Pick the Perfect White Paint for Your Cabinetry

Kitchen and bathroom cabinetry provide form and function to these important rooms. The color of the cabinets plays a big role in the overall look and feel of these spaces. If you’re looking to update tired oak or dark wood cabinets, painting them a fresh, clean white can completely transform the space. With so many shades of white paint available, how do you pick the perfect one for your cabinetry project? This article will guide you through the process.

Factors to Consider When Choosing White Paint for Cabinets

Picking the right white paint involves taking into account a number of factors. Consider the following when selecting a shade for your cabinets:


White paints have subtle undertones that affect how they look on cabinets. Cool undertones like blue and green will read more crisp and bright. Warm undertones like yellow, beige, and tan will give a softer antique feel. Whites with pink and red undertones provide a gentle touch of warmth while still feeling light and airy.


The type of lighting in your kitchen or bathroom impacts how the painted cabinets will look. North and east-facing rooms with cool blue daylight will emphasize crisp, bright whites. South and west rooms with warm yellow afternoon light bring out beige and antique white tones. Mixes of lighting require a flexible white that won’t look too stark or too dull.

Personal Preference

Ultimately, choosing the perfect white comes down to your own personal taste and style. Are you aiming for an airy, coastal vibe? Do you want an elegant, timeless look? Is a bright, cheerful ambiance more your speed? Selecting a white that suits your goals will help you end up with a space you’ll love.

Cabinet Style

The door style of your existing cabinetry should factor into your white paint decision. Classic Shaker cabinets can handle a pure bright white. More detailed raised panel or inset cabinetry often looks best in warmer antique shades. Slab door styles provide a great neutral backdrop for a crisp white paint that pops.

Types of White Paint Finishes

In addition to choosing a shade of white, you’ll also need to decide on a paint finish. The finish impacts durability, ease of cleaning, and overall aesthetics. Consider these common options for white cabinet paint:

High Gloss Finish

Gloss and semi-gloss paints have a smooth, shiny, reflective surface. This finish enhances cabinet detailing and provides maximum durability and stain resistance. High gloss white paint gives cabinets a luxurious, polished look, but it also highlights any flaws and imperfections.

Eggshell Finish

With just a soft hint of shine, eggshell white has a velvety appearance. It hides minor imperfections well while still being fairly durable and easy to clean. This popular, versatile finish works with virtually all cabinet styles and lighting.

Satin Finish

Satin paint has a smooth, low luster pearl-like sheen. It reflects more light than eggshell but less than semi-gloss. Satin white paint gives cabinets a pretty glow while minimizing flaws. It cleans up easily and holds up well to handling and wear.

Matte Finish

For a more natural, muted appearance, choose a matte white paint. This flat, non-reflective finish mimics the look of brushed or weathered wood. Matte white hide flaws well but requires gentle cleaning to avoid marring the surface.

How to Pick the Perfect White Paint

With so many shades and finishes to choose from, selecting that perfect white paint color can feel overwhelming. Follow this process to zero in on the right white for your cabinetry:

Gather Inspiration

Look at photos online or in home magazines to find kitchen and bathroom designs with cabinet colors you love. Note the whites that catch your eye so you can identify patterns in your preferences. Create an inspiration board to help articulate your goals.

Review Undertones

Once drawn to particular whites, look closely at the undertones. Are the shades more crisp or warm? Identifying the subtle hints of color that appeal to you will help immensely when shopping for paint.

Test Paint Samples

Never select a paint color based solely on a tiny paint chip. Invest in 8-ounce sample sizes of your top white choices. Paint them onto foam board or poster board. Look at the colors throughout the day and night to see how the light affects them.

Compare to Cabinets

Brush the sample whites directly onto cabinets for the most accurate representation of the color. View them next to cabinets as well as on their own to determine the best pairing. Compare colors in both natural and artificial light.

Consider Sheen

Try paint samples in different sheens like eggshell, satin, and semi-gloss. The finish dramatically impacts the look of white paint. See how each interacts with your lighting and cabinets.

Live with the Choice

Leave your favorite white samples taped to cabinets for several days. Look at them throughout the day and night. Does the white still excite you after living with it? Dark colors show flaws while bright whites illuminate them. Make sure you still love the paint after really seeing it.

