Cabinet Paint Vs Stain: What’s The Better Choice?

Cabinet Paint vs Stain

Cabinet Paint vs Stain? Cabinet paints are a better alternative as compared to cabinet stains. Painted cabinets appear smooth. Thus hiding the wood’s grain.

People often get confused between the two options as both have a set of predetermined qualities which set each other apart. The differences between the two will be elaborated below on the basis of cost, durability, appearance, and maintenance.

This article will provide a holistic view of all the factors that must be considered when deciding to paint or stain cabinets. We will also highlight the better choice between cabinet paints and cabinet stains.

The Difference Between Kitchen Cabinet Paint And Stain

Listed down below are all the differentiating factors between staining and painting cabinets.


The best choice is cabinet paints if you prefer to cover the wooden grains.

However, you can opt for cabinet stains if you want to provide an aesthetic yet vintage look to your cabinet. This is because even though the stains add color to the wood, they do not cover the grains.

An edge that cabinet paints have over cabinet stains is that it provides users with a diverse range of color options. In the case of cabinet stains, the color palette is quite limited.


When choosing between two options, price plays a vital role in influencing decisions. This is a long-term investment because people rarely alter the color palettes of their cabinets.

Painting can require extensive labor, so the overall cost of cabinet painting is higher than staining them.

The price would vary depending on several factors. The kind of wood used to make the cabinets would play a role in determining the number of coats required to paint the cabinet.

Moreover, you may want to get the paint or stain customized depending on the color palette of the rest of the furniture. This would significantly increase or decrease the cost.

However, it would be fair to conclude that cabinet stains are cheaper than cabinet paints.


Durability is another crucial factor. This is because you want the paint or stain to be reliable and not wear off with time.

Even though the price point of cabinet paints is higher than that of cabinet stains, these tend to be more reliable and durable.

Paints are resistant to damage as they tend to form a protective layer on wooden cabinets. Any rust, dirt, or debris cannot make its way through that layer.

On the other hand, staining is less durable and reliable because the chances of wearing off with time are high. Cabinet stains tend to wear off a lot sooner than cabinet paints.

Cabinet stains are not resistant to damage either. This is one of the reasons why cabinet staining is less costly than painting.


Cabinet stains tend to take the lead in terms of maintenance. This is because cabinet paints require a lot of maintenance. Hence, people are pretty protective of them because of their high cost.

Suppose you have a pet or children at your home. In that case, cabinet stains are a better alternative, as scratches tend to show more easily on smooth surfaces.

Cabinet stains do not cover the wooden grains, due to which scratches and chips do not become that prominent.

As professional painters, we suggest maintaining the color but not covering the scratches. Maintenance of the color in the case of cabinet paints only happens sometimes.

How To Choose Between Paint Or Stain For Kitchen Cabinets

Here are some factors that you need to consider when deciding between paint or stain:

Personal Taste and Style Preferences

Every user has a different personality and style. It’s always best to replicate your homes in a way that best depicts or aligns with your personality.

If you prefer the appearance of natural wood, then the stain is your pick. The grainy texture would reside and add to the overall beauty of the kitchen.

However, suppose you prefer everything to be tailored to your liking. Then, the color of the paint, smoothness, shine, etc., all of these things are important. You can get all this with cabinet paints because cabinet stains fail to deliver these features.

Cabinet paints look groovier and more modern compared to cabinet stains.


In today’s world, every individual is running on a budget. Especially in the case of interior designing, users most definitely tend to plan their cash outflows.

But you have to consider the amount of labor necessary in both cases. Cabinet paints require more labor than cabinet stains. The cost of materials is also higher in cabinet painting. So you need a higher budget if you want cabinet paints.

It also depends on the way you think. If you have a long-term approach for everything, then cabinet paints are a better alternative as they will save money. Refinishing would hardly be required.

However, if you have a short-term approach and tend to get bored with the color palettes, then cabinet stains are a better choice.

Lifestyle and Usage of the Kitchen

Some kitchens are used more often than others. Kitchens in most households are the busiest stations around the house.

Cabinet paints are more reliable and durable as they wear off at a slower rate as compared to cabinet stains. The protective layer it provides makes it a better choice for users, considering the high traffic and spillage.

Desired Level of Maintenance

This entirely depends on your routine. If you do not spend most of your time at home, then you don’t have to worry about cleaning and maintenance.

However, if you spend most of your time at home and utilize your cabinet shelves often, there will be wear and tear. And then you will need high levels of maintenance.

As professional painters, we want to inform you that painted cabinets need more touch-ups than stained ones. But on the other hand, staining would require refinishing more often than painting.

