How to Paint Your Cabinet?

Looking to revamp your aging kitchen cabinetry? Instead of the costly option of replacing them, consider a more cost-effective and straightforward solution: a fresh coat of paint. You can achieve an impressive DIY transformation of your kitchen cabinets, and the added satisfaction comes from knowing that you’ve personally contributed to the overall aesthetic of your home.

Table of Contents

Essential Tools for Painting Cabinets

We have compiled a comprehensive list of indispensable tools that will allow you to deliver a professional-grade finish. Those who often work with tools can attest to the vital role that quality tools play. It is advisable to personally handle these tools to ascertain the ones that are most comfortable for you. However, if physical shopping is not an option, then in-depth research about top-tier tools becomes crucial. And when uncertainty strikes, always opt for brands that have won your trust.

Determining the Ideal Paint for Your Cabinets

Picking the right paint for your cabinets requires you to consider a few factors.

  • Opt for high-end paint. While there are specific paints designed for cabinets that provide a silky finish, any top-tier paint should suffice.

  • Verify that your paint is acrylic, not vinyl. Acrylic latex-based paints are known for their durability and ease of clean-up.

  • Adhere strictly to the manufacturer’s guidelines concerning cure time when dealing with latex paints.

acrylic paint

Next, ponder the type of finish you desire. A matte finish offers a low-gloss, flat finish, while a high-gloss finish boasts a shiny, highly reflective surface. A satin finish strikes a balance between these two.

Keep these pointers in mind to ensure a professional touch:

  • Buy the necessary supplies for your type of cabinets, whether they are solid wood, laminate, or metal.

  • Refer to the paint label on the can for specific guidelines.

  • Wood cabinets are excellent candidates for painting, but any surface that can be roughened with sandpaper can be painted.

  • Laminate cabinets necessitate a special bonding primer, and the laminate should be in good condition for optimum results.

  • Gloss finish will make your cabinets gleam, but it may highlight flaws or damages. Semi-gloss or satin finishes are typically utilized in kitchens. Some flat-finish paints may pose cleaning difficulties. Check the instructions for more information.

Preparations for Painting Kitchen Cabinets

Painting cabinets is a task that spans several days, hence the need for planning. Always use appropriate safety equipment and ensure sufficient ventilation. For optimal results, it is best to remove the doors and drawers and work on them in a well-ventilated area like a garage or basement.

Step 1: Evaluate the Cabinet's Condition

Check your cabinets’ condition. Already painted surfaces can be repainted if the existing paint is in a satisfactory state. If the opposite is the case, the old paint should be stripped off. There are stripping products on the market that simplify this process.

Apply the product with a brush, wait for it to react with the old paint, then use a plastic scraper to peel it off. Once dry, use sandpaper to remove any lingering paint.

remove the old paint

Step 2: Empty the Cabinets and Remove the Doors

Clear the cabinets since sanding, which comes later, can create dust. Remove the doors, drawers, and hardware. Label the doors and drawers with painter’s tape as you remove them for easier reinstallation. Keep the hardware in a plastic bag or cup, and remember to label them as well.

remove the doors

Step 3: Clean Surfaces and Repair Damages

Use a TSP cleaner to rid all surfaces of grease and dirt. Repair any damages. Use a wood filler to fill dents and holes, applying and smoothing it out with a putty knife. Allow it to dry as directed. Do not fill hardware holes if you intend to reuse the same hardware. If you plan to replace your hardware, you may need to use wood filler for holes that do not align with the new hardware.

Step 4: Prep the Area and Sand

Protect your countertops, appliances, and other areas with coverings. Placing painter’s tape along the cabinet edges on the wall can be helpful. Use medium grit sandpaper to scuff the surfaces to enhance paint adhesion. Folding the sandpaper can assist in reaching detailed areas on doors and drawers, as well as the frame corners.

use sandpaper

Step 5: Vacuum the Area

Vacuum all surfaces and wipe them with a tack cloth. Every surface must be dust-free before painting.

