How to Paint Your Kitchen Cabinets

I love the difference paint makes on some dated oak cabinets…  And am dreaming of the day that I too can paint our current kitchen, for now, I have to be content with admiring other peoples hard work.  For example  here is Jessica of Running with Scissors new white painted kitchen cabinets!  And she outlined how she did it for everyones benefit, here is what she had to say:
This was a daunting task for me, but our new house had a dark kitchen.  We scored new counters, wood floors, and appliances, but the honey colored cabinets seemed dated to me.  So after reading a bunch of info on painting cabinets, it seemed like a project I could tackle.  It seemed worth the hassle to transform our kitchen so the cabinets would look modern to match the flooring, counter, white tile back splash and appliances.  Another bonus would be to brighten up the space to feel more fresh, clean and airy.
Here’s the before, the day we signed the papers.
Oh yes, also the bright yellow paint also made it feel old and musty to me. 
I can’t wait, so I’ll give you the AFTER right away, before the instructions!
The only thing that changed was the paint on the cabinets and walls.  To me it makes the space look so much newer and up to date.
So if you also need to update your kitchen cabinets for a total kitchen change:
1. Remove all hardware from the doors and drawers 
I put all the knobs in a gallon ziplock bag.
Remove all the doors and hinges.  All the hinges and screws went in another ziplock bag.
2. Wash all the doors and frames with warm soapy water.
I found it easiest to use the sink and really scrub the grime off and rinse the doors well.
Allow to totally dry.
**May need to fill holes/ sand at this point
If you’re replacing your knobs/ hardware with new, you’ll probably have to fill all the old holes with wood filler at this point, unless your new knobs have the same measurements for holes as the old.
If your cabinets have a thick layer of polyurethane and feel super glossy, you may want to sand them to remove the sealing finish.  My cabinets felt like wood, not plastic, so I didn’t sand.
3. Prime
This important according to all my research to use OIL BASED PRIMER! It is thick and stinky, (well you can pay more for odorless but I didn’t) and you can only get it off with mineral spirits/ paint thinner.  So it is a pain to work with.  But it is more durable and stain blocking to provide the base for your cabinets.
So I began by laying all the doors face down on a plastic drop cloth.
I started by priming the backs of all the doors, or the “inside” of the cabinet.  I used a good quality roller, Purdy brand that is for flat surfaces–3/8″ nap. 
Don’t forget to also prime the cabinet frames in the actual kitchen.

*In all my painting these last weeks, I actually could tell a big difference in the quality of rollers.  We used the cheap “economy” rollers for the walls, but on the cabinets and doors, used the high end rollers and it made a difference for a smooth, seamless finish. Also, painting walls, I’d wrap the roller in plastic wrap and use the same one again 4 hours later for the second coat.  But with cabinets, I broke down and used a brand new roller with each coat.  Also with brushes. I actually used a cheap brush for the primer, but used a nice angled brush for paint on the corners of the cabinet doors.***

4. Paint
After primer has dried according to the instructions on the can, paint your first of two coats latex paint.

Everything I read recommended using semi-gloss paint, so it’s got enough gloss you can clean them, being in the kitchen, but high gloss shows imperfections more.

So I used Behr semi-gloss paint and the color was Popped Corn.

Once again, I used a brand new fancy Purdy brand roller for each coat.

Behr brand paint has you wait 4 hours before repainting, so 4 hours later, paint your second and final coat.

**Due to the fact I was painting both the inside of the cabinets and the outside, I painted in 2 sessions.
SESSION 1: prime, 2 coats paint on drawers, cabinet frames in kitchen, and backs of cabinet doors on the drop cloth, allowing the doors to dry overnight before session 2
SESSION 2: carefully flipped doors over so my fresh painted backs were now down touching the plastic, which is why it’s important to let them dry overnight before flipping, minimizing the chance of ruining your first paint job.
prime, paint 2 coats on fronts of doors, dry overnight.
So for the whole project, with the 2 separate sessions I used:
1 primer cheap-o brush
1 paint nice= expensive angled brush
6 nice Purdy rollers
5. Rehang Doors
It’s recommended you wait anywhere from overnight to 5 days before you hang the doors back up to give the paint time to cure so when you’re hanging you won’t get finger prints or anything imprinted in the paint.  We didn’t have a week to wait, so we let them dry overnight and put them back on without any noticeable blemishes to my tedious paint job.
At this point if you’re using new hardware, you’d need to drill your new holes on everything, making sure to measure accurately!
Other wise, just rehang all the doors, put the drawers back in, and get all the hardware back on and you’re finished!
Once again, just paint makes such a big difference!
Just in case anyone is wondering, the paint on the walls:
Glidden: Gentle Tide
I hope you all gleaned some useful tips for your kitchen makeovers!  
Great Job Jessica!
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Cassity Kmetzsch started Remodelaholic after graduating from Utah State University with a degree in Interior Design. Remodelaholic is the place to share her love for knocking out walls, and building everything back up again to not only add function but beauty to her home. Together with her husband Justin, they have remodeled 6 homes and are working on a seventh. She is a mother of four amazing girls. Making a house a home is her favorite hobby.

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  1. >What a great transformation! We have white cabinets in our kitchen already, but I did transform the island, the cabinets in our bathroom, the entertainment center and fireplace surround with a rich chocolate color and love it. It was easy to do, inexpensive and made a huge impact!

  2. >Been there. Done that. What a job it is! I thought I was going to sand and stain my cabinets only to find that my wood cabinets were some kind of thin overlay of actual wood. I washed, sanded slightly, primed, painted, and eventually recovered from the trauma. I was young and totally unprepared for the project. Those nice "new" cabinets definitely made a difference when it came time to sell the house though!

    Yours look fabulous! Great work.

  3. >Wow! What a beautiful kitchen. My husband and I are almost finished painting our kitchen cabinets and I am too embarrassed to tell you how long it has taken us to finish this "little" project. When we first started we were blissfully unaware of what a huge job we were taking on. We decided one day that we should paint the cabinets and we found out very quickly that it was a lot easier said than done! 🙂

    Our house was built in the 70s complete with a lot of those faux bricks that were so popular back then and dark, dark cabinets in the kitchen. We still have the bricks {we're not sure if that is a job we want to take on ourselves}, but just painting the cabinets is making a HUGE difference!

  4. >Wow! Painting the kitchen drawers and cabinets made a huge difference! I am very grateful for the fantastic, detailed tutorial too. Thanks, Jessica!

    I really love the stainless steel appliances too. I am a big fan of them. I think they always make a huge impact in a kitchen.

  5. Came out nice. An added item that will give a LARGE transformation: changing out one or two of the cupboards for tall ones – so they are raised above the rest.. it will draw the ceiling closer and give a “smaller comfy cozy” feel to the area depending on your color choice. Can also add an elegant look depending on color and hardware. 🙂