|

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets Like a Pro

A complete step-by-step tutorial for how to paint kitchen cabinets to make them as durable as possible for as quickly and easily as possible.

I spent a week painting kitchen cabinets. Almost exactly to the minute.

And it was worth every Pandora karaoke jam sesh / paint brush dance party.

Just in case you don’t remember where our cabinets started though, our kitchen looked like this just a couple of weeks ago.

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets Like a Pro | blesserhouse.com - A complete step-by-step tutorial and full source list for painting kitchen cabinets to make them as durable as possible for as quickly and easily as possible.

UPDATE: See the full kitchen makeover reveal here!

Even though I’d already painted our bathroom cabinets last year, and they’ve held up perfectly, I felt like the kitchen cabinets were a little bit of a different story.

We’re rough on these things. As in a three year-old slamming her tricycle into them on a daily basis and our bacon loving family cooking up all kinds of yummy but greasy goodness on the regular. These needed to be Hulk strength.

So I read through as many tutorials and articles and professional cabinet painter tips as I could find to come up with my method to make them as durable as possible for as quickly and easily as possible.

Supplies

(Affiliate links are provided in this post for convenience. For more information, see my full disclosure here.)

The Best Cabinet Paint and Primer

In all of the researching I could dig up, nearly every professional cabinet painter’s recommendation was Benjamin Moore Advance.

It acts like an oil base by self-leveling, blocking stains, reducing wood grain raise, and sealing for durability while also acting like a water base with easy soap and water cleanup, low odor, low VOC, and not yellowing.

Since we were working with white paint, that non-yellowing bit was really important to me.

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets Like a Pro | blesserhouse.com - A complete step-by-step tutorial and full source list for painting kitchen cabinets to make them as durable as possible for as quickly and easily as possible.

It’s not the cheapest paint on the market, but the quality makes it worth every penny. Cabinet paint is definitely not a project supply I would want to save money on if it means sacrificing durability.

I decided on this Zinsser Primer for the prep work since it had most of those same performance qualities as the paint did too. The only drawback is it wasn’t self-leveling, so in hindsight, I probably would have chosen the Benjamin Moore Advance Primer.

But the Zinsser Primer was still great. (Hey, that’s why I’m the guinea pig.)

Steps

1. Remove doors, hardware, and label everything

Before I went all door removal crazy with the drill, I had to develop a system to keep track of which doors belonged to which cabinets since they can be tricky to put back up later when they’re finished if they’re not on the correct frames.

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets Like a Pro | blesserhouse.com - A complete step-by-step tutorial and full source list for painting kitchen cabinets to make them as durable as possible for as quickly and easily as possible.

So I sketched a very sophisticated high-tech illustration. (Haha! Not.)  But it did the job.

That “1BR” was code for Column 1, Bottom Right Cabinet Door, just in case you don’t speak that language. Wink wink.

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets Like a Pro | blesserhouse.com - A complete step-by-step tutorial and full source list for painting kitchen cabinets to make them as durable as possible for as quickly and easily as possible.

I labeled each door with a correlating number to my sketch as well as a sandwich bag for the hardware, so I could match them up later.

And then our garage became Door Painting Central for several days.

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets Like a Pro | blesserhouse.com - A complete step-by-step tutorial and full source list for painting kitchen cabinets to make them as durable as possible for as quickly and easily as possible.

2. Clean Cabinet Doors and Cabinet Frames with Krud Kutter

Wipe down everything with Krud Kutter first (follow the instructions on the bottle) to remove any cooking grease or residue. Be sure to wear chemical resistant gloves. 

3. Wipe Cabinet Doors and Cabinet Frames with Deglosser

At first, I sanded a few of the doors, but truthfully, it was a giant pain, and after talking with a lot of others who’d painted cabinets successfully before without sanding, I decided it wasn’t really necessary. The degreaser and deglosser can do the job all on their own.

Let the deglosser dry for at least 30 minutes.

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets Like a Pro | blesserhouse.com - A complete step-by-step tutorial and full source list for painting kitchen cabinets to make them as durable as possible for as quickly and easily as possible.

4. Fill Knob/Pull Holes with Wood Filler (if necessary)

If you plan on using knobs and pulls that need different placements from your existing ones, your first step would be to fill those holes with wood filler. 

Once the wood filler is completely dry, sand smooth with fine grit sandpaper. 

Tip: Use a Sprayer for a Smooth, Even Finish in Half the Time

To make the painting process as fast and professional looking as possible, my HomeRight sprayer was the BEST! I don’t even want to know how long it would have taken me to paint our cabinets without this thing.

I’d probably still be painting, truthfully, because what would have taken me about 10-15 minutes per door on a coat of paint with a brush and roller, took all of about 60 seconds with the sprayer.

And we had 42 doors and drawers to paint, so you can imagine how exhausting that would have been.

5. Apply 1 Coat of Primer on the Backs of the Doors First

I primed the backs of the doors first by thinning the Zinnser Primer with about 10% tap water into the sprayer reservoir and stirred well.

You can watch this video if you want a visual on how to use the sprayer, but it’s pretty straight forward. Just go easy and don’t apply too thick of a coat or the primer could start puddling.

Prime the cabinet frames after priming the doors.  (See Step 9.)

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets Like a Pro | blesserhouse.com - A complete step-by-step tutorial and full source list for painting kitchen cabinets to make them as durable as possible for as quickly and easily as possible.

6. Prime the Door Fronts After 24 Hours of Dry Time

I let the primer on the door backs dry for 24 hours before flipping them over to prime the fronts.

I let the door fronts dry for another 24 hours as well. Make sure to thoroughly clean your sprayer with a hose between each coat to keep it working properly.

It’s a lot of wait time for drying, but this is a part of the job you do not want to rush. 

Tip: Be sure you’re painting in low humidity weather conditions! High humidity can have a negative effect on your paint curing. 

7. Apply Paint to Door Backs

Then, I just repeated the whole process with the sprayer using the Benjamin Moore Advance paint.

I thinned it with about 5% water and flipped the doors back over to spray the backs. I followed with a second coat on the backs 12 hours later and let dry for a full 24 hours.

Paint the cabinet frames after painting doors. (See Step 9.)

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets Like a Pro | blesserhouse.com - A complete step-by-step tutorial and full source list for painting kitchen cabinets to make them as durable as possible for as quickly and easily as possible.

8. Apply Paint to Door Fronts

For the fronts, I repeated the process again- spraying one thin coat on the fronts, followed by a second coat 12 hours later, and letting dry for a full 24 hours.

I painted the backs first just in case the finish would get messed up when I flipped them, but both sides ended up looking great with that 24 hour drying time.

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets Like a Pro | blesserhouse.com - A complete step-by-step tutorial and full source list for painting kitchen cabinets to make them as durable as possible for as quickly and easily as possible.

In between coats and waiting for the paint to dry on the doors in the garage, I went to work on the frames in the kitchen repeating the same process as the doors.

9. Apply Painters Tape Around Cabinet Frames and Repeat the Process

I taped the edges with painter’s tape and put down a plastic drop cloth on our new concrete countertops since I’m not exactly the most accident-proof painter in the world. Then…

  1. Spray with Krud Kutter and wipe down
  2. Wipe with Jasco Deglosser and let dry for 30 minutes
  3. Prime with 1 coat of Zinsser Smart Prime using an angled brush and foam roller and let dry 24 hours  (You could use the sprayer on the frames too, but I didn’t feel like rigging up all of the plastic and floor coverings and creating a Dexter scene in our kitchen.)
  4. Paint with 2 coats of Benjamin Moore Advance using the angled brush and foam roller, letting dry 24 hours between coats

To make the job go faster, I would complete a step on the doors in the garage, then run inside to complete the same step on the cabinet frames as the doors dried, worked on the doors as the frames dried, and so on. 

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets Like a Pro | blesserhouse.com - A complete step-by-step tutorial and full source list for painting kitchen cabinets to make them as durable as possible for as quickly and easily as possible.

10. Score Painter’s Tape Before Removing

When the frames were all dry, I scored the painter’s tape with a utility knife before removing the tape to prevent any peeling.

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets Like a Pro | blesserhouse.com - A complete step-by-step tutorial and full source list for painting kitchen cabinets to make them as durable as possible for as quickly and easily as possible.

11. Drill for Hardware Using a Template

I added the hardware using a cabinet and drawer template, but I was a bad blogger and didn’t get a chance to photograph that step. Oops. I think I was eager to get this project done!

12. Add Knobs and Pulls and Hang Doors Onto Frames

Robert pitched in with me to help out with attaching the doors back on the frames with the drill and then we did a victory dance smack in the middle of our newly bright white kitchen. Ahhhhhh!

Literally 4 hours after hanging our last cabinet doors, we hosted a massive Memorial Day cookout. Because apparently we like to live on the edge.

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets Like a Pro | blesserhouse.com - A complete step-by-step tutorial and full source list for painting kitchen cabinets to make them as durable as possible for as quickly and easily as possible.

I am absolutely amazed at the difference in here. Since this space has no windows, it desperately needed a brightening up.

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets Like a Pro | blesserhouse.com - A complete step-by-step tutorial and full source list for painting kitchen cabinets to make them as durable as possible for as quickly and easily as possible.

We still have just a couple of little things to do in here like adding a runner rug and buying new counter stools (or making over thrift finds but I doubt I’ll get that lucky). 

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets Like a Pro | blesserhouse.com - A complete step-by-step tutorial and full source list for painting kitchen cabinets to make them as durable as possible for as quickly and easily as possible.

I’m hoping we’ll be able to add under cabinet lighting soon too, but the jury’s still out on that one. We’ll see if the budget has any wiggle room later.

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets Like a Pro | blesserhouse.com - A complete step-by-step tutorial and full source list for painting kitchen cabinets to make them as durable as possible for as quickly and easily as possible.

We’re swapping out our black range for a stainless steel one too, so that’s coming. 

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets Like a Pro | blesserhouse.com - A complete step-by-step tutorial and full source list for painting kitchen cabinets to make them as durable as possible for as quickly and easily as possible.

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets Like a Pro | blesserhouse.com - A complete step-by-step tutorial and full source list for painting kitchen cabinets to make them as durable as possible for as quickly and easily as possible.

You can see how we installed our DIY whitewashed brick backsplash too. It was only $75 for our entire kitchen!

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets Like a Pro | blesserhouse.com - A complete step-by-step tutorial and full source list for painting kitchen cabinets to make them as durable as possible for as quickly and easily as possible.

And if you missed them, I shared all about our DIY concrete countertops and our IKEA farmhouse sink and faucet a few weeks ago.

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets Like a Pro | blesserhouse.com - A complete step-by-step tutorial and full source list for painting kitchen cabinets to make them as durable as possible for as quickly and easily as possible.

One of the very first projects we ever did in this house though was this chalkboard wall; it still comes in handy every day for planning out our weekly menu. (And keeping the kiddo entertained for drawing on while I’m cooking dinner.)

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets Like a Pro | blesserhouse.com - A complete step-by-step tutorial and full source list for painting kitchen cabinets to make them as durable as possible for as quickly and easily as possible.

Next week, we’ll be adding reclaimed wood to the stool side of our bar to tie in with our DIY wood beam doorway. I’m so ready to replace that black range with a stainless steel one that will be arriving soon.

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets Like a Pro | blesserhouse.com - A complete step-by-step tutorial and full source list for painting kitchen cabinets to make them as durable as possible for as quickly and easily as possible.

But in case you’re wondering, while snapping pictures of our fancy schmancy paint job in here, the watermelon slices didn’t last long. This girl can pretty much eat her weight in melon.

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets Like a Pro | blesserhouse.com - A complete step-by-step tutorial and full source list for painting kitchen cabinets to make them as durable as possible for as quickly and easily as possible.

We are soooooo close to this kitchen being finished! This one project was a huge leap from where we were before. Paint is magical like that, right?

UPDATE: You can see our completed kitchen makeover here!

white kitchen cabinets

If you ever attempt to paint your own cabinets, I hope this one comes in handy. I’m sure I’ll be back in 6 months or so to share how they’re holding up, but I’m already really confident that they’re going to last for a very long time. It’s only been two days since we finished them and the paint has already dried to a rock solid finish. Woo to the hoo!

UPDATE: We have since moved out of this house, but the cabinets were still looking absolutely perfect a year after painting them! The new homeowners have reported that the painted cabinets are still holding up perfectly 3 years later too. This method works!

If you want to save this post to reference later, you can pin it here:

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets Like a Pro | blesserhouse.com - A complete step-by-step tutorial and full source list for painting kitchen cabinets to make them as durable as possible for as quickly and easily as possible.

signoff

Can I paint my kitchen cabinets without sanding?

Absolutely! Just be sure to clean them with a degreaser and wipe them down with deglosser, and you’ll be all set without the need to sand.

What type of paint should be used on kitchen cabinets?

Benjamin Moore Advance is the best to use on cabinets and trim, but if you prefer a different brand, stick with a waterbourne alkyd enamel base.

Similar Posts

162 Comments

  1. It looks beautiful! I love that farmhouse sink from ikea. We’ve been eyeing it ourselves, but when we bought our house last year it came with granite – which is a pain to remove ( I dream of butcher block countertops with subway backsplash some day)…and while granite is not my favorite in the world, it is just something we’re going to live with for now. But I love the look of yours. You did a really nice job of making it look homey instead of industrial with the counters.
    Btw-where did you find that fresh & local produce sign? I love it!

    1. Oh yeah, I know what you mean. Granite is a whole different problem to deal with. Thankfully, our formica was pretty easy to cut. After we cut the formica, we added a concrete skim coat. They do look a lot like granite with the sheen of our sealer though. I got the fresh & local produce sign from this shop: http://shopthesummeryumbrella.com/

  2. Your cabinets look amazing and I am about to do this same thing with a friend on her kitchen, so this tutorial came at the perfect time. All you need now is to paint the side of the cabinet that holds the microwave, a bit of brown is showing..

