What’s the best paint for kitchen cabinets? Are you researching the heck out of this question before diving in? You should. Painting kitchen cabinets is a time-consuming project. Keep reading to get it right the first time!
I actually have TWO recommendations, as well as tips on primer and other tools. Although I’m calling this post “the best paint for kitchen cabinets,” you’ll have some flexibility to choose what fits best for your particular project. Either paint is a great choice.
Don’t miss my update on how this paint has held up in our kitchen! I added a few photos to the end of this post to show real results in a well-used space.
Here’s the scoop on our DIY Kitchen Remodel – yes, we’ve done it (almost) all ourselves:
Yes! A DIY Kitchen Remodel is Possible – Here’s Ours
Cost and Lessons Learned from Our DIY Kitchen Reno
The Best Paint for Kitchen Cabinets (Wood)
Are you starting with wood? Is it painted or stained? It actually doesn’t matter, because if you’re going to paint them, you’ll need to prep them either way.
Here are two very different paints and methods for repainting oak kitchen cabinets. It applies to any type of wood, though. Both have worked out well, but the process is very different, so it’s important to be strategic.
Here’s what the kitchen looked like when I started (please excuse the crummy photo):
I’ll bet those cabinets look familiar to anyone else with a 1980’s kitchen. They were an investment for the previous homeowners.
Because I’ve painted these cabinets twice, which I’ll explain later in this article, I have two stellar paints to recommend. Here’s the quick recap, with more details and tips to follow.
General Finishes Milk Paint
General Finishes Milk Paint is a great product for strong adherence to previously painted wood.
The advantage here is that you don’t *need* to sand OR prime for this paint to stick. I still sand, just to play it safe. What’s the point of doing all this hard work and risking the final product because you skipped a step? If you hate sanding, you might want to give this paint a shot.
My other favorite paint is Benjamin Moore Advance. It’s an alkyd paint, so you’ll need to sand and prime your surface to get the best result.
The advantage to BM Advance is that it dries amazingly smoothly. If you can use a paint sprayer, it will look like a factory finish!
Honestly, both methods require two paint products, so there’s no real shortcut here. The choices are either milk paint + top coat OR primer + alkyd paint. Just worth a mention.
Read More About Our DIY Home Updates
General Finishes Milk Paint
The first time I repainted the cabinets, I was sold on the idea of General Finishes Milk Paint as the absolute best paint for old kitchen cabinets because it doesn’t require a primer or thorough sanding for a good bond.
However, I cleaned and sanded anyway. I just didn’t want to go to all the effort to paint and then have it peel.
I painted two coats of the Seagull Gray color and one coat of clear, satin-finish High Performance Topcoat with these high quality foam brushes and I loved the result!
Although this paint is expensive, it is easy to use and has held up extremely well. My entire kitchen used about a half-gallon of paint and roughly one quart of the top coat.
I bought a ton of these foam brushes in 1″, 2″, and 4″ sizes and just threw them out after each use. I found it easiest to use smaller sizes for the door frames and wider brushes for larger panels.
The 2″ size brush was the most useful size for the cabinet boxes. They don’t hold up very well if you wash and reuse them multiple times.
I realize it’s wasteful, but I was looking for the smoothest finish possible with a foam brush and found it easiest to just use new ones each time I painted a batch of doors.
My biggest advice with General Finishes Milk Paint is to be sure to buy enough paint when you start the project. Because this is manufactured in batches and sold premixed, you’ll want to make sure your colors match if you need more than 1 gallon.
Supplies Needed for GF Milk Paint
– quality, disposable foam brushes
– paper bath cups to prop up the doors
– General Finishes Milk Paint in Seagull Gray – <1 gallon
– General Finishes High Performance Top Coat in Satin– <1 gallon
Read More About Our DIY House Updates
Benjamin Moore Advance Paint
We’re keeping the existing cabinets, changing the doors and drawers, and adding some new cabinetry to the mix.
Since I painted everything last year, I was planning to only paint the new doors. Unfortunately, the new batch of GF milk paint that I ordered did not exactly match the previous color. Bummer!
Rather than repaint the entire kitchen, I just color-matched the cabinets to make a custom color in Benjamin Moore Advance paint, which gets rave reviews.
I think the key to this project is actually the prep work before painting.
This post is about the paint choices, so I’m glossing over the light sanding and careful cleaning involved between coats. None of these steps are hard, but they are critical.
Supplies for BM Advance Paint
1. HomeRight Super Finish Max paint sprayer
2. Paint can pourer – makes pouring paint easier and cleaner!
3. Disposable, mesh paint strainers
4. Disposable plastic containers for thinning paint
– respirator mask
– paper bath cups to prop up the doors
– Kilz Premium primer
– Benjamin Moore Advance paint, satin finish, custom color
For this round of painting, I took a deep breath and purchased a paint sprayer. We bought unfinished maple doors and I want the smoothest, most professional-looking paint job possible, which requires a sprayer instead of a brush.
I really encourage you to feel bold enough to try a paint sprayer – I was intimidated at first, but now I’m hooked! I sprayed both the primer and paint and it’s been going great so far.
But First, Primer
As for primers, I actually tried two highly recommended choices: Kilz Premium and Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3. Since I worked hard to find the best paint for kitchen cabinets, I wanted a solid primer to set the stage.
We already had the Kilz from a previous project, so I bought a quart of the Zinsser and tested each primer on unfinished doors.
Both primers seemed to seal the raw wood decently, but the Kilz resulted in a slightly thicker coverage. Because I’m priming raw wood, I wanted the best coverage possible from a primer, so I chose the Kilz.
BM Advance Paint in Action
Once I felt confident with the paint sprayer (LOTS of testing on cardboard!!), I sprayed one coat of primer, starting with the backs of all the doors.
Note: Be sure to have a drying station set up in advance!
Next, I moved on to spraying two coats of BM Advance. The paint self-levels beautifully, which I read in reviews and am finding to be absolutely true. I can’t believe how great these doors look so far. Super smooth finish.
Here’s a wider shot to show more of the kitchen. The Benjamin Moore Advance custom color is a perfect match to the Seagull Gray milk paint. I can’t wait to see how this comes together with all new doors, drawer fronts, and black pulls.
We installed new drawer boxes with soft-close glides and will replace the countertop and appliances. Still a work in progress, but it’s coming together.
Update March 2022: How Our Cabinet Paint is Holding Up
Our painted cabinets still look fantastic. I’m a Benjamin Moore Advance devotee for life! Here are some shots I just took in our kitchen in March 2022!
The Advance-painted doors have cured to a smooth, rock-hard finish. Easy to wipe clean and even when I need to scrub, the paint looks brand new underneath.
We’ve added a few dings and dents, but otherwise, they still look great!
By the way, these matte black knobs are the absolute best. No flaking paint, chips or other issues and comfortable to use.
Recap – You Can’t Go Wrong with Either Paint
So there are my TWO recommendations on the best paint for kitchen cabinets. Check out these related posts for more info and advice on sanding and painting: