How to paint your kitchen cabinets in simple preps and steps

Get pro tips on painting kitchen cabinets.

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One of the easiest and most cost-efficient ways to update your kitchen is by painting kitchen cabinets. A new colour can make a big difference to your kitchen area, so you don’t have to worry about replacing your cabinets entirely. Before you DIY this project, it’s best to learn how to paint kitchen cabinets for better kitchen aesthetics.

As your kitchen is one of the busiest areas in your home, making it visually appealing is important. With time, patience, and skills, you can give your kitchen cabinets a new look you'll love. If you’re up to learning how to professionally paint kitchen cabinets, this step-by-step guide is for you.

Read on to learn the best way to paint kitchen cabinets, make them look brand new, and improve the visuals of your kitchen area.

Painting kitchen cabinets

Choosing the best paint options for your kitchen

One of the important steps to paint kitchen cabinets is to gather all of the necessary supplies for your specific type of cabinets, whether they’re solid wood or plastic laminate. You'll find different types of paint when you visit paint stores. These are oil-based paints, latex paints, and water-based paint. You'll want to check the label to ensure the paint type you pick is appropriate for your material and 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 coat and high-quality paint to ensure a durable finish. You can find special cabinet paints that 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.

When choosing, remember that a gloss finish will make your cabinets sheen, but the inevitable future dent will be very obvious. Semi-gloss or satin finishes are 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. You can tape plastic sheeting or plastic tarps to avoid spills on the floor or surfaces.

The best option is to remove the doors and drawers and paint them in a garage or basement if possible. You'll be able to 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.

Preparing kitchen cabinets for painting

Step-by-step preparation instructions

  1. If you already have paint on your cabinets, it will need to be removed with stripping products.

  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. You can skip this step if you learn how to paint kitchen cabinets without sanding.

  4. Empty the cabinets and remove the doors, drawers, and hardware. Be sure to label where each goes to reinstall them in the rights spots.

  5. Use TSP cleaner for thorough cleaning of all surfaces. Make sure the surfaces are dust-free before painting.

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

  7. If painting in the kitchen, cover your countertops and appliances. Use plastic tarps for this.

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

  9. Sand everything with medium-grit sandpaper.

How to prime your kitchen 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 adds extra time to 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 to 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 bit of patience and some work in your spare time, you can have that dream kitchen you’ve always wanted! 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 the colours used are important.

New paint for kitchen cabinetsGrab your brush and roller to apply your chosen paint, and follow these steps:

Step 1: Apply the paint

Start with the frames and use a similar technique for 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 back and allow them to dry completely before moving to the front. Ensure you let the 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 more noticeable once the paint is dry. However, they will be much easier to get right once the first coat is down.

If you want to really be thorough, you can follow up with a third coat of polyurethane for 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!

Time to upgrade your cabinets

Painting your kitchen cabinets can accentuate the aesthetics of your space. As you'll likely spend a lot of time in this part of your home, it's only natural to want to ensure the space has an appealing, comforting vibe. You can start with your cabinets and slowly work your way toward improving the other parts of your kitchen.

If you don't have the extra time to do the paint job yourself, don't worry! Plenty of Taskers can lend their expertise for professional painting services. They can help with kitchen cabinet painting, paint stripping, and other tasks you need around the house!

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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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