How to paint your kitchen cabinets in simple preps and steps

Get pro tips on painting kitchen cabinets.

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Learning how to paint kitchen cabinets is a cost-efficient way to update your kitchen area by yourself. Much cheaper than replacing them, the budget-friendly solution is to paint your cabinets to provide a pop of colour and renewed aesthetic. 

Kitchen cabinets take up a fair chunk of the visual in your kitchen, so being unhappy with their colour likely means you aren't in love with your kitchen. You have the power to change this, though! All you need is some spare time for a DIY task, patience while paints and primers dry, and confidence in your new chosen colour.

Read on to learn the best way to paint kitchen cabinets made of wood or laminate. Dive into this step-by-step guide to have a fun DIY project that you’ll reap the benefits of every day when you enter one of the most used rooms of the house!

Painting kitchen cabinets

Choosing the best paint for your kitchen cabinets

Your first step will be gathering all of the necessary supplies for your specific type of cabinets, whether solid wood or plastic laminate. One of the things you'll encounter when painting kitchen cabinets is what paint options to use. Paint stores can offer different options, such as oil based paint, latex paint, or water based paint. You'll want to check the paint label to make sure the option you pick is appropriate for your material and also get any specific instructions for its application.

The easiest option for a repaint is wood, but any cabinet that can be scuffed with sandpaper is prime for painting. If you are working with laminate cabinets, you'll need a special bonding primer and high-quality paint. You can find special cabinet paints that will offer a smooth, durable finish, but you'll want to ensure your paint is acrylic and not vinyl. Acrylic latex-based paint is much easier to clean up and will last for a long time.

When choosing, keep in mind that glossy finishes will make your cabinets sheen, but the inevitable future dent will be very obvious. Semi-gloss or satin finishes are very popular in kitchens as a good mid-way option.

How to prep kitchen cabinets for painting

Repainting your kitchen cabinets is not a small job (unless you have a particularly small kitchen). Plan accordingly, and the best way to do this is with preparation. Open the windows for ventilation and throw down some drop sheets to protect your flooring. 

The best option is to remove the doors and drawers and paint them in a garage or basement if possible. You can execute a far better process if the doors are no longer attached, and you won’t risk painting other elements of your kitchen that should be left alone.

Prep kitchen cabinets for painting

Step-by-step preparation instructions

  1. If you already have paint on your cabinets, you need to remove the existing coats with stripping products to ensure a smooth finish.

  2. Apply the stripper with a synthetic bristle brush and wait for the stripper to react. From here, you can use a plastic scraper to peel away.

  3. Remove the last of the paint with sandpaper. If you’re looking to learn how to paint kitchen cabinets without sanding, you may skip this step.

  4. Empty the cabinets, and remove the doors, drawers, and hardware. Label where each one goes to reinstall them in the right spots.

  5. Clean all surfaces with TSP cleaner.

  6. Repair damaged areas, filling dents or holes with a wood filler.

  7. If painting in the kitchen, cover the countertops and appliances. You can use old newspapers or plastic tarps to cover these areas.

  8. Use painter’s tape on walls and cabinet edges.

  9. Sand everything with medium-grit sandpaper.

  10. Do a thorough cleaning of all surfaces to ensure a dust-free situation before painting.

How to prime your cabinets

Primer is an important step, as it provides a suitable surface for the paint to stick to while also rectifying any small imperfections that may be present. While this is not crucial and does add some extra time on top of the painting process, it will offer a more professional and longer-lasting result.

To apply the primer to your cabinets before painting, follow these step-by-step instructions:

Step 1: Work from the inside out

Work from the inside out on your cabinet frames. Start at the back and work toward the front. A brush will be crucial to properly get into the corners, using broad, even strokes and finish back into the wet primer.

Step 2: Work on the primer

Keep in mind that the primer doesn’t have to look perfect; the primary importance is that it covers the surface well. Work with a roller and cover one area at a time. 

