3 Best Materials for Painted Cabinets (With Pros & Cons)

wood kichen cabinets
  • Best material for painted cabinets: Soft Maple, Poplar, MDF
  • Top choice for a premium look: Hard Maple
  • Budget-friendly option: Plywood
  • Custom cabinets and unique look: Solid wood options like Oak, Cherry, or Hickory

Hey there, friend! Are you planning to give your kitchen a fresh look by painting your cabinets? You’re in the right place!

I’m here to help you find the top materials for painted cabinets, and I promise it won’t be overwhelming.

In fact, it’s going to be a fun journey exploring various materials and discovering their pros and cons. By the end of this article, you’ll have a solid understanding of your options, and you’ll feel confident making a decision.

So, let’s dive in!

Top 3 Materials for Painted Cabinets

MaterialCost RatingDurabilityAesthetic AppealEase of Painting
Soft Maple$$★★★★☆★★★★☆★★★★★

Detailed Material Analysis

Soft Maple: The Balanced Choice


  • Medium density
  • Hardness and strength
  • Close-grained
  • Fine textured


  • Highly paintable
  • Durable
  • Cost-effective
  • Great aesthetic appeal


  • Slightly more expensive than other options

Soft Maple is a popular choice for homeowners looking for a balance between cost and quality. It offers a fine texture and close-grained surface that accepts paint well, ensuring a smooth and even finish. Additionally, it boasts good durability, making it an ideal option for kitchen cabinets that will withstand daily wear and tear. Although it might be slightly more expensive than other options, the overall benefits make it a top choice for painted cabinets.

However, it is important to note that Soft Maple can be more susceptible to humidity changes, which may cause slight movement. Proper sealing and maintenance can help prevent this issue and ensure your cabinets remain looking their best.

Poplar: A Versatile Pick for DIYers


  • Lightweight
  • Straight-grained
  • Uniform texture


  • Inexpensive
  • Highly paintable
  • Easy to work with


  • Less durable compared to other options
  • Can dent easily

Poplar is an affordable option for homeowners on a tight budget. It has a straight grain and uniform texture that makes it easy to paint and work with. Despite its low cost, Poplar does have some drawbacks. It is less durable than other materials like Soft Maple and can dent easily.

For those looking for an inexpensive option, Poplar can be a good choice, but it may require extra care and maintenance to keep it looking its best. If durability is a top priority, you may want to consider other options with a higher durability rating.

MDF: The Low-Maintenance Buddy


  • Engineered wood product
  • Smooth and uniform surface
  • Highly stable


  • Cost-effective
  • Dimensionally stable
  • Easy to paint


  • Susceptible to moisture damage
  • Can be tricky to finish

MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) is another budget-friendly option for homeowners looking for a stable and easy-to-paint material. Its smooth and uniform surface allows for a flawless paint finish. However, MDF can be susceptible to moisture damage, making it a less-than-ideal option for areas with high humidity or water exposure.

When choosing MDF for your painted cabinets, it is crucial to ensure proper sealing and maintenance to prevent moisture damage. Additionally, while MDF is generally easy to paint, it can be tricky to finish, especially when used for door panels. In such cases, you may need to use a combination of MDF and solid wood for the best results.

Other Materials for Painted Cabinets

While Soft Maple, Poplar, and MDF are popular choices for painted cabinets, there are other materials you might consider for different purposes. Here, we will discuss a few more options and their respective advantages and disadvantages.

Hard Maple


  • Dense and strong
  • Light and consistent color
  • Fine textured and close-grained


  • Highly paintable
  • Durable
  • Great aesthetic appeal


  • Expensive compared to Soft Maple

Best for:

  • High-end kitchen cabinets
  • Homeowners seeking a premium look

Hard Maple is an excellent choice for homeowners seeking a premium look for their painted cabinets. It shares many characteristics with Soft Maple, including high paintability and durability, but it is denser and stronger, making it more suitable for high-end applications. However, it is more expensive than Soft Maple, so it may not be the best option for those on a tight budget.



  • Strong and lightweight
  • Versatile material
  • Available in different grades and finishes


  • Cost-effective
  • Stable and resistant to warping
  • Easy to paint


  • Lower-quality plywood may have visible imperfections

Best for:

  • Budget-friendly cabinets
  • DIY projects

Plywood is a versatile and cost-effective option for painted cabinets. It is strong and lightweight, making it easy to work with for DIY projects. Additionally, it is stable and resistant to warping, ensuring your cabinets maintain their shape over time. However, lower-quality plywood may have visible imperfections that could affect the final appearance of your painted cabinets. Always choose a higher grade of plywood for the best results.

Solid Wood (Oak, Cherry, or Hickory)


  • Varying densities and strengths depending on the type
  • Distinct grain patterns and colors


  • Unique aesthetic appeal
  • Durable and strong


  • Expensive
  • May require more preparation for painting

Best for:

  • Custom cabinets
  • Homeowners seeking a one-of-a-kind look

Solid wood options like Oak, Cherry, or Hickory offer unique aesthetic appeal for your painted cabinets. Each type has its distinct grain patterns and colors, making your cabinets truly one-of-a-kind. These materials are durable and strong, but they can be expensive and may require more preparation for painting, such as filling in the grain or applying a primer. These options are best suited for custom cabinets and homeowners seeking a unique look.


In a nutshell, choosing the best material for your painted cabinets depends on your priorities, budget, and desired aesthetic. Soft Maple, Poplar, and MDF are popular choices due to their paintability and cost-effectiveness. On the other hand, Hard Maple, Plywood, and solid wood options like Oak, Cherry, and Hickory offer unique benefits for different purposes.

Remember, when it comes to picking the best material for painted cabinets, it’s all about understanding the characteristics, pros, and cons of each option. So, take your time and make an informed decision that meets your needs and helps you create the perfect cabinets for your home.

If you’re a beginner in the world of painted cabinets, I hope this guide has helped you navigate the sea of options. Armed with this knowledge, you can now confidently choose the best material to suit your needs and preferences. Happy painting!