How To Paint Kitchen Cabinets In 5 Easy Steps

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Painting Cabinets

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We have all moved into a home that we absolutely love but the kitchen cabinets are…not what we had pictured. Either they’re dark and you want them light or they’re light and you want them dark. Regardless, I’ll show you how to paint kitchen cabinets like a pro.

If you aren’t sure where to start for a design, I highly suggest that you begin by putting together a mood board like I show you how to do in this article. This will help you to stay consistent with your style throughout your paint project.

It doesn’t have to be as hard as people think with these five simple steps. Everybody is sure that a painted finish that you do yourself won’t last as long or that it’s incredibly difficult. In reality, as long as you have the time and space to do it correctly, it’s very simple.

All you do is follow a few simple steps:

Step One: Remove All Hardware

When you are ready to start painting your kitchen cabinets, you need to start by removing all of the hardware. Start by removing the pulls and knobs with a screwdriver.

Cabinet Pulls And Knobs

When you paint kitchen cabinets, you need to prep your cabinet pulls

If you are going to change the hardware, donate your old hardware but keep one pull if you want to try and match the screw spacing.

I will warn you, it is almost impossible to match the screw spacing and I am going to teach you how to refinish your cabinets as if you will not find matching hardware.

If you are going to keep your hardware make sure to save your hardware and the screws in a ziploc baggie in a safe spot. I usually leave my hardware baggie inside one of the cabinets just to be sure.

NOTE: Almost all cabinet pulls and knobs use 8×32 truss head screws. If you lose yours or need different lengths, now you know what to ask for.

Cabinet Hinges

Next, pull all of the drawers out and set them to the side. I like to label the bottom or the back with where they go so that I can figure it out later.

The cabinet doors should be held on with 2 hinges each. Unscrew them from the cabinet face and then remove the door. You can paint kitchen cabinets with the hinges still attached or you can remove them. I would not recommend painting the hinges though since it changes how they function.

For anybody who wants to change the color of their cabinet hinges, you need to prepare correctly and take one hinge into the hardware store, they will be able to match that type in a different finish. Without taking one to the store, you won’t be able to match the function of them correctly.

If you do remove your hinges completely, again you need to make sure to save all of the hinges and hardware in baggies if you plan on reusing them. For now, label each door with a location label using painters tape. You will have to move the tape later.

Step Two: Lay Out All Doors

When all of your doors and drawers are removed and the hardware is either removed or taped off, you need to lay things out so that you can actually paint them. This is what takes up the most space.

I suggest getting a large, thin plastic painters dropcloth. I particularly like a 3 pack that’s cheap and works well for me. Lay out the dropcloth as large as your space will allow.

The drawers should be put in one section and the doors in another. Make sure before you begin that your drawers are labeled, either on the bottom or the back side, with where they go. You will only be painting the front face and the back side of the front face of each.

The doors need to be laid out on the other section. When you lay out a door, make sure to prop it up on some painters triangles, like these that I use, or some tin cans from your pantry. Take the location tape off of each and tape it to the dropcloth next to the door it goes with.

Step Three: Prep For Paint

Good prep can make or break your cabinet finish

For any good interior paint finish, you need to do the prep work correctly. Any holes or dents will show through even the best paint finish. If you don’t sand down your cabinets first, you run the risk of your paint peeling off. But I have a tip on doing that easily.

Fill All Screw Holes and Dents

To start, I suggest you fill all of the dents, dings, and screw holes with a good, paintable wood filler. Make sure to use a wood filler and not a wood putty because putty doesn’t harden like filler does.

The packaging will tell you if a wood filler is paintable so make sure to read the packaging first. You can apply wood filler with a putty knife if you want or, I usually apply it with my finger. However you choose.

I would suggest filling in the holes for any cabinet pulls if you are going to replace the pulls. It is almost impossible to match the screw distance in new pulls and you don’t want a new, beautiful finished cabinet to find out that you have extra holes in the faces.

Sand Kitchen Cabinets

Sand down the wood filler with a 220 grit sandpaper. They should be sanded down just to where they are even and level with the surface of the cabinet door or drawer.

If your cabinets have a shiny, slippery finish on them, I recommend that you sand the whole cabinet down as well. For anybody with a matte finish on their cabinets, you’re lucky and you don’t really need to sand it down.

I suggest using an orbital sander and a few grits of sandpaper to do this. Start with a 100 grit, then move to a 220 grit, and then a 320 grit sandpaper. You can get a variety pack that has all the grits together. If you don’t go through all of the grits, you could end up seeing the sanding marks underneath your new paint finish.

