look great if you opt to brush or roll the paint.

The Best Hybrid Enamel Paint

The best paint for cabinets is usually semi-gloss or satin, from popular brands like Behr and Sherwin-Williams.
Picking the best hybrid enamel for your kitchen comes down to available sheen and tint.

If you agree hybrid enamel paint is the best material for your kitchen cupboard painting project, we’ve rounded up some of the best products available on the market today.

  • Sherwin-William ProClassic Interior Waterbased Acrylic Alkyd: available in semi-gloss and satin, it flows and to self-level for a pristine finish on wood trim, cabinets, and doors.
  • Benjamin Moore Advance: the most sheens available, including a hybrid enamel primer. It has low VOC, comes in 3,500 colors, and dries furniture-hard.
  • Behr Urethane Alkyd Enamel: adheres to a variety of surfaces, including masonry, wrought iron, and stucco. It’s resistant to household cleaners after drying with high flow and leveling.
  • Valspar Oil-Enriched Enamel: resists scuffing and scratches in busy homes. Its unique formula doesn’t require primer or sanding. It’s perfect for prep-resistant people who still want a beautiful finish on their cabinets.

Sherwin Williams and Benjamin Moore put out superior products that provide a finish as good as oil but without toxic and illegal VOCs and easy clean-up. In particular, Benjamin Moore provides a primer besides topcoats and the most sheens out of any brand. It’s the best kitchen cabinet paint if you want to make a powerful statement with a high-gloss or matte finish.

Which Sheen Is Best for Kitchen Cabinets?

The best paint for cabinets comes in a variety of sheens, most commonly semi-gloss and satin.
Picking the right sheen can be stressful, but it’s ultimately a matter of personal preference.

Do you go deer-in-the-headlights when you’re picking out the right paint sheen for your home? Don’t feel bad; it happens to the best of us. It feels like there’s a correct answer, but it’s also about preference. Sheen refers to how shiny the paint surface is after it dries. When you’re painting kitchen cupboards, the sheen is part of the total package, along with the luster and color.

Which sheen should you pick for the best paint for cabinets? Whatever you like. We recommend semi-gloss paint for cabinets because of durability. Chalk paint and matte finishes have their place on wood furniture. But for the daily wear and tear wood cabinets withstand, you need to protect them. Unless you enjoy repainting.

Most hybrid enamel paints come in satin and semi-gloss. Satin falls right between semi-gloss and eggshell finish. Benjamin Moore makes a broader range of products, including high-gloss for that candy-coated finish on your cabinets. And they also make a matte finish for a more durable paint specific for wood cabinets.

Again, pick whatever sheen makes you happiest. Just know that the more matte you go, the more it’ll show dirt and wear. The more high-gloss you go, the more difficulty you’ll have getting a smooth finish on your cabinets.

How Do I Get a Smooth Finish on Kitchen Cabinets?

The best paint for cabinets is only as good as the prep work for your DIY project.
The perfect color and sheen mean nothing without a perfect finish.

Patience and prep work are vital to getting a professional-quality smooth finish on your kitchen cabinets, even when you use the best paint for cabinets. All DIY-paint projects involve a lot of prep work, just like the professionals do. The more thorough your prep, the easier the painting will be, and the better the finished product. Check out our ultimate guide to painting kitchen cabinets for all the tips and tricks from start to finish.

One of the easiest ways to get a smooth finish on your kitchen cabinets is to use flood coating with your primer. Always sand in between coats of paint. It helps the new layer of paint bond with the previous layer and the primer to make a more even coat.

What is Flood Coating?

The best paint for cabinets goes on over a flood coat of paint which fills in the pores and grain in the wood.
Learning how to flood coat can transform old or worn-out cabinets with a perfect top coat.

You can use two methods to apply primer to your cabinets:

  • Sprayer: slow down the sprayer and use twice the amount of paint you usually would.
  • Brush: apply two to four coats of primer with a brush.

Use a fine grain sanding sponge to even out the primer after you’ve flooded the wood grain. Then you’re ready for the topcoat of paint, which will dry to a perfectly smooth finish thanks to your hard work prepping the cabinet surfaces.

