HomeMy ProjectsKitchen Remodel and DesignHow to Choose Your Kitchen’s Best Cabinet Paint Colors

How to Choose Your Kitchen’s Best Cabinet Paint Colors

Posted on January 2, 2024 by KylieMawdsley
This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through links on our site, we may earn a commission.

KITCHEN CABINETS, ISLANDS, & MORE

When it comes to updating a kitchen, painting the cabinets is one of the BEST bang-for-buck ideas out there. But, unless you have pro-skills and the patience of a saint, it ain’t for the faint of heart.

So, I’m going to share some tips and tricks for getting it right the first time, as not only have I consulted on HUNDREDS of cabinet projects via my E-Design, but I’ve also painted DOZENS of pieces myself (because I am a glutton for punishment).

And keep in mind, that there are SO many exceptions and other considerations (i.e., flooring/exposure/style/etc…) and I can only hit SO many things on my wee lil’ blog. What I’ve tried to cover are the BASICS and some tips to get you on the right path. And if you need advice from there, I offer online color consulting services and am more than happy to help!

Stainless steel appliances, Sherwin Williams Pure White painted cabinets, wood oak floor, countersplash, island wood, gray brown quartzite quartz countertops, wood island, wood floor, Kylie M Interiors International paint color expert.

Before we get started, I know this might hurt, but guess what?

It’s not about what you WANT – it’s about what your kitchen NEEDS.

If you and your kitchen want the SAME thing, then hells bells, we’re on a roll! However, every week, I find myself talking clients off the ‘white cabinet cliff‘ and into colors that are more suited to their kitchen and its specific needs.

Your kitchen needs to be able to visually support the color of the cabinets – and not every kitchen can support bright white, grey, or whatever cabinet color is on-trend. More often than not, I’ve discovered that kitchens prefer soft white, off-white, or even cream.

But, how do you figure out what the right color is?

You keep on readin’.

Kitchen with Chelsea Gray, subway tile, black laminate countertop, stainless steel, Gray Owl paint on the walls (3)

 

STEP 1. KNOW WHO THE BOSS IS

Most people refer to their countertop and its needs when choosing a cabinet color. And sure, it’s important, but the backsplash is MORE important. Why?

The backsplash and cabinets are on the same vertical sightline, which means they’re more visually connected than the cabinets and countertops, as the counters are horizontal. 

That’s right, because your countertop is horizontal, it plays second fiddle to your backsplash when you’re choosing kitchen cabinet colors. If you don’t have a backsplash then, of course, your counters call the top shots.

Kitchen, wood floor, MSI Miraggio Duo white quartz countertop, gold brass cabinet hardware, Benjamin Moore Chantilly Lace Kylie M Interiors, online paint color consulting, marble subway tile backsplash.

If you don’t have a backsplash…

Read the next info, and mentally, replace the word ‘backsplash’ with countertop (where it makes sense to do so).

 

STEP 2. YOUR FINISHES WILL TELL YOU WHAT THEY WANT

Now that we know the backsplash is in charge (your counters are in second place; you’re in third place – wink wink), look at your backsplash.

  • What are its main colors – white, cream, beige, gray?
  • Is your backsplash warm or cool-toned?

Revere Pewter kitchen cabinets, Cambria Brittanica warm quartz, URbane Bronze island, oak wood floor. Kylie M Interiors Edesign

IF YOU HAVE MOSTLY WARM TONES IN YOUR BACKSPLASH 

Depending on the exact tones in your backsplash (as well as considering the countertop’s needs), you might be able to explore a few cooler shades too…

Kitchen cabinets painted Farrow and Ball Pigeon, green blue gray blend paint color, zellige tile backsplash, white quartz. Client photo from Kylie M Interiors Ed

The 13 Best Blue-Green Blend Paint Colors

IF YOUR BACKSPLASH IS MOSTLY COOL-TONED

Hexagon marble tile on wall behind vanity, quartz countertop, High Reflective White cabinets. Kylie M INteriors Edesign, online paint color consultant

And yes, it was hard to get a photo of this bathroom without being in it! Not that I’ve ever been camera-shy…

 

IF YOUR BACKSPLASH & COUNTERS ARE A MIX OF WARM & COOL TONES

If your backsplash (or counter) has a range of tints, tones, and colors, this can give you a bit of flexibility to venture into warm OR cool colors, however, when it comes to whites, you need to go with the MAJORITY color (so if your backsplash/countertop is MOSTLY warm-toned, you’ll want to go with that).

off-white beige cabinets, Sherwin Williams Moderate White, granite countertop, travertine tile backsplash, beige walls. Kylie M Edesign, online color consultant

Backsplash Ideas to Update Your 2000s Kitchen

And when it comes down to it – SAMPLE SAMPLE SAMPLE until you hit the right spot (it’s my motto with wine and men as well – just joking on one of those Tim).

