How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets The Right Way

Painting Kitchen Cabinets

A nice fresh coat of paint can change the entire look of your kitchen, but only if it’s done the right way. There is so much more to achieve an updated and fresh aesthetic in your kitchen than simply covering the old paint with new. There is a right and wrong way to paint kitchen cabinets. If you want to achieve a flawless look in the paint job on your cabinets, we have a few simple tips that will help you avoid common mistakes that can make a new paint job look like a disaster. Here are our tips and tricks for accomplishing a perfect kitchen cabinet paint job.

Select the right kind of paint

Kitchens get a lot of use and they require an extra amount of cleaning because of grease, smoke and other elements that go into the air during cooking. Choose a paint that is durable and high quality so it will hold up. You can either go with special cabinet paints or other types but durability is important. Acrylic is preferred over vinyl when going with a latex-based paint. The clean up will be easier. If you want your cabinets to have a sheen go with a gloss, but most kitchens are pained in satin or semi-gloss. This is a matter of personal preference. Match the paint type with the materials your cabinets are made of. If you’re painting laminate cabinets you’ll need a special bonding primer to use first.

Protect surrounding walls and countertops

The first step prior to painting is to apply rosin paper to all of the nearby countertops to avoid paint spills and splatters on them. This includes the backsplash and adjacent walls. For cabinets that go down to the floor, protect the flooring around the work area as well. You can use painters tape to secure the paper to these surfaces. It will save you a lot of heartaches and extra work down the road and it just takes a few moments to take this preventative measure.

Removing doors and drawers

One of the most important steps before painting is to prep the cabinets. This means taking off all the hardware in advance. Remove all of the doors and drawers and set them aside. Label each drawer and door so you will know precisely where they fit because believe it or not, some drawers vary in size to small degrees and it can be difficult if not impossible to make them work if they’re not reinstalled in the order in which they were originally placed. Also, keep the screws and hardware together so none of the small pieces get lost while you’re doing other things because this is a process that takes several hours and it’s frustrating to lose a few screws because some types are hard to find.

Prep the cabinets

Assess the condition of the cabinets. If a previous layer of paint is still in good condition, you won’t need to do much. If it has nicks or is peeling, you must remove it before painting. If there are just a few high areas of paint where the hardware rested, these can be lightly sanded until smooth. If the paint job is in bad condition it all needs to be removed This can be done with a paint stripping product but make sure that you have adequate ventilation and follow the directions on the container. Also, make sure that the stripping agent is safe for use with the cabinet material. Make any needed repairs if there are chips or gouges. You can use wood filler and sand the surface, but allow for curing and drying time. Lightly sand the surface of the cabinets with between 100 and 120 grit sandpaper but don’t go overboard because a light sanding will help the paint to adhere better.

Apply painters tape and rosin paper to the inside of cabinets if applicable

Apply painters tape to the edges of where you want the paint to stop. If you have insets within the cabinets that you don’t want to be painted this will protect drawer liners which are not removable from being painted over. If this isn’t a concern, then skip this step.


Start with cabinets that are clean and dry. Apply the primer before painting. This helps the paint to stick to the surface better and it also covers any minor flaws. You can apply primer with a roller and a brush, or if you know how to use a paint sprayer, this makes the job go faster. Make sure to coat the surfaces of the cabinets evenly and clean up any drips or runs. Allow the primer to dry in accordance with recommendations on the container before proceeding to the next step.

Begin with the frames

Use a smaller paintbrush and start painting the frames of the cabinets. You can also use a foam roller for larger surfaces and a small brush for tight areas. Use even strokes and finish every stroke moving back to the wet paint and feathering out the edges. Keep the coverage consistent and watch for paint runs.


If you’re replacing the hardware with new you can skip this step. If you’re using old hardware, now is the time to clean them up, while you’re waiting for the paint to dry. You can do this in between the coats of paint during the drying time.

Second coat and final steps

After the paint has dried completely, apply a fresh coat, using even strokes and make sure that the coverage is even and again, watch for runs before the paint begins to dry for a smooth even surface. Allow for complete drying time. This can vary depending on the temperature of the room, the humidity level and the kind of paint being used. Allow it to cure for several hours as it will harden in time. When the paint is completely dry, replace the hardware.

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