Design and Decor

The Best Paint For Trim And Cabinets

What Is The Best Paint For Trim And Cabinets?

The best paint for trim and cabinets is pearl sheen, semi-gloss finish and high-gloss sheen, all of them provide durability and easy to clean surfaces. Pearl sheen adds dimensions to any surface while high-gloss finishes demand everyone’s attention which can give any space an elegant and glam look. However, if you want your space to have a modern feel and one that is easy to live with, choose a semi-gloss finish which is a paint finish that is great for high-moisture, high traffic areas like your kitchen and bathroom cabinetry and it is a paint finish that works well with crowns molding. Choose a paint color that also works good based on your room’s orientation and colors that have matching undertones.

Understanding Various Types Of Paint

What Are The Most Common Type Of Primers?

  • Water-based: Shares characteristics of oil-based and latex primers; works well with acrylic and latex finish.
  • Oil-based: Versatile, weather-resistant; works well with enamel finish.
  • Latex Paint: Use this type on wood, masonry, drywall, metal, and plaster.
  • Shellac-based: Great for trim interior or any interior paint projects because it dries fast and blocks stains.

When To Use And Not To Use A Primer?

Primer is used to seal bare surfaces and provides a paintable base. If you sanded your molding or cabinet doors, primer application is necessary to prevent paint bleeding or if your moldings are painted with glossy paint finishes. Surfaces with glossy finishes do not provide a good surface for the paint to adhere to and the primer’s rough, porous texture helps paint stick. However, primer application is not needed if you are applying a slightly different color and with the same color undertone. But, if you are going to paint them from light to dark or from dark to light, ask your paint store retailer to tint your primer. One coat of a good primer ensures a blank canvas for the new color and this will prevent an old color from showing through.

If your moldings or cupboards are stained, it is the great choice for you is to use a primer to give a more durable look and it also provides the best results as it prevents stain bleed-through. For all exterior moldings, priming is a must since they are more exposed to the harsh elements of nature.

What Are The Main Types Of Paint?

  • Oil-Based / Enamel Finish – This enamel paint is commonly used on moldings, cabinetry and furniture because it creates a smoother finish than water-based paint as it also gives a protective coating.
  • Water-Based /Latex Paint – This is also known or refereed to as “acrylic latex” because it contains acrylic or polyvinyl resin to improve adhesion. It is also less toxic than oil-based finish and easier to clean up which is why this type is commonly used on ceilings and walls. On surfaces that are previously painted with flat oil-based or latex finish, the water-based or acrylic finish works or adheres well. However, it may not work well with surfaces painted with high-gloss finishes and will rust the bare steel.
  • Alkyd Paint – This new paint combines natural base with water but has oil paint’s durability. It’s odorless and dries quickly (less than an hour).

How To Know If Your Trim and Cabinet Doors Are Painted With Oil or Water-based Paint?

  • Soak a white cloth with rubbing alcohol and then rub it on the wall a few times. If the paint does not remove the color, then the surface is painted with oil-based finish. However, if the paint softens and the color transfers to the cloth, then the surface is painted with water-based paint.

What Are The Various Types Of Paint Finishes?

Below are the different sheens to choose from:

  • Pearl Sheen – It has a medium sheen and is a long lasting paint. A pearl finish is easy to clean and adds dimension to any surface which makes it ideal for walls, moldings, cabinetry and doors. However, this type of finish requires professional painters as it is more likely to show any brush stroke imperfection.
  • Semi-Gloss Finish (durable finish) – A semi-gloss finish not only provides a stylish look but a durable finish that protects surfaces from moisture. This type of sheen makes it a great choice for cabinetry, cupboard doors, and window molding.
  • High Gloss Finish – This high-gloss finish provides a smooth finish and makes it easy to clean-up surfaces which makes it ideal for molding.
  • Satin Sheen – A satin finish provides moisture and mildew resistant protection which makes this type of finish ideal for kitchens, bathrooms and other high traffic areas. It has a pearly and silky like finish.
  • Eggshell Sheen – This type of sheen is easy to clean. It’s a good option between flat and glossy. It’s flatter than glossy sheen but still durable and protective.
  • Flat Sheen – This flat paint finish does not reflect light and therefore conceals paint flaws or brush marks more than any other type of finish. It also rarely shows dirt, and has a smooth surface. Flat finish is always used for ceilings and is great for drywall.
  • Matte Sheen – Matte finishes hide imperfections and brushstroke flaws. It is the best finish for large walls and therefore the best choice for your living room over a satin finish. However, matte-finish walls are more difficult to clean, and spills or messes must be cleaned immediately to avoid staining.

What Are The Right Painting Tools?

  • Nylob-bristle brush is a brush use for water-based paint with natural bristles and is for oil-based paint.
  • Foam Brushes are ideal for painting molding however they’re only good for one time use.
  • Angled – Sash Paintbrush – Angled bristles make cutting into corners and painting moldings easier.
  • Painting Pads – These are great for trimming. The pads’ wheels let you paint up to the molding without getting paint on it. Carefully dip the pad face into the paint, avoiding the rollers.
  • Paint Sprayers – A high-volume, low-pressure sprayer is a paint sprayer design to create a professional finish. It’s good for painting both exterior and interior walls and crown or molding. This can be used on oil and water-based paint. Remember to always protect yourself from fumes by wearing a dust mask or respirator.
  • 4 inch High-Density Foam Roller Covers – These are the ideal roller covers when painting untextured surfaces.

What Is The Best Paint For Each Trim Material Type?

Bare Wood

This type is ideal to use, if you are planning to stain your molding instead of painting. Staining bare wood molding does not need a primer, just do heavy staining. However, if you are planning to paint them, seal the interior wood molding with shellac based primer. The shellac based primers seal knots and sap streaks. They have a strong smell, but dry quickly and do not bleed through the top coat.