 

IF YOU WANT TO PAINT YOUR CABINETS A COLOR (NOT A NEUTRAL)

You’ll want this to be a colour that is in the countertop or that directly complements/accents it. Don’t pull a color ‘out of nowhere just because you love it’, make sure it makes sense!

Benjamin Moore Bachelor Blue, best blue-violet with off-white walls, marble backsplash. Island and kitchen cabinets painted. Kylie M Interiors

Notice how the blue cabinets tie into the marble backsplash.

On the other hand, if your surfaces are easy to please (like this laundry room below) and don’t make many demands, have FUN with any color you love!

Laundry room cabinets painted Benjamin Caldwell Green, White Dove walls, black aplliances, sink. Kylie M INteriors Edesign, client photo

The green is a contrast/complement to the subtle gray-violet veining in the quartz countertop. 

The Best Medium to Dark Green Paint Colors

 

STEP 3. CONSIDER YOUR COUNTERTOPS

This section ONLY APPLIES if your kitchen also has a backsplash. If you don’t have one (you only have countertops), you got the info you needed in STEP 2 – skip forward to STEP 4. 

Once you’ve narrowed down the color candidates based on the needs of your backsplash, look at your countertop to make sure everything still jibes. If your finishes are well-coordinated, you should be good to go!

Budget friendly bathroom update ideas, formica calacatta marble laminate countertops, hexagon tile backsplash. Chelsea Gray vanity. Kylie M E-design

Maple wood kitchen cabinets painted Benjamin Moore White Down. Kylie M E-design, online virtual paint consulting. Granite countertop, backsplash, glass cabinets, maple wood flooring

How to Update Cream Cabinets & Trim

However, in my Online Color Consulting, at least 50% of the time, the backsplash and countertop aren’t that well-coordinated – especially in homes from the early to mid 2000s.

When surfaces aren’t well-coordinated, they often have different needs. This means that potentially, what looks AWESOME with your backsplash could be a huge miss with your counters. Here are a few considerations…

1. Save your money until you can change your backsplash and/or countertop so they suit each other.

2. Paint your cabinets the color that best suits the backsplash, as again, it calls the shots based on being vertical with the cabinets. Sure, your color might not be 100% with your countertop, but it might look better than it currently does…and sometimes that has to be good enough.

3. Paint your upper cabinets a color that suits the backsplash and paint your lower cabinets a color (darker than the uppers) that suits the countertop. Not every mismatched kitchen can pull this off, but maybe yours can – it’s worth sampling!

While the backsplash and countertops are well-coordinated in this next kitchen, it just shows how pretty a two-color cabinet palette can look…

White quartz kitchen, Benjamin White Dove upper cabinets, Antique Pewter green lowers. Maritime White beige walls. Kylie M Edesign update ideas

Cathedral Kitchen Cabinet Update – Before & Afters

 

STEP 4. SAMPLE YOUR CABINET COLORS THE RIGHT WAY

Stop buying sample pots full of cheap, contractor-grade paint.

Samplize uses the actual paint from each brand on their peel-and-stick samples.

KYLIE M INTERIORS ONLINE PAINT COLOR CONSULTING, SAMPLIZE PEEL AND STICK ON THE WALL, REVIEW

And, they’re more affordable than sample pots, soooo (check them out HERE).