  3. Wow, Lauren, this is so so beautiful! My dream is a white kitchen! I have an ugly one right now and can’t take it. But white makes such a big difference and really brightens up the whole room! Love it very much!

  4. Wow!!! Lauren this looks amazing! I love how everything is coming together and I’m sooo eager to see how you did that amazing backsplash 🙂
    White cabinets totally brighten up this space I love it!

    >> Christene

  5. I’m not a painter or much of a crafter, but I enjoy reading your blog and think it’s one of the best, as you give very detailed instructions and tips! What I’m wondering about painting those cabinets is, why did you note that you diluted both the primer and the paint? What is the reason for this? Is the paint that thick that it’s necessary?? If one isn’t using a sprayer, is it still necessary to dilute it?? and p.s. you are VERY brave to paint over those “new” cabinets that are obviously in excellent condition! lol

    1. Thank you so much, Kristine! So sorry. I should have explained that better. I diluted the primer and paint because it was necessary for using them in the sprayer. But if you’re just using a roller and paint brush, there is no need to dilute. I was a bit scared to paint our fairly new cabinets, but I was so tired of our cave-like kitchen. The dark wood along with no windows wasn’t doing this space in favors. 😉

  6. IKEA has insanely inexpensive and easy to install under cabinet lighting. I installed ours four years ago and it’s been going strong since. I love it b

    1. Yes! Those are the ones I’ve been looking at getting! Glad to know yours are still doing well. I’m even more convinced now. Thanks for sharing your experience, Jennifer!

  7. Eeee!!! I’ve been so eager to see how they came out! It’s insane that that is the same kitchen 🙂 I’m still gearing up to do ours but unfortunately it’s summer in south Texas already and it’s humid as crap, but I’m not so sure I can wait till the fall. Congrats on a beautiful kitchen friend, your hard work is DEFINITELY paying off!

    1. Ugh! I know. I was working my tail off trying to beat the humidity since it gets sticky hot around here in the summer too. Thanks, love!

  8. Great job, Lauren. I’m so thrilled that this big job is finally over for you. It’s hard to keep a house running when the kitchen is out of order. Every single project is just terrific. I especially admire that concrete counter top. Yowzers!! Enjoy to the max!! Susie

    1. Thank you, Susie! I know. I think I gained 5 pounds from all that eating out we did since cooking wasn’t at all possible. Haha! All of the dinners out cost more than the actual project itself.

  9. THANKS for that! I want to paint my kitchen and bathroom cabinets white. This will help a lot!
    I had to laugh when you said just make sure you are painting when the humidity is low. I live in NJ. I don’t think there IS a low humidity here between April and September. ha! I may be painting in the fall then. 🙁

    1. Oh wow! I didn’t know it got so humid up there. I got lucky this year. Normally, the humidity has already hit before May here in Charlotte. I envy the California dry heat!

  10. WOW!! It is stunning! Your talent, creativity and energy are amazing. You did a fabulous job!!! Thank you for sharing your journey and tips.

  11. Wow! it looks fabulous! You guys did a great job. It still amazes me what a coat of paint can do, lol

  12. It looks so great Lauren! Paint makes all the difference. The transformation is amazing. I have painting my kitchen cabinets on the list, but didn’t get it done before the humidity hit Florida so it will have to wait until the fall. Right now mine are cream with a chocolate glaze, but I want brighter. Just curious, I’m on the hunt for a coffee cup holder and I really love yours. Where did you find it?

    Great job!
    Nancy

  13. Wow! What a transformation. I know it was a lot of work and living in a house that’s “under construction” – esp the kitchen – isn’t easy, either. Great job!

    1. Oh gosh yes! So glad I can cook again! I’m pretty sure I gained 5 pounds from eating fast food for an entire week. Eating out cost more than the actual project supplies. 😉 Thanks so much, Moriah!

  14. Looks amazing! We had just used the same paint for our cabinets! I love it! Don’t you just want to stare at them? That’s what I do!

    1. Haha! Yes! Stare at them lovingly and pet them and whisper “you’re beautiful” to them. It’s quite a love story around here. 😉

      1. Can you tell me were your cabinets wood or laminate? Also how has the paint lasted over time?
        Thanks!

        1. They’re wood and there are a few dings here and there, but overall, it’s held up great! If you take the time to do it right, they’ll hold up really nicely!

  15. Huge difference Lauren! It really brightens up the whole room. And the concrete countertop makes such a nice contrast to the white. showing it off to perfection. Can’t wait to see it finished with the stove in there.

    1. Thanks so much, Mary! We’re so happy with them. So ready for that stove to arrive! Not feeling the black anymore at all.

  16. Wow Lauren, your kitchen looks fantastic.! I think I need me a paint sprayer….. 🙂 And some watermelon.!!

    1. Yes! The sprayer is a game changer! And watermelon. Watermelon is a game changer too. 😉 Thanks, Min!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.