Difference between Cabinet paint and Regular paint – Clear Guide 2024

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By Jacob G. Turner

Renovating a kitchen is an expensive transformational process. While the costs of new cabinets, countertops, and appliances have been on the rise, painting your existing cabinets seems like a cheaper and more viable option.

Cabinets usually take up the largest amount of a room’s space, so re-modeling them gives a new and transformed look to a kitchen while staying within the budget. But choosing the correct primer and paint for your cabinets requires thorough research.

And the first contradiction that comes to mind is Regular paint Vs Cabinet paint.

The basic difference between cabinets paints and normal paints is that cabinet paints are scratch-resistant, high-quality paints. These paints have added adhesives to make the paint sticky and prevent wear and tear in the future. Regular paints, also called latex paint, are not durable, do not provide a smooth finish, and mostly need to be primed for use.

cabinet paint

The article will elaborate on the differences.

Types Of Paints For Kitchen Cabinets

Dull and discolored surfaces can be covered up by repainting the kitchen cabinets, but choosing the correct paint is difficult. Listed below are various paints that can paint your kitchen cabinets.

Oil-based paint

These paints have been the most commonly used paint for getting the best painted kitchen cabinet. Reasons for this include easy application, good coverage, durable finish, the ease with which surfaces can be cleaned, and residues can be removed without the worry of spoiling the paint.

It takes long hours to dry out – almost 16 hours per coat- which means painters might have to wait for multiple days if there is no air circulation in your kitchen.

If the lighting in your kitchen is low, cabinets covered with Oil-based paint might seem to take a yellow tint, making your kitchen look dirty. These paints are highly flammable and unsuitable for our environment since they can’t be disposed of.

Additionally, oil paints release a higher amount of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) than other paints, resulting in throat, nose, and eye infection, dizziness, headache, and other adverse effects in the future.

Latex-Based Paint

Latex paint seems better for painting kitchen cabinets, considering the criticism of oil paints for cabinets. These paints dry up quickly and produce lower levels of VOCs comparatively.

With the advancement in paint formulas, many water-based paints have made using latex paint easier. Most of the newly introduced latex based paint for cabinets provides higher durability and scrubbing resistance.

Repainting your cabinets with these paints would also require some preparation work. Latex-based paints bind fully with the surface regardless of whatever type of paint the surface was coated with before.

But one must keep in mind that some of the binders in the paint are vinyl resins, so the chances of paint peels and flakes are greater.

Alkyd-Enamel Paintcabinet paint

Since Alkyd-enamel paint is water-based paint, it is easy to clean up the supplies with water only. These paints provide a durable, tough finish so the kitchen can be cleaned to avoid discolored surfaces, and these paints do not require a topcoat.

It can be said that Alkyd-enamel paint possesses all the good qualities of Oil-based paint and does not possess the bad qualities (bad smell and need for solvent to clean up). These paints work best if the surface is primed before painting it. Alkyd-enamel paints are a little more expensive than conventional paints, even with all of their advantages.

Interior Acrylic-Latex Cabinets

Interior Acrylic-latex gives surfaces a smooth finish and glossy appearance. These paints provide a shatter-resistant mirror-like finish, and the paint does not crack easily. These paints have a UV light, scratch-resistant, and moisture-resistant nature, making them easy to clean. While they have many benefits, these paints are difficult to replace and require frequent cleaning.

Interior Acrylic-Latex Cabinets can be divided into acrylic facing and solid acrylic doors. Acrylic-faced doors have an extensive application process and are comparatively less expensive. Solid acrylic doors are completely acrylic, which means they have an even richer color appearance.

Can I Use Regular Paint On My Cabinets?cabinet paint

As discussed above, regular paints can be used on cabinets, but the finish would not be as smooth and durable as enamel paints. Usually, paints with an oil base are used for kitchen cabinet painting, but they would cause a yellowing effect if not exposed to enough lighting.

This paint also requires proper ventilation and a large amount of drying time. On the other hand, latex paints have numerous advantages and can be used easily, but they flake off easily, reducing their durability.

