Once you’ve chosen the type and style of cabinets for your kitchen remodel, there are several ways to finish the look. Adding different colors and finishes to your cabinet doors can add another layer of charm to the appearance of your cabinets and help to bring together your whole kitchen. Below you’ll learn about the different finishes that you can add to your cabinet door surfaces. 

Cabinet Door Surfaces Color/Sheen

Adding color or sheen to your doors is a simple way to enhance their appearance. Here are the most common options:


If you’re looking for a colored but opaque finish on your cabinets, paint can be applied to cabinetry frames and doors. Different wood types will result in different looks when combined with paint. Tight-grained wood types will have a smooth finish, while coarser grains will be partially visible under the finish. Often, paint finishes are completed with a glaze that is hand-applied along the profiles, corners, and edges of the cabinet. Accent glazes can be applied to the doors without affecting the color of the paint, while full glaze finishes add semi-transparent color over the painted finish, which adds depth and dimension. It creates a darkened highlight along the profile and corners, which accentuates the detail of the cabinet door.

Painting cabinets is a cost-effective method to add uniqueness to your cabinet door surfaces, though it tends to hide the character of nicer wood cabinetry. However, if you ever tire of the color or finish, you can easily refinish quality wood cabinetry with new paint or finish. Paint doesn’t last forever, though, and will eventually chip, crack, scuff, or peel. 


If you’d like to enhance the natural beauty of your wood cabinets and also add a stunning layer of color, stains are a great choice. Cabinet stains range in color from light to very dark. Lighter stains will let more of the wood’s natural character show through, while darker stains hide much of the wood grain, but can create richer color and a more dramatic look. If cabinets chip a little, it’s fairly easy to touch up small areas of stain, but larger jobs will require re-sanding and a re-application of the stain. If you want to add color without taking away from the visual appeal of wood grain, stained cabinets might be what you’re looking for. Their simple beauty leaves countertops and appliances to take center stage, tough darker stains tend to show dust.


Glazes on cabinets are meant to highlight the different profiled edges on cabinetry doors, moldings, and accent pieces. Further, glazes can be applied over both cabinet stains and cabinet paint finishes. There are two types of glazes, wet or dry. In the wet glazing process, the glaze is sprayed over the entire cabinet door and is then wiped off. Glaze remains within the profiled areas and somewhat changes the overall finish color. In the dry glazing process, the cabinet glaze is hand-applied to only to the profiled areas, which means the base color remains the same. Glazing cabinets can give them an antique look while adding depth, individuality, and complexity to cabinets.

Those who like the glazed look note that it highlights the underlying base color of the cabinetry while accenting surface details. It’s a great choice for adding a country, rustic, or Old World feel to your kitchen. To some, glazed cabinet door surfaces look dated, while to others, it adds class and style. Glazed cabinets aren’t always a draw if you’re looking to put your home on the market soon, and it’s not easy to simply refinish glazed cabinets, so they would need to be replaced. It’s all a matter of personal taste. Because glazing is a premium finish that requires handwork, it tends to be more expensive than other finishes. 


If you’re looking to add a layer of durability while also helping their sheen last longer, add a lacquer finish. While similar in appearance to a spray-painted finish, it dries very hard and is non-porous. This means it repels grease, stains, and other markings. Lacquer makes cabinets easier to care for and clean. Further, it comes highly recommended for people who are looking to refinish cabinets with a paint appearance.

Lacquer can be tinted to add extra color to your cabinets, coming in either a satin, semi-gloss, or glossy sheen. It can be used on any hard surface, including cabinets, doors, railings, shelves, and more, and is the best quality paint finish available to consumers.  However, lacquering cabinets means that they require additional work to refinish. Lacquering must be done in a contained environment off-site of your project. One of the other drawbacks is that they also tend to yellow over time. 

Finishing Techniques 

Once you’ve decided on a color or sheen, you may want to complete it with a finishing technique. This helps bring your kitchen to life. Most of the finishes listed above can be customized even further with a variety of finishing techniques such as:


Architecture - Furniture antiquing kitchen cabinet door surfaces for a rustic look
Kitchen cabinet doors with an antiquing technique applied.

Antiquing can give your wood the look of natural wear from years of use. This look is often achieved by lightly sanding over the profiles, and adding marks of wear like scrapes, dents, and wormholes. This is done before finishing with paint, lacquer, glaze or stain. 

Vintage Touch 

Vintage touch is similar to antiquing but adds another layer of distressing like gray-toned edging, black speckling, and sanded-over profiles. Because these effects are added at random intervals, each door will be unique. Indeed, it will give the look and feel of a well-used heirloom.

Iced Topcoat 

This is an iced top coat adds a subtle opalescence that will give your cabinets a unique shimmer. This technique can beautifully transform any finish, glaze or paint.

Learn More About the Different Cabinet Door Surfaces

With so many choices on how to finish your cabinet doors, it’s important to research all of your available options to understand which fits in best with the rest of your decor. If you’re looking for expert advice and opinions on remodeling your kitchen, contact us for more tips. 

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Comprehensive Guide to Kitchen Cabinet Door Surfaces
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Comprehensive Guide to Kitchen Cabinet Door Surfaces
There are so many things to decide when picking kitchen cabinets. One fo the more important aesthetic choices is how to surface your cabinets? Should you paint? Should you varnish? Should you stain? Should you glaze? Lot's of choices. Learn about the differences here and how to pick whats right for you.
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