How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets In 5 Surprisingly Simple Steps

How to paint kitchen cabinets to make them last by Tantrums and Tools

A Home Improvement DIY Project

Are you wondering how to paint kitchen cabinets? If you’re considering painting kitchen cabinets but not quite sure where to start, then this is for you! I have a tested method of how to paint kitchen cabinets to make them last. Here you’ll find the five steps to painting kitchen cabinets like a pro and all the supplies I love (and trust) for this home improvement project. Plus, I’ll show you my amazing kitchen makeover through the power of painting kitchen cabinets. My first piece of advice, this post is packed with useful info, so pin it now because you’re going to want to refer to this again later!

Disclaimer: Please remember that I am a DIY enthusiast, not a professional. This article is for general information use and is not a substitute for professional advice. Before taking any actions, consult a professional! Additionally, this may contain affiliate links to websites where I receive a small commission if you make a purchase using my link. All opinions and recommendations are my own. I appreciate you taking my suggestions and using my links. Thank you for being so supportive!

To Paint Or Not To Paint Kitchen Cabinets

Painting kitchen cabinets by tantrums and tools

Pros to painting kitchen cabinets

The greatest thing about this home improvement project is how incredibly affordable it is to complete. Did I mention I totally transformed my kitchen cabinets by painting them for less than $100? This budget home improvement idea was the best option for a frugal shopper like myself. My kitchen cabinets were dark and ugly but surprisingly well built wood cabinets, still in excellent condition. It felt a little wasteful to replace them simply because they were too dark for my taste. Especially since I knew, I had an entire house remodel to consider, and my budget was tight. I knew painting kitchen cabinets would save a ton of money.

Another benefit to painting kitchen cabinets is keeping your countertops, that is, if you like your counters. If you were to replace your cabinets, you would also likely need to replace your countertops due to potential damage from the removal process. Have you priced out countertops? Here’s a hint, it’s insanely expensive to replace them! If you’re on a home improvement budget, saving your countertops is a big way to stick to your budget. Once you know how to paint kitchen cabinets, you will realize just how truly great this home improvement project is because of all the money you will save yourself.

Budget home improvement project idea- Painting kitchen cabinets

Cons to painting kitchen cabinets

The con to this home improvement is that if your cabinets are not in good shape or made of something other than solid wood, it may not be a good idea to paint them. The prep process would be much more intensive, and you are risking the paint not sticking as well. Which, in the end, would end up costing you more time and money and headaches. So, just throwing that out there for you to consider if you’re thinking about painting kitchen cabinets.

Another con to this painting project is the amount of time this home improvement takes. It is a bit of a time investment, but if you’re anything like me, you have more time than money and love a good budget home improvement project, so this con is not enough to outweigh the benefits of painting kitchen cabinets.

The 5 Easy Steps To Painting Kitchen Cabinets

how to tutorial for painting cabinets so they won't chip

How To Paint Kitchen Cabinets Step 1: Prep

  • The first thing you need to do is simple-remove existing hardware and hinges from all you cabinet doors and drawer fronts
  • It is a good idea to cover the inside of the cabinet boxes with plastic to prevent dust from sanding and paint drips from getting in. Here is a link to the plastic I use for all my home improvement painting projects.
  • Place a drop cloth down to cover your floors from any drips or accidental paint spills.
  • Sand down all surfaces that you are going to paint. Sanding is the most labor-intensive part of painting kitchen cabinets, so as you’re working, keep reminding yourself that your prep work is the key to painting kitchen cabinets so they will last.
  • You are not removing the old finish completely and don’t worry about getting down to bare wood. Focus on rough up your work surface enough so your paint stick.
  • Don’t skimp, or else the paint won’t stick, which means your painted cabinets will eventually chip. To get in all the tiny grooves, you will need to do this by hand by folding the sandpaper in half.

The trick to sanding is to remove the original surface, which allows the paint to stick, just don’t overdo it!
Here is my go-to cordless orbital sander that makes this process much faster.

  • Wipe away sanding dust with a dry rag. An easy way to get all the dust is with a tack cloth.
  • Using Krud Kutter and a little elbow grease, clean all cabinet surfaces.
  • Caulk around any edges and seams on the doors and drawers. Caulking is time consuming and an added step to painting kitchen cabinets prep, but it is my secret to pro-looking painted cabinets. Make sure you use paintable caulk and get is as smooth as possible! I skipped this step entirely when painting kitchen cabinets in my camper and can tell you caulking is well worth your time.
  • If you’re using new hardware and hinges you’ll need to use wood filler to cover up the existing holes.

How To Paint Kitchen Cabinets Step 2: Prime

  • Start by priming your cabinet frames with Zinsser 123 aka the best primer for any home improvement. I’ve used this product over and over (and over) while renovating my home and continue to be impressed by this primer. For best results, use a primer that covers wood knots and has good paint adhesion. Do not skimp and buy a cheaper primer. Aside from sanding, the quality of your primer is essential to the long-term durability when painting kitchen cabinets.
  • There are a few options for what to use for applying primer and paint. An angled paint brush and a foam mini roller are good choices. The foam mini roller helps to reduce brush strokes, giving you a smooth finish.
  • Next, you’ll let your primer coat dry for at least an hour (check your primers recommended drying time on the back of the can) and then give it a light sanding. For a smoother finish I suggest sanding between each coat with 220-grit sandpaper. Before sanding you’ll want to check that the primer is no longer tacky.
  • The trick to getting a smooth surface when kitchen cabinet painting is to use the right sandpaper grit and apply gentle pressure. You don’t want to remove the primer; you’re just doing the slightest amount of sanding to scuff the surface between coats.
  • After you’ve given the area a quick wipe down with a clean cloth, you’re now ready to add a second coat of primer.
  • Once the second coat of primer is dried, you’ll repeat the light hand sanding step from above.
kitchen home renovation open shelving placement white subway tile how to paint kitchen cabinets by Tantrums and Tools

How To Paint Kitchen Cabinets Step 3: Paint

  • It’s finally time to see some real progress for all your hard work! The next step is to apply the first coat of paint! The hardest parts of this home improvement are behind you, and you’re in the final stretch.
  • People are always wondering what is the best paint for painting kitchen cabinets. I have trialed several different paint brands for various home improvements and found I like the consistency and coverage of Behr Ultra (eggshell finish) the best. Many people prefer Sherwin Williams, but I found this type of paint thick and didn’t love it as much as the Behr when it came to ease of application. I also don’t love that you have to go to a separate paint store just to buy Sherwin Williams, when I can buy Behr at the hardware store I’m already at.
    • I have found the Behr Ultra to be extremely durable and easy to work with, which is why it’s my go-to paint choice for all my diy projects. An essential element of painted cabinets is a durable finish. I’m two years post-painting kitchen cabinets, and I’ve not had a single chip, and any drips and spills wipe away like a breeze.
  • Now, for this paint job you simply repeat the steps you did in step 2 (except with paint in place of primer): paint, sand, clean, paint, sand. When painting kitchen cabinets, I let the paint dry for a few hours in between coats. Remember, a second coat of paint is essential when painting kitchen cabinets!
  • The easiest way to ensure a nice finish is to apply thin coats of paint.
  • I did not paint my cabinet interiors; however I do suggest painting the inside of your doors.

How To Paint Kitchen Cabinets Step 4: Doors

How to paint kitchen cabinets alabaster white cabinet doors by Tantrums and Tools
  • I did the bases and drawers separate from the doors when painting kitchen cabinets. Although the prep, prime, and paint process is the same as I already reviewed, I wanted to add some helpful tips to tackling these flat areas to give them an even more pro-looking finish.
  • First, if you don’t already, I highly suggest investing in a paint sprayer. This is a good time to invest in one since it is the best way to avoid brush marks on the surface of the cabinet. I have a reasonably priced one that has more than paid for itself in the number of projects I’ve done with it. This paint sprayer is just around $100 and makes all the difference in your final finish, and it also significantly cuts down on the amount of time it takes to paint. That’s a double win in my book!
    • The drawback to the sprayer is its mess, which is why I did not use it on the lower cabinets (and if I had upper cabinets I would not have sprayed those either.) From experience, I can assure you, the over spray is real! Ideally, you’ll want to set up your cabinet doors outside or in an enclosed area where you’re not worried about paint over spray getting on the surfaces.
    • Additionally, if this is your first time using a paint sprayer, I suggest practicing on something other than your new cabinets.
  • If you are using a brush, the right way is to paint in the direction of the wood grain.
  • My other trick to painting the doors is to start with the backs- do the prep, prime, and painting process in its entirety on the backs before moving to the fronts. This way, you’re avoiding smudging or nicking any of your work. You’re less likely to be upset about a minor flaw on the back than you would on the fronts of your cabinets.

How To Paint Kitchen Cabinets Step 5: Hinges and Hardware

  • Congratulations, you’re done painting kitchen cabinets (happy dance). You’ll need to wait for the final coat of paint to cure, but once that’s set, the last thing you’ll need to do is attach your hardware and hinges.
  • If you’re planning to paint your hardware to save money, spray paint works amazing! However, I don’t recommend doing this on your hinges. Either re-use the original as is, or buy new ones.
  • If you’re using new drawer pulls and new hinges, you’ll need to drill new holes.

Home Improvement Inspiration

My Kitchen Home Improvement Before and After

These pictures give you a glimpse into how a fresh coat of paint gave my kitchen a whole new look. As you can see, my home renovation is still in progress (hint, in my house, the home improvement is never truly finished, but someday I’ll have a totally new kitchen), but I am beyond impressed with the transformation just from new paint. The paint color I used was Simply White by Benjamin Moore. Since I don’t like the look of a gloss finish, I compromised and went with satin. I did not apply a top coat since the Behr paint I used has a built in scuff defense. Do you love these white cabinets as much as I do?

Tantrums and Tools- kitchen home renovation before picture. 1960'3 outdated Old kitchen
Before Painting Kitchen Cabinets

Benefits of kitchen floating shelving // Tantrums and Tools
After Painting Kitchen Cabinets

I’m also super impressed with my painting kitchen cabinets process since the durability has far surpassed any expectations.
There is not a single chip, and any mess easily wipes away!

Painting Cabinets Tools and Supplies

DIY home improvement. How to paint kitchen cabinets in 5 simple steps to make them last

My Favorite Home Improvement Tools

I have listed all my favorite tools necessary to complete this home improvement:

How To Paint Kitchen Cabinets Video

how to paint kitchen cabinets video by Tantrums and Tools

You asked how to paint kitchen cabinets, and I delivered all my best tips and tools. I hope you’re feeling more confident about this home improvement project now that I’ve given you these simple step by step instructions to painting cabinets. I’m no expert, just a girl building a life I love, with a passion for sharing what has worked for me. 

Good Luck!


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