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How to Paint Cabinets: Sherwin Williams Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel Review

Today I’m sharing my experience painting my kitchen cabinets with Sherwin Williams Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel paint.  If you’re keeping track, this is the third time I’ve painted my kitchen cabinets!  What I really want is to renovate, but my renovation funds were very wisely invested in our 2017 Camaro 😉  (No regrets).  And then, just as we saved up a little more money, our exterior renovation exploded into a much more expensive project.  That’s okay, because I’ve definitely had a lot of fun experimenting and tackling different DIY projects in my little kitchen!

Hubby and I painted the vinyl floors charcoal, installed open shelving – but years later built asymmetrical cubbies just because.  We painted the cabinets turquoise and then teal (and then nabbed TWO print magazine features!).  But I was craving a little change again so I stripped the cabinets back to wood.  Now they’re sporting the most beautiful color: it’s sort of blue, sort of aqua, sort of grey – it’s just gorgeous.  It really feels light and airy.  This might be my favorite color of all, although all of the colors have been my favorite at the time.  I’ve enjoyed having fun in this space and flexing my creativity!

How to Paint Cabinets: Sherwin Williams Emerald Trim Enamel Review

See a Look Back at All of the DIY Kitchen Versions Here

Click the link above to see every version of this DIY kitchen makeover – going all the way back to the before! It surprised even me to see how many changes I have made over the years…

What Paint Brands Did I Use?

For the first version, I used Zinsser Primer with Premier Paint (held up SO well!!), for the second version I used Behr Cabinet & Trim Enamel (that was disappointing because it didn’t hold up to wear), and this time I used all Sherwin Williams brand primer/paint.

Sherwin Williams provided the paint for my Mom’s dining room and living room makeover and we LOVED it!  It was a welcome upgrade because the Sherwin Williams paint has incredible coverage – way better than Behr, which was my go-to for the last couple of years.  But I really didn’t know what I was missing!  Honestly, I thought it was good quality paint but it’s watery compared to Sherwin Williams.  But, just to make sure I was unbiased, I decided to BUY my own Sherwin Williams paint for this cabinet makeover to make sure I loved it when I spent my own money.  And let me tell you, I definitely did spend my money!

The paint is expensive but the coverage was just as incredible as the paint we used on Mom’s walls and, and after months of use, the finish is just perfection.  I’m so thrilled!  Although I had a bit of trouble with the primer, I LOVE the paint!  Today I’ll show you how I primed and painted the cabinets – along with a couple of new products that made the job even easier (why didn’t I buy these earlier?).

Here’s What I Used:

Here’s How I Painted My Cabinets with Sherwin Williams Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel Paint:

After stripping all of the primer and varnish from my cabinets, I brought them inside and made sure to let them acclimate for a few days (it was a bit humid outside).  When we painted the cabinets the first time, we did it on a warmer day and the wood had swelled.  That first winter, the solid wood doors shrank a bit and revealed some unpainted wood I needed to touch up.  No biggie, but if possible let wood acclimate before painting.

Then I placed a wood plank across my sink for extra work surface area (#genius lol).

Why Oil Based Primer Won't Dry

I painted in the kitchen because it was too cold by this point to work in the garage.  I used old vapor barrier to protect my surfaces and then finally invested in these:

Painter's PyramidsWhy You Need Painter's Pyramids Painter's Pyramids Review

I wish I’d bought these painter’s pyramids many cabinet makeovers ago!  I will admit, they slide around a bit on the plastic and are really light and easy to knock over, but they do help and I recommend them.  I just wish they were heavier and more solid somehow.  I started with the backs of the cabinets and applied my primer.  My local Sherwin Williams store recommended this:

Sherwin Williams Oil Based Primer Review

I was told it was the most durable primer for this project and would be perfect for my cabinets.  Unfortunately, it took a few days to dry.

How to Paint Cabinets: Sherwin Williams Emerald Trim Enamel Review

I painted the cabinets in the evening and by the next afternoon (almost 24 hours later – well beyond the dry to touch and re-coat times), they still left paint marks on my hands when I went to touch them:

Oil Based Primer Not Drying

That evening, still tacky, I gingerly flipped them over anyway to get started on the fronts.  I scraped one and you can see how easily the primer still came off, 24 hours later:

Primer Not Dry

After another 24 hours, the first side I had painted was a bit more dry but still not 100%, so I distracted myself by priming and painting the cabinet boxes.  I didn’t strip those, I just sanded and primed and painted again.

