The Best Paint for Kitchen Cabinets

The best paint to use for kitchen cabinets and how to get a professional, smooth finish painting your kitchen yourself.

 

The Best Paint for Kitchen Cabinets

Let’s talk about painting kitchen cabinets, shall we?

Painting kitchen cabinets has been extremely popular over the last few years. And it’s no wonder… it’s a relatively inexpensive way to give your kitchen a completely new look. I’ve probably read at least 30 tutorials on painting kitchen cabinets and I was still nervous to actually do it to my own kitchen. It’s one thing for it to look good in photos, but I didn’t really know if I could get a real life professional finish that was durable enough to hold up to scrubbing and daily use.

Well, guess what? I painted my kitchen cabinets.

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And they look awesome.

I mean, REALLY awesome.

The paint looks completely smooth and professional and I couldn’t be happier.

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets

Today I want to talk about how I achieved such good results and share with you all that I learned in the process of painting my kitchen cabinets. Are you ready for information overload? Let’s dive right in!

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets

Timing. This is not a one weekend project. It takes time to do it right, but the results will be worth it. Don’t skip steps or get lazy… go slow now and do it right the first time so that you don’t have to re-do it a few months from now.

Wear Paint Clothes. If you say to yourself, “Oh, it’s okay. I’ll just touch up this bit of paint while wearing my prom dress” I guarantee you’re prom dress will be ruined. Get yourself one outfit you don’t care about and wear it the whole time so all of your yoga pants aren’t covered in paint splats by the end.

Protect Floors and Counters. I thought I could paint my upper cabinets without any trouble, but I totally splattered paint all over my brand new kitchen counters and it was a pain to clean up. Don’t be like me. Cover your floors and counters with drop cloth or butcher paper and save yourself a headache.

Preparation = Success. Paint makes every bump and imperfection noticeable, so sand, fill, caulk and then do it all again. You don’t want to ruin a good paint job with sloppy prep work! If your cabinets are glossy wood, sand away the gloss. We reused our cabinet bases and built new doors from scratch, so I sanded off the old finish on the bases, but didn’t need to on our doors. Some people say sanding is unnecessary, but I have regretted it every time I’ve tried to skip this step, so I recommend sanding before painting no matter what. Just do it.

Use Oil-Based Primer. Oil-based paint smells really bad and it’s a pain to clean up after, but this is one time when you just have to deal with it. I can’t even stress how glad I am that I used oil-based primer. The main reason is because you can sand it after it dries to achieve a smoother finish, but it also just sticks really well and will give you longer lasting results.

Pick the Right Paint. After researching like a crazy lady, I ruled out oil-based paint. It yellows over time and I did NOT want my crisp white cabinets to turn yellow. Gag. So I began looking at enamel paints. I settled on Sherwin-Williams  Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel. It has a lot of the same great qualities as an oil-based paint like self-leveling properties and extreme durability, but with the ease of water clean up. It is specially designed for heavy traffic surfaces like cabinets, doors and trim.

This paint went on like a dream! I can’t say enough good things about it. My husband insisted on a semi-gloss finish and I was worried that my cabinets would be too shiny, but it’s actually perfect. I would say they look like velvet, not silk. Does that make sense? The finish is rich and beautiful but not in-your-face shiny. It’s perfect! And after about two months of living with it, I can say that it is easy to scrub clean, even with three messy kids in the house.

Sherwin-Williams Urethane Trim Enamel Paint Review

Application. The thought of taping off my entire kitchen so that we could use a paint sprayer was just too overwhelming since we kind of need to use it every day, so I rolled the paint onto the cabinet bases and island and used a paint sprayer for all of the cabinet doors. I was able to get good results using both techniques and I completely attribute that to the paint. I told you the stuff was dreamy.

To get good results with a roller, use a high quality angled brush to get in any cracks and around the edges, then use a mohair roller cover to roll the paint across the flat surfaces.

Mohair Roller Review

This was my first time using a mohair roller and I have no idea why it’s so amazing, but it is. The paint went on so smoothly and there was no bumpy texture. I was shocked how well it worked and I am now a mohair roller believer.