  • You can use either water or oil-based paint products for wood moldings as long as you prime them before painting.
  • Use water-based premium paint and primer for bare wood made of white fir lumber, pine wood or types of wood without tannins.
  • Use oil-based paint for bare wood molding made of cypress, cedar or types of wood that give off tannins or that bleeds.

Primed Wood

This type is less expensive than bare wood and will definitely cut the installation time because you do not need to wait for the primer to dry.

  • When painting primed wood, match the paint to the primer as it will help the paint and primer bond and fuse together.
  • You can use either water or oil-based finish for this type of  material. The majority of professional painters recommend latex paint for interior primed wood molding like Rust-Oleum 285140.

MDF (Medium-Density Fiberboard)

This is the most popular type of interior window molding because it is the cheapest. However, it will not work well in wet and humid areas.

  • For this type of material, MDF, you need to protect the edges of the board before painting them by applying primer undercoat. Look for a solvent-based primer like Zinsser MDF because they work well as a sealer and primer for MDF material but oil-based products like KILZ will also work.
  • The use of oil-based paints are the most recommended paints for MDF because it works well with the solvent-based primer coat. But, it needs the addition of paint thinner and needs continuous ventilation because of its strong smell of chemical vapors.
  • Acrylic paints that are not water based or acrylic paints that are ready to use without the need of adding water to achieve the proper consistency of the paint are a great option to oil-based paint products.


Made of rigid foam, it’s a cheap, easy-to-work-with trim option. It’s typically ready to paint and might give you an impression that you are working with wood because it cuts like wood.

  • Prime application for this type of material may not be needed but it gives a protective layer and makes paint adhere well. Latex primer is the suited primer for polystyrene trim.
  • This type of material can be painted with either water-based paints or oil-based paints.

PVC Trim

This type is ideal for exterior moldingf because of its durability against sunlight and just like Polystyrene, it cuts like wood and a great option for wet areas. This also can be use as interior trim.

  • A popular choice for PVC is the use of 100% acrylic latex. This is the type that works well with PVC trim aside from the fact that it provides durability and is an easy to clean surface. However, avoid using darker color pigments as it may absorb a good amount of heat energy that may cause the paint to start peeling or cracking.
  • PVC  paint needs 30 days to cure so moisture can escape through its surface.
  • Consider the use of Sherwin Williams paints for PVC as they are among the best.

What Is The Right Paint Primer For Each Cabinet Doors Material Type?


Paint adheres well to a scuffed surface, so painted wood cabinets are ideal. Sanding the surface improves paint adhesion and results in a smoother finish. This is important if your cabinets are stained or have a glossy finish. You need to first remove the finishing layer with sandpaper or with the use of liquid deglosser. Natural wood cabinets need little-to-no sanding. They absorb a lot of paint, especially latex paint. A primer will help ensure this even and thorough coverage.

  • Kilz Adhesion High-Bonding primer is a water-based primer that has the great adhesion and makes it ideal for new wood, composites and any surfaces with a glossy finish before sanding.

Wood Veneer

If your cabinetry have a wood veneer (a thin layer of real hardwood over a pressed material), you must sand them first. Check the veneer for loose edges, chips, or cracks before sanding or painting. Before sanding, repair with wood glue. Don’t sand too much; just make the surface rough enough for primer and paint to stick.


Painting MDF cabinetry is simple if you prepare them properly. Seal the edge and use an oil-based primer when painting MDF cabinetry. MDF edges are porous, so you’ll need to seal them with a drywall compound to prevent swelling during painting. Do not use water-based primers as it can swell the porous surface of MDF but use oil-based primer instead.

  • Zinsser B-I-N Multi-surface Primer is an all-purpose primer and sealer ideal for MDF.


They can be painted, but it’s trickier than wood or MDF. Printed plastic laminate is adhered to a base layer (usually a composite material). You’ll need to prep the slick material for a quality finish.

What Is The White Paint Color That Works Well For Interior Trim And Cabinets?

Below are recommended white paints color combinations by Benjamin Moore according to room orientation.

For kitchens facing north, below are some of the suitable white colors that you can choose from that provide various levels of warmth depending on the amount of natural light that gets into your space:

best paint for trim and cabinets

  • Benjamin Moore White Dove OC-17 with semigloss or high-gloss finish is the suitable white for your trim as it works well with your cabinetry painted with the following white paint colors, Cotton Balls OC-122, White Chocolate OC-127 and Powder Sand OC-113.

  • Benjamin Moore Chantilly Lace OC-65 with matte or eggshell finish is the  white for your molding and ceiling if your kitchen is facing south. This Chantilly Lace paint blends well with cabinet doors painted with Decorator’s white OC-149, Vanilla Milkshake OC-59 or Cloud Cover OC-25.

best paint for trim and cabinets

  • Benjamin Moore Chantilly Lace OC-65 with semi-gloss or high-gloss sheen is the suitable  white for your molding and ceiling for kitchens that are facing east. This recommended white paint color for trim and ceiling works well with cabinetry that are painted with Mayonnaise OC-85, Mountain Peak White OC-121 or Simply White OC-117.

best paint for trim and cabinets

  • Benjamin Moore Chantilly Lace OC-65 also works well for molding and ceilings in kitchens that are facing west. This color works well with White Heron OC-57, White Wisp OC-54 or Winter White OC-21.

Discover more about the white paint color for kitchen cabinets, see The Best White Paint For Kitchen Cabinets From Sherwin Williams.

Hope you find my guide on the best paint for trim and cabinets helpful and that it helps you on your next home improvement project!

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