Painting Kitchen Cabinets: A Step-by-Step Guide


For a professional look that won’t break the bank, all you need is the correct paint and primer for your kitchen cabinets. Painter specialist Tonypainting shows you how to give your cabinets a fresh new look by painting them.

Kitchen renovations are notoriously expensive, and it’s easy to see why once you include in the price of new appliances, worktops, and cabinetry. Kitchens can be completely transformed by simply updating the cabinets, which take up the vast majority of the room’s visual space. But working there involves more than just picking out a favourite shade of paint by the gallon.

Check out our detailed guide, then watch a Tonypainting pro show you how it’s done.

Budgeting for New Kitchen Cabinet Paint?

One of the costliest renovation projects is updating the kitchen, with cabinets representing about 40% of the total price.

The cost of new cabinets for a 12-foot-by-10-foot kitchen can easily exceed €5,000, and they might be of worse quality than the ones they replace. For a fraction of the cost, though, a new coat of paint can do wonders for your old cabinets. In reality, painting should cost no more than €200 and a couple of weekends of your time.

Can I Paint My Cabinets?

However, before you head to the paint store, you should check the condition of your cabinets to see whether they can be salvaged. The best paint job in the world won’t save inexpensive cabinets that have deteriorated with age. Particleboard cabinet bottoms and shelves droop and break, and hanging rails loosen and thin veneers peel or delaminate. There’s no better solution to these problems than to get new kitchen cabinets.

Let’s assume that you have a perfectly functional kitchen and review some of the issues you’ll need to answer before you begin repainting the cabinets.

How do I know what paint to use on my cabinetry?

Which is better, oil, or latex?

As latex paints have gotten better over the years, some professionals have switched to using them exclusively. Latex paints are more user-friendly than oil-based paints since they dry quickly and can be cleaned off with water. However, many experts still choose oil-based topcoats because they dry to a smoother, more even coating and last longer. It can take up to three weeks for a latex paint to properly cure, which is significantly longer than the curing time for an oil paint. They are vulnerable to harm in the interim.

You can get a decent look with either oil or latex. If you must use latex paint, choose a formulation that is 100% acrylic, as this type of paint is more long-lasting and will not peel off surfaces as easily as vinyl acrylic paints.

Which is better, a paintbrush or spray paint?

The easiest method is to spray on the finish, but there is a learning curve before you can get a professional look. Masking off the countertops, cabinet interiors, and appliances that could get sprayed inadvertently is a time-consuming and tedious task, and renting the spray equipment adds to the cost.

Due to these factors, we advise going with high-quality brushes instead. Get a nice angled brush in the 212 or 3-inch-wide range for getting paint into the corners of doors with moulding and can coat door frames in one pass, and a sturdy, 3- to 4-inch-wide square brush whose straight ends will make fast work of large, flat panels. A synthetic bristle brush, which doesn’t soak up water, is ideal for applying latex paint, while a natural bristle brush is best for applying oil-based paint.

Is stripping cabinets necessary, or can they simply be painted over?

Whenever a clear coat is already on the wood, sanding it down to the bare wood and then painting is the finest option. Because of this, the possibility of an issue with the new paint not sticking to the previous finish has been removed.

While some people may believe that stripping is the only acceptable option, the reality is that this isn’t always the case. After a thorough cleaning and a moderate sanding, the surface should be ready for fresh paint.

Which is more realistic: a regular or a faux finish?

If you want to give your kitchen a new look, a fake finish can give it a country cottage, provincial, or contemporary vibe. You may achieve the look of worn cabinets with minimal effort by using cracking glaze, which can be purchased at most paint stores. Glaze can be applied over a dry undercoat by brushing in one direction only (thickly for large gaps, thinly for fine fractures), and then drying. Apply a smooth topcoat of the base colour perpendicular to the glaze to complete the look. After about an hour, the paint will begin to crack as it dries.

The distressed effect is another option for a rustic decor because it does not call for any particular paint. This coating is made up of several colours applied over one another and dark paint splatters. After the paint has dried, you can distress the finish by hitting it with a chain and lightly sanding the areas where the cabinets get the most usage, revealing the colours underlying.