 

WHERE TO PLACE YOUR PAINT SAMPLES

When sampling paint colors for kitchen cabinets or bathroom vanity, you might think the best spot to put your sample is right ON your cabinet. Nope, the top, most important spot is…

  • with the backsplash; directly beside it AND on it, as if it doesn’t look good here, it won’t look good anywhere
  • directly underneath the lip of the countertop – the open edge of the sample should meet up with the countertop (shown below)
  • lastly, on the lower portion of your upper cabinets (don’t forget the white paper surround!)

how to sample peel and stick paint colors, Samplize on travertine backsplash

Green toned granite countertops with Benjamin Moore AShwood Moss Samplize peel and stick sample, violet gray toned laminate floor. how to pick a paint color with Kylie M

Samples should always be 100% vertical – light reflects differently off angled or horizontal surfaces.

 

STEP 5  HOW TO CHOOSE A PAINT COLOR FOR YOUR KITCHEN ISLAND

If you don’t have an island, scoot on down to read my HOT TIPS for choosing cabinet colors. 

While the backsplash calls the big shots for the main cabinets, your COUNTERTOP calls most of the shots when it comes to island paint colors. This is because, between the three finishes, the countertop and the island are the most closely connected.

Kitchen and eating nook with Sherwin Austere Gray, best gray green, Pure White kitchen cabinets, island. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, CLIENT PHOTO

 

1. MATCH A COLOR IN  YOUR COUNTERTOP – EITHER THE SAME DEPTH OR DARKER

A great way to create a kitchen color palette that flows is to connect the dots. Choose an island color that is THE MATCH for a color in your countertop – make it the same depth or try it a few tones darker.

Cream painted kitchen cabinets, Benjamin Moore Linen White, island Chelsea Gray, black granite and speckeld granite island, oak flooring. Kitchen update

The 4 Best Paint Colors for Islands & Vanities

 

2. CONTRAST A COLOR IN YOUR COUNTERTOP

You can also add contrast to your palette by choosing a color that complements but doesn’t match any of the colors in your countertop. This is most successful with colors that are medium depth or darker.

how to sample paint colors, Samplize peel and stick on dark cherry red kitchen island. beige tile floor. Kylie M. Taj Mahal quartzite counters

The 6 Best Dark Greige Paint Colors

 

HOT TIPS FOR PICKING YOUR BEST CABINET OR ISLAND COLOR

  • If you have a white backsplash and want white cabinets, just as with white walls and trims, these two whites must be exactly the same. If you choose a brighter white for your cabinets, your backsplash could look yellow-dingy in comparison. On the other hand, if your backsplash is a bright white and you choose a soft white for your cabinets, your cabinets could look dirty and off-tint.
  • If you’re updating your backsplash and painting your cabinets, check out the top tile trends for 2024.
  • Ge Cafe White appliances can be tricky to coordinate and match cabinet colors with. If you have them or are thinking of getting them, read this first.
  • You might think that having black or relatively solid-colored countertops guarantees you any white, and while they can make life a bit easier, you still need to consult with your flooring, backsplash, and appliances (black appliances tips / white appliances tips). And sadly, I can’t cover all of these things in one blog post which is why I refer to as many links as I can to help you along.
  • If you’re wondering if your cabinets should be lighter or darker than your wall color, there’s no real rule for how much lighter/darker your cabinets should be, other than it’s ideal to have 20+ LRV points between your wall and cabinet color (learn about LRV).
  • If you can’t decide whether to have white or non-white cabinets, white is the MOST timeless cabinet color that never truly goes out of style. While it’s not the best color for every kitchen and won’t suit every person, it has the most mass appeal and flexibility. Learn about timeless home finishes here.

There are ALWAYS exceptions, I’m just here to cover the most common queries.

White kitchen cabinets, white quartz countertop, whitewash wood floor. Magnolia Teak Cups on island, Sherwin High Reflective White cabinets. Kylie M Interiors Edesign CLIENT PHOTO

 

MY FAVORITE CABINET PAINTS

In my world, there is one CLEAR fave for cabinet paint…

Benjamin Moore Advance in pearl finish. And no, I don’t get paid to say that, I pay myself in wine and personal high-fives – that’s it. Seriously though, this is a GLORIOUS paint and gives a close-to-factory finish look (not including your painting skills, which I can’t account for). I tried the semi-gloss one time, just to SEE what it was like and if you like surfaces that you can see your own reflection in, then you’re golden.

