Cabinet Paint vs Wall Paint: What's the Difference?

If we told you how many times we get asked this question, you wouldn’t believe us. It’s one of the most common questions we get from clients during consultations for kitchen cabinet painting projects. And it’s a valid question! After all, paint is paint, right? Wrong! There are actually quite a few differences between cabinet paint and wall paint, and it’s important to know what they are before making any decisions about your own kitchen cabinet painting project. Here are the key differences between cabinet paint and wall paint.


How many times do you interact with your kitchen cabinets every day? If you’re like most people, the answer is multiple times. Whether you’re reaching for a pot or plate, opening or closing a cabinet door, or simply leaning against the counter, your cabinets see a lot of use on a daily basis. As a result, they’re subject to a lot of wear and tear.

Given this level of use, it’s no wonder cabinet paints are designed to be more durable than wall paints. That’s right; cabinet paint is generally more resistant to chipping, scratching, and staining than wall paint.

Paint Sheen

The next time you visit* Pinterest, home improvement sites, or kitchen exhibitions*, take a careful look at the different finishes between the kitchen walls and cabinets. More often than not, you’ll notice that the cabinets have a high-gloss or satin finish, while the walls are often available in a flat or eggshell finish.

The reason for this is that cabinet paint typically has a higher level of sheen than wall paint. However for the past 4 years or so, the standard has been to move away from high gloss and use a satin finish. This is because a higher level of sheen can make imperfections on cabinets more noticeable. In addition, satin and eggshell finishes are more forgiving when it comes to touch-ups.

Need for Priming

Another major difference between cabinet paint and wall paint is the need for priming. Generally speaking, only raw drywall or drywall mud needs to be primed. When we re-paint walls, we don’t prime anything that has the original paint on it. For cabinets, on the other hand, unless they are already painted we always prime them. If we’re painting cabinets for the first time (ie. a stained wood cabinet is being painted, it will always need to be primed before painting.


If you try painting cabinets with wall paint, you’ll quickly find that it doesn’t adhere well to the surface. This is because cabinet surfaces are often slick and difficult for wall paint to grip. Cabinet paints contain special adhesives that help them to better adhere to cabinet surfaces. In addition, cabinet paints are usually thicker than wall paints, providing an additional layer of protection against chipping and flaking. As a result, cabinet paints are the best choice for painting kitchen cabinets and other surfaces that receive a lot of wear and tear.


Cabinet paints have higher costs because they contain more resins, which makes them more resistant to scratches, staining, and fading. In addition, they are often formulated with special pigments that help to camouflage imperfections and provide a high-quality finish. However, the extra cost is well worth it for the added durability and beauty that cabinet paints provide.

Drying Time

For the uninitiated, it’s easy to assume that all paints require the same amount of time to dry. However, there are actually significant differences between wall paint and cabinet paint in terms of drying time. Cabinet paint takes significantly longer to dry than regular wall paint, often taking several hours or even days.

Ease of Use

Ease of use is another major difference between cabinet paint and wall paint. Oil-based paints used on cabinets are difficult to use as compared to wall paints. This is because oil-based paints require a more careful application, as they can smudge and drip easily. In contrast, wall paints are much easier to apply.

That said, both wall and cabinet painting require some level of expertise, and it is always best to hire a professional to do the job. Otherwise, you run the risk of making a mess or damaging your surfaces.

So there you have it! Those are just a few of the key differences between cabinet paint and wall paint. When it comes time to renovate your kitchen, be sure to keep these things in mind so you can make the best decision for your space.

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And if you’re looking for the best painters in the Overland Park and Kansas City area, be sure to give Great Plains Painting a call. We’ll be happy to help you transform your kitchen and home into the space of your dreams!