Tips for rolling paint onto kitchen cabinets

You can buy the roller covers and the roller handle at your local Sherwin-Williams store.

Using a paint sprayer to paint 30+ cabinet doors was no small task. There’s so much to it that I will be writing a completely separate post outlining all of the details. Stay tuned!

Paint, Wait, Sand, Repeat. After you’ve applied a coat of paint (rolled or sprayed), you’ll need to let it dry for at least four hour, more if you live in a really humid climate. Don’t skimp on this or you’ll end up with “sticky” paint. After four hours, very lightly sand the paint to remove any imperfections, then repeat the process. I did three coats for maximum durability. Do not sand the final coat.

Clear Coat. Here’s some good news… Sherwin-Williams Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel doesn’t need a clear coat so you have one less step to worry about! Boom shaka laka.

Patience is a Virtue. All latex paints take approximately 30 days to fully cure and harden, so if you can leave the cabinet doors safely tucked away in the garage, they will be less likely to dent or scratch during those first crucial days. If not, just try to baby them for the first 30 days.

So there you go. That’s how I painted my kitchen. Do you have any questions? Leave me a comment and I’ll get back to you!

Thank you to Sherwin-Williams for sending me paint to review. All opinions expressed are my own. I only share products I love and dish the whole truth about them, whether the article is sponsored or not!

The very best paint for kitchen cabinets. If you're thinking of painting your kitchen, this article is a must-read! How to get a professional finish on your kitchen cabinets. #kitchen #remodel #kitchenmakeover

27 COMMENTS

  1. Fabulous timing and instructions or tips. I am getting ready to paint new unfinished kitchen cabinets in a few weeks, I am a basket case since I have never done this before and I hate painting. I won't be using a sprayer and intend to do it all with roller and brush. I will definitely take your advice and use the SW paint even though I never buy that brand due to their higher price point. But Ithink this time I will take the plunge. Thank you. Can you tell me what grit sandpaper you used in between paint coats?

    • It's such a big project that you don't want to have to redo it any time soon. Totally worth getting the higher quality paint! Since you'll be rolling your paint, definitely get the mohair roller. It was amazing. Good luck with your project. You can do it!

  2. I used this paint in Denim on a bath vanity and adjacent linen cabinet, and am having terrible problems with water spots. Any time water gets on the painted surface, a white spot develops that won't go away. Have you experienced any problems with this? It is especially upsetting because I spent so long on the prep and painting.

    • The white I chose was one I color matched to the existing doors in our home so that I wouldn't have to repaint all of them as we've been changing out the door casings, so I can't tell you exactly what it is. BUT… it is a very bright white, not a cream or gray at all. Sorry I can't be more helpful! If you really want, I can dig out a paint can and try to give you the formula on the lid.

  3. How much did you have to thin (and with what? Water? Floetrol?) the Emerald trim paint for it to spray in your sprayer? Also, after seeing how the paint performs with roller application, would you recommend rolling the doors? After looking at painter forums, it seems pros don’t like this paint. I only got it because the guy at Sherwin Williams recommended it. Now I’m hesitant on which way to proceed. I prefer a more professional looking sprayed finish but can’t find any info on thinning for an hvlp sprayer. Your cabinets look great. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    • Hi Melissa,

      My sprayer has a little flow cup. I fill the cup, then time how long it takes for the paint to drain out, then compare it with a little chart in the user manual. I used water to thin the paint.

      I would definitely recommend this paint. It has held up beautifully so far and we're maybe six months in at this point. I would also recommend spraying it. The sprayed finish looks SO good!

  4. Love your cabinets and all your tips! Question: did you roll the primer? I don’t want to clean out the sprayer from oil based primer!

    • I actually did BOTH. I rolled the cabinet bases and sprayed the doors. Both worked well. The advantage of using oil-based primer is that it sands up beautifully! And it really wasn't as bad as I thought to clean out my sprayer after using oil-based paint… I just ran paint thinner through until it came out clear. I have heard people who have one sprayer for oil-based and one for water-based and I think that's a great idea. Hope that is helpful!

