Contemporary white kitchen

Best paint for kitchen cabinets

Whilst replacing your kitchen cabinets is a fantastic way to revive the look of your kitchen and give it a makeover, it is not very cost-effective. However, there is another easy (and much cheaper) option to give your kitchen cabinets a new lease of life; by painting them!

Although it may seem like a daunting task to paint kitchen cabinets, with the right tools it can be very easy. There are a few steps in which you will need to take before you begin applying any old paint though, so read on to learn more.

White and blue painted kitchen cabinets


Before you start, you will need to consider a few things. What are your cabinets made from? What finish do they currently have? Which type of paint is advised to use in the kitchen? What type of finish do you want the new paint to be?

Once you know the answers to these questions, you are now ready to proceed.

There is a wide variety of paints available, so which ones are right for you?

Types of paints

Paintbrush and a can of white paint - ready to paint kitchen cabinets

Water-based paints

Water-based paint for kitchen cabinets is usually the go-to type for D.I.Y-ers. This is for several reasons;

  • They are easier to clean up as brushes and rollers etc. can be washed with soap and water
  • They have very low to no VOC levels, meaning that there are very few fumes
  • Water-based paints dry quicker than oil-based ones
  • There is no yellowing of the paint over time

However, there are a few drawbacks to using water-based paint. Water-based paints are less ‘strong’ and will not be able to hold up to the same quality over time as an oil-based one. This makes them slightly more susceptible to chips or cracks, but if you use your cabinets with care this should not be too much of an issue.

Also, if you are applying to a natural wooden surface, the priming stage must be perfect and seal all the grain completely. If this isn’t done, the paint will be able to get into the wood and cause it to swell and blister.

Oil-based/alkyd-based paints

These types of paints can also be used in the kitchen, but are usually used more by professionals. This is for several reasons;

  • They are stronger and more resilient to chips, stains and marks
  • They tend to cover the surface easier to create a smoother finish
  • The colour will fade less over time
  • They are more forgiving if the primed surface is not 100% smooth

Again, there are a few drawbacks with oil-based paints as well. Oil-based paints are much more difficult to clean up and will require using a solvent such as white spirit to clean any brushes or spills. They also have varying degrees of VOC levels which can make working with them in a small environment quite difficult if there is no source of adequate ventilation.

This type of paint also dries very slowly which can cause a hindrance. Although some do see this as an advantage as oil-based paints tend to be stronger in the long run. There is also an increased chance of oil-based paints turning slightly yellow over time. This can be frustrating if you are looking for a clean white kitchen!

So, which is the best paint for kitchen cabinets? Both types of paint are sufficient, but a little extra thought should be taken into account when it comes to choosing which is right for you.

Types of finish

Gloss – As the name suggests, gloss paints will give you a lovely smooth and shiny finish. Although this type of finish on kitchen cupboards went out of fashion when a contemporary look was pushed. However, it does appear to be making a come back in recent years and can work well in some types of kitchen environments.

Ultra-gloss – The same goes with an ultra-gloss finish. These types of finish are the next level of smoothness and shine but are not really seen that much on kitchen cabinets.

Satin – One of the most popular types of finish is a satin finish. This type of finish is usually described as having a ‘mid-sheen’ and so look slightly polished – similar in look to that of an eggshell.

Matt/Chalk – This is another popular type of finish, but not so much for use on kitchen cabinets. Although shabby chic is a look that does not seem to ever go out of fashion, this type of finish is not easy to wipe down like the others are and so is not that common to be used in the kitchen.


ESP applicationAs we always say, priming is key to a professional-looking finish. If you do not lay down the groundwork, there’s no chance in having a beautiful smooth looking end result.

There is one product in particular that we highly recommend using.

E.S.P (easy surface prep) – This is a fantastic wipe on, wipe off product that primes and prepares any shiny or non-porous surface for painting. It completely eliminates the need for difficult and time-consuming sanding! Once dry, E.S.P creates a surface that is ready for paint to bond to making it ideal for application onto melamine cabinets.

Safe to use in a kitchen environment, virtually odourless and colourless and simply wipes on with a lint-free cloth or brush making it very easy to use.

For example, take a look at the below images where a customer used E.S.P on their kitchen cabinets with great success.

Before and after repainting the kitchen cupboards

As you can see, this DIY-er achieved a great finish and they had to do no sanding – even on the intricate areas of paintwork. All they had to do was wash the cabinets, apply E.S.P and then apply their chosen finish once dry.

It just shows that it’s not always necessary to fork out thousands for a new kitchen. Don’t be put off from revamping your current kitchen by the thought of weeks of work with tedious sanding. Just use E.S.P and save yourself so much time.

What else can I use E.S.P for?

E.S.P is fantastic for a wide variety of uses too – not just the kitchen cabinets. Here are a few examples:

  • Those yellow tiles with the little boats on in the bathroom of your new house.
  • That baby pink wardrobe you bought for your 5 year old daughter which doesn’t quite sit right in your now 15 year old’s bedroom.
  • Those melamine units in your utility room that you’ve been pretending aren’t there because you can’t justify the cost of new units in a room only you go in.
  • That lime green table lamp that fitted perfectly in your lounge 5 years ago, but is a little jarring with your new pale blue décor.

Paint conditionersFloetrol and Owatrol Oil paint conditioners

As well as having a good primer, you may also want to consider using a paint conditioner. We have two available; Owatrol Oil is for use in oil-based paints and the other is Floetrol, for use in water-based paints.

They both help improve the flow and workability of the paint. It does this by extending the drying time, allowing you to get a smoother complete finish easier.

In doing so, they also help to alleviate brush / roller marks, helping you achieve a more professional looking finish.

Unlike damaging paint thinners or water, they do all this without affecting the inherent qualities of the paint or its colour.

We hope you found this post on the best paint for kitchen cabinets helpful. If you have any tips or advice, please feel free to share them in the comments below. We love hearing from you!

You can also follow us on TwitterFacebookInstagram or Pinterest at @OwatrolUK or find us under the hashtag #OwatrolUK

best paint for kitchen cabinets - Pinterest

Owatrol Team
About Owatrol Team

Our team are ready and willing to support you with your requirements whether it is protecting your newly laid deck or renovating a luxury yacht, whatever the application Owatrol has the solution you are looking for.

4 thoughts on “Best paint for kitchen cabinets

  1. Please can you advise me on the best oil based paint for kitchen cabinets. Also do you stock crackle paint?
    Can you please send me a colour chart.
    I live in middlesex UK, do have a stockist near me?
    Thank you

    1. Hi there Pat,

      The only oil based paint we provide that is suitable for use internally is Owatrol Deco which you can find here:
      I am afraid we do not have a colour chart for Owatrol Deco, but we do offer 100ml samples for £5 each with free delivery. These can be found in the size drop down menu on the product page via the link above.
      Yes, we do stock crackle paint – you can find it here:
      Please take a look at our distributor map for local stockists here:

      All the best,
      The Owatrol Team

  2. Hi,

    I have a shop that is fitted with floor to ceiling Matt white painted cabinets.
    I am wanting to repaint as existing but I’m not sure what I need to do so, please can you help with suggestions and advice ?

    Many thanks.

    1. Hi Amanda,

      If you are wanting to re-paint your cabinets, we would recommend removing the matt paint with a product such as DSP 800: or by sanding it down to clean wood . We recommend removing the paint instead of painting over it as this will help ensure a better bond and finish of the new paint.
      Once the old paint has been removed, you can then apply your new paint. If you are looking for a glossy finish, you could try Owatrol Deco:

      I hope this was helpful.
      All the best,
      The Owatrol Team

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