Types of Kitchen Cabinet Finishes

written by Kasey White
last updated: October 23, 2023

Kitchen renovations are among the most significant projects that homeowners undertake. Most kitchens have storage spaces with shelving, pantries and cabinets, and kitchen renovations often seek to increase this space. The design of your kitchen cabinet doors and handles plays an integral part in the end aesthetic and the right kitchen cabinet finish will pull the whole space together.

Kitchen cabinet finishes are the last application of color that carry the tone, feel and theme of the kitchen. Learn more with our comprehensive guide to the best finish for kitchen cabinets.

Categories of Kitchen Cabinet Finishes

There are four major cabinet finish types — wood stains, paints, laminated and melamine colors. You can also update the look of kitchen cabinets with glaze add-ons and embossed or textured options.

Wood Stain

A wood stain is a protective layer that is brushed onto the wood. Kitchen cabinet wood stains act as a seal that prevents the wood from rotting and gives added protection against moisture and the sun.

Stains also allow you to change the entire look and feel of the wood — for example, you can stain a wood cabinet with a Saddle finish, changing it from a light, sunny color to a dark warmth. The stain is usually applied, dried, sanded and then stained again. This process continues until the desired effect and color are achieved.

Stain effects usually are different depending on the wood material they are being used on. For example, a Ginger stain on cherry wood comes out like a warm sunset. But the same ginger stain used on Maple wood comes out a lot lighter.

Oak tends to be a medium to dark wood, so stains come out slighter darker than they would on Hickory, a lighter-toned wood. To ensure you get the look you're going for, consult a kitchen cabinet stain expert.

Kitchen Cabinet Paints

Painted kitchen cabinets usually have a solid color finish. Unlike a stain, little to no wood grain will show through painted cabinets. Painted cabinets are well suited for houses looking for a sophisticated or modern finish.

As the paint is thicker, it creates a finish that is easy to keep clean and has added durability. It can also match or complement other colors in your home, creating a sense of harmony. Kitchen cabinet paints come in various colors, from the beachy holiday house feel of the colors Pebble, Whisper and Cape to cottage kitchen vibes of Olive Pewter, Oyster White Granite and Divinity.

Colors aid in setting the mood and undertone of the room. Warm colors create a cozy atmosphere, whereas paler and white shades make the kitchen look larger. Colors tend to trend over time, so it is usually better to find one that suits you and your personality rather than simply following the trends. However, you can still look at trends to be inspired, and you can always repaint your kitchen cabinets whenever you want a fresh look.

Browse through samples with a professional, as there are many different shades to choose from.

Kitchen Cabinet Glazes for Paints or Stains


A glaze is an added layer usually brushed over already painted or stained cabinets. The glaze can be its own color, either lightening, darkening or otherwise tinting the color that's already there. Glazes are opaque, so they can only guide whatever colors are underneath rather than changing them entirely. Glazes also have the advantage of adding an effect or texture to the cabinet.

Glazes also offer added protection and act as a strong sealant. They tend to be water resistant, allowing splashes from the kitchen sink to roll off as opposed to being absorbed by the wood. They provide extra protection against stains, rot, insects and fading.

Kitchen cabinet glazes add the perfect finishing touch to your kitchen cabinet. Browse our inspiration gallery to look at glaze finishes for your choice of stain or paint.

Laminated Kitchen Cabinets

Laminated kitchen cabinets are a finish applied to compressed wood or wood particles, usually known as medium-density fibreboard (MDF). MDF is known to be hardy, light and durable and is a common furniture material.

The finished MDF is then covered with a laminated coating, a thin layer of material that is bonded to the MDF. That thin layer is usually textured to look like wood. The benefit of laminated kitchen cabinets is that they are easy to clean and are economical on a smaller renovation budget.

With laminated kitchen cabinets, you have a range of colors to choose from, which include finishes that resemble stains and others that offer a more paint-type finish.


You can also get laminated veneers in melamine colors, which is the same concept as laminated kitchen cabinets but with a difference. Instead of using a thin film of vinyl or other similar material, you use a thin strip of wood. The core of the cabinet is still MDF, which is economical and budget-friendly, but the exterior is actual wood.

The result is a very authentic look, as it is a natural grain and finish. However, it also has the advantage of being a cost-friendly lightweight material.

Kitchen Cabinet Finish Techniques

Finish techniques are different from finishes, usually performed after the finish is applied to add an effect or texture to the kitchen cabinet doors. It can make the cabinet doors appear older or handcrafted. Kitchen cabinet finish techniques include the following examples:

  • Antique: The antique look makes your cabinets look older and more prestigious. The effect is added to doors with stain finishes that have a glaze. The look consists of small dents and burnishings.
  • Olde world: The difference between Olde World and Anique is that the former is more of an artisan finish rather than an aged one. This texture includes carved edges and a dry brush glaze, giving the kitchen cabinets a unique handcrafted texture.
  • Vintage: Vintage is a subtle finish of carefully worn edges but no dents.
  • Heirloom: Another subtle finish of worn edges, but this finish also includes minor dents and darkened stains in the details for an antique effect.

What Is the Best Color for Kitchen Cabinets?

When it comes to kitchen cabinet colors, there are plenty of options with different looks and finishes you can customize to your unique style. We suggest browsing kitchen blog articles for inspiration on the color choice, style and designs you like.

Chat with a professional about the specifications of your kitchen to see what is possible in your space.

Choosing the Best Finish for Your Kitchen

A professional will guide you through the different stages of creating your perfect kitchen and give you cabinet finish ideas. A few tips on choosing the finish for your kitchen are:

  • Consider your appliances and hardware: There are other elements in your kitchen that influence the look and feel of your design. Consider finishes that will complement your lighting, door hardware and appliances.
  • You don't have to stick to one finish: An upcoming trend is to create a two-tone kitchen. This might be a great idea to accent one side of the kitchen or create an optical illusion that your kitchen is bigger.
  • Think about room size: Dark finishes will make the space cozy, while lighter colors will open up the space. Consider how you intend to use the room. Will it be a quiet space for meditative cooking, or will it be a busy space for friends drinking coffee over the counter?

Personalize Your Kitchen With Wellborn Cabinet, Inc.

Whatever kitchen finish, design or style you decide on, Wellborn Cabinet, Inc. is here to help you make the choice easy. Find more information by requesting literature or talking to a dealer. To find the best kitchen cabinet finishes, find a local Wellborn Cabinet dealer to discover your options!

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