Mastering Kitchen Cabinet Painting A 9 Step Guide

Revamp your cabinetry with a fresh coat of paint for a stunning transformation. If a full-blown kitchen renovation isn’t within budget, painting cabinets can breathe new life into your space. This DIY endeavor, while time-consuming, is well within reach for determined homeowners who enjoy taking on projects.

Not only is it cost-effective compared to replacing cabinets, but it also offers a remarkable change that will leave you beaming with pride over your handiwork. Given the kitchen’s central role in most homes, this aesthetic upgrade can yield a substantial return on investment. Here’s what you need to consider before diving in.

Why Opt for Cabinet Painting?

Just as a fresh coat of paint can work wonders in a room or on an old piece of furniture, the same holds true for your kitchen cabinets. Trends evolve, and while the dark wood that once enamored you might still be in great condition, it may not match the light, airy feel you desire from modern designs you come across on Pinterest or Instagram. Considering that cabinet painting costs a fraction of what new cabinets would, it’s an attractive option for those not yet ready to tackle a full-scale kitchen remodel.

Can I Take on Cabinet Painting Myself?

Painting kitchen cabinets isn’t overly complicated, but it’s crucial to follow each step meticulously for a successful finish. This isn’t the time for shortcuts. While an extra pair of hands is helpful, it’s not mandatory. With determination and a steady hand, this could even become a manageable weekend project, depending on your kitchen’s size and your working pace.

Can I Take on Cabinet Painting Myself

Keep in mind, the more cabinets you have, the more time-intensive the process will be. You’ll also need ample space for laying out cabinet doors during sanding, priming, painting, and drying between coats. Patience will reward you with a seamless finish.

Can I Paint Over Existing Cabinets?

Resist the temptation to take the easy route. Painting over existing cabinet colors might seem like a time-saver, but it can lead to challenges in achieving the desired look. The original color may influence the new one, even with multiple coats of paint. Even if the existing color is neutral, additional layers can disrupt even coating, posing adhesion challenges and increasing the risk of future chipping. It can also lead to textural issues, resulting in a less even finish.

Choosing the Right Paint

Functionality should be your priority when selecting paint, followed by the desired aesthetic. Oil-based enamel paint is a popular choice due to its smooth application and high stain resistance. It accommodates various design styles. For a more decorative finish, consider acrylic enamel paint for a sleek look or chalk paint for a distressed vibe.


Since kitchen cabinets endure frequent touching, opt for durable paint. While glossy paints are known for their resilience, many durable options come in various finishes. Low- or zero-VOC paints are beneficial, especially in the kitchen, where painted surfaces encounter regular contact.

Picking the Perfect Color

Choosing a color you genuinely love is essential since you’re putting in the effort. Green, in its various shades, has been trending in kitchens. White is a timeless classic that complements most kitchen elements. Black creates a bold and modern look.

Consider the existing elements in your kitchen for color inspiration. Take note of hardware, fixed appliances, countertops, backsplash, and flooring. Remember, you can always repaint if you change your mind.

Preparation and Space Needed

Be prepared for this project to occupy some space. You’ll require an area where you can lay cabinet doors flat to prevent drips while the paint dries between coats. The more doors you have, the more space you’ll need, unless you plan to work in stages. If painting indoors, ensure proper ventilation and invest in plastic tripods for elevation. Fans and open windows can help with ventilation.

Ready to tackle this kitchen cabinet painting project? Here’s a step-by-step guide with tips from Rick Watson, VP of Product Innovation at Sherwin-Williams:

Step 1: Gather Your Supplies

Invest in quality brushes and rollers to ensure a professional finish. Don’t skimp on supplies, as the better the quality, the better the result. Properly set up your painting area with drop cloths for easy cleanup.

Step 2: Remove Cabinet Doors, Drawer Fronts, and Hardware

To streamline the painting process, take off all cabinet doors and drawer fronts. Label each cabinet and its corresponding door for easy reassembly. Remove all cabinet hardware for a fresh start. Leave the cabinet boxes in place, using painter’s tape at the edges where they meet the wall.

Step 3: Thoroughly Clean the Cabinetry

Proper surface preparation is key to a successful paint job. Use a heavy-duty degreaser like TSP to remove months or even years of cooking residue and grease. Ensure your cabinet doors are thoroughly clean for optimal paint adhesion.

Step 4: Repair Scuffs and Nicks with Wood Filler

Identify any imperfections like scuffs, nicks, or scratches. Apply wood filler to fill these areas, using a putty knife to smooth it out. Let it dry as per the instructions on the wood filler tube. This step sets the foundation for a smoother paint application.

Step 5: Sand the Cabinet Doors

Sanding is crucial for paint adhesion. Use coarse 60-grit sandpaper or a sanding block for light sanding. Consider an orbital sander for more significant jobs. Remember to wear a mask to protect against dust and fumes, especially if there’s a possibility of lead paint. Finish by wiping the cabinet surface with a tack cloth to remove any remaining dust.

Step 6: Apply a Coat of Primer

Choose the right primer for your specific cabinets, consulting your paint store professional. Test a small area to ensure the primer adheres properly. Proper priming provides a solid foundation for the final coat of paint.

Step 7: Optional Second Sanding

For a truly professional finish, consider a light sanding after the primer has dried. This step ensures a smooth surface for the final coat of paint. Use fine-grain 360-grit sandpaper for this optional step.

Step 8: Paint the Kitchen Cabinets

Use a high-quality, durable paint suitable for kitchen cabinets. Ensure the cabinet surface is clean before applying the paint. Consider using a paint sprayer for a smooth finish. Allow the paint to dry completely before reinstalling the cabinets.

Step 9: Reinstall Cabinet Doors and Hardware

Once the paint has dried, reattach the cabinet doors and drawer fronts, using your labels for guidance. Reinstall any hardware, knobs, or handles. Stand back and admire your transformed kitchen.

This comprehensive guide will help you achieve a professional-looking finish when painting your kitchen cabinets. Remember, patience and attention to detail are key to a successful cabinet painting project. Enjoy your newly refreshed kitchen space!

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