I also like Sherwin Williams Emerald Urethane. And because it says ‘urethane’ a lot of people seem to think it’s an oil paint, but it’s water-based and anyways, NOBODY uses oil anymore – well, except 65-year-old painters, they love that stuff. I find the sheen of the Emerald Urethane to be JUST slightly lower than BM Advance, which is why I lean toward BM. I’ve heard of a few complaints regarding SW All Surface Enamel being a bit gummy, so I’ve stayed away from that one.

And these paints aren’t CHEAP my friend, but if you’re looking to save money – you should look elsewhere as when it comes to cabinets, you need it done right the FIRST time. GOOD prep, GOOD primer and GOOD quality application products (oh, and good advice helps too – wink wink).

I know you probably have questions and while I try to cover as MUCH as I can with my blog posts if you need some one-on-one help…

edesign, virtual paint colour consulting. Kylie M Interiors Benjamin Moore, Sherwin Williams color expert. marketing (29)

READ MORE

Should You Paint Your Cabinets or Keep Them Stained: A QUESTIONNAIRE

The 5 Best White Paint Colors for Kitchen Cabinets

Before & After: Painted Kitchen Cabinet Projects

How to Update Your WOOD Kitchen Cabinets Without a Drop of Paint

Chat soon,

Kylie M Interiors, decorating blog, e-design, online colour consulting expert. signature



Comments

  1. I have painted BM linen white cabinets that I would like to paint a brighter white. They are chipping a little now. Is it possible to paint them myself or do I need to hire someone to paint them? thanks!

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Magda! Well, it depends on a few things…

      1. How excited you are to do prepwork. You’ll want to sand/feather those chips out, along with giving the cabinets a once over sand/clean/prime, it’s definitely a commitment
      2. What type of cabinets you have. If they are smoother, ie: maple, it can be trickier to do a good DIY as it’s MUCH easier to see the flaws vs a grainy wood like oak.

      If you feel TOTALLY confident in your prep/painting skills and commit to what is a pretty major project, then yes. Otherwise, I’d hire out. It’s such a major part and if it isn’t done right it will cost more to fix them!

      ~Kylie

    1. Great article! We are currently trying to pick cabinet colours for a house we just bought. Our countertops are a darker blue quartz and so is out back splash. Any tips? I’m trying to avoid white.

      1. Post
        Author

        Ooo, that can be TOUGH. Some homes do best with wood cabinets in the end! I mean, without SEEING the cabinets, you could maaaaybe pick up some kind of gray with a blue undertone, ie: SW Tinsmith, but its hard to say!

  2. I want to change my countertop and I have no backsplash also, I am keeping my existing cabinets. Where do I start first the backsplash or counter. Also what should I bring with me when I go to look for this. Thank you

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Diane, I would DEFINITELY start with the countertop first! Take your cabinet paint sample with you (or a drawer front) a sample of your flooring (or atleast a good photo of it 🙂 Once you’ve got your countertop picked you can coordinate the backsplash in!

  3. I just picked orientalists white granite.. we have white cabinets ets (dove white) and the granite looks greenish…
    Was supposed to be taupe black white gray… so picking a backsplash .. the architectural gray seems to go with counter tops, but it also enhances the green undertones.
    I am panicking… building a house, for excto make a quick decision… help!

  4. Useful practical information with photos to demonstrate your specific points is well appreciated! I have a 10 year old builder kitchen with warm busy counters and builder cool white cabinets. I have hesitated replacing the conflicting backsplash as it won’t completely solve the problem, but it will slightly improve the situation. Your point of keeping the elements in the same visual plane cohesive makes sense and I appreciate the way you explained it. Thanks!

  5. Hi. Great information.
    We have picked a white quartz with grey veins and decided to go with glossy white subway tiles, Benjamin Moore eagle rock cupboards and drawers.
    This is for our basement… what do you think?

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Maha! EAgle Rock is beautiful. It’s a solid medium toned warm gray, so it has brown and purple in it. Now I can’t tell you it will suit your quartz as gray will have undertones of either blue, green, purple or a mix of those, so it will depend on what your quartz has! 🙂 I can say that a slightly safer bet would be SW Dovetail.

