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What paint should I use to paint kitchen cabinets?

If you’re looking to redo your kitchen, the first thing you may be wondering is what kind of product you should use to paint your kitchen cabinets. Is there a special product that you need to get for the best results? 

The short answer is yes, there are specific paints designed for cabinets. There are a lot of different options available, and we will go over those shortly. The one thing you need to know about all cabinet-specific paint is that it is generally harder than exterior and other interior paints. 

What is “harder” paint? Essentially, it’s more durable. Cabinets will be open and shut, rubbed on, and cleaned regularly. A normal paint you would put on the wall would quickly begin chipping under these conditions. Cabinet paint will not. The paint serves as a protective coating.

 

The best products to paint kitchen cabinets

Whether you are going to do it yourself or hire a professional to do it for you, here are some of the most common kitchen cabinet paints: 

  • PPG Breakthrough
  • Benjamin Moore Advance
  • Sherwin Williams Emerald
  • Sherwin Williams Kem Aqua Plus

Let’s take a look at all three of these products and see what makes them special for painting kitchen cabinets.

PPG Breakthrough

PPG Breakthrough is an affordable and high quality paint for cabinets.

Breakthrough is one of PPG’s top-of-the-line products. PPG, in general, is a more affordable paint product, but their Breakthrough line is a solid option for those looking for high-performance paint at a reasonable price. Some of the benefits of Breakthrough include:

  • A high level of hardness
  • Excellent adhesion to tough-top-paint surfaces like metal
  • Early block resistance. 
  • Very quick dry time.

The “hardness” refers to the paint’s ability to stand up to wear and tear and everyday use. The better the hardness, the longer the paint job will last. 

PPG Breakthrough is also convenient because it doesn’t require a topcoat. That makes it a great choice if you want to do the job on your own. However, that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. PPG struggles to level out for a smooth finish, so you will have to take some extra care to get it right. That isn’t necessarily the case with other top brands.  

Benjamin Moore Advance

Benjamin Moore Advance is a long-lasting and high quality cabinet paint.

Benjamin Moore is a premium paint brand and is a major competitor to Sherwin Williams, so you shouldn’t be surprised to learn they have some of the best products around. Their Advance line is particularly great for painting kitchen cabinets. Here are some of the reasons why:

  • Exceptional application, so it is always smooth to the touch when finished.
  • Once it has cured, it is incredibly hard.
  • Low amount of VOCs. 

VOC stands for Volatile Organic Compounds. These are used primarily as the medium to apply transfer paint to the desired surface and smooth out the application. If VOCs are present in a paint, you will want to wear a mask and the proper protection to prevent long-term harm. Once the paint has fully dried, though, the VOCs evaporate and are no longer harmful. 

Benjamin Moore is popular because of how smoothly it applies to surfaces, making it another solid option for DIYers. It’s also popular among professional painters because of the high-quality results one can achieve with it. 

However, Benjamin Moore has a pretty long dry time, especially when compared to the speediness of PPG’s Breakthrough paint.

Sherwin Williams Emerald

Sherwin Williams Emerald is the highest quality consumer-grade cabinet paint for the popular brand.

Sherwin Williams is among the most well-known and accessible paint brands around. As such, their premium Emerald paint line is very popular, especially for painting kitchen cabinets. We compared Sherwin Williams products before, and Emerald stands out among the best. Emerald has a smooth and luxurious finish and some excellent long term benefits including:

  • Excellent yellowing resistance
  • Extremely durable, making it ideal for areas that are cleaned frequently
  • Limited lifetime warranty

Emerald is an excellent option for people looking for an easy solution. Sherwin Williams Emerald typically takes fewer coats to get maximum coverage, and the enamel finish gives it an exceptional point hardness that makes it durable and long-lasting.

But as great as Emerald is, there is still one product that Heritage Custom Painting prefers over them all.

 

Sherwin Williams Kem Aqua Plus

Sherwin William's Kem Aqua Plus is a commercial grade lacquer that delivers the best results for cabinets.

While Sherwin Williams Emerald is an exceptional product, there is one we like more at Heritage Custom Painting. Sherwin Williams has recently released their Kem Aqua line, a lacquer-based paint that has an unprecedented hardness, and we absolutely love it. Some of the benefits of Kem Aqua include:

  • High mar resistance, as well as resistance to yellowing and microfoaming
  • Unmatched hardness and durability 
  • Waterborne finish makes it safer to use 
  • KCMA approved 

Lacquers are extremely hard, and that makes them ideal for high-traffic areas like kitchens. The overall hardness of this paint is what earns its approval from the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association. 

Lacquer paints often struggle with micro-foaming. This is when tiny bubbles will form as the paint is curing. Kem Aqua Plus is resistant to this, making for a much smoother finish. However, it doesn’t totally eliminate the problem. It simply mitigates it. 

However, microfoaming can be avoided entirely using HVLP (High Volume Low Pressure) spray guns. As such, Kem Aqua is a product best left to professionals. If you plan on hiring someone to paint your kitchen cabinets, ask them if they plan on using this. 

Before we dive into the actual process of painting your cabinets, let’s answer a few common questions about painting kitchen cabinets.

 

Can I just paint over kitchen cabinets?

Can you? Sure, absolutely. Should you? Well, that’s where things get a bit trickier. All things considered, we recommend that you don’t just paint over them. If you want the paint job to look and feel the best (as well as last a long a time), then putting some extra time and care into it will be well worth the effort. 

While you could paint your kitchen cabinets without sanding, we don’t really recommend it. Sanding removes the top layer of paint and helps smooth out the surface, giving the fresh coat something to adhere to. You don’t have to paint bare wood, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. 

But in reality, sanding isn’t just a prep work thing. For the best result, you will want to sand three times during the painting process. 

The pre-sand is when you sand before painting. This is to remove that first layer of paint or clear coat that is already on your cabinets. If you don’t do this, your new paint won’t actually adhere to the cabinet. It will instead bond with the other paint. When that happens, as the paint contracts it creates cracking and peeling, effectively ruining the paint job. Pre-sanding is a necessary step to getting a quality paint job. 

The next time you sand should be after you have applied primer. This makes it easier for the topcoat to adhere to the surface and even out the finish. After that, the topcoat should get one final sanding. This is especially important if you’re using a lacquer-like Kim Aqua, as they tend to be a bit rougher after they have cured. 

So after three sanding jobs, your kitchen cabinets are finally complete. You could certainly skimp on these steps, but you and everyone else will be able to notice the flaws right off the bat. Taking the right amount of time to sand and paint is crucial to get the look right. That’s why it’s often better to let pros handle painting your kitchen cabinets since an experienced crew will give you the closest thing to a factory finish. 

 


And those are the three top products you should use to paint your kitchen cabinets. While doing this on your own is certainly possible, it’s going to look a lot nicer and be a lot easier if you hire a contractor to do it for you. Before you start shopping around, though, make sure you understand what a kitchen cabinet quote might contain.

If you want your kitchen cabinets done right, fill out the form below to get a free estimate. Heritage Custom Painting is a professional painting service with years of experience, and we specialize in kitchen cabinets. Fill out the form below or give us a call today to learn more about what we can do for you.

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