The same paint tricks can be used to make anything look old and worn. A paintbrush can be used to softly graze the surface of the trim, corners, and seams by dipping the tip in a colour lighter than the cabinets, blotting out the excess on a cloth until the brush is almost dry, and then gently brushing the surface.

On the other hand, a glossy coating can make your kitchen feel more up-to-date and sophisticated. To add lustre to your cabinetry, varnish it with a layer of clear, high-gloss acrylic paint when you’re done painting. Using this method, you may give your kitchen’s surfaces a glossy sheen and richer hue.

Ways to Paint Cupboards

First, get the area ready.

The key to a professional-looking finish when painting is in the preparation, so the first few steps are all about priming, taping off, and cleaning the walls and cabinets.

  • To begin, clear off the countertops, empty the cabinets, and put away any freestanding equipment.
  • Move the chairs and tables to the living room.
  • Protect the rest of the house from dust and fumes by taping plastic sheeting over the backsplash, windows, fixed appliances, and internal doorways once you’ve covered the counters and floors with rosin paper.
  • conceal the wall behind the cupboards with a mask.
  • Prepare a painting workspace with a table and chairs.

Install a Do-It-Yourself Paint Table

This improvised drying rack allows access to the door from all sides, saving time. To set it up, follow these steps:

  • Leverage two ladders to support a pair of 2x4s at head height.
  • Doors can be hung on hooks affixed to the 2x4s using eye hooks at either end.
  • Put hooks where the holes you make won’t be seen, such as the tops of upper cabinet doors and the bottoms of lower cabinet doors and drawers.

The second step is to remove the cabinet fronts, drawers, and shelving.

  • To avoid getting the doors and drawer fronts mixed up, label them with a marker. To better identify the hinge location, this stamp should be placed there.
  • You may get rid of the cabinet doors by removing the screws holding them to the cabinet frame and turning them counterclockwise.
  • Tape each one with a number, moving clockwise from left to right and top to bottom. Drawer and shelf bottoms and shelf edges should be numbered as well.
  • Keep the hardware for hanging shelves in a separate location.
  • Take apart the handles and hinges at your desk and put them in a separate container.
  • Using a screwdriver, screw the tape number into the wood under one hinge on each door.
  • New tape should be used to cover it.

Third, wipe off every available surface.

  • Degrease the cabinet and wipe it down with a rag to get it clean. Doing so gets rid of any dirt, dust, oils, or grease that may otherwise ruin the final product. Trisodium phosphate (TSP), available at hardware and paint stores, is a powerful cleanser worth trying if standard cleaning products fail. If you want to be safe, do as it says on the label.
  • After you’ve finished cleaning the cabinet parts, give them a good rinsing in water and then hang them up to dry.

In other words, get the boxes ready.

  • Ventilate the area and don your protective gear by opening the windows. Use an abrasive pad saturated with liquid deglosser to scrub down all of the surfaces.
  • Protect your floor with a rag by holding it under the object. Rapidly use a fresh rag wet with deglosser to remove the residue before it dries.
  • Fill the old screw holes with two-part polyester wood or autobody filler if you’re moving the hardware.
  • You should only combine tiny portions, as it sets in approximately 5 minutes. It’s important to slightly overfill the holes because the filler will shrink.
  • You can use a paint scraper to get rid of the excess when it hardens. If it totally sets, smooth it out with some sandpaper.
  • Scuff the exteriors of the cabinet, drawers, and doors with a foam sanding block. Don’t sand all the way down to the bare wood; just enough so that the primer may stick to the surface. Remove the sanding dust with a tack cloth and continue.
  • Cabinets should be vacuumed both inside and out and wiped down with a tack cloth to ensure that the finish is not damaged by dust.

Apply primer to the inside of the cabinet boxes.

This brings us to the first step: the tutorial. A stain-blocking primer, which dries rapidly and cures knots and other surface flaws that can bleed through the topcoats, should be used if the cabinets are heavily stained. However, stain-blockers aren’t typically required, and an oil-based or 100% acrylic latex primer should do the trick instead.