  5. I used the same paint as you on my kitchen cabinets. Except I used a satin sheen, and I tinted it in Alabaster. Absolutely love the way mine turned out and I only used a brush and a roller. However it’s been about 25 days since I painted them and the paint still doesn’t seem very durable. It gets scuff marks very easily. It’s making me sad and stressed out. I contacted the company but they’re saying it’s probably not fully cured yet. Did you have issues white scuffing? How long does it take for them to cure? I thought it was 14-30 days but at 25 days they’re still getting scuff marks every time my ring or nails bump the painted surface 😩

    • Hey Brikena, I know cure time can vary quite a bit depending on the weather. Is it humid where you live or has it been raining a lot? Also, how long did you wait between coats of paint? That can affect dry and cure time too.

      I have my fingers crossed that your paint just needs a bit more time. I don't blame you for being stressed!

    • I have practiced this paint on a coffee table, and this paint must cure at 70 degrees. I at first did it in my garage and it was chipping,scratched with my nail, etc. I called SW and we talked.
      I stripped, resanded, reprimmed, then moved it inside to paint, and whallla, it’s amazing, cured hard and works great, this is a coffee table so I thought it’s be a good test to cabinets. I believe this Is the paint I will use

  6. I did everything the “right way” I de-greased the cabinets, then I sanded everything then I primed with BIN shellac based primer. 2 coats of primer and 2 coats of paint and I sanded between coats. I waited 48 hours between each coat of primer and paint. (I saw that in one of Sherwin Williams tutorials) It has been raining here lately but still, I’m really hoping they will cure because like I said I really love the way they turned out and I was really hoping this paint would be durable since it’s an interior/exterior trim paint. Which Is one if the seasons i went with it. I’m wondering if I should put a clear coat on them? But I was hoping I didn’t have to.

    • It sounds like you followed the directions perfectly, so they should set up. I would wait just a little bit longer and hopefully the paint will harden fully. But give it another 30 days just to be sure, then you'll know if they need a clear coat or not. Then maybe call the guys at your local store again. Good luck!

  7. Okay thank you so much 😊 I’m going to be patient and wait another 30 days to make sure they had plenty of cure time before I put a clear coat on them. And thank for putting me at ease, I was kind of freaking out 😆

  8. this was super helpful! i just got the first coat of paint (same kind as you, but in a greenish gray) up, and i was FREAKING OUT because it was NOT passing the fingernail test. but my friend mentioned that she had read some blogs that noted that the cure time could be super long. you’ve saved my sanity, and i will now get back to sanding and painting! thank you! oh, and i’m off to buy a sprayer, i think. the paint store guys convinced me i didn’t need one, but… i think i might.

    thanks for sharing your process!

  9. I admit I always chuckle at these blog posts labeled, “THE best…” SW is great stuff, and that’s a very quality paint.
    However.
    You’ve not tried Cabinet Coat, have you? It’s for (wait for it) cabinets, trim and molding. It has a couple hours cure time, clean up is a breeze and it dries as HARD as a rock. It’s MADE for cabinets. It was made by Inslx, but it’s such a good product, BM bought them, along with their adhesive primer, Stix.

    I admit, I have great luck with most adhesive primers (SW being convenient). But truly, if you need to clear coat cabinet paint? You’re (insane) doing it wrong. Cabinet paint should dry and cure within hours, if not days. It should be hard enough you don’t NEED that extra step. (Just like sanding is a big waste of time with the great deglossers out there.)

    Next time you have to paint woodwork (or foam-work, too!) give it a try. Goes on like Buttah.
    I’ve painted over 250lf of cabinets, some twice until I learned about paint and the lighting at all different times of the day. I don’t have woodwork in my 2000sf house yet, but will. (Rebuilding MYSELF from a fire.) And I’ll shell out the bucks and get Cabinet Coat. SW goes for my walls.

    • Hey Christine, thanks for sharing your opinions!

      I did NOT add a clear coat to my cabinets and they are holding up so well. I am very pleased and still stand behind my recommendation of this paint.

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