Popular Shades of White Paint for Cabinets

These widely beloved tried-and-true white paint colors for cabinets can provide great starting points for your search:

Swiss Coffee by Behr

With subtle yellow undertones, this soft white resembles coffee with a splash of cream. It provides a welcoming, timeless look.

White Dove by Benjamin Moore

Just a touch warmer than pure white, White Dove has faint grayish undertones. This versatile,popular shade works everywhere from modern to traditional spaces.

Chantilly Lace by Benjamin Moore

The hint of gray paired with creamy yellow makes this white feel light and bright but not stark. It suits varied styles of cabinetry and lighting.

Extra White by Sherwin-Williams

A timeless shade with the slightest hint of cool blue, Extra White has just enough warmth to prevent looking clinical. This crisp shade looks fresh and clean.

Pure White by Behr

True to its name, Pure White has no undertones for the cleanest, brightest white. This shade highlights detailing on cabinets for a light and airy look.

Expert Tips for Painting Cabinets White

Follow these tips from the pros for getting flawless results painting your cabinets white:

Clean Surfaces

Remove doors, drawers, and hardware then thoroughly clean cabinet boxes and doors to remove grease and grime. Degreasing ensures paint adhesion.

Address Condition Issues

Inspect cabinets closely and make any repairs needed, like fixing peeling veneer, replacing warped doors, or securing loose joints. Proper prep prevents problems later.

Sand Wood

Lightly sand wooden cabinet surfaces to rough them up so the paint can grip. Don’t sand too aggressively or you may damage the wood. Clean well after sanding.

Prime Properly

Apply primer formulated for painting cabinets to prevent knots and stains from bleeding through. Oil-based primer works best for covering dark cabinet colors.

Apply in Thin Coats

Thin layers of paint look more smooth and professional than a single thick coat. Allow proper drying time between coats for best results.

Consider Brush Type

Use high-quality angled trim brushes for cutting in edges and cabinet-grade foam rollers for large surfaces. Avoid spongy rollers that cause bubbles.

Check Coverage

Inspect each coat to ensure you’ve evenly covered edges and corners. Touch up any thin spots before moving onto the next coat. Proper coverage prevents lap marks.

Replace Hardware

For a cohesive finished look, replace outdated hardware with fresh, modern pieces that coordinate with your new white cabinets.

Frequently Asked Questions About White Cabinet Paint

Still unsure which white is right for your kitchen or bathroom cabinets? This list of common questions can help provide additional guidance.

What’s the difference between basic white and bright white?

Basic whites like Swiss Coffee have subtle creamy or beige undertones that soften the shade. Bright whites like Pure White have no warm pigments, allowing for a crisper, cleaner white.

How do I know if a white paint color will look good in my lighting?

Test paint samples at all times of day to see how natural and artificial light affects the shade. Warm antique whites suit south facing rooms, while bright whites work better in north light.

Why do some white paints turn yellow over time?

Certain paints contain pigments prone to yellowing when exposed to UV light and heat. Avoid this by selecting a high-quality white paint specifically formulated to stay true over time.

Should I get a sample of white paint in eggshell or semi-gloss?

Get white paint samples in the exact finish you plan to use. Sheen dramatically impacts how the shade looks. Eggshell shows more undertones while gloss mutes them.

Is it ok to mix brands of paint when repainting kitchen cabinets?

It’s best to stick with the same brand and line of paint. Chemical variations in paints mean colors can look slightly different between brands.

How do I get a smooth, professional paint finish on cabinets?

Proper prep and applying thin coats with high-quality brushes and rollers results in an even, flawless finish. Sanding between coats also enhances smoothness.

What sheen of white paint is most durable for cabinetry?

Semi-gloss paint provides the hardest, most scrubbable finish. Satin nicely balances durability with a smooth appearance. Flat paint finishes much too easily.


The perfect white paint color can make dated oak or stained cabinets look fresh, clean, and modern. Choosing that ideal shade and finish for your space requires carefully considering the existing cabinet color and style along with the lighting. Sample several whites in eggshell, satin, and semi-gloss. Look at them throughout the day before deciding. With thoughtful planning and preparation, you can pick a white paint that transforms your cabinetry into the stunning focal point it deserves to be.