7 Best Oil-Based Paints for Cabinets

People constantly handle and use wood cabinets, which means they often need a fresh coat of paint more often than other less-used parts of the home. If you’re looking to paint your cabinets for the first time or give them a recoat using oil-based paint, it can get overwhelming quickly due to all the available choices.

Due to its high durability, many homeowners use oil-based paint for cabinets throughout their homes. Many great oil-based paints are available, including ones from Sherwin Williams, Glidden, Behr, Valspar, and more. Oil-enriched paints can be an excellent alternative to oil-based paints with fewer toxic emissions.

There are quite a few boxes a paint must check to be a good option for painting kitchen or bathroom cabinets. Especially with kitchen cabinets, people often extensively use them, and they are often front and center in many homes. You want to choose a paint that is pretty to look at and highly functional and long-lasting.

Best Oil-Based Paints for Cabinets in Your Home

When shopping in a paint store for the best kitchen cabinet paint, you’ll notice tons of paint brands. Each brand has a wide selection of paints, all with specific strengths and weaknesses.

The two primary types of paint include:

Water-Based Paint

Fillers, pigments, and a binder are all mixed in water. Their low content of volatile organic compounds (VOC) made it a popular paint since the new VOC standards went into effect. Due to their low level of VOCs, they are environmentally friendly paint with minimal to no negative health effects.

Latex paint often called acrylic paint, it’s water-based paint containing plastic resin made of acrylics or polyvinyl to adhere to better to surfaces. In latex paint, the binder is latex, the pigment is acrylic, and the water content is thinner.

Oil-Based Paint

Oil-based paint uses natural oils, such as linseed oil, or synthetic alkyd as a solvent thinner. A pigment and resin are mixed in the solvent thinner. As the thinner evaporates, the resin hardens into a durable finish coating. Oil-based paints are used on wood surfaces primarily.

Oil-based paint contains higher VOCs and is considered more harmful for the environment compared to water-based paints.

Alkyd paint has an enamel finish and has a similar viscosity to oil paints. Alkyd paint, on the other hand, does not contain any oil and works very differently than oil. Because it contains chemical binders and thinners, it is often referred to as oil-based paint.

Even if you’ve narrowed your search to only oil-based paints, the wide available selection can still be overwhelming.

When painting cabinets using a semi-gloss finish is a good choice because it’s easier to clean with warm water and can hide minor imperfections. Semi-gloss paint is a good choice for trim paint or cabinet paint.

A satin finish paint can hide more imperfections but doesn’t clean as easily as semi-gloss paint.

A high-gloss finish is the easiest to clean, but the high sheen won’t hide imperfections as well.

Painting wood cabinets with at least two coats of paint is recommended. Allow ample drying time between applications. A thin single coat should be used for the first application. The second coat produces a truer color. You can use a foam roller to achieve a smooth finish on the top coat.

Below is a list of some of the best oil-based paints for cabinets, which we’ll discuss more in-depth in the following few sections.

BrandPaintPrice Range
Diamond BriteOil Based Enamel Interior/Exterior Paint$
GliddenDoor & Trim Interior/Exterior Oil Paint$$
Rust-OleumHigh-Performance Protective Enamel$$
BehrOil-Base Enamel Interior/Exterior Paint$$
ValsparCabinet and Furniture Oil-Enriched Enamel$$$
Sherwin-WilliamsAll Surface Enamel Oil Base Paint$$$
ValsparDoor & Trim Oil-Enriched Enamel Interior/Exterior$$$

1. Diamond Brite Oil Based Enamel Interior/Exterior Paint

Diamond Brite is a relatively newer paint company founded in 1990. The company has quickly gained a positive reputation for its budget-conscious paint offerings. If you want to get quality oil-based paint without breaking the bank, Diamond Brite is a brand you should look into and consider.

The Oil Based Enamel Interior/Exterior Paint by Diamond Brite is a highly versatile paint that works on nearly any cabinet material. You can get this paint in quart, gallon, or five-gallon quantities and twelve unique different colors. It is also highly durable paint that is resistant to wear and has a high sheen that makes it easy to touch up. Additionally, this paint has a relatively low VOC emissions level of 2.39 pounds per gallon.

The price and this paint’s various other positive qualities make it a great oil-based paint option for oak cabinets. However, there are a few downsides to keep in mind. The paint’s high gloss, while good for durability and touch-ups, can easily clash with your home’s decor if you’re not careful.

2. Glidden Door & Trim Interior/Exterior Oil Paint

Glidden has a very long history (dating back to 1875) and an excellent reputation. They have a wide selection of paints available at nearly every price point, including some excellent oil-based options for painting cabinets.

The Door & Trim Interior/Exterior Oil Paint by Glidden has a lot of good things going for it. You can use it for various projects, ranging from painting cabinets to painting your backyard fence. It is highly durable, resistant to scratches, and has a glossy sheen. Glidden also uses their Gel-flow innovation in this paint to improve application and reduce brush strokes.