Acrylic-latex paint is considered the most suitable paint used for painting walls, doors, masonry, and art and crafts. Kitchen cupboards can also be painted using Whitewash, also known as Limewash and chalk paint.

To use common wall paint for previously painted kitchen cabinets, you must sand the surface using medium grit sandpaper to ensure the paint sticks to the surface.

A primer will also have to be used if painting laminate, older wood, or unfinished wood surfaces. After completing the paint, you will have to seal the top paint coat with varnish or wax. This would ensure that the paint does not come off when wiped.

Regular Paint vs. Cabinet Paint

Now that you know all the information required to understand the difference between regular paint and cabinet paint, we can move on to the comparison part.

Type Of Solvent Used.

One of the major differences between regular and cabinet paints is the type of solvent used. Regular paint is usually water-based paint which means the solvent used is water. Cabinet paint is usually Oil-based paint which means they use an organic solvent.

Volatile Organic Compounds Emission

Cabinet paints are mostly Oil-based paints, so they emit high amounts of VOCs as it is made up of plants and petrochemicals. These VOCs are extremely unhealthy for the human body.

On the other hand, regular paints are water-based, so they release fewer VOCs into the atmosphere and are considered better for human health and the environment.


Adhesion is an essential feature of paint that ensures that the coating remains held with the surface. Cabinet paints have added adhesives, making them easier to stick to the surfaces.

These paints also save the surfaces from wear and tear. Regular paints, on the other hand, do not have any added adhesives, so the surfaces have to be primed before painting kitchen cabinets.


The durability of the two types of paints varies significantly. Cabinet paints are better quality, scratch-resistant paints which can last for longer periods. Regular paints, on the other hand, have lower durability.


Cabinet paints have more benefits than regular paints, so they have higher costs.

Final Texture

Regular paint and cabinet paints differ greatly in their final textures. Cabinet paints give a smooth and shiny finish to the cabinets. On the other hand, regular paints give a more matte and consistent finish when painted on walls.

Drying time

Both Regular and cabinet paints are used on different surfaces and thus require a different amount of time to dry up. Cabinet paints require a lot more time to dry up than regular paints, which require just a few hours.

Ease of Use

Regular and Cabinet paints differ in the ease with which they can be used. Oil-based paints used on cabinets are difficult to use as compared to latex paints that are used for regular painting.

Environmental Friendliness

Oil paints that are used on cabinets are toxic and hazardous. These paints cannot be disposed of, making them extremely unsuitable for the environment compared to latex paints used on walls.


Oil-based paints used on cabinets have an extremely strong smell. Latex paints, on the other hand, have a lighter smell.

What Happens If You Don’t Sand Cabinets Before Painting?

Sanding cabinets before paint application is important as it provides the surface with a strong grip by developing small ridges for the paint to stick efficiently. It is extremely important if the surface has imperfections, i.e., is damaged or chipped off, as sanding gives a smooth finish to the surface.

Not sanding the cabinet surface before painting would result in an uneven finish and uneven color patches. The paint would peel off/ rip off in a small period, i.e., it would have low longevity.

However, if you want to do it, going about the following steps will decrease your losses.

Steps for Painting Kitchen Cabinets without Sanding

  1. Remove Cabinet doors/drawers and wash them.
  2. Rub the de-glosser on each door, following the direction of the grain.
  3. Wipe the de-glosser completely using rags, and then let the surface air dry.
  4. Apply a bond coat on the surface following the direction of the grain.
  5. Leave the bond coat for 2 hours to dry.
  6. Apply another coat and let it dry for 2 more hours.
  7. Apply topcoat for added protection and sheen.
  8. Reinstall cabinets and drawers the next day.


While there is a wide variety of paints available in the market, all paints come with advantages and disadvantages. You have to know which type is made for what purpose and use them accordingly.

The best paint in the market for cabinet painting is interior acrylic-latex paint. This will make your cabinets look smart and glossy. It will also preserve and enhance the durability of your cabinet. Avoid regular paints for cabinets if it is not the last option. Explore the vibrant world of paint and unleash your creativity with our in-depth guide to colours, techniques, and inspiration. Dive into the art of painting and discover the endless possibilities of this expressive medium.

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