  • Priming the roller and brush requires pouring some primer into the paint container. Apply primer to the cabinet, doors, and drawer faces using the brush in the corners and on small areas and the roller on the larger, flatter areas.
  • Apply primer in a crosshatch pattern across the grain from the top of the cabinet down, and then “tip-off,” or softly pass the brush over the wet finish in the direction of the grain. Always make sure to tip off in one fluid motion.
  • When brushing a cabinet or door, be sure to stick to the framework. For the area where a rail meets a stile, for example, you should paint the rail first, allowing some of the paint to bleed onto the stile, and then paint the stile before the overlap dries.
  • While waiting for the primer to dry, clean the tools you used to apply it, such as the brush and roller sleeve, and the paint tray.

Process #6: Sand, Caulk, and Patch

  • Sand the flat surfaces with 220-grit paper after the primer has dried.
  • Use a sanding sponge of medium grit to smooth out any contoured areas. Finally, the wood should be as smooth as glass.
  • Apply a little bead of latex caulk to any cracks you find. (The opening at the end of a caulk tube shouldn’t be much bigger than a sharp pencil’s point.)
  • While working, pull the tip and smooth the caulk with a wet finger. Putty knife-flattened vinyl spackle can be used to repair minor dings, scratches, and dents.
  • After the spackle has dried (after about 60 minutes), sand it with 220 grit paper, vacuum it up, and then clean it off with a tack cloth.
  • Spot-prime the spackle and the areas where the sandpaper has “burned through” the primer with a spray can of fast-drying oil-based primer.
  • After waiting an hour, lightly sand the primer with 280 grit paper.
  • Clean everything with a vacuum and a tack cloth.

Seven, paint the cabinet framework.

You’re ready to start painting at last! If you’re using a colour that’s close to the existing one, two coats should be plenty. It’s possible you could pull off a double ace. Using a light colour to paint over a dark finish is more difficult and may require three coats. Use a clean brush for every application.

  • Get some enamel paint for the trim and cabinets and fill up the paint tray, then grab your brush and roller. Avoid roller strokes and instead use the brush to cut in around the edges and push paint into the corners. Apply enamel paint with a roller to the largest feasible flat area.
  • Use a tiny roller with a smooth surface to paint the inside of the cabinets; the resulting texture will look like orange peel.
  • As you wait for the first coat to dry, keep the brush and roller covered with plastic bags to keep them from hardening.
  • In between coats, give the surfaces a light sanding and then sweep off the dust.
  • The cabinet needs another coat of paint. This coating needs to produce a flawless, uniform end result, free of any patchy, light spots where the underlying wood shows through.

Eight, get the cabinets, drawers, and shelves ready, primed, and painted.

Doors, drawers, and shelves are painted using the same preparation, priming, and painting method as cabinets, but are completed on a table to prevent drips, runs, and sags.

  • First, you should paint the frame of the panel before you paint the panel itself.
  • The panel’s central field comes next, followed by the outer stiles and rails.
  • Avoid creating lap marks by wiping up any paint that runs off onto nearby dry surfaces as you go.

Doors can dry faster if you twist two screw hooks into holes bored into an unnoticeable part of the door’s edge (the lower edge for bottom cabinets, the upper edge for top cabinets). After the door’s exterior has been painted and allowed to cure for an hour while lying flat, it should be swung up onto its hooks and a drywall screw should be inserted into an existing hardware hole. To paint the back of the door, prop it up by the screw and tilt it backwards.

  • Pick up the door by the screw and one hook once you’re done painting, and then use both hooks to suspend the door from a solid clothes hanger.
  • While waiting for the door to dry, you can hang it from a clothes hanger or shower curtain pole.

Reassemble everything. 9.

  • As soon as the second coat of paint has dried, the cabinet doors and drawer fronts can be reinstalled. Take pride in the knowledge that your kitchen cabinets appear brand new without requiring a major time or financial commitment.
  • Take off the masking tape from the door numbers, replace the hardware, and hang the doors where they go.
  • You need to reinstall each drawer after you’ve swapped out the handles or added new ones.


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