There are some possible disadvantages to consider with this paint too. Some customers report the paint being too thick for proper application, possibly due to Glidden’s Gel-flow, but it is not a widespread sentiment. Depending on the paint color you choose, the VOC emission levels could range from 7.81 to 9.22 pounds per gallon. Compared to similar paint options, these levels are relatively high.

3. Rust-Oleum High-Performance Protective Enamel

With a history dating to 1921, Rust-Oleum has an excellent reputation for its rest-preventative products and paints. The company offers a wide selection of paints at various price points to meet nearly any budget.

The High-Performance Protective Enamel by Rust-Oleum is very heavy-duty and versatile. It is a very industrial product with a fast dry time, good coverage, and a long lifespan if applied correctly. Its impressive durability makes it a contending option for painting cabinets because it can stand up to the near-constant use cabinets often experience. It also has great resistance to moisture which is a plus for use in a kitchen.

Like many other oil-based paints on this list, this one also has a high gloss sheen that can clash with your home’s decor if you’re not careful. The cans used for this paint are also reportedly not the best quality, so transport and use carefully. VOC levels for this paint vary depending on sheen and color, but the white color option emits 3.75 pounds per gallon. Comparatively, the VOC emission level is relatively low.

4. Behr Oil-Base Enamel Interior/Exterior Paint

Founded in 1947 and exclusively sold at The Home Depot, Behr has established itself as a leading paint brand that homeowners and professional painters trust. Behr paints tend to be on the more budget-friendly side of things while still delivering a quality product. 

Behr’s Oil-Base Enamel Interior/Exterior Paint is an excellent paint with fantastic durable qualities that make it perfect for painting cabinets. It is easy to apply and works on almost any cabinet material that you can imagine. This paint works well in locations with lots of use, as it’s easy to wipe down, doesn’t degrade under household cleaners, and withstands moisture exposure well.

VOC levels for this paint are relatively low at 3.05 pounds per gallon. However, anecdotal customer reviews state that the fumes from this paint are incredibly potent, so make sure to paint with care and ensure your home has adequate ventilation before starting your project.

5. Valspar Cabinet and Furniture Oil-Enriched Enamel Paint

Valspar is a reputable company, now owned by Sherwin-Williams, founded in 1806. With such a rich history, Valspar has become a leading paint company with a great reputation for its extensive budget-conscious lineup.

The Cabinet and Furniture Oil-Enriched Enamel Paint has a lower VOC emissions level than others because it is oil-enriched and not entirely oil-based. It has latex interior paint with added oil to give it some of the advantages of full oil-based paint without many downsides. Valspar specially formulated this paint for use on cabinets, so it’s sure to work well when giving your home’s cabinets a fresh coat of paint.

There are very few bad things to say about this Valspar paint. Because it is not entirely oil-based, it does have a bit of a different texture and less durability than other options on this list. But with a VOC emission level of 0.42 pounds per gallon, it’s pretty hard to disregard this paint as a viable option when painting cabinets.

6. Sherwin-Williams All Surface Enamel Oil Base Paint

With a history dating back to 1866, Sherwin-Williams is a well-known paint brand with an excellent reputation. Sherwin-Williams paints are typically more expensive, but it’s often well worth the cost compared to cheaper alternatives, considering the quality you’re getting.

The All Surface Enamel Oil Base Paint by Sherwin-Williams is a great option for painting cabinets in your home. This paint is exceptionally durable, so it can withstand the near-constant wear and tear that cabinets must endure. It’s extremely resistant to environmental factors and adheres to nearly any cabinet material.


Some customers have critiqued this paint, saying it is difficult to apply due to its thick consistency. While it’s something to consider, it should not be a problem with proper mixing. VOC emissions are relatively low but not insignificant at 3.68 to 4.15 pounds per gallon.

7. Valspar Door & Trim Oil-Enriched Enamel Interior/Exterior

As mentioned above, Valspar is a paint company with a long history and a positive reputation. And just like the Valspar paint mentioned above, this one is also oil-enriched, which means it has a latex base with added oil to reap the paint application benefits of the ingredient without the elevated VOC levels.

Because the Door & Trim Oil Enriched Enamel Interior/Exterior Paint by Valspar isn’t fully oil-based, you don’t have to use turpentine or mineral spirits for cleanup—warm water and soap work great. It’s still highly durable, can stand up to regular wear, and can even withstand the outdoor elements.

The VOC levels for this paint aren’t unnoticeable, but they are relatively low at 0.42 pounds per gallon. Using the Valspar paint explicitly formulated for cabinets mentioned earlier in this post will get you the best results, but this is a close second if you cannot get your hands on the other for whatever reason. 

Are Oil-Based Paints Good for Painting Cabinets?

Paint consists of various ingredients, including solvents, additives, pigments, and resins. When choosing paint for your cabinets, a vital consideration is the formula’s resin ingredient (sometimes called the binder or base ingredient). There are three broad categories of paint bases:

  • Water
  • Latex
  • Oil

Each paint base has its unique characteristics. However, an important one to pay special attention to is volatile organic compound (VOC) emission levels. VOCs are toxic fumes that many paints emit when drying and when cured. Generally, oil paints emit significantly higher VOC levels than water and latex-based paints.