Sherwin Williams Emerald Trim Enamel Review

After priming one coat on either side, I had to wait a total of five days before the primer was dry enough to paint.  At this point I was worried because I didn’t do two coats (I didn’t want to wait 5 days again – I was hungry and wanted to cook).  But I went ahead and painted and luckily the paint dried really quickly.  I was able to quickly do my two coats on either side.

I like to decant some paint into a clean plastic container for ease of use (I used to use those Handy Paint Pail things, but this is easier and free).  For my raised profile door fronts, I paint the grooves first, then the middle, then the outside:

How to Paint CabinetsHow to Paint Cabinet DoorsPainting Cabinet Doors Tips

I also stole this lovely paint brush from my Mom which is really nice quality!  I normally buy good quality brushes, but this was really good!  Using my paint sprayer for the turquoise version of these cabinets worked really well, but between this self-leveling paint and the good quality brush, the end result is really smooth and brushstroke-free.

The Best Brush for Painting Cabintry

I let the cabinets cure for a few days on the counter and then installed them.

Sherwin Williams Emerald Trim Enamel Review

Is Sherwin Williams Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel Paint Good Quality?

I babied the cabinets the first week, careful not to scrape or scrub the paint.  I never noticed any issues with the paint, but I have learned that paint, in general, really takes up to a month to actually actually cure.  Today, the finish is rock solid.  It’s been a few months since I first painted the cabinets with Sherwin Williams Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel.  I wanted to wait before sharing this post so I could really speak to how the finish cures and wears.

This Sherwin Williams Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel paint is exceptional quality.  It really does level out and smooth as it dries!  There were brush strokes visible right after I painted them, but they really did disappear!  In the past, I chose a semi-gloss finish but this time I chose a satin and I love the velvety finish.  The finish looks amazingly smooth, has held up to wear and tear, and it cured perfectly – no issues, even with only one coat of troublesome primer.  I’ve since scrubbed it clean very vigorously and no problems.

I am in love with the color too (Sherwin Williams Watery), which I clearly couldn’t wait to show you!  It’s so light and airy, but without feeling like a baby’s room – this is a muted aqua, without being muddied by grey.  It’s clean and bright, but soft and muted.  It’s so, so perfect.

Sherwin Williams Watery Satin Finish

See My Sherwin Williams Watery Kitchen Cabinets Here

Click the link above to see more photos of my kitchen sporting its beachy new hue!

Sherwin Williams Watery

Why Did My Sherwin Williams Exterior Oil Based Primer Take So Long to Dry?

When I had problems with my primer, I called the store right away and the salesperson who recommended the primer then informed me that it will take longer to dry inside than outside, because it’s designed for exterior applications.  I asked why and he said, “I don’t know… the sun?”  So I went on a Googling mission and chatted about this in Instagram stories.  Some people did say that some paint requires sunlight to dry, but I also learned that it could have been poor air circulation.  Apparently you need to change the air periodically because it will saturate with paint solvents which can slow down the drying time of an oil based product.  I did have our whole home air exchanger going at the time, but that pales in comparison to working outside on a project so my best guess is just that because it was designed for exterior applications it was saturating the air too much?

In any case, the employee who helped me was right: the primer is an excellent base and it did eventually dry.  I just wish I’d known it would take so long because I hadn’t budgeted that into my plan.

Sherwin Williams Watery in a Ktichen

Links to Past Cabinet Refinishing Posts and Tutorials:

Here are some other tutorials to help you update your bathroom or kitchen cabinets!

P.S. Don’t Forget to Pin for Later!

How to Paint Cabinets



  1. SH
    February 11, 2021 / 12:40 pm

    I think this is an especially good color for any waterfront locales, while not being too beachy. So many good tips and techniques here, I’m marking this post for future projects.

  2. Pam
    February 14, 2021 / 5:05 pm

    This looks beautiful!
    Where did you get the spice jars and shelves??
    Thank you!

