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Choosing the Right Kitchen Cabinet Paint: A Comprehensive Guide

Remodeling your entire kitchen can get very costly very quickly! Simply painting your kitchen cabinets is a more cost-effective way to update your space.

Painting your kitchen cabinets is a cheap and easy DIY project for those looking to spruce up your kitchen space without breaking the bank.

Choosing the right kitchen cabinet paint, regardless of the color scheme, is crucial to creating a long-lasting, easy-to-clean finish. Keep reading this comprehensive guide for information on the different types of kitchen cabinets and which paints are best suited for each type of cabinet.

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Preparing Your Kitchen Cabinets for Painting

Types of Kitchen Cabinet Surfaces

The first thing you’ll need to consider before choosing your kitchen cabinet paint is the type of kitchen cabinet surface you’re working with. The most commonly found kitchen cabinet surfaces include natural wood, wood veneer, medium-density fiberboard, and laminate.

Priming your kitchen cabinets, regardless of material, is a crucial part of the process, so make sure you use the correct primer for your cabinets.

Natural Wood

Natural wood cabinets are the most suitable for painting because paint adheres better to a scuffed surface than a smooth one.

The surface of natural wood cabinets will still need to be sanded before painting to prepare the surface for the best results. Sanding the surface before painting your kitchen cabinets provides a better bond and a smoother finished product.

Sanding your cabinets is even more important if the surface is already painted or has a glossy finish, but if your natural wood cabinets are bare, they won’t need sanding at all or will require a great deal less sanding.

It’s important to keep in mind that natural wood will need either shellacoil-based, or latex primer since primer will give the surface a more consistent base for the paint application.

Wood Veneer

Wood veneer, or plywood, is an engineered wood that is made using thin layers of wood veneer.

Wood veneer is simply a thin layer of hardwood over pressed material, so it must be sanded lightly before painting your kitchen cabinets.

You’ll also need to make sure to inspect the wood veneer and make any necessary repairs before painting. Additionally, you should apply an oil-based primer to the kitchen cabinets before painting them for a smooth and professional finish.

Medium-Density Fiberboard (MDF)

Painting kitchen cabinets constructed of medium-density fiberboard is an easy process when the wood is prepared properly.

The most important part of preparing MDF cabinets to be painted is to seal the edge since the edge of this type of wood is more porous. The edge of the wood can be sealed using a drywall compound, which will prevent moisture from swelling the material.

You should also use an oil-based primer before painting MDF cabinets to prevent any swelling of the wood during the painting process.


Painting kitchen cabinets made from laminate material may be a bit more challenging than the previous surfaces, but it’s still possible!

Since laminate is constructed of printed plastic attached to a base layer, it’s a difficult surface to work with, so it’s important to prepare the surface before you begin painting. Laminate surfaces will need to be very lightly sanded using fine sandpaper before priming and painting.

This type of kitchen cabinet requires an acrylic urethane primer specifically for laminate surfaces. This specific primer gives the paint something to bond to on the slippery surface, reducing the risk of paint peeling later.

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Choosing the Right Paint for Kitchen Cabinets

Latex-Based Acrylic Paint

Latex-based acrylic paint is one of the most popular paints to use when painting kitchen cabinets because it’s easy to apply, dries quickly, and has a sturdy finish.

This type of paint is easy to wipe clean, which is why it’s one of the top favorites for high-traffic areas. Cabinets painted using this paint formula can stand up to a good scrub without damage.

The acrylic formulation forms a bind that helps the paint adhere to the cabinet surface, ensuring your cabinets don’t lose their luster as time passes.

The biggest aspect to consider with latex-based acrylic paint is that it’s more likely to accentuate the grain of the wood.

Oil-Based Paint

Oil-based paint is another popular choice for painting kitchen cabinets since it’s known for its resilient and easy-to-clean surface. These paints have a strong binder that makes them a durable choice for kitchen cabinets.

One of the downsides of using oil-based paints is that it takes a while to dry – about 16 hours, so keep that in mind when choosing the paint you want to use for your cabinets.

This paint should be disposed of properly since it can be harmful to the environment due to the high number of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, oil-based paints release.

Alkyd Paint

Alkyd paint is another great choice for painting your kitchen cabinets because it’s durable and leaves a hard, glossy finish that lasts. One of the best parts of alkyd paint is that it’s self-leveling, so it levels out while it dries.

This paint matches the durability of oil-based paints without the VOCs. It’s water-based, making cleanup a breeze with just soap and water. It won’t fade over time, so it’s an excellent choice for the kitchen.

Choosing the Right Paint Finish for Kitchen Cabinets


Semi-gloss is the most popular choice of finish when painting your kitchen cabinets since it’s easy to clean, and its sturdy formula withstands years of use without losing its sheen. You can scrub cabinets painted in this finish very well without being concerned about peeling or fading.

This finish reflects light, making the room appear larger and brighter. The only concern with semi-gloss paint is that it will highlight any imperfections in the wood, so be sure to properly prepare the surface before painting.


A satin finish is easy to clean and well-suited for those who are looking for a less reflective option than the sheen of semi-gloss. This finish falls somewhere between glossy and flat.

It’s less likely to show scuffs than other finishes and has an increased resistance against damage, so it’s perfect for a high-traffic area like the kitchen.

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Time to Paint those Cabinets!

No matter what materials were used in constructing your kitchen cabinets, painting them is an easy and affordable way to revamp your kitchen! We hope this comprehensive guide has helped you choose the right paint for your kitchen cabinets.

For more information about painting cabinets, check out our guide to painting kitchen cabinets like a pro!