The Beginner’s Guide to Painting Cabinets

A step-by-step beginner’s guide to painting cabinets including necessary supplies, tips to make the process easier and faster, and how to give them a smooth professional finish. 

Get your happy little bum wiggle on y’all! Dougie, nae nae, or twerk it (or ehhhh…maybe not). But have a victory dance of some kind because our hallway bathroom cabinets are painted!

Anti-cabinet painters, look away. Right now. And please forgive me for these graphic images of cherry stain being destroyed.

Beginner's Guide to Painting Cabinets | Bless'er House

We’ve been really lucky in the cabinet department. Our basic builder grade package included very nice ones, but the finish wasn’t ideal. Don’t get me wrong; I think cherry wood stained cabinets are beautiful, but why put up with something you feel like isn’t you style?

Beginner's Guide to Painting Cabinets | Bless'er House

After I painted our master bathroom cabinets, some of y’all started asking me about my cabinet painting process. Because really it’s one of those more-than-one-way-to-skin-a-cat situations. (Random thought: Isn’t that the worst figure of speech ever?)

You get it though. There are 3,547,654,764 tutorials out there for painting cabinets.

Beginner's Guide to Painting Cabinets | Bless'er House

So it was time I delivered my deets. This really is the beginner’s guide to painting cabinets. Truthfully, I’m a bit of a beginner. As in, this is my second time doing it.

But I’ve admitted before that I research the heck out of some home advice, and this method works! If you find yourself staring at those old cabinets in your house that you hate, or you can’t justify painting your cabinets because they’re fairly new, let me tell ya, one beginner cabinet painter to another, you’ve got this. I believe in you. Don’t live with something you don’t love.

When I hashed out our hall bathroom design plan (which you can see more about design planning tips for your own home here), the very top priority on my list was getting rid of these reddish wood cabinets.

Beginner's Guide to Painting Cabinets | Bless'er House

So you ready for it? Here’s everything I did, and two things I would have done differently.

Supplies:  (Affiliate links are listed below and noted by asterisks. I only recommend products I trust. For more information, see my full disclosure here.)

Approximate total:  $75.00  (This amount covered cabinets in 2 bathrooms.)

I learn something new after every project, and I wouldn’t be doing this blog justice if I didn’t share my trials and errors. I used Kilz Original Primer on our cabinets, and it worked great. But, next time, I would choose a primer that is low VOC. The fumes of the Kilz Original were intense. I’d rather buy the odorless version in the future.

I used Valspar Reserve semi-gloss paint, and even though the finish turned out beautifully, it took weeks to fully cure and wasn’t self-leveling. I really didn’t see a difference between the pricier Reserve Valspar line versus the cheaper Signature line. I’ve heard excellent reviews about this paint from Ace and this paint from Sherwin Williams. I’m okay with spending more, if the final results are better and faster.

I used the color Winter Gates by Benjamin Moore mixed into Valspar Reserve paint.

Beginner's Guide to Painting Cabinets | Bless'er House

 The Steps:

1. Remove all of your drawer fronts and cabinet doors. Make sure you label each drawer/door with their matching hinges too. Mixing them up when you’re ready to reattach them later can be a big headache.

Beginner's Guide to Painting Cabinets | Bless'er House

2. Tape down your drop cloth. I like using a plastic shower curtain liner because they cost less than $1. And, if you’re not confident in your edging abilities, use painter’s tape. (Like me, Shakey McGee, over here.)

Beginner's Guide to Painting Cabinets | Bless'er House

3. Use chemical resistant gloves to wipe down all cabinet doors, drawers, and box with a rag using liquid deglosser. (I don’t sand all over in the prep process because the liquid deglosser can really handle it, but if you want to take that extra step, go for it.)

I didn’t need to fill any hardware holes with the knobs and handles I’d chosen, but use wood filler to fill any hardware holes after the deglosser is dry. Once the wood filler is dry, sand the old hardware spots until smooth. Wipe away any sanding dust.

Beginner's Guide to Painting Cabinets | Bless'er House

4. To help with clean-up, and because I don’t want to wash oil-based paint down a drain anywhere, I wrap my painter’s tray in a plastic grocery bag before pouring in my primer.

Beginner's Guide to Painting Cabinets | Bless'er House

5. Use the economy grade brush to apply primer to any corners, edges, and hard to reach areas. Use a cabinet roller to smooth the primer on the box, drawer, and doors. Start on the backside of the doors first. Sand between coats for a really smooth finish.

Beginner's Guide to Painting Cabinets | Bless'er House

6. Once the primer has dried and you’ve tossed out your grocery bag, repeat step 5 with the semi-gloss paint, your second roller, and Purdy paint brush. I applied two coats.

7. After the paint has dried, score the edge of your painter’s tape with your utility knife, and slowly peel up the tape. This should preven any paint from peeling up with it.

8. Attach your hardware and admire your handiwork!

Beginner's Guide to Painting Cabinets | Bless'er House

I found these handles and spigot-looking knobs at Hobby Lobby at 50% off. (I’m hooked on their hardware.)  Aren’t they the cutest?

Beginner's Guide to Painting Cabinets | Bless'er House

Yay! We’re getting there! Sorry about the icky lighting in this bathroom, but this space has no natural light at all.

Beginner's Guide to Painting Cabinets | Bless'er House

Have you painted any cabinets lately that you’re booty-shaking-excited about? Or do you have any good-to-know tips you’ve learned in your own process? I’d love to hear them! That cherry wood kitchen of ours is asking for it.

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94 Comments

  1. Your cabinets are fabulous! Love the handles, and the color! And thanks for the tutorial! I’ve not gotten the courage to paint my cabinets yet, but I’m slowly getting there! 🙂 ~Rhonda

    1. Thanks, Rhonda! It was so worth it. I had to drum up the courage too, but now that it’s finished, I’m so glad I did it.

  2. We used a paint from Home Depot for our kitchen cabinets that is just for cabinets. My husband painted them a chocolate color and the paint is wearing off looks really bad. What can we do?

    1. Oh no! Do you remember the name of the paint you used? I do know that enamel paint is supposed to work the best because it dries to a harder, more durable finish than latex. Even if primer is built in to the paint, I still use a good primer as a base. Kitchen cabinets require more prep work too because of the grease and grime that can collect from cooking, so they need a deep cleaning beforehand using something like TSP. Then, degloss, sand, prime, paint. We haven’t tackled our kitchen yet, but I’ve been gathering as much information as possible about it.

      1. Oh no! So sorry you’re having such a bad time, Jessica! I know from the cabinet painting I’ve done, the secret has all been in the prep work. It’s a total pain to take a day to properly prep them, but it’s so worth it. Our bathroom cabinets and kitchen cabinets have held up perfectly. I wrote about the process for our kitchen cabinets here too, if that helps, and found a cabinet paint I love even more since it takes hardly any time to cure: http://www.blesserhouse.com/2016/06/paint-kitchen-cabinets-like-pro.html

  3. Hello Lauren! I love love this tutorial! You did an amazing job transforming the entire room! I am stopping by to invite you to share this project (and others hopefully) over on my blog! I am hosting my first ever linky party exclusive to furniture this coming Thursday August 6 starting at 6:00pm (MST). I would be honoured if you would join in! Please come and share your talent!

    Smiles!
    Terry
    http://thecuratorscollection.wordpress.com

  4. They look great, I love that color and the hardware pairs perfectly with it! I’ve painted my kitchen cabinets twice within the last year but I did it all with a brush and it was the most daunting task ever. When I tackle our bathrooms I am for sure using a foam roller!! 🙂

    1. Thanks, Angela! Yes, definitely invest in a foam roller. Saves a ton of time and energy, and the paint ends up much smoother. I think my whole roller kit was only $5.

    1. Thank you for reminding me I didn’t mention the color! I just went back to add it to the post. I used Benjamin Moore Winter Gates. It’s the same color on our master bathroom cabinets too. Love it!

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