Have you been thinking about giving your kitchen a new look? Paint is a great way to give your kitchen an update without a lot of expense. I thought I would put together this guide on how to paint kitchen cabinets based on my experience doing it six years ago. I’ve shared all my tricks and tips plus TWO methods I’ve tried that both work really well.
I’m not going to lie, this isn’t a quick weekend project, but the end result is definitely worth it.
I’ve also used these methods and materials to paint bookcases, dressers and other pieces of furniture!
Everything you will need to paint your kitchen cabinets:
- Paint Sprayer or Mini Paint Roller & Tray (more on this later)
- Bullseye 1-2-3 Primer
- Paint – My favourite: Benjamin Moore Advance
- TSP/Grease cleaner
- Small power sander
- 400 grit sandpaper
- Tack cloths (buy in bulk, you will use a lot)
- Gloves or WORX Cleaner when using the tack cloths
- If you’re using a paint sprayer, I also recommend wearing a painting suit, mask & safety glasses
Two Methods for Painting Kitchen Cabinets
I’ve used two different methods for painting cabinets – spraying and rolling. I used the sprayer when I painted the majority of our cabinets before we did our big kitchen renovation.
Using the paint sprayer was definitely more time consuming but in my opinion gave the most professional looking results.
When we did our big renovation the new island cabinets needed to be painted to match the rest of the kitchen. For these I used a small foam paint roller instead of the sprayer.
The end result is still good, but the finish doesn’t look *quite* as good. I think it’s something about the texture created by the paint sprayer that gives the finish a professional look.
The Best Paint for Kitchen Cabinets
I love the Benjamin Moore Advance paint. It’s what we used in our kitchen and I’ve recommended it to countless others all with excellent results. I’ve also used this paint on bathroom vanities, bookcases and other furniture.
Advance is a water-based so it can be diluted for water for use in a sprayer and cleans up very easily. It’s self-leveling and gives a really beautiful, professional looking finish.
Benjamin Moore Advance paint does not need any additional top coat and will instead cure to a very durable, easy to clean finish. The only downside is that it takes 30 days for the paint to cure completely. That means the doors need to be left somewhere (untouched) while they cure. I know that is a long time and can be annoying it is the best way to ensure your newly painted cabinets hold up over time.
At writing our kitchen cabinets were painted 6 years ago and have no chips.
Sure, you can ignore the cure time and start using your painted doors right away – just be warned that you are more likely to cause chips in the paint during those first 30 days.
If you are in Canada, another paint I have used with great results on cabinets & furniture is the CIL Smart3 Melamine paint. Like, the BM Advance it cures to a durable
Preparation is the Key
Before you remove your cabinet doors, painters tape to number each door and the inside of each cabinet. This will help you when it comes time to hang the doors back up (trust me). I wrote inside the hole that holds the hinge and then covered it with tape so I could still read it after painting.
Once removed, clean the doors and cabinets thoroughly with TSP cleaner which helps cut through any kitchen grease lingering on the surface. You want to make sure the doors are completely clean before you start painting. This stuff is really intense so definitely protect skin, eyes etc. and don’t spray it on anything you really love – we did ours on the driveway.
Do I Have to Sand Before Priming?
If the cabinets have a high gloss finish, you might want to scuff them up a bit before priming. HOWEVER, if you use the right primer this step is optional. We did it anyway just to make myself feel better about covering all my bases.
I used a small “Mouse” power sander with 120 grit sandpaper. Remove any dust left on the door after sanding with a tack cloth – you don’t have to press hard, just kind of brush the cloth over the surface like you’re wiping away crumbs.
I highly recommend wearing nitrile gloves when using the tack cloths because they are very sticky and removing the residue is a pain in the ass. If you don’t have gloves then I highly recommend Worx hand cleaner, it’s the only thing I found that really removed all the stickiness.
Prime Your Surface
PRO TIP: If you are painting over real wood that a lot of grain or has any red to it, you can add a coat of shellac on before priming. This seems to seal the grain and prevents any wood stain from bleeding through the primer and paint.
After the primer is fully dry (I think I waited a day) give the surface a light sanding with 400 grit sandpaper, this will remove any small bumps or bits that got caught in the primer while it was wet. Then run the tack cloth over the entire surface to remove any dust.
Now it’s Finally Time to Paint
No matter how you choose to paint (spray or roll) make sure you have lots of space set up for your project.
I sprayed our doors out of our driveway covered in tarps then carefully transferred the wet doors into our garage to dry on top of 2x4s. When it comes time to flip the doors and paint the other side, I put a layer of rags down on the 2x4s to make sure the dry side didn’t stick.
The Advance paint needs 16 hours between coats and if you’re spraying you will likely need to do 3 coats on each side (because you thin the paint). before spraying each coat make sure to give the surface a light sanding with your 400 grit sandpaper and wipe with a tack cloth.
Aim to make your final coat to be on the front of your doors. Do not sand after your final coat.
After your paint has had enough time to cure you should end up with a beautiful, professional looking paint job!