Step 3: Remove the buildup 

Once all areas are covered, use a dry roller or brush to lightly remove any buildup. Some primers may require sanding before painting; this will be stated in the instructions.

When applying primer, it's best to ensure a smooth, even coat. Always wait for one side to dry completely before flipping it to paint the other. Start with the detailed areas, and avoid having any primer pool in the corners of your cabinet. More extensive, flat surfaces are best handled with a foam roller. If possible, use painter’s tripods, so you can paint the edges more easily.

When it comes to your drawers, paint the front piece as opposed to the entire drawer. Painting the sides and bottom of a drawer can cause it to stick to the cabinet frame. Applying primer can take a few hours, and it is essential that it dries completely before you begin painting. 

Steps to paint kitchen cabinets

With a little patience and some work during your spare time, your kitchen can easily see a whole new look! In most cases, the kitchen area is one of the primary sections of a home. It may even set the tone for the visual aesthetic throughout the rest of your space, so choosing the right paint colours are important.

New paint for kitchen cabinets

Grab your brush and roller to apply your chosen paint, and follow these steps:

Step 1: Apply paint

Start with the frames and use a similar technique to the primer. Paint with even strokes and avoid pooling in the corners.

Step 2: Paint the cabinet door

For doors and drawer fronts, paint the backs and allow them to dry completely before moving to the fronts. Ensure you let the fresh coat of paint dry completely before moving on to the next section or adding another coat.

Step 3: Apply the second coat

Apply a second coat as the finish once the first layer is dry. Wait again for it to dry thoroughly before you put the cabinets and drawers back together. You’ll want to be a little more particular about your brush strokes on the last coat, as they will be the obvious ones once the paint is dry, but they will also be much easier to get right once the first coat is down.

If you want to be thorough, you can follow up with a third coat of polyurethane that provides added protection. However, using high-quality paint in the first instance pretty much covers this.

Planning to give your cabinets a new look? Find out how much kitchen cabinet painting costs, and make sure you have the right budget for your project!

Get those newly painted cabinets in the kitchen

It can be exciting to think your kitchen can have a brand new look whenever you like! As one of the most used areas of your home, it is important that your kitchen looks fantastic and suits the aesthetic of your home. We use our kitchens as a workspace, but they can also be the hub of entertainment when we have guests. You likely spend a lot of time relaxing there as well, so you want to be surrounded by a look that you love! With these tips, learning how to professionally paint kitchen cabinets can be easy.

If you are unsure of handling the job by yourself, there are plenty of Taskers who can offer professional painting services or even specific elements of the process like paint stripping. Find a range of people who specialise in cabinet painting and save yourself some time while ensuring a great result.

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Find a kitchen cabinet painter

Paint Kitchen Cabinets FAQs

You can; however, there is an element of preparation required, depending on the material of your cabinets. The easiest option for a repaint is wood, but any cabinet that can be scuffed with sandpaper is prime for painting. If you take care and time in removing the cabinets and applying two quality coats of paint, your cabinets will not only look brand new but completely change the feel of your kitchen with a new paint job. Consider the type of paint you use based on the make-up of your cupboards and read the instructions carefully, but all cabinets can score a new paint job!

If you are working with laminate cabinets, you’ll need a special bonding primer and high-quality paint. You can find special cabinet paints which will offer a smooth finish, but you’ll want to ensure your paint is acrylic and not vinyl. Acrylic latex-based paint is much easier to clean up and will last for a long time. For wooden cabinets, most paints will be appropriate. If you want to really be thorough, you can follow up with a coat of polyurethane which will provide added protection, however, using high-quality paint in the first instance pretty much covers this, so ensure you have good quality paint and you should be fine!

It may take a couple of hours to a full day to paint cabinets. This will depend on the number of cabinets you'll be painting, their size, and amount of prep work that goes into the work. If you don't have the time to spare for a kitchen cabinet paint job, it's best to leave painting cabinets to the pros!

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