Hate Sanding? Use TSP Instead

You could also sand your cabinets by hand but that takes a while. A great secondary option to sanding is to use a product called TSP in order to rough up the surface and provide your paint something to stick to.

Prime Kitchen Cabinets

When you paint kitchen cabinets, it’s tempting to skip the priming but I wouldn’t recommend it. The paint/primer combinations really aren’t the same thing and a true primer will help your cabinet paint go farther and last longer.

I used a primer from Benjamin Moore since that’s what my paint department recommended but any basic primer will do. Also, most people don’t know that you can tint your primer to match your paint color. This will help you save materials and money overall.

Step Four: Paint Kitchen Cabinets With Good Paint

Okay, let’s talk about the sticky situation of paint. Everybody wants a great paint that will cover in a single coat that won’t cost any money. That paint doesn’t exist my friends. Instead, I need you to understand that there are paints that are worth spending money on and paints that are not.

Paint Recommendations

paint brush with paint on it

Benjamin Moore Advanced

I highly recommend you paint kitchen cabinets with Benjamin Moore Advanced paint. This is what I used to paint my kitchen cabinets. This is a fabulous new type of paint called an Alkyd paint. What that means is that you get the hard, smooth finish of an oil based paint with the clean up and ease of a latex paint.

Behr Urethane Alkyd Semi Gloss Enamel

I have not personally used this paint. However it is an alkyd paint, so it has all of the same basic properties as the Benjamin Moore version. And Behr has an excellent reputation as a paint company. I fully trust their products and one day, I will have to try this one in particular.

Sherwin Williams ProClassic Enamel

Similar to the Behr option, I have not personally used this particular alkyd paint. However, again Sherwin Williams has an excellent reputation as a paint brand and I would still recommend it to paint kitchen cabinets.

Paint Cost

If I could afford to use this paint on my entire house, I would. That’s how awesome it is. It does have some downsides though. An alkyd paint will be more expensive than more latex paints since it costs about $50 per gallon.

Paint Sheen

The other issue with alkyd paints is that you can’t find them in every sheen. If you want a specific sheen, you may be forced to go with a standard latex or oil based paint.

When you paint your kitchen cabinets though, I recommend you work with the highest sheen you like since that will be the easiest to wipe down.

Tools To Use

paint brush

Brushes

You’ve got a couple of different brushes that I would recommend to paint kitchen cabinets. You can use the classic 2″ angle brush, like I recommend in my free printable that you can sign up for at the bottom of this post, to do your primer coat and the edge work.

However, you can also just use an inexpensive foam brush to do the primer and the edges. The benefit of this is that the foam brush doesn’t leave brush marks. The foam brush doesn’t distribute paint as well though so you end up having to go back into the paint can a lot.

Rollers

The rollers I recommend to paint kitchen cabinets are the small foam roller covers. These rollers tend to be no wider than 4″ and you will need a smaller roller frame for them.

Not only does the small size help you to paint kitchen cabinets but they also don’t leave any roller marks. As much as I love my traditional roller covers, they just aren’t suited to this job.

Techniques

I suggest that you start by painting the edges because they are the hardest area to prevent drips. Once you have the edges smoothed out and painted, you can start on the faces and backs.

It’s best to paint the backs next so that you can ensure that the front is perfect. Spread paint evenly across the back of the door and make sure not to get drips on the edges.

Wait at least 24 hours, NO EXCEPTIONS, to turn the door over and paint the other side. If you try to rush it, like I did, you mar the surface of the paint and your finish looks bad.

Step Five: Reattach Doors, Drawers, And Pulls

When you are done with your paint, you need to reattach your drawers and doors to your cabinet boxes. The drawers are the easiest since they are labeled (you did label them right?) so I suggest you start with those.

When you go to reattach the doors, I would only do one at a time since those labels are on the dropcloth and not the doors themselves. It’s far easier to reattach doors with the help of a partner. If they hold the door is its proper place, you can easily put the screws in.

When you need to attach the pulls and knobs, you should use a drilling template to make sure that they are all at the same level and equal. Otherwise, your kitchen won’t look professional and you’ll be disappointed every time you see the knob in the wrong spot.

Final Thoughts

From there you’re pretty much done! You’ve got some clean up you probably need to do but when you paint kitchen cabinets you completely change the feel of your whole kitchen.

I hope you love your new look. Of course, there are advanced painting techniques, like glazing and wiping stains, that you can use to create a more dynamic look. But that’s a project for another time.

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Hey everybody! I'm Sydney, the head homeowner here. Let me know if you have any questions you didn't find the answer to. Tell me what projects you're working on. I love to hear from all my readers.

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