The Best Paint for Kitchen Cabinets

Take on this home-improvement project with help from a paint pro.

Blue Herod Kitchen
Photo: Laurey W. Glenn; Styling: Adam Fortner

Never underestimate the power of paint. You can forgo a major kitchen remodel by repainting existing cabinets. A fresh new paint color can makeover the space and bring boring cabinetry back to life. For the best results, it's crucial to prep your cabinets with a deep clean to remove any built-up grease and grime. Then determine the type of paint that will work best in a high-traffic, splatter-prone kitchen. Navigate the paint store with the help of a pro. Rick Watson, director of product information and technical services at Sherwin-Williams, offers his expert advice for picking paint for your cabinets. Plus, we provide inspiration that will help you select the best color for your cabinets.

Pick Paint With a High Sheen

"We've always recommended egg-shell, semi-gloss, and gloss wall finishes in the kitchen, since durability is essential in a place with moisture and high traffic. Paints with a higher gloss/sheen will generally be easier to clean. Most stains wipe clean with water or mild soap," says Watson.

Prepare Your Cabinets Before Painting

"Prep is key to any paint project, including kitchen cabinets, and I always recommend starting with a clean, dry, dull, and sound surface. After removing the hardware, I recommend that the cabinets be thoroughly cleaned with a good cleaner or degreaser to remove all grease and oils that normally build up on kitchen cabinetry over time. Next, apply a test sample of a primer in an inconspicuous area (if the cabinets are previously finished or are laminate). Once you have established good bonding or adhesion, you can prime the entire surface.""Keep in mind that any surface prep short of clean, dry, and dull or adhesion may compromise the service length of the system used. Many people request the use of a latex finish, for that reason I recommend Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel in Gloss, Semi-Gloss or Satin. This product has excellent flow and leveling characteristics for a smooth and durable finish on cabinets, doors and trim," Watson says.

Select the Right Paint Color for Your Kitchen

01 of 08

Benjamin Moore Alaskan Husky

The Kitchen
Kitchen design secrets:Think of your island as a piece of furniture, and either stain or paint it a different color than your cabinetry. If you can afford it, upgrade your counters to 2-inch-thick slabs.  Vary the lighting sources. I have recessed cans in the ceiling for bright light during cleanup, under-cabinet lighting for prep work, and wall sconces on dimmers for parties and late-night ambience.  It's okay to paint everything all one color, but try this formula to add subtle depth and richness: Put the lightest color on the walls, go one shade darker on cabinets, and then go one shade darker than the cabinets on the ceiling. My colors—Benjamin Moore's Horizon, Alaskan Husky, and Sleigh Bells—are all from the same paint card. This approach works especially well with neutrals. Love it? Get it!Tray: Peltro Medium Rectangular Tray; arteitalica.com.  . Photo: Laurey W. Glenn

Picking the right shade for your cabinets is up to you, but you can't go wrong with a crisp, classic white to make your room look clean and bright. It's okay to paint everything all one color, but to add subtle depth and richness, put the lightest color on the walls, one shade darker on cabinets, and then one more shade darker than the cabinets on the ceiling. In this kitchen, Benjamin Moore's Horizon, Alaskan Husky (1479), and Sleigh Bells are all from the same paint card.

02 of 08

Benjamin Moore Ballet White

A Burst of Citrus
To help liven up the classic white walls and cabinetry (painted Benjamin Moore's Ballet White), designer Melissa Haynes carefully chose a palette of green and orange accents. Mixing metals, such as brass hardware with stainless steel, provided the ideal finishing touch to modernize the look. Photo: Hector Sanchez

White might be classic, but it can also feel stark in a kitchen. For more warmth, choose an ivory like these cabinets painted in Benjamin Moore's Ballet White (OC-9). If you want more spice, add an accent like the citrusy green backsplash.

03 of 08

Benjamin Moore Gray Owl

The Pantry
Open shelving is an excellent feature for showing off all your prettiest china and serving pieces. In this case, a chicken wire screen helps soften the graphic effect of the built-in display. Love it? Get it! Cabinet paint: Gray Owl (2137-60); benjaminmoore.com. Cabinet hardware: Roswell Knob (CK254) in White Bronze Light; rockymountainhardware.com. Photo: Laurey W. Glenn

Pick a neutral with a soothing undertone, like the quiet gray of Benjamin Moore Gray Owl (2137-60). Here, the color adds a touch of softness to an open shelving unit with a chicken wire screen. A gentle gray-beige can have the same effect on your entire kitchen.

04 of 08

Sherwin-Williams Clary Sage

Bright and Airy Kitchen with White Backsplash and Cabinets Painted Sherwin-Williams Clary Sage SW 6178
Sarah Stacey

Looking for an understated green to freshen up the kitchen? These cabinets were painted in Sherwin-Williams Clary Sage (SW 6178) and then brightened with brassy hardware. You'll feel right at home chopping your vegetables from the garden.

05 of 08

Benjamin Moore Newburyport Blue

Herod Kitchen Blue Cabinets
After a couple gallons of Benjamin Moore's Newburyport Blue (HC-155; benjaminmoore.com) on the cabinets, a new approach to lighting, and a few smart swaps, the kitchen transformed into the fresh, friendly, and colorful space the family dreamed of. "We went from totally neutral to boom—dark blue!" Davidson says. "And I love it. Our house has a lot more personality now. The color gave the space so much character.". Photo: Laurey W. Glenn; Styling: Adam Fortner

Shake things up with a bold blue shade. A deep, character-building blue allows whites and stainless steel to pop. After a couple gallons of Benjamin Moore's Newburyport Blue (HC-155) on the cabinets, this kitchen transformed into a friendly and colorful space for the entire family.

06 of 08

Pratt & Lambert Minnow

Hand-Finished Cabinets
The cabinets were hand-finished by applying a base color and then distressing with the trim color. Cabinet paint: Minnow (28-25), by Pratt & Lambert Paints; prattandlambert.co. Photo: Laurey W. Glenn

Try a pale blue to add Scandinavian style to your kitchen. These cabinets were hand-finished by applying a base color of Minnow (28-25) by Pratt & Lambert Paints and then distressing with the trim color. The result is as sweet and relaxed as a warm hug.

07 of 08

Sherwin-Williams Tricorn Black

Glass Kitchen Light Fixtures
Photo: Annie Schlechter; Styling: Matthew Gleason

For a bold accent color, try Sherwin-Williams Tricorn Black (6258). The deep charcoal shade is painted here on the lower cabinets of a Tennessee colonial revival. The paint draws attention to the deep-gray veins in the waterfall countertop, while providing a stunning contrast to brass finishes.

08 of 08

Benjamin Moore Kensington Green

Amie Corely Teal Kitchen
Photo: Laurey W. Glenn

Choose a vivid contrasting color for your island, like this one painted in Benjamin Moore Kensington Green. The mod color coordinates perfectly with 1950s-style lighting and furnishings. It also adds a spark of fun to the kitchen.

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