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Painting Kitchen Cabinets(All You Need to Know)

Everybody loves to have a beautiful kitchen. This is the place where you spend plenty of time preparing meals and making precious memories with your family. It, therefore, goes without saying that your kitchen should be a reflection of happiness and creativity.

The process of painting your kitchen cabinets in a new home or renovating an old kitchen can be a daunting and expensive task. This is because a lot needs to be done; you will need to buy the tools for the process, buy good quality paint, allocate some days to do the job, and in some cases, if you can, you may need to hire a professional painter and interior designer.

If you decide to do the painting by yourself, you will need to do extensive research on DIY painting projects, and how you can go about it, to get excellent results.

When painting the cabinets, the design choices are very many. You can decide to brighten up the entire kitchen with a coat of white or blast it with vibrant colors such as yellow, orange or even green. You are also free to do some color combinations depending on your preference.

For a DIYer, it is very easy to upgrade your kitchen without necessarily spending too much money in the process. It is, in fact, one of the most perfect projects you can undertake as a whole family, and help you bond.

There are new types of water-based paints such as the acrylic urethanes, and acrylic alkyds, that have made it much easier to get a professional looking job that is also long-lasting and durable.

The finishes can also be cleaned up with just water, which ensures that your house doesn’t smell like a chemical factory. With good quality tools such as mini rollers and consumer-grade sprays, even a beginner can be able to get pro results.

Now, whichever design procedure you decide on, here are some tips to follow even before you apply the paint of your choice;


Protect the countertops

Protect the countertops

This is the first and most important step. Painting kitchen cabinets is a messy job, and you sure do not want to have paint all over your kitchen, especially your precious countertops. An easy way to ensure they are protected is to use rosin paper.

This is an inexpensive brown builders’ paper that is easy to use, and it will protect your counters perfectly during the painting process.

Remove drawer fronts, doors, and hardware

Remove drawer fronts, doors, and hardware

This is the second most important step. You may have seen painting jobs where hardware and hinges are covered with paint, and in some cases, it may even have slipped into the drawers. This is quite ugly and unprofessional.

Anybody who has ever done a kitchen cabinets painting job will tell you how tempting it is to leave the doors in place while painting, but, removing them will give you a more professional finished product and a much neater kitchen that you shall be very proud of.

Many modern cabinets and drawers are easily removed by backing out a few of the screws. But, if you happen to have drawer fronts that are part of the drawers and hence cannot be removed, consider using some masking tape to cover the drawer sides and the bottoms, so paint doesn’t splatter on them.

Label the doors

Label the doors

A good way to do this is to make a sketch or two, of all the doors and drawers for your kitchen cabinets. Number them the way you want, and then label the doors and drawer with the corresponding numbers. You can write these numbers where the hinges are supposed to be located, so it will not be visible after you put them back.

Also, ensure to cover the numbers with masking tape so you can protect them when painting. It may seem like a lot of work, but you will appreciate the attention to detail later on, as everything will be well placed in the right location.

Removing the Grease

Removing the Grease

Paint, no matter how good it is, will not stick to greasy cabinets. This is, therefore, a critical step in your painting project; cleaning the cabinets with a grease-cutting solution. Dishwashing liquid can also work, but a dedicated remover like the TSP is even better.

Ensure to follow the mixing instructions and scrub the cabinets as well. You should then rinse with clear water and wipe away with a clean and dry piece of cloth.



You must ensure to sand your kitchen cabinets before you begin the painting process. This helps to give the new paint a good place to grip on. You do not need to sand if it is bare wood, for a new kitchen or new cabinets.

If your cabinets have a factory finish, ensure to sand slightly with the recommended 120-grit sanding sponge. This is shown in the image above. If the surface is rough, probably from a poor paint job or a poor varnish job, you can start by using a coarse 100-grit paper, to get rid of any bumps. After using the 100-grit paper, ensure to sand the wood again with the 120-grit paper to remove any sanding marks.

Choose a good primer

Choose a good primer

If you want to speed up your project, then, choose a primer that is fast-drying for your first coat. Read the label carefully about recoating so you can make sure that the primer will be compatible with the paint you shall use on your kitchen cabinets.

A primer is an undercoat that is used in preparation for the actual painting. It ensures better adhesion of the paint on the surface of the kitchen cabinets. It also increases the durability of the paint and provides the wood with additional protection when the material is being painted.

It is not always necessary to use primer when painting, but it is a good step if you are looking for excellent results.

A good tip here would be to use the enamel underbody primer that is water-based. This dries very quickly. Another good tip is to use some acrylic alkyd hybrids water-based paint. This one rivals most oil-based paints and gives excellent results.

When the primers dry, they will also give you a great base for you to apply your finishing coat.

Fill up any open grains

Fill up any open grains

If you have the type of wood that has open pores such as oak, these will show through the finished work, and it is especially noticeable over the paint. You can leave it showing, but if you want a smooth look that is grain-free, then you will need to fill up the pores before painting.

There are many methods of doing this; you can apply several coats of the builder’s primer, you can sand between the pores several times until the pores disappear, or you can use the spackling compound to fill them up as shown in the image above.

If, however, your cabinets have lots of molded edges and curves, using the spackling can be a little difficult, but it is doable.

Use a vacuum on the cabinets

Use a vacuum on the cabinets

To ensure good adhesion and smooth paint job, it is essential to remove all of the sand dust from the drawer fronts, the doors and cabinet frames. You should vacuum everything using a soft bristle brush attachment which will help to remove the loose dust.

You can also use tack cloths, as shown above, if you do not have a vacuum. These are bought in packs from the paint department, and to use the cloth, you must completely unfold it, and then loosen it up. Wipe gently on the surface to pick up the dust. Shake it frequently, and then reform it for use once more.

Once the cloth loses its dust grabbing ability, you can throw it away.

Painting Kitchen Cabinet Ideas

1. Use of neutral hues

Use of neutral hues

Neutral hues include colors such as white and beige. These are light earth tones that will work great with almost all kitchens. They also blend well with any type of wallpaper, and countertops, and this is what makes them a favorite for most people.

Painting kitchen cabinets white makes them look elegant, clean and hygienic. You can easily go crazy with the flooring and wallpaper because it doesn’t contrast with other colors.

You can also decide to blend two colors such as blue and white, or cream and gray. This gives you the ability to become creative, and mixing two colors ensures you do not need to keep repainting the kitchen frequently.

2. Use of bold colors

Use of bold colors

Most people will caution you against being too bold, but at the end of the day, the kitchen belongs to you, and you can be as creative as you want.

It is true that some colors tend to complement each other, and you shouldn’t be worried about blending them. In the image above the kitchen has a little bit of a natural look on some of the cabinets, blue paint on others and the door and table are also unique.

It not only looks elegant but extremely modern. The kitchen is beautifully inviting, and it showcases the creativity of the owner.

You can also opt to energize your kitchen by using other bright colors such as emerald, golden yellow or cobalt. They will make it an extraordinarily colorful and exciting place to be.

Be careful however to coordinate the color of the cabinets with the wallpaper, and other fixtures in your kitchen, and the rest of your home. If you choose the vibrant colors for the cabinets, it is advisable to go neutral with the rest of the kitchen to blend everything.

3. Subtle pastels

Subtle pastels

Pastel colors are soft and soothing, and they are also available in a multitude of options. They are versatile and neutral and can work perfectly in your kitchen.

Pastel colored kitchens are trending nowadays because they create a pop of color with interest and they do not make the room aesthetically dark or too heavy. Popular choices of pastel are pale shades of blue and green as is the case in the kitchen above.

4. Open Shelving

Open Shelving

If you have used the open shelving design instead of upper cabinets, then, this can be a great way of adding a dual-toned look to your kitchen. You can blend two different paints on your cabinets, by using a bright one on the upper cabinets and a neutral one on the lower ones, or vice versa.

In the image above, the kitchen user perfectly using a bright yellow on the open cabinets and a neutral light blue on the lower ones, to give the kitchen a modern and chic look. It also ensures the kitchen is extremely colorful, bright and inviting.

Another big benefit of having the open cabinets design is that you can easily change up the colors whenever you like, by repainting the wall behind the cabinets, instead of going through the whole process of painting all the cabinets. This accurately showcases your creativity, and your ability to blend colors.

5. Spray painting

Spray painting

With a good sprayer and a little bit of practice, you can achieve an excellent factory-finish on your kitchen cabinet doors. A good quality air sprayer is the best to use with an un-thinned water-based paint and finish.

You can also get some good results by using a high-volume and low-pressure sprayer. Just ensure to thin the paint first, as per the instructions, and then apply think coats severally. You may think that using one thick coat will save you time and money, but the results will not be as great.

6. Chalk Painting Kitchen Cabinets

Chalk Painting Kitchen Cabinets

The normal chalkboard paint and chalk paint are different. Chalk paint is a special formulated flat paint that can stick to any surface without requiring any sanding or priming. It has a matte finish which needs to be sealed.