  3. Maggie
    March 31, 2021 / 2:36 am

    Great article but I cannot find “Sherwin Williams Emerald Trim Enamel Paint” on the SW website or anywhere else. There’s: Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel, ProClassic Waterborne Interior Acrylic Enamel, and ProClassic Alkyd Interior Enamel. What am I missing? A photo of the paint can would be helpful (as done with the primer).

    • April 1, 2021 / 3:53 pm

      You’re correct, I missed the word “urethane”. It’s the Sherwin Williams Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel – I’ll correct the post. Thanks!

  4. Steffanie Zazulak
    July 13, 2021 / 10:45 pm

    Great article – thank you! Any tricks to rehanging your cabinet doors after you paint? I have test painted the bathroom cabinet and our kitchen island. The same paint you used from SW I’d fabulous! But I cannot hang the doors back straight. Ideas???

    • July 14, 2021 / 10:06 pm

      You might not have what I have, but I have adjustable hinges. They look like these ones. Inside the cabinet box, there are screws on this hinge and tightening/loosening one of those raises and lowers my cabinet doors, so that’s how I straighten mine. Here’s a youtube tutorial. If your hinges look like mine, then that’s the trick. If they’re just plain hinges then I’m not really sure why they’re not on straight. Sometimes mixing up the doors can be a problem, because the holes might not line up 100%. I have put my doors back in the wrong spot and that has caused a problem before.

  5. Julie
    September 11, 2021 / 5:43 pm

    I’ve been using emerald on my trim/cabinets/doors, and I think it is worth mentioning that it feels a bit chalky. It’s not like not regular paint- but it’s easier to use than oil, less VOCs, and self levels like a dream.

    • September 12, 2021 / 12:37 pm

      That’s interesting feedback. What finish are you using? Mine doesn’t feel chalky…

  6. October 24, 2021 / 9:33 am

    We painted our house white and all the exterior doors are the same SW watery color and I love love love it too! A gorgeous color that when paired with a bright white is such a pretty pop! Great job with the cabinet paint! I’ve been wanting to paint my cabinets but am so scared! Def saving this!! Thank you for sharing!!

    • October 24, 2021 / 3:28 pm

      Oh gosh that sounds absolutely gorgeous!! I LOVE a white exterior with soft aqua front doors. Painting cabinets makes such a difference – you can definitely do this!

  7. Taylor
    February 23, 2022 / 11:20 am

    How has this paint held up? Did the satin feel smooth to you? I’ve read reviews that it feels chalky. How well does it wash? We plan to paint two unfinished bathroom vanities a dark navy color and have been looking into the satin sheen of the SW emerald urethane line.

    • February 23, 2022 / 2:29 pm

      This has held up really well and the timing of your question is impeccable: I literally just washed my cabinet fronts today. Even set in/dried on stains wiped off effortlessly with just water and a rag. I used to have semi-gloss finish cabinets (in a dark teal) and the transition to this satin finish has been no problem in terms of keeping them clean. I would say it is smooth: not slippery like a semi-gloss, but not as matte as eggshell paint you might use on walls. While I can understand what some people might mean by chalky, because it’s not as shiny/slippery as semi-gloss and definitely closer to a matte finish than a glossy one, it’s definitely far from being as matte as a chalk paint. I would recommend grabbing a sample pot, if you can, and painting a piece of scrap wood to see for yourself. The finish might change the look of the color you’re planning to use – I know when I chose my dark teal cabinet color, the difference in appearance of color between the satin/semi-gloss was very dramatic. But in terms of it feeling smooth, it feels smooth to me. I hope this helps! I’ve been very happy with the quality of this paint and how it’s held up.

  8. March 21, 2022 / 6:19 pm

    How do you think it would look to have edited cabinets and use Watery pain color on the walls? Do you think it would be too much of that color? We love the beachy look but don’t want to overdo it.

    • March 27, 2022 / 2:28 pm

      I have used a paint color almost the same color, with similar intensity, as an accent wall color and I don’t find it overpowering. It’s fairly soft, although lighting will change it for sure. With cabinets breaking up the color, I don’t think it would be too much. If you like to color but want it to be even softer, you can always have them tint it 50% at the store. It would be a lighter, paler version, but still the same color shade.

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