Tips For Choosing The Right Finish

Below are some tips to help you decide on the correct type of finishing.

Consider the Overall Design and Color Palette of the Kitchen

Analyze the overall interior of your house and kitchen. Opt for cabinet stains if you have a wooden touch in your furniture.

However, if the rest of the furniture does not have a natural look of wood, then cabinet paints would be a better alternative. The paints or stains must complement the overall interior of the house.

Consider the Type and Quality of the Cabinetry Material

In most cases, the type and quality of wood used to make the cabinets play a huge role in determining which option to choose.

The style and quality of wood need to be compatible with the paint or stain being used. Since cabinet paints are more reliable, these would align well with high-quality and expensive wood.

Consider the Desired Level of Customization

The level of customization provided by cabinet stains is inferior to that provided by cabinet paints.

Painting offers a wide variety in terms of color options. However, if you want to add to the overall beauty of natural wood, then cabinet stains should be your go-to option.

Consult with a Kitchen Designer or Professional Painter/Stainer

Making a sound and informed decision when choosing between the two alternatives is essential.

An expert kitchen designer would add to your knowledge and find the best fit for your kitchen cabinets. This would guarantee high-quality results.


Q: What are the main differences between cabinet paint and stain?

A: Paint and stain differ primarily in terms of coverage and appearance. Paint is typically thicker and provides a solid, uniform color that covers the wood’s grain. Stain, on the other hand, is thinner and seeps into the wood, enhancing the wood’s natural patterns and textures.

Q: Can you explain the cost implications of choosing paint over stain for cabinets?

A: Generally, the cost of paint can be higher than stain, especially if you’re opting for high-quality, durable paint. However, the overall cost also depends on labor. Painting can be more labor-intensive and time-consuming than staining, which could lead to higher labor costs if you’re hiring a professional.

Q: How do I decide whether to paint or stain my kitchen cabinets?

A: The decision between paint and stain often comes down to personal preference and the style of your kitchen. If you prefer a modern, sleek look, paint might be the better choice. If you want a more natural, rustic look that showcases the wood’s grain, stain could be the way to go. Also, consider factors like durability, maintenance, and cost.

Q: Can you discuss the pros and cons of staining versus painting cabinets?

A: Staining can highlight the natural beauty of the wood and is typically easier to touch up than paint. However, stains may not cover wood blemishes as effectively as paint. Paint offers a wider variety of colors and a more modern look but can be more labor-intensive to apply and harder to touch up.

Q: Is it easier to stain or paint cabinets, and why?

A: Staining is generally considered easier because it requires fewer coats than paint and doesn’t require a primer. However, staining requires a more meticulous application process to avoid uneven color.

Q: How does the appearance of paint compare to stain on kitchen cabinets?

A: Paint provides a smooth, uniform, and often brighter appearance. It hides the wood grain but can cover wood blemishes effectively. Stain, on the other hand, enhances the wood grain, giving cabinets a more natural, rustic appearance. However, it might not hide wood blemishes as well as paint.

Q: What makes kitchen cabinet paint different from stain?

A: Kitchen cabinet paint is designed to be more durable and resistant to the common kitchen issues like moisture, grease, and food spills. It’s typically thicker and provides a solid, uniform color. Stain is thinner and designed to penetrate the wood surface, enhancing its natural patterns and textures.

Q: How does paint versus stain affect the texture of wood cabinets?

A: Paint tends to create a smooth, uniform surface that covers the natural wood texture. Stain, on the other hand, soaks into the wood, preserving and enhancing the natural wood texture and grain.

Q: Can you describe the visual difference between white cabinet stain and paint?

A: White paint provides a solid, uniform, and bright white color. It hides the wood grain but can cover wood blemishes effectively. White stain, on the other hand, gives a softer, muted white tone that allows the wood grain to show through.

Q: What are the arguments for and against painted or stained cabinets being superior?

A: Advocates for painted cabinets argue that paint offers a wider variety of colors, can cover wood blemishes effectively, and fits well with a modern aesthetic. Those in favor of stained cabinets appreciate the natural, rustic look that showcases the wood’s grain, the ease of touch-ups, and often lower costs. The choice between painted or stained cabinets ultimately depends on personal preference

Conclusion: Cabinet Paint Vs Stain

You cannot make the decision between the two alternatives in isolation. You must consider all the factors, such as appearance, user’s personality, overall budget, and the extent of customization.

In some factors, one option would be superior to the other one. If cost is not a problem and a high level of customization, durability, and quality is desired, then cabinet paints are a better option.