Best paint for kitchen cabinets: transform tired cupboards

A quick, easy and affordable way to transform your kitchen

Whether your kitchen looks dated and needs a quick overhaul whilst you save up for a new one, or you simply fancy a fresh makeover, the best paints for kitchen cabinets will completely transform the heart of the home quickly and easily - all for the price of a tin of paint!

But with so many different types of paints available on the market it can be tricky to know which ones are most suitable for your kitchen. Should you opt for an oil, enamel or water-based paint? Do you want a gloss, satin, matt or chalky finish? Never mind which colour to go for! The options can seem endless.

That's where the Ideal Home team is here to help with our round-up of the best paint for painting kitchen cabinets, from big name brands to affordable DIY store options. So read on for the lowdown on how to give your kitchen some budget wow-factor!

And if you're looking to paint furniture instead? Although the options can be similar, you'll find the top options for upcycling in our guide to the best paint for furniture.

What colour should I paint my kitchen cabinets?

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Do you want light and airy or dark and dramatic? Typically neutral tones, such as white and cream kitchen ideas, are good options, making any size of space feel bright and airy. But soft blues, greens and greys also work well for a more bespoke feel.

If you want something bold and striking then black and midnight blue can make a welcome statement, or you can combine two colours, such as light pink shades matched with contemporary grey tones. Always remember to try out testers before buying, as the colour on the tin may look different once painted onto a surface.

What finish should I choose for my kitchen cupboards?

Once you decide on a colour, the next step is deciding which finish will best suit your kitchen cupboard goals, and these days there are a whole lot of paint finishes on offer! From chalk, matt and eggshell through to satin, semi-gloss and plain old gloss.

Matt or chalk paint finishes can create a more rustic feel that may work well in a country cottage kitchen, although a matt finish is generally harder to wipe down and less durable to chipping, so it can be a difficult choice to maintain in a high traffic kitchen. Matt paints are often water-based though, so you're more likely to find an eco-friendly and low VOC option.

Satin, semi-gloss or gloss paints are a good choice for kitchen cabinets as they're generally far easier to wipe down, more resistant to grease and cooking fumes, and less prone to chipping or scratching than their matt counterparts. However, these finishes tend to be solvent or oil-based, which can be tricky to paint with and are likely to contain more strong smelling and harmful chemicals.

It all depends on the surface that you're painting over too - if you're painting gloss kitchen cupboards you'll need to use specific paints and always a primer. 

Best paint for kitchen cabinets

1. Ronseal One Coat Cupboard & Melamine Paint White Satin 750ml

Best paint for kitchen cabinets overall

cupboard paint can with white background

(Image credit: Ronseal)

Finish: Satin and gloss
Base type: Solvent
Capacity: 750ml
Colours: 9

Reasons to buy:

  • No primer needed
  • Smooth finish
  • One coat

Reasons to avoid:

  • Long drying time
  • Contains VOCs
  • No matt finish option
  • Limited colour options

If you’re after an instant update for your melamine or MDF kitchen cabinets, the Ronseal One Coat Cupboard & Melamine Paint is ideal. This paint is specifically formulated for melamine cupboards, and easy to apply with a brush in just one coat. But if you are painting over a strong colour with a lighter hue, you may need two coats to achieve that smooth finish.

In addition, it’s advisable to allow 12-24 hours drying time between coats. This may seem rather long for some, but the results are well worth the wait! What’s more, it’s tough, durable and scuff resistant, making it great for busy households.

The downside is that this is a solvent-based paint, meaning it contains VOC chemicals and has a fairly strong smell. Ensure to open windows to get sufficient ventilation and avoid using it in enclosed spaces.

We opted for the satin finish - although there is a gloss option too - and overall we found this the best paint to revamp either melamine or wood kitchen cabinets, giving a smooth finish and producing great results.

Ideal Home rating: 5 out of 5 stars

2. B&Q GoodHome Durable Matt Cabinet & Wardrobe Paint 750ml

Best matt paint for kitchen cupboards

paint can with matt finish white background

(Image credit: B&Q)

Finish: Matt
Base type: Water
Capacity: 750ml
Colours: 10

Reasons to buy:

  • Great price
  • No primer needed
  • Washable

Reasons to avoid:

  • Long drying time

Although easily cleanable satin or gloss paints are generally recommended for kitchen cabinets, this durable matt paint has been formulated to be hard-wearing and water-resistant to daily splashes, spillages, and even household cleaners. So you can still keep it clean and wipe off marks easily whilst enjoying a flat matt finish.

The water-based formula also makes this easier to work with than a solvent or oil-based paint, and reduces the strong smell - although it's always advisable to ensure good ventilation of any painting area.

And best of all, it’s super affordable, offering great value and a good selection of colour choices to aid you in your kitchen transformation.

