The Best Paint for Kitchen Cabinets

I've often wondered how to direct people when they ask me this. I don't know what the best paint for kitchen cabinets is, and I suppose the answer is something of a "tastes great, less filling" sort of situation. So, I asked Mary Anne of Georgia, a professional cabinet repainter, what she thought the best paint for kitchen cabinets is.

The best paint for kitchen cabinets does not have to be white.


Mary Anne, thanks for participating.  You've been painting cabinets for years now and have a beautiful website at  Hopefully you can answer some questions lots of people have about painting cabinets in general and some more specific questions about paints and materials.  I'll start with the big question…



What is the best paint for kitchen cabinets?

Thank you, Craig, for allowing me the opportunity to share my knowledge of cabinet painting. In my opinion, the most durable paint for kitchen cabinets is alkyd (oil) paint.  An oil paint finish holds up under alot of handling and cleaning. I use water based products when my clients request a multi-layered type of finish such as crackling, heavy distressing, and other specialty finishes.  In these situations, I will protect the finishes with several coats of sealer.  


Is this always the best paint for kitchen cabinets?  What about painting wood vs MDF?  One wood vs another?

The main difference in the process of painting various surfaces is in the priming step.  For raw wood and MDF, I use a sealing primer before applying any type of paint.  For shiny surfaces such as a laminate, I lightly sand the surface before applying a bonding primer.  After the application of these primers, any type of paint can be applied.


What about Thermofoil and laminates?  What's the best paint for those?

Paint will adhere to thermofoil if a bonding primer is applied first, but if the cabinets are older and the thermofoil is not stable, I prefer to remove the thermofoil with a heat gun.  The remaining glue can be cleaned off of the surface with denatured alcohol, then primed with a sealing primer before painting.


You've got repainting directions on your site for refinishing regular wood cabinets and doors.  Have you got any instructions, or can you recommend any, showing how to get thermofoil off?


You're right; the directions you're talking about ( here ) only show regular wood prep. I don't currently have a demonstration of how to get thermofoil off.  I googled but didn't find anything in picture form.  But the process is fairly simple.  We use a heat gun (could probably use a hair dryer) to melt the glue on one of the edges (it only takes a second), then pull.  The difficulty sometimes occurs  in the center of the door if they've used lots of glue in the manufacturing.  Sometimes there is no glue, sometimes a lot of glue.  Just have to keep using the heat gun to melt the glue as you pull. When it's all removed, the glue left on the surface has to be removed with denatured alcohol and a rag or it could cause problems with the paint.   



That's it in a nutshell.  According to Mary Anne, the best paint for kitchen cabinets is the alkyd type.  She is on top of her game (these pictures were all taken from the gallery on her site) and I really appreciate her sharing with the readers here..  It's always best to hear right from experts.


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4 responses to “The Best Paint for Kitchen Cabinets”

  1. Jacqui says:

    we have thermo foil over mdf raised panel doors and the thermo foil is off and ripped and peeling and can we paint the mdf cream and antigue it

    • Craig says:

      It sounds like Mary does it fairly often.  Use a heat gun to help peel all of the thermofoil off, use denatured alcohol to get the remaining glue/adhesive off, and prime.  I’m going to guess guess that traditional antiquing won’t work, at least with the rub-through effect.  There’s no wood to see, only particleboard or MDF.  I mean, yes you can do the rub through, but you’re just not going to see real wood underneath.

      Dents and pinholes with glazing should look great though.

  2. tommy says:

    My thermofoil just peeled off clean. I started by its self and the rest was easy.

  3. Kevin R says:

    I bought a $35 black and decker heat gun and it was very easy to remove the thermofoil. If you are doing a lot of them, get the heat gun and save yourself the time.

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