How To Paint Kitchen Cabinets: 11 Expert Steps Anyone Can Follow

You can learn how to paint kitchen cabinets in 11 steps. They include choosing the right paint, cleaning and repairing the kitchen cabinets, priming them, and then painting the kitchen cabinets. You’ll also have to reassemble them at the end. This article can show you the 11 steps so your kitchen cabinets can look as amazing as you want them to.

It would have been easier had they known how to paint kitchen cabinets before the holidays.

Lisa waves goodbye as her family drives back home after Christmas. As soon as they are out of sight, her hand drops to the bridge of her nose and holds it. All the tension she’s been holding back is finally releasing. 

It’s been a hard couple of days.

How to paint kitchen cabinets

Her mother is a wonderful woman except for when it comes to critiquing. Then, she can be relentless. She took immediate notice of every mark and ding in the house, especially in the kitchen. Their open concept kitchen makes it one of the best places to socialize, especially when the cooking food makes it smell amazing.

The kitchen cabinets took the brunt of the commentary. “Well,” Lisa thinks to herself, “they do look old and sort of dingey. I guess they could use some work…”

Robert (her husband) sees this play out on her face and carefully says “Guess I’d better look up how to paint kitchen cabinets, right honey?” Lisa only nods in response. He squeezes her hand and walks inside.

She’ll come in to help when she’s ready. In the meantime, he’s going to look up the steps on how to paint kitchen cabinets.

General Steps To Painting Kitchen Cabinets

  1. Choose The Right Paint
  2. Setup A Temporary Kitchen (If Desired)
  3. Determine State Of Current Kitchen Cabinet Paint
  4. Cover Areas Not To Be Painted
  5. Take Apart Kitchen Cabinets
  6. Clean & Repair Kitchen Cabinets
  7. Sand Cabinets Smooth & Even
  8. Prime Kitchen Cabinets
  9. Paint Doors & Drawers
  10. Paint Kitchen Cabinets
  11. Reassemble Kitchen Cabinets

Tools & Materials

  • Dust Mask/Safety Mask

  • Glasses/Safety Goggles

  • Gloves (Work & Rubber)

  • High Quality Paint

  • Drop Cloths/Tarps

  • Stripping Product & Plastic Scraper (only if removing paint)

  • Wood Filler & Putty Knife (if repairing damages)

  • TSP (trisoduim phosphate)

  • Sponges

  • Buckets

  • Screwdrivers

  • Sealable Bags

  • Painter’s Tape

  • Pen/Sharpie

  • Sandpaper

  • Shop Vacuum (trust me, it’s worth it)

  • Painter’s Tripods

  • Primer

  • Paint Brushes

  • Paint Rollers (mini and normal size) With Foam Covers

1. Choose The Right Paint

Robert reads first about what type of paint to choose for painting kitchen cabinets.

The best jobs require the best paints. Higher quality paints tend to look better and last longer than low quality. After all, you get what you pay for. Choose an acrylic paint. It is durable, easy to clean, and low maintenance.

Semi-gloss and satin finishes are popular choices for painting kitchen cabinets. They are easy to clean and don’t show dings and mistakes easily.

Ensure the paint you are using is appropriate for the cabinet material.

Robert can do that. It’s as easy as asking a team member at the local hardware store or reading the labels. But wait, what will they do for a kitchen while it’s being painted?

2. Setup A Temporary Kitchen (If Desired)

Lisa comes in and sits next to Robert.

“Honey, do you want to set up a temporary kitchen or just eat out a lot?” asks Robert. “Let’s just make enough food so we can microwave leftovers for a few days,” replies Lisa. 

Now they need to see the state of their current kitchen cabinets.

3. Determine State Of Current Kitchen Cabinet Paint

Their kitchen cabinets have seen better days.

They can see the wear and tear now that they are looking for it. “No wonder mom kept talking about how much better their new kitchen is,” Lisa mutters.

If the paint is in good condition you won’t have to scrape it off (thankfully). If it is, apply a stripping product with a brush, wait for the reaction, and then peel it off with a plastic scraper. You can remove the rest of it with sandpaper once it dries.

They decide to go on to the next step.

4. Cover Areas Not To Be Painted

Paint can be difficult to work with.

If you don’t take this precaution you could be finding paint flecks all over your kitchen: floors, backsplash, appliances, and other areas. You’ll be doing a good amount of sanding too. Coverings make it easier to clean off the dust it creates and keeps it from getting into any and everywhere.

“We still have drop cloths from our last paint job, right Robbie?” Lisa asks. “Yeah hon, we have enough for the entire kitchen actually.” Robert responds.

They continue reading the instructions on how to paint kitchen cabinets.

5. Clean & Repair Kitchen Cabinets

Before the painting starts, the couple still have a few more steps.

First, repair any damage (dings, dents, or scratches) if you’d like. Wood filler and a putty knife should do nicely. Follow the instructions that come with the wood filler. Then, clean the cabinets with TSP. Paint doesn’t stick well to dirty surfaces.

6. Take Apart Kitchen Cabinