How to Choose a Kitchen Cabinet Paint Color

Last year, a new client asked me to drop by to help her pick a carpet for her family room and give her some tips on color schemes for two adjoining sitting areas. As we walked through her kitchen she casually mentioned that she needs to do something about it. She bought the house with this kitchen but she never really liked the kitchen cabinet color. Her kitchen was stunning. It was a gallery style with two long counters that any cook would be envious of. As I glanced at her kitchen when we walked through, I could instantly see why she didn’t like her kitchen cabinets. Her quartz countertop was a jet black color. Her ceramic floor tiles were a cool gray, but her kitchen cabinets were a warm off-white. The neutral colors clashed with each other. Her kitchen was a classic style and in great condition. It did not need renovating, so the least expensive option, at this point, to correct the mistake, was to have her kitchen painted the correct color.

Should you pick the countertop first or the backsplash?

When you’re choosing a paint color for your cabinet, you need to choose the color in conjunction with the countertop, backsplash and flooring. Its like putting together an outfit for a fancy evening out. You make sure your shoes, goes with your top, that co-ordinates with your skirt or pants, and the jewelry, like a backsplash, is the icing on the cake which typically pulls the look together. They all need to work together to pull off a beautiful look. If one piece is off, the whole space will feel off.

If you have picked the kitchen cabinet color, some designers say you need to pick the backsplash next and the countertop isn’t as important. Others say that you need to pick the countertop first if you’ve picked the kitchen cabinets already. However, my client, who had a beautiful expensive kitchen, the easiest fix for her would be to have the cabinets repainted.

Some designers say you need to pick the countertop first. Others say you need to pick the backsplash first. The bottom line is that all the elements in your kitchen need to work together. If one of the elements is off, the whole kitchen feels off. You need to choose all the pieces so that they work together.

How to pick the best paint color for your kitchen cabinets


Once you have selected the kitchen cabinet, backsplash and countertop, place all the pieces together in the way that they will appear. Don’t lay them on top of each other because you won’t get a good feel of how they will look in your kitchen.

You should have your cabinet, both colors if you’re going for a two-toned cabinet kitchen, your countertop, backsplash and your flooring available to compare all together. Line them up as to how they would look in your kitchen. Kitchen cabinet on top, backsplash underneath, next the countertop, the bottom kitchen cabinet color below the countertop if you’re choosing a different color for the lower cabinets, and flooring at the bottom.

Place a piece of white paper or cardboard behind the elements so you can take a look at the undertones of each piece and compare it to one another. This is where and how you determine if they work together or if something needs to be switched. If you’re starting from scratch, get a couple of options of flooring, backsplash, countertop, kitchen cabinets to see what works together. If you have fixed elements that are too costly to change, like flooring or a countertop for example, those are your fixed elements that you will need to co-ordinate your cabinet color and backsplash with.


For my own kitchen renovation that I did on fixer upper #9, I started with a mood board before deciding on any elements of the space. Its always a good idea to start with a mood board to see how everything looks together before you make any hard decisions. You can do this digitally like I did using a software program like Canva, or Photoshop, or you can do it physically pulling the pieces together. You will often see designers on HGTV pull a look together by taking a cabinet door, and adding a backsplash tile, flooring, faucet color etc and switch it around until they get the look they are trying to achieve.


For my kitchen renovation above, I had picked the kitchen cabinet colors first. I was going with a two-toned kitchen and a certain trendy look as I was flipping this townhouse in a first-time buyers neighborhood. I then choose the countertop TAKING A CABINET DOOR WITH ME, and finally picked out a simple subway tile that worked with what I had chosen.

Below is the before picture for comparison. A bit of a difference eh?


What about my client? In my client’s case, the flooring, and countertop were already installed. She had this massive black countertop that ran along either side of her kitchen. The expensive of replacing the enormous countertop would have been thousands. Something she didn’t want to do at that point. So the next obvious step would be to select a kitchen cabinet color using the existing countertop and flooring as the starting point.

What happens if you have old wooden cabinets that you want to update and refresh? You would be in the same situation as my client assuming that you don’t want to change either of the fixed elements, like the flooring or the countertop. Take all of your fixed elements, place them together if you have samples, and place large color samples of kitchen cabinets that you are considering. You will be able see how all these colors work together, you will be able to look at the undertones of each color and choose your cabinet color accordingly. Warm colors are colors with warm undertones, like orange, yellow or red. Cool colors have green, blue or purple undertones.

Warm colors typically have undertones that are orange, yellow, or red, while cool colors have undertones that are green, blue, or purple.

With my client, her cabinets had a warm undertone, while her countertop & flooring, had cool undertones. There is no right or wrong in picking warm or cool undertones. The key is that your undertones need to be the same to have the best looking kitchen possible. If your undertones are not the same, your room will always feel off.

Read: Learn more about undertones here
Read: Best Kitchen Cabinet Colors to Sell Your House

Need some design advise?

Does this feel overwhelming?

I can help you with that with my online e-design services.

How does it work? Once I have received your payment, I will send you a questionnaire within 24 hours asking you a few questions about your kitchen, and show you how you need to take pictures that I will receive. Once I review your information, I will provide you with your personal consultation with 3 -5 business days with 2 paint color choices, plus a Samplize board for you to test the color, and DETAILED instructions on how to test your paint. Check out my online kitchen cabinet paint color consult here.


Hi! I’m Debi Collinson. Interior Designer Consultant. Color Consultant. Real Estate Investor. I grew up looking at blue prints and helping my dad, an Engineer|General Contractor and owner of a Design|Build|Engineering firm pick out paint colors for his buildings.

Since 2006, I have been helping busy homeowners, just like you, to style their house to make it a stunning retreat, where they can live and enjoy their home. I help homeowners, make money beyond their wildest expectations from the sale of their house by guiding them when they’re getting their house ready to sell.

In my spare time, LOL, I buy “fixer uppers” to fix up & either sell for a healthy profit or to rent. I’m currently looking for my 10th “fixer upper.” Sign up to receive my e-mails of how to make your home stunning, how to sell your house for top dollar AND how to become financially independent one fixer upper at a time! Read my full story including my design credentials here.

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