  6. I have read this post 100,000 times and I am still at a loss at what color to paint my cabinets !:/ I am currently waiting for your suggestions for my dining room and have finally convinced the hubby that the dark kitchen and olive green walls (with even darker olive green trim,,,,ugh!!) has to go. We have a quote for all (cabinets, walls, trim and ceiling) but now its color-picking time, but unfortunately you are out of stock ….boo 🙁 Luckily, the contractors use Sherwin Williams paint so we are all good there, but the want to use semi-gloss… better stop that in its tracks!! Guess I’m off to the Sherwin Williams store. If I am not back in a week or so, call 911 🙂

  7. Hi Kylie,
    I recently painted my sunroom/living room SW Canvas Tan 50%. That room connects to our kitchen through a pennisula. I am wondering what shade of white I should paint the pennisula, and all of the cabinets. I am imagining something warm, but not yellow. I like the crisp clean look of white, but not stark white. Also wondering what shade of gray for our new quartz countertops that I want to purchase. Thoughts? Thanks!

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Heidi! You will definitely want to choose your countertop before the cabinet colour as the countertop will TOTALLY dictate your white options! That being said, Canvas Tan isn’t a colour that I’d normally put with a gray quartz, but that being said, I haven’t seen it 50% lighter and there are some gray quartz countertops that could humour a warmer wall colour like Canvas Tan. In the VERY near future I will be offering ‘countertop selection’ on my site, but it’s just not quite ready to launch yet!

  8. Question to Kylie or maybe Sherwin Williams color consultant
    I am trying to find info about Sherwin Williams trim and cabinets emerald utherane trim , is comes with two base colors, extra white and hi hide wide ( versus regular pant hi reflective white). I wanted my cabinets to be the lightest white.
    How different is hi hide white form HRW?
    Thank you!

  9. Hi Kylie, great post. Quick question – what is the color of the kitchen cabinet in the 1st picture you’ve posted under Tip 2 – we like that color and want to test it out

    1. Post
      Author

      Ahhhh, good choice Brijesh! That’s actually my own kitchen. While the manufacturer had to match it for me, it’s basically Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter approx. 25% darker :). A warm gray with a soft green undertone.

  10. Hi Kylie – I stumbled upon your site a few weeks ago and I am so glad I did! Your articles are so comprehensive and I now have a better understanding of “undertones” in paint colors. Can you please tell me what the cabinet color is and name and colour of the granite and backsplash in the kitchen under tip #4. I love it! I was considering painting my cabinets BM Muslin and having Caroline Summer granite for my island with black backsplash. Going to do what you did and use laminate for the base cabinets. Do you think this would jibe? Living in Newfoundland, as you might imagine, my choices for granite are limited. Thanks so much! You are an inspiration!

  11. Hi Kylie,

    What is the cabinet paint color in the very first picture on this blog? It looks like a grayish backsplash with a warm granite countertop. I have both of these in my kitchen and I am trying to decide which color to paint my walls and (fugly) cream cabinets. Thank you!

    1. Post
      Author
  12. Hello, I have to say, your articles are so informative, thank you.
    I would like your opinion on something. We’re getting custom made cabinets for our kitchen/dining room which is one big room, We’re thinking of getting the cabinets in Nimbus BM but I don’t kbow what colour to do for the island. I got the idea from one of your articles to match NImbus with Urbane Bronze for the island and I am considering that but I’d love to know what other colour I can use for subtle harmony between cabinets and island rather than bold contrast. I see the monotone rooms and I love them. There’s .subtle contract rather than bold. Would you have any suggestions? My wood floor is a mix of warm grey and warm tan and black streaks engineered wood . The quartz countertop and backsplash will be white with some veining of black and a touch of beige (hardly noticeable) in there too. Thanks!

    1. Post
      Author

      You’re welcome! Overall, I’d be careful for a few reasons. 1. gray isn’t trendy anymore – this doesn’t matter at ALL if you love it, it can affect resale value down the road 2. The depth and violet-hue of Nimbus will make it that bit trickier to coordinate wall colors with. Third, I would be less-inclined towards a more subtle main cabinet/island look, again, because we’d be leaning into that violet undertone and a color like Baltic Gray, which is that bit more moderate, coudl be too violet. I woudl rather see the cabinets ALL Nimbus if you want to stick with gray :).

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

More Posts

Meet Kylie

Thank you for visiting!  I'm so glad you're here!  Come on in to learn a little more about me!

Categories