Annie Sloan is the most popular brand.

You can choose to use the chalk paint on the inside of your cabinets or the outside. It is easy to do the process, and it gives a beautiful finished product.

Here are the benefits of using chalk paint;

  • It dries very quickly.
  • It is quite thick and requires fewer coats
  • It doesn’t need any primer.
  • If you use it over wood that is already sealed, the wood will not seep into the paint and cause brownish stains.
  • It will hide heavy grains on wood such as oak.

Cons of chalk paint:

  • It is thick and may leave some brush marks.
  • They are not available in custom colors, and you are encouraged to mix them yourself.
  • It makes it hard to hide tannins when painting over areas that have been freshly sanded.

Kitchen cabinet painting kit:

Brush – for the average DIYer, having a set of two brushes. You can start with the 1 and a half or the two-inch wide brush, for painting and priming the smaller areas, and the 2 and a half or three-inch brush for large areas.

Roller brush – This one is perfect for painting walls and ceilings, but it can also work great for your kitchen cabinets as well. It consists of three things – a frame, a cover and a pan. The roller is available in different widths, and the nine-inch size is the most popular.

Paint – you will need to buy a good quality paint, depending on your preference. The best paints tend to be more expensive, but they are better as they last longer and look great once the painting is done.

A few common painting mistakes

A few common painting mistakes

The following are the most common mistakes that most people make when painting their kitchen cabinets;

Having unrealistic expectations;

Painted cabinets look beautiful and elegant, but they may not necessarily turn out smooth. If your cabinets have visible open grains, then, the grooves are likely to show through the paint. It is important to understand this beforehand so that you can have realistic results and not end up being disappointed.

1. Not giving yourself enough time:

Painting your kitchen cabinets, though a simple process should be given ample time. It is not a simple Sunday morning project where you do it lazily within a short time. You will end up with a shoddy and unattractive job that you can never be proud of.

For you to be happy with your kitchen, you will have to give it some good amount of time to prepare and even undertake the process. Do extensive research, buy the required products, investigate what is good and what is not, then give it a few days to have the best results.

2. Not cleaning the wood:

No matter how clean your kitchen looks, you will need to clean the cabinets with a good quality grease cleaner, because the paint will not stick on greasy cabinets. When you add the water-based paint on an oily surface, it will just run down.

3. Not removing doors and drawers;

This is one of those steps most people would love to skip. It is quite intensive and requires you to be extra careful, so you can be able to return the doors and drawers in their exact locations after the painting process is done.

What happens if you do not remove them is that, the paint will pour all over them, especially on the hinges and after you have completed the project, you will end up with a big mess on your hands.

Take time to remove all of the doors, frames, and hinges, and label them clearly so you can know where each goes. This will help in ensuring you do a clean painting job and after all, is done, you will also be able to return them where they were.

4. Not sanding the wood:

If you don’t do a good job of sanding the wood, it will have many bumps that will not look good after the painting project is done. Use good quality sandpaper to sand the wood down, before applying the primer properly.

5. Picking the wrong color:

It is important that you choose the right color for your kitchen cabinets, and one that will blend well with the already existing floor and walls. You may need to look for an interior designer who will advise you accordingly, or simply do some research on which colors will work perfectly in your kitchen.

6. Choosing cheap paint:

It is true that good quality paint is normally expensive, and you may be tempted to buy one that is cheap and substandard. It may look good initially when you paint the cabinets, but eventually, it may end up wearing out too soon and looking terrible.

Take time and spend your time choosing the right paint, do research, ask the experts for advice and then buy good quality paint that will serve you for a long period. Most people rarely change the paint in their homes because they bought the right type initially.

7. Rushing to put the cabinets back:

Once the painting process is done, it is time to return the cabinets to where they were. This should however only be done once they are completely dry. Remember you will be putting back the handles and hinges as well, and if the paint is not dried properly, you may end up smearing everything all over. Give it a day or two to completely dry before putting them back on to the cabinets.

Final thoughts:

Remodeling the kitchen is one of those exciting projects that everyone loves to do especially when you are bored with how things are, and you want to change things up. It is however not a simple process and must be taken seriously; otherwise, you may end up with a kitchen that you hate.

Taking some good amount of time doing adequate research and talking to people who know more than you do will go a long way in helping you make the right decisions. Remember that, as much as you are allowed to be creative, some things may not work, and that is why you need to consult with professionals.

At the end of the day, you should end up with a beautiful kitchen that you are proud to spend time in and even show off to your friends and family.


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