How to Paint Your Kitchen Cabinets

Yesterday I unveiled to you my Painted Kitchen Cabinets. Yep, all I have to say is what a difference a coat of paint can make!

Today I thought I’d give you the step-by-step instructions for my process. It truly is an easy task to paint your cabinets, just a bit time consuming. Now I’m sure there’s a bazillion different ways to paint your cabinets, but here’s the process I used…

1. First thing you’re going to do is take down all of the cabinet doors and drawers using your drill.

2. Start labeling which door or drawer belongs to each cabinet base. I used sticky notes to keep track. A lot of cabinet doors and drawer faces were similar sizes and it can get very confusing if you don’t have them labeled correctly. Trust me.

3. Remove all cabinet hardware. Put all screws, hinges and knobs/pulls in separate ziplock bags and label those bags to coincide with the sticky note labels on the drawers and doors.

4. Now it’s time to start preparing your surface. I used Krud Kutter to degrease all of my cabinet doors, drawers and bases. I scrubbed these puppies like crazy to remove any dirt and grime from the surface.

Even though my cabinets did have a gloss on them, I did not use a deglosser. Instead I used sandpaper like a mad woman. And let me note here that sandpaper will become your very best friend during this process. If you hate sanding things, this might not be the project for you. Just sayin’.

5. Once you have everything sanded down, make sure you clean up all of the dust with a tack cloth. A little hand vac also comes in handy to get into the grooves of the cabinet doors if you have any bevels.

6. Now it’s time to start priming. Make sure you prop up your cabinets a couple of inches before you start painting so you can easily get the sides covered (I used random projects from around my house like scrap pieces of wood and old baking cooling racks. Make sure you paint on flat surfaces so you don’t get drip marks.

For my primer I chose Zinsser cover stain with the brown label ( and I used less than 1 gallon for the entire project).

7. For around the beveled edges I used a paint brush to really get the paint into the crevices. I used a 1.5 inch brush. Don’t lay on the paint too thick, and work the brush back and forth so you don’t get build up and drip marks.

8. For the larger areas I used a 4 inch trim and cabinet foam roller. This really gave the super smooth finish. I also tried to go over the edges as best as possible to cover where I used the paint brush.

Now when you’re using a primer, it will not 100% cover the entire surface of your cabinets with the first coat. It can look kinda splotchy. That’s ok… it’s still going to turn out just fine. BUT here’s where the work really comes in…

I coated each cabinet door with TWO COATS of PRIMER, and sanded between each coat.

9. After the second coat of primer was dry and sanded, then I added TWO COATS of Sherwin Williams Pure White satin paint (sanding in between each coat as well).

So again, if you hate to sand, this is probably not the project for you. Cause that was only the back side of the cabinets. Now you have to flip them over and paint the fronts.

10. OK, once all of your cabinet doors and drawers are painted on both sides, it’s time to begin on the bases in your kitchen. Use painter’s tape to protect all of your countertops, walls, flooring, etc. And then it’s the same painting process as above…

  • Degrease
  • Sand
  • Prime
  • Sand
  • Prime
  • Sand
  • Paint
  • Sand
  • Paint
  • Sand

11. (optional but recommended) Add a coat of polyurethane to your kitchen cabinets. There are many options, such as rub on poly, brush on, wax, etc. Be careful if you choose a brush-on oil poly as it can tend to yellow over time. I would suggest a water-based poly instead, like Minwax Polycrylic.

12. Remove all the painter’s tape and it’s time to reassemble the kitchen cabinets and hardware. Make any necessary touch ups as well (we had one paint drip mark on the side of the kitchen island; just sand out like crazy and repaint).

And here’s some answers to questions I’ve already gotten:

  • No, you can’t see brush strokes
  • Yes, you can see a little of the wood grain in the cabinets still, but it looks fabulous
  • I used Sherwin Williams ProClassic semi-gloss paint in Pure White (and it’s an acrylic interior paint and made for cabinets)
  • I painted the insides of the cabinet doors, but did not paint all of the shelves or the insides of the bases
  • This project probably took me about 40 hours total if I added up all my time
  • I didn’t use a paint sprayer because I have never used one before and was chicken. Simple as that.

Here are the final costs of my Kitchen Cabinet Makeover:

  • 1 gallon of Sherwin Williams ProClassic acrylic cabinet paint in Pure White – $40 (purchased during sale)
  • 1 gallon of Zinsser cover stain primer – $23
  • Paint brushes, rollers and sandpaper – about $30

THAT’S A TOTAL OF $93!

Please feel free to ask me any questions and I’ll try to answer them to the best of my ability!

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Comments

  1. Olivia Watson says

    Your kitchen looks marvelous. It is worth of 40 hours of work for sure. I am going to give a new look to my kitchen cabinet next week. Usually painting seems to me as a mammoth task but you make it so easily.
    Good work!!

  2. says

    I would be chicken to spray them as well. Brushing is something I’m familiar with and much easier for me. I used that Minwax Polycrylic on my son’s dresser. Glad I did. I think I’ll use it on my mudroom shelving unit as well.

  3. says

    They look great! When we bought our house, the people before us had painted the cabinets. The only problem is, they didn’t prep it at all and the paint was sticky and peeling. I did the bathroom cabinets on my own, but was too chicken to do the kitchen cabinets, since they are at eye level. I found a guy to paint them and he did an awesome job. He used a sprayer and they are so smooth. He took home all of the doors to work on at home. He said it did take quite a while to prep them.

    The total was $1700 with new inside hinges and door knobs. Way more than doing it myself, but so worth it, as sanding is not a fun pastime of mine. LOL!

  4. Ashley Simpson says

    You have done a great job indeed. It seems very cost effective to me (only 93$ !!). The kitchen looks really gorgeous!!
    Thanks for sharing :-)

  5. says

    Your kitchen looks great, Erin! Huge difference with the white cabinets.

    Painting our cabinets are on the list too. Ours are already white but have a horrible finish. So need to sand and repaint them. Then have new knobs to add too. :) Was hoping to get it done this year but looks like it will be next Spring now.

  6. says

    I just recently painted my own cabinets! A scary thing to do, but they turned out beautifully and with no sanding! Liquid de-glossers are a lifesaver for those of you who don’t want to spend hours playing with sandpaper! It’ll add about $30 to your budget, but it’s well worth the “splurge”!

  7. Annette White says

    Love it! I can’t wait to show this to my husband. I’m going for it. This step-by-step is all I need for the job!! I’ll let you know how ours come out.

  8. says

    Might be a silly question, but did you paint the under-side of each cabinet base? Meaning the bottom part of upper cabinets that hangs over the counter-top… I am starting this process this weekend, and that was a funny question that popped into my head. Just wondering! Thanks for the tips.

  9. says

    Love this!
    My bff and i share links to different blog posts for inspiration and yours commonly comes up.
    Do you wish, hindsite, that you would have painted the inside of the cabinets?
    I would have to paint the bottom of at least some of mine bc they are high above the sink and the bottom is easily seen.
    I also love the crown molding you did

  10. Nem says

    Looks great. I love white cabinets.
    Is satin paint the best paint for kitchens?
    I lived in a rental once and they painted the cabinets, except when you close and open the doors and drawers the paint would cause them to stick. Do you know how to avoid this?

    • says

      I would suggest using a high quality paint, like Sherwin Williams. I’ve never had any problems with tackiness or sticking. Plus I’ve never had any chips either, even with kids!

  11. Michele Chandler says

    I’ve hated my kitchen ever since buying my house 3 years ago and am looking for ideas. I was drawn to yours because, like you, I also have all black appliances. Currently the cabinets are a medium brown and the walls are a medium shade of (gasp!) mint green. It’s a very small kitchen and I was thinking of repainting the cabinets white, but wondering what to do for the walls. If color, I would lean towards a light blue shade (if not white). I had never remodeled anything so I am taking a leap of faith in redoing this! The old countertops are currently off-white but was thinking they will eventually be replaced or painted (also read about doing that). I have no tile experience either, (or tools to cut them), but have considered the small tiles in an even pattern. Ok…any suggestions/ideas??? THANK YOU! :)

    • says

      I absolutely LOVE the idea of light blue walls. I think they would look wonderful with black appliances and white cabinets. I think you could find some really nice backsplash tiles too that go with the new color scheme. If yo’ure uncomfortable with tile, check out thesmarttiles.com. They’re actually peel and stick mosaic tiles so you really can’t mess them up! Tons of colors and designs too. YOU CAN DO THIS!! Definitely keep me updated. I’m excited to hear how it all turns out!!

  12. Ted Wood says

    Your kitchen is beautiful! I’m getting ready to do mine… were the primer and paint water-based? I’ve seen others recommend oil-based, but i hate using that so much. Thanks so much for your help!

    • says

      Yes, primer and paint were both water based latex. If it’s a good brand of paint, you’ll have no problem with the curing and durability. I’m not a fan of oil paints, especially since they can yellow over the years. Good luck with your transformation!

  13. Brian says

    Just curious – did you use a coat of polycrylic? It’s not in your list of expenses, and I wouldn’t be able to tell by looking at it. Do you have a recommendation for the finish of the polycrylic? Thanks a lot.

    • says

      No, I did not use a poly coat on my cabinets or when I did my mother’s cabinets. Both have held up wonderfully with no knicks or chips. If you use the right paint (like an enamel), you will not need a top poly coat.

  14. Tiffany says

    I love your kitchen! Awesome job! I have currently started to tackle this but am still nervous about it turning out as beautiful as yours! I have primed the one side of the cabinets and will be sanding away tonight! Wish me luck and any tips appreciated! ;)

  15. michelle batten says

    Hi Erin. I just discovered your blog (it’s great, btw) and read your post from October 2012 about painting your kitchen cabinets white. I’m about to have my kitchen cabinets painted white and was looking for kitchen inspiration. I too have all black appliances. Our kitchens are similar and I’m interested in replicating your kitchen look. Two questions:

    1. What kind of countertops do you have and would you happen to know the brand/name and color:

    2. Love the backsplash. It plays nicely off your floors, and I have similar floors. Where did you get it? Do you know the name? How/where can I find it?

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