|

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. Looks fantastic! Thanks for all the detailed how-to. I’ve always been hesitant about painting my cabinets because of the sanding process. That seems so tedious. You mentioned it can be skipped? Would that work for all kinds of wood? Would the paint flake easier? How are yours holding up over time?

    1. It’s been 5 months since we painted them and they’re still holding up perfectly. 🙂 You could definitely skip sanding and just use liquid deglosser on a lot of wood projects. I use it on furniture makeovers quite a bit too.

  2. You did an amazing job. It looks beautiful!! I have been putting off doing ours. Thanks for the tips now I can’t wait to start on our oak cabinets. I also love your counter tops! We desperately need new but $$ is a factor. Where did you get them and were they more affordable than other options?

  3. They look awesome! I wanted to paint my cabinets white for so long but for many reasons (including having a toddler/preschooler) I ended up paying a LOT more than you spent to have someone do it LOL. May I ask off-topic, what does your daughter do while you are working on these projects? I’d love to do some of these but that’s my main issue as a stay at home mom. Thanks!

    1. Thanks, Alexis! It took a LOT of patience. I mostly worked on them in the mornings/evenings when my husband wasn’t at work and on the weekend. So he was able to entertain her. I did all of the cabinets on my own. It probably would have gone faster if I’d had his help, but I needed him to play with her the whole time instead. It’s definitely a struggle balancing projects with being a mom/wife.

  4. This looks great! I just inherited a pretty ugly builder grader kitchen and can’t wait to paint our cabinets. But I’m also in SC. Do you recommend waiting until the fall to do this job because of the humidity?

    1. Thanks, Casey! Yes, I would definitely wait until this crazy SC humidity goes away around September-October. Plus, it’s more bearable for you too. Dripping sweat on your fresh paint job is no fun. Haha!

  5. Lauren, I’m painting our kitchen caninets soon and following all of your instructions thanks to this awesome post! 🙂 Curious how much paint you needed? Did one can do the job or did you need two?

    1. So glad to help, Courtney! I ended up using 1 gallon + 1 quart of primer and 1 and 1/2 gallon of paint. We have a fairly large kitchen though, plus a butler’s pantry with 4 sets of cabinets

  6. HI Lauren! LOVE the cabinets! Did you only use one gallon of paint and one gallon of primer?We are repainting our cabinets right now and it looks like we might need (2) gallons of advance paint in order to do two coats. I am hoping maybe we can get away with one coat (since this paint is so darn expensive!) but we shall see!

    1. Thanks for asking that, Jessica! I need to go back and explain how much I used. So I did 1 gallon and 1 quart of primer and 1 and 1/2 gallon of paint. We have a LOT of cabinets, so you may not need as much if your kitchen is smaller than ours.

  7. Hey Lauren! I’m gonna be moving into a new condo soon, and am interested in DIYing the old oak cabinets white in the fall/next spring. I have a few questions and if you could answer them that would be great 🙂

    1. Since it’s a condo building, I don’t have a garage to paint in. Is it safe to use that sprayer indoors? I’m not sure where else I could do the doors except in an alleyway with tarps (kind of sketchy haha).
    2. If you had used it on your frames, what would have been the process with the sprayer then? And how wide would your area of “protection” be (/how much space around the cabinets would you need to cover)?
    3. How many days total did it take you to do the whole project? I don’t have QUITE as many cabinets as you do, but I imagine it would take about a week all together.
    4. Would it be ridiculous to spread out the painting and do the top one weekend/bottom another?

    I think that’s all I have right now…but your blog is a huge inspiration and I love that you break everything down! I don’t have a large budget and am trying to upgrade my condo without breaking my bank account haha. Your blog will be very useful the next couple years <3

    1. Hi Ali! Glad to help! To answer your questions, yes, you can definitely use the sprayer indoors. There are some great tips for how to use a paint sprayer indoors in this post: http://www.evolutionofstyleblog.com/2014/01/tips-tricks-for-painting-oak-cabinets.html As for the time frame, it took me exactly 1 week. I’d say it’s better to tackle all of them at once because it’s going to take you the same amount of time no matter how many you do really since drying time plays a big factor in that. I think it would be better to do the doors one weekend and the frames the second weekend. Hope it turns out well for you! 🙂

  8. Your kitchen is looking extraordinary in white paint. Wonderful post to consider. Your white fresh cabinets, kitchen decor, white brick wall , I mean each and everything is drop dead gorgeous. Your hardwork and creativity has really paid off in terms of love, love and more love for you.

  9. Hi Lauren!
    Love your cabinets! Question.. did you use a finishing product like poly or polycrylic? I didn’t see one mentioned. I am wanting to paint my kitchen cabinets soon and I can’t decide on a kit like the cabinet transformations or to use individual products like you did. I am worried to not use a finishing product like poly or they would be prone to chipping or yellowing. Thanks for any help!

    1. Hi Alex! This paint doesn’t require a sealer at all. It’s built in to the paint. I looked into the cabinet transformation kits too, but I liked that I had more colors to choose from with the individual paint. And this paint acts like an oil base in that it dries to a very hard, durable finish and is easy to scrub but it has the easy cleanup and low odor like a water base.

  10. Hi Lauren,
    Love reading your posts! May I ask what color paint you used on you kitchen and family room walls? What color do you use on your ceilings?

    1. Thank you, Gayle! The paint on our walls is Sherwin Williams Perfect Greige. The color changes dramatically with the light. It looks dark beige at night and medium gray during the day. It’s the craziest thing. I’m not sure about the color on our ceilings though. That was painted by our builder.

  11. Looks beautiful! We are about to start doing this in our kitchen, using the same paint/color, so I appreciate the information!

    One question–how did you decide to use the satin finish over semi gloss? Seems that these are the finishes most often used for cabinets but I’m not really clear on the differences.

    1. Glad it could help, Sheila! I decided on satin just because I didn’t want super shiny cabinets, but it’s just a matter of personal preference. Semi gloss is more likely to show any imperfections too, but they’re also even easier to scrub. So you win either way really.

  12. Lauren, your kitchen looks absolutely fabulous! I am planning to paint my kitchen cabinets in about a month, so your post came at the perfect time for me! I can only hope that mine turns out half as good as yours! I love your style and your blog has certainly become a huge source of inspiration for me! Thanks for sharing!

  13. Wonderful post. I’m wanting to paint my cabinets using the Advance paint and feel much better about my choice seeing your results. Did you have any issues with the paint sprayer?

    1. Great! It really is the best, in my opinion since it’s specifically designed for cabinets. The sprayer only gave me trouble once when I didn’t rinse it out well enough after a coat and let the paint dry a little bit inside of it. After I cleaned it out really well, it did great.

    1. Thank you, Ivory! We have just a teeny bit left to do. 🙂 Adding some reclaimed wood into the mix this weekend.

  14. I you were working on this but I can’t believe how wonderful it came out ! You did an awesome job painting.
    White kitchens seem so much more inviting. I have the exact knobs and pulls. Love it all ?

    1. Thank you, Kathy! I can’t quite believe it either. 🙂 Same here. Some people say white kitchens are boring, but I can’t help but love how open and welcoming they are.

  15. Love how your cabinets look. Certainly make it a lot lighter!
    We need to do ours too.A big job but worth it in the end.

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.