Do You Need Special Paint for Kitchen Cabinets? (Explained)

House painter in messy kitchen and painting cabinets

If you’re thinking about painting your kitchen cabinets, you may be wondering if you need special paint. The answer is yes! While you can technically use any type of paint to update your kitchen cabinets, using the wrong paint can lead to disastrous results.

So, what kind of paint should you use on kitchen cabinets? In this article, we’ll take a look at why special paint is recommended, the difference between cabinet paint and regular paint, and how to choose the right paint for your kitchen cabinets.

Kitchen cabinets are exposed to a unique set of challenges, including moisture, grease, and frequent use. With all these factors at play, you need a paint that can withstand the test of time and daily wear.

Benefits of Special Cabinet Paint

  • Improved durability
  • Better adhesion to surfaces
  • Enhanced resistance to moisture, grease, and scratches

The Difference Between Cabinet Paint and Regular Paint

Before we go any further, let’s clarify the differences between cabinet paint and regular paint.

Cabinet Paint

Cabinet paint is specifically designed for use on kitchen cabinets and other high-traffic surfaces. It’s engineered to be more durable and adhere better to surfaces than regular paint.

Key Features

  • Superior durability
  • Enhanced adhesion
  • Moisture, grease, and scratch resistance

Regular Paint

Regular paint, on the other hand, is a more general-purpose product, and while it may be suitable for some surfaces, it’s not designed with the unique challenges of kitchen cabinets in mind.


  • Less durable
  • May not adhere as well to surfaces
  • Less resistant to moisture, grease, and scratches

Glossy Finish for Kitchen Cabinets

Now that we’ve established the importance of using special paint for your kitchen cabinets, let’s talk about finishes. Specifically, we’ll discuss the glossy finish, which is quite popular for kitchen cabinets.

Why Choose a Glossy Finish?

Glossy finishes are highly reflective, giving your cabinets a modern and sleek appearance. But that’s not all! There are other benefits to choosing a glossy finish for your cabinets.


  • Easy to clean
  • Reflects light, making your kitchen appear brighter
  • Resistant to stains and moisture

Drawbacks to Consider

  • Shows imperfections more readily
  • May not be suitable for a more traditional or rustic kitchen design

How to Choose the Right Paint for Your Kitchen Cabinets

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s delve into the process of choosing the right paint for your kitchen cabinets.

Step 1: Determine Your Finish Preference

As mentioned earlier, glossy finishes are a popular choice, but there are other options to consider, such as semi-gloss, satin, or matte finishes. The choice ultimately depends on your personal preference and the overall aesthetic you want to achieve in your kitchen.

Step 2: Water-Based vs. Oil-Based Paint

There are two primary types of paint you’ll encounter when shopping for cabinet paint: water-based and oil-based.

Water-Based Paint

  • Pros: Low VOCs, quick drying, easy cleanup
  • Cons: Less durable, may require multiple coats

Oil-Based Paint

  • Pros: Superior durability, smooth finish
  • Cons: Higher VOCs, longer drying time, more challenging cleanup

Step 3: Choose Your Color

Color is a personal choice, but it’s essential to consider how it will impact your kitchen’s overall look. Light colors can make a small kitchen appear more spacious, while dark colors can create a cozy atmosphere. Test out paint samples on your cabinets before committing to a specific color.

Step 4: Prep Your Cabinets

To achieve professional results, take the time to properly clean, sand, and prime your cabinets before painting. Proper preparation will ensure better adhesion and a longer-lasting finish.


In summary, using cabinet paint instead of regular paint can make a big difference in the longevity and appearance of your kitchen cabinets. It is specifically formulated for the unique needs of cabinets, offering a higher sheen level, thicker consistency, greater durability, better adhesion, and increased resistance to moisture.