Priming Kitchen Cabinets

Venturing into paint aisles, you are bound to encounter cans of primer, leading you to ponder the necessity of a primer for your cabinets. Primer application is a pivotal step in the painting process. It prepares a suitable surface for paint adhesion, enhancing its longevity and aesthetics. It also conceals previous paint jobs and imperfections.

Step 1: Paint the Cabinet Frames

Begin with the cabinet frames, working from the inside out. If you are painting the cabinet interiors, start from the back and move towards the front. A brush will be handy for reaching corners and detailed areas. Make sure to use even strokes and finish back into the wet primer for a seamless finish.

paint the frames

Step 2: Paint Large Surfaces

Employ a mini roller for large, flat areas. The primer application doesn’t need to be flawless. Its role is to cover the surface and provide a solid base for the final paint. Concentrate on one area at a time.

Step 3: Lay Off

Once you’ve coated the surface, use your dry roller or brush (without reloading it) and lightly sweep over the surface again to eliminate any buildup. This process is known as “laying off.”

Step 4: Paint the Doors and Drawers

Proceed to paint the doors and drawers. Remove but keep the tape labels nearby. Begin with the backside, applying a smooth even coat. When it’s dry, flip the door and paint the front. Start with the detailed areas, ensuring the primer doesn’t accumulate in the corners, then feather out the edges. Then use a foam roller on the larger, flat surfaces. Employ painters tripods to elevate the doors and drawers off your painting surface, making it easier to paint the edges.

It’s generally preferable to paint only the front of the drawers, as painting the sides and bottom could result in the drawers sticking in the frames. Allow the primer to dry as indicated, which typically takes a few hours.

Paint the cabinet doors

Painting Kitchen Cabinets

Paint can be applied with a brush and roller (suitable for DIY) or a sprayer (advanced). For more information on using a paint sprayer, refer to the section on achieving the perfect finish. The following instructions are for using a brush and roller.


Step 1: Paint the Cabinet Frames

Begin with the cabinet frames, using a high-grade brush for smaller areas and a foam roller for larger surfaces. The technique is similar to that used for the primer: use even strokes with the brush and finish the stroke back into the wet paint while feathering out the edges. Remember to also lay off after painting the surface.

Step 2: Paint the Cabinet Backs and Fronts

On the cabinet doors, paint the backs, allow them to dry, then paint the fronts. Follow the paint’s instructions regarding the correct drying time. Be patient and let the paint completely cure.

Step 3: Apply a Second Coat

Apply a second coat of paint. This will serve as your finish coat. Allow the paint to dry completely before reassembling everything.

apply the second coat

Refinishing Cabinet Hardware

If you’re retaining your old hardware, you can rejuvenate its look with a thorough cleaning or a fresh coat of spray paint. If your hardware merely requires cleaning, check out the section on Refinishing and Cleaning Kitchen Cabinets for instructions. If you wish to replace your hardware, refer to our Cabinet Hardware Buying Guide for options.

clean kitchen cabinet handles

Step 1: Clean the Hardware

Scrub the hardware with warm soapy water. Pat dry.

Step 2: Roughen the Hardware

Gently roughen the hardware with fine-grade steel wool.

Step 3: Fasten the Hardware to Cardboard

Secure the handles or knobs to a piece of cardboard so they stand upright and are easier to work on.

Step 4: Prime the Hardware

Lightly coat the hardware with a suitable primer and let it dry. Follow up with a layer of paint. The key is to apply thin layers to prevent buildup.

Final Step: Assemble the Kitchen Cabinets

With your cabinets freshly painted, you may want to consider adding shelf liners. Some are decorative and adhere to the surface, while others are padded to provide surface protection.

Step 1: Reassemble the Cabinets

Reassemble the cabinets and hardware. Use the labels to ensure the doors and drawers are reinstalled in their correct locations.

Step 2: Install Under-Cabinet Lighting and Other Accessories

Upon completing your cabinet makeover, this might be an ideal time to install under-cabinet lighting or even a new backsplash.

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