Despite this, many people find that oil-based paints are the perfect combination of durability, ease of application, and texture for their cabinets. To find out or ensure oil-based paints are the best option for your project, let’s take an in-depth look at the benefits and drawbacks of this paint type.

Advantages

Homeowners have used oil-based paints for a long time, and there are plenty of good reasons why. Below are some of the advantages of using oil-based paints:

  • Durability – Oil-based paints are extremely durable and scratch-resistant. Cabinets experience lots of handling and slamming, which can take a toll on the paint. The extreme durability of oil-based paint stands up to wear and tear without a problem.
  • Paint Finish – The finish of oil-based paints is exceptionally smooth and can help hide imperfections on the surface below. Cabinets with minor scratches and dents can benefit from paint that doesn’t accentuate these imperfections.
  • Application – While oil-based paints are thicker than other types and somewhat more challenging to apply, it usually only takes one coat of oil paint to cover a surface. There’s less drip, and you don’t have to take the time to apply a second paint layer.

Disadvantages

No single type of paint is perfect, and as such oil-based paints have plenty of disadvantages that you should consider. Below are some of the most significant downsides to using oil-based paints:

  • Volatile Organic Compounds – VOCs are a major concern when painting indoors. While a small level of VOC emissions is acceptable with adequate ventilation, you still want to limit your exposure to them as much as possible. Always take the necessary safety measures when using oil-based paints.
  • Color Retention – When first applied, oil-based paints are extremely substantive and rich in color. However, over time they tend to lose their vibrant color more quickly than other paints with either water or latex bases.
  • Cleanup – Cleaning oil-based paint is more complex than water or latex-based paints. OIl-based paint requires turpentine or mineral spirits to lose its adhesion when cleaning up, while other paint types only need warm soap and water.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is oil-based paint good for kitchen cabinets?

Oil-based paint is often considered better for kitchen cabinets because it covers the wood well and sometimes just one coat is enough. It also creates a harder surface that is less likely to stain and is easy to clean. However, oil-based paints tend to fade over time more than other types of paint.

Is it better to roll or brush paint cabinets?

You can brush paint wood cabinets, but it might be better to have a professional do it to reduce brush marks. Painting cabinets with a roller is faster than with a brush, but use a foam roller instead of a fabric roller. Fabric rollers will create a textured surface. The texture a roller leaves behind on wood cabinets makes it unsuitable for high-gloss paints.

Is it better to brush or spray cabinets?

Most professional painters will brush paint rather than spray wood cabinets. Brush painting reduces waste and requires less paint job prep work. While spray painting is faster, additional paint coats are required as the paint often has to be thinned to spray evenly.

With high-quality cabinet paint, brush painting creates a professional, smooth finish in about the same amount of time.

Can you paint over oil-based cabinets?

You can paint over oil-based painted cabinets. You’ll need to:

  1. To begin, lightly sand the surface with a fine-grit sandpaper or sanding block and clean it with a sponge soaked in TSP (trisodium phosphate) and water solution.
  2. Allow the cabinet surface to dry completely.
  3. Use an oil or latex bonding primer to seal it. You can go with a latex primer for latex paint. If using an oil-based primer, use an oil-based paint.
  4. Allow the primer to dry completely.
  5. Apply two coats of new paint in your desired color.

Can you paint kitchen cabinets without primer?

With high-quality latex paint and primer in one, you can paint kitchen cabinets without primer. You’ll still need to do a light sanding on old paint or use a commercial de-glosser to remove the old finish and thoroughly clean the cabinet surface.

Failing to thoroughly prep and clean the cabinet surface can cause the paint to fail prematurely.

What do professionals use to paint kitchen cabinets?

Previously, professional painters only used oil-based paint for kitchen cabinets. However, oil-based paint is no longer the best paint for cabinets and is even illegal to use in residential homes in six states. Professional painters today prefer latex paint because of advances in formulation and is more environmentally friendly than oil-based paints.

How to paint kitchen cabinets without brush marks?

You can use a foam roller to apply the finish coat and achieve a smooth finish without brush marks when painting kitchen cabinets. Most professional painters will initially brush paint the primer and first coat of paint. Using a foam roller on the second coat (finish coat) will even out the paint application for a flawless finish.

Final Thoughts

There’s a lot to think about when preparing to paint cabinets in your home. Oil-based paints can be a good option as long as you know the downsides and handle the VOC emissions with care. Paint can emit small VOC levels even after the paint has dried and cured, so it’s always best to get the lowest VOC paint you can in the first place. Long-term exposure to VOCs can have some severe adverse health effects.

When choosing paint for cabinets, always check the durability, VOC fume off-gas levels, and ensure it comes from a trusted brand. There’s a lot to consider, but choosing paint can become less stressful if you focus primarily on the important factors listed above.

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Hubert Miles

I've been conducting home inspections for 17 years. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and FHA 203k Consultant. I started HomeInspectionInsider.com to help people better understand the home inspection process and answer questions about homeownership and home maintenance.
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