How to Colors for Kitchen Cabinets

What color springs to mind when you think about painting kitchen cabinets? Chances are, you thought of white.

However, there are no rules for choosing a paint color for your cabinets and you have a huge range of choices. You can color block. You can paint the cabinet boxes and doors different colors. You can even leave some of the natural wood.

Look at the overall style of your kitchen and home. If your style is minimalist and sleekly modern, choosing a single classic color or perhaps color blocking will look best. If your style is country or cottage, you can paint only the doors, leaving the boxes natural wood, for an old-time effect. Choose colors that complement your counter tops and flooring.

Consider color blocking. Color blocking can be either subtle and classy, or dramatic. It depends which paint colors you choose. This means painting your cabinets in 2 different colors. Most typically all the lower cabinets are painted a darker color, and the upper cabinets are painted lighter. If you have dark counter tops, choosing a matching color for the lower cabinets unifies your kitchen. Or, as an example, if the prominent colors in your wallpaper or counters are pale blue and pale yellow, doing the lower cabinets blue and the upper ones yellow to match can really tie the whole kitchen together.

Paint the doors only if the cabinet boxes are in good condition but the doors are worn. (You can always paint the rest of the cabinets later.) This can look very good in an older-style kitchen or period home. Even if you are still thinking white is the proper color for cabinets, consider a creamy white or pale beige to set off your woodwork.

Remove the doors and paint the boxes and frames if your cabinet doors are in great condition and you just want to change the look. I have seen this done with dark wood doors and glossy black painted frames, which is a very classy effect.

Pick a color you love. If you have no unifying color in your kitchen and simply want a fun look, your options are wide open! Sage green, pale terracotta, buttery yellow...go to a paint store and pick out all the paint swatches you find appealing. Spread them out in your kitchen. Discard the ones you instantly dislike, and narrow your choices down to a few. Then go get sample quarts, paint pieces of cardboard and lean them up against the cabinets to see how they look in real life and under different lighting. Remember that paint stores can match anything you bring in so a favorite print, fabric or wallpaper sample can all be custom matched.


  • Update your cabinet pulls, knobs and hardware, too.


  • If you opt for pure white, be aware this can take at least an extra coat of paint; many off whites will hide much better.

About the Author

Stevie Donald has been an online writer since 2004, producing articles for numerous websites and magazines. Her writing chops include three books on dog care and training, one of which won a prestigious national award in 2003. Donald has also been a painting contractor since 1979, painting interiors and exteriors.