Ideal Home rating: 5 out of 5 stars

3. Frenchic Furniture Paint The Lazy Range 750ml

Best chalk kitchen cabinet paint

white furniture paint can with white background

(Image credit: Frenchic)

Finish: Chalk
Base type: Water
Capacity: 750ml, 250ml, 150ml
Colours: 15

Reasons to buy:

  • Low toxins and VOC’s
  • Self-priming
  • Good coverage

Reasons to avoid:

  • Will only suit certain kitchen styles

If you’re after shabby chic decorating ideas then Frenchic Furniture paint will give you an excellent chalky finish. You don’t need a primer and with its smooth and creamy texture, it gives great coverage, although you will need a few coats.

This chalk paint has a thick formula so is self-levelling - meaning no unsightly brush marks - and water-resistant, which makes it the perfect choice for revamping your kitchen cabinets.

Best of all, this is an all-natural, chalk and mineral paint that is odourless and contains no nasty toxins, and it comes in 15 colour options.

Ideal Home rating: 5 out of 5 stars

4. Wilko Quick Dry Cupboard & Furniture Paint 750ml

Best value paint for kitchen cupboards

wilko cupboard paint with white background

(Image credit: Wilko)
  • Finish: Satin and chalk
    Base type: Oil
    Capacity: 750ml, 2.5 litre
    Colours: 9

Reasons to buy:

  • Great price
  • One hour drying time
  • Smooth satin finish

Reasons to avoid:

  • Strong smell
  • No gloss finish option
  • Limited colour options

If you’re after an easy to use, quick-drying paint on a small budget then the Wilko Quick Dry Cupboard and Furniture paint will do a grand job. And best of all, it comes at a very affordable price point of £10! Ideal for students on a budget or first-time buyers who want to uplift their kitchen cabinets without splashing out.

It’s specifically formulated to give a tough, smooth satin finish for melamine, interior wood, MDF cupboards, which makes it a good choice to touch up your kitchen cabinets and drawers, and it's also available in a chalk finish option.

The paint gives excellent coverage and a little goes a long way, but you may need one or two coats to get perfect results. It's also quick drying to the touch in just two hours, although we’d recommend waiting a little longer before applying another coat.

The downside is we found this oil-based paint had a strong odour, so you'll definitely need to open the windows!

Ideal Home rating: 4 out of 5 stars

5. Rust-Oleum Kitchen Cupboard Paint

Best kitchen cabinet paint with a wide colour range

cupboard paint with paint can

(Image credit: Rust-Oleum)
  • Finish: Matt
    Base type: Water
    Capacity: 750ml
    Colours: 110

Reasons to buy:

  • No primer or topcoat needed
  • Wide range of colours
  • Washable
  • One hour drying time

Reasons to avoid:

  • Only available in matt

For a self-priming, stain-resistant paint that comes in a HUGE selection of colours Rust-Oleum Kitchen Cupboard Paint is a great option.

Although a gloss or semi-gloss finish for kitchen cabinets is generally recommended, this ultra-flat matt finish offers a good alternative if your adverse to a sheen, and the water-based formula is easier to work with than a oil or solvent-based option.

Designed especially for kitchens, it’s washable, making it easy to wipe away splashes or splatters over time and delivers a smooth coverage in just one or two coats. But best of all, is the fact there's no need to compromise on your creative vision with those 110 colour options to choose from.

Even though a primer or topcoat isn't needed, you might still want to prime where you see stain bleed or knots in the underlying wood, or if you're painting over a very dark surface with a light coloured paint.

Ideal Homes rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Buy now: From £22.99 at Decorating Centre Online

How do I prepare my kitchen cabinets for painting?

While it's easy to get excited about getting your brush out and getting some colour on your cupboards, it will definitely pay off to put in some prep work beforehand (sorry!). For the full how-to make sure to check out our guide to how to paint kitchen cabinets, but we've broken down the basics below:

  • First, remove any handles or knobs from the cabinets and drawers, so you’ll have a clear surface to work on.
  • Clean all the surfaces you plan to paint thoroughly with a good degreasing detergent or all-purpose cleaner. This is important for removing the kitchen grease and grime build-up over time.
  • Next up, lightly sand or ‘key’ the surfaces to help the paint grip. It’s advisable to use a fine grit paper – 150-250 grit, and lightly sand to create an even, matt surface.
  • Once finished, make sure to wipe the dust off with a damp cloth and let surfaces dry completely.
  • Protect the worktops and floors from splatter with a dust-proof sheet and run masking tape along the cabinet edges to prevent paint from getting on the walls.

Now you’re all set to get out the paint and give your kitchen cupboards a makeover!

Do I need a primer to paint kitchen cupboards?

The answer that nobody wants is yes, probably! Primers create a base coat for the paint and will help to prevent blemishes or knots in the wood from showing through and make paint more resistant to chipping off. Many specialist cupboard paints are self-priming and suitable for use directly on wood, melamine and acrylic cabinets, but if you want the best possible results, it will probably still pay off to use a primer first.

Once you have prepped your cabinets, add the first coat of primer with a roller. If your cabinet surface is quite glossy though, you may need another coat as the multiple layers will build up added hardiness.

Want more easy and affordable kitchen update tips? Have a read of our budget kitchen ideas page for style-savvy and purse-friendly inspiration, and of course, if you're ready to invest in new cupboards rather than paint, our kitchen cabinets buying guide will help you to find the right choice.