- Kitchen

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets

Painting cabinets is more complicated and time consuming than wall painting, as any small mistakes or brush strokes become more obvious on these intricate pieces that must first be sanded and primed before beginning painting.

Pro-tip: Use a high-density foam roller, followed by brushing over with bristle brush to eliminate roller marks and reach into corners. Finally, thoroughly clean cabinets using grease-cutting degreaser.


If you want your paint job to stand the test of time, always prime first. Primer is specially formulated to adhere better to surfaces, helping prevent peeling, flaking or chipping in the future.

Oil-based primers offer superior seal and stain blocking properties for wooden cabinets, while being nontoxic with no strong odours or strong drying times. However, drying times may increase.

No matter if you use a sprayer or brush, for the smoothest finish it is best to apply multiple thin coats of primer at once and allow each to fully dry before proceeding to apply more layers.

Though tempting, sanding with 120 grit sandpaper will give the new primer something to stick to and prevent an uneven finish. Make sure to vacuum or wipe down the surface to eliminate dust after each pass through with 120 grit sandpaper, following the grain when sanding for best results. This will ensure a more natural look with subsequent coats of paint applied over top.


An inadequate primer must always be used when painting cabinets; otherwise, the finished product may deteriorate quickly and necessitate additional refinishing efforts much sooner than planned.

As oil-based paint can have poor adhesion to surfaces, acrylic latex provides superior adhesion. Furthermore, its easy wipe down capabilities and stain-resistance makes it the superior choice.

Use a small foam roller to apply the paint, in thin layers. For cabinet doors with many ridges or details, consider using a brush instead for easier access to corners and crevices.

Be sure to remove all hardware from cabinet doors and drawer fronts, number them for easier reaffixed, mark their hinge locations for quick reattachments, then clean all surface areas of the cabinets using damp cloth or lint-free tack cloth removing dust, debris from sanding process or paint job process that might flake off during painting process.

Finishing Touches

Once your final coat of paint or stain has dried, it’s important to seal your cabinets with a clear polyurethane finish to protect them from moisture damage and highlight their natural grain patterns. Colorless polyurethane also serves to tie in nicely with other elements in your room by emphasizing their unique grains.

Before applying a finish, use 220-grit sandpaper to gently sand the doors and drawer fronts, to remove any brush marks or small bubbles left by any brush marks, creating a smooth surface for polyurethane to adhere to. It is best to work in a well-ventilated environment while applying oil-based products, so plan your project when humidity levels in your home are within safe levels if using such products.

Once the final coat of polyurethane has been applied, your finished cabinets will look brand new while protecting the wood against future damage. Now it’s time to enjoy your beautiful new kitchen!


Cabinet painting can be more labor-intensive than wall painting due to doors and drawers having to be taken apart for accessing paintable surfaces. Set up a worktable dedicated to this task with a dropcloth ($7 on Amazon) laid down underneath for drip protection and dust abatement. If possible, gently sand between coats for an even finish.

Once again, oil-based or latex paint should be selected. Oil-based provides a resilient finish with easy cleanup but has higher levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) than latex which dries quickly but offers equally durable surfaces.

Pick an applicator that suits both your abilities and the amount of woodwork you are painting. A sprayer may reduce work, but may require more skill than brushes or rollers; for those less confident with their painting abilities, mini roller frames and sleeves made of mohair, microfiber or foam could help get you familiar with working with this material.

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