What is the Best Paint for Cabinets of 2021?

Transforming your kitchen into the room of your dreams is a lot easier than you might think when you use the best paint for cabinets.
Your dream kitchen is easier and more affordable than you might think.

Use a the best paint for cabinets, hybrid enamel paint, and check out our post on the best kitchen paint colors for this year. Take your time with the prep work, and use care to sand and clean in between coats of paint. DIY painting is an affordable way to transform a room. Taking the time to repaint kitchen cabinets is a brilliant way to spruce up a lackluster kitchen and fall in love with your home’s heart.

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Jerod D Goodman

Wednesday 5th of May 2021

Can a waterborne alkyd be sprayed over lacquer? My cabinets trim and doors are all lacquered but im not liking the durability. Would Advance or similar be better?

Marc N

Tuesday 27th of April 2021

Wondering if you've tried the Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel for Kitchen Cabinets. It's currently what Sherwin Williams recommends. I previously used the ProClassic Interior Waterbased Acrylic-Alkyd for cabinets in my previous home and it worked well although I didn't get the finish you talk about here. Based on your great advice I think I can do better this time around.


Tuesday 27th of April 2021

Hi Marc,

Yes, I've used Emerald Urethane from Sherwin Williams. It is a great high quality product that sprays well and looks good. However, If I am comparing it to Benjamin Moore Advance though, I think Advance just has a better finished look. Not sure what it is exactly, but I've always thought it looks better than Emerald. Good Luck!


Wednesday 21st of April 2021

I bought the Valspar oil-enriched enamel. Can you add floetrol to it? I’m trying to paint cabinets that are stained somewhat dark with a light shine. I did a light sand but it didn’t seem to take to it. Do I need to sand it down to the wood. Or prime it first? Thank You!


Sunday 25th of April 2021

@Ryanc, Than you! Rick


Sunday 25th of April 2021

Hi Rick,

I actually have a gallon of Valspar Cabinet & Furniture (Oil Enriched enamel) on my shelf waiting to use it on a project so I can review it, but I actually haven't used it yet.

However, like other oil-enriched products (hybrids), I would thin it with water (typically between 10-20%). I personally don't use Flood Floetrol, I don't think it does any better job than water.

I don't recommend sanding down to wood. I like to thoroughly clean the cabinets first (warm water and even some dawn dish soap, then rinse), then sand with medium grit 3M sanding sponges. That should be enough to rough up the surface and allow your primer to adhere properly. Hope this helps! Good luck!

suzanne m mclaughlin

Thursday 18th of March 2021

My kitchen cabinets are orange oak, i dont think they washed them in 20 years, what would be the best way to prep them, and what colors of paint are good for people that dont clean up regularly


Monday 22nd of March 2021

Hey Suzanne,

I have an entire post all about prepping cabinets for paint that should help you with your first question. Basically, scrub them down with Dawn, rinse, then sand (the post has more detail). You can also check out: how to paint cabinets like a pro where I go into detail on every step. If you want cabinets that won't show dirt, then darker colors are going to be better.

Allen Tyson

Monday 8th of March 2021

My cabinet doors are cracking around the seams. I have tried regular caulk but it still cracks after a winter. I have now tried Big Stretch caulking. I used BM Advance to paint cabinets originaly . I contacted Big Stretch and they said to use a elastomeric paint and it will give with the caulk. I will be painting the cabinet doors in garage. I understand that it is an outdoor paint with higher VOC. Will this be a problem or just go with the BM Advance?


Monday 8th of March 2021

Hey Allen, Without seeing what is going on, this is my best guess, and sorry, but there aren't any great solutions for wood expansion and contraction. Wood expands and contracts a lot, especially in places like Minnesota where we have humid summers (expansion) and dry winters (contraction). Elastomeric paint is going to have a bit more elasticity, but likely a lot less than your caulk, meaning it will expand and contract differently, and probably still crack. I don't think the durability of an elastomeric paint is going to be anywhere near Advance, nor do I think it will look that nice either. One idea might be to install a whole-house humidifier onto your furnace and aim to keep the humidity steady throughout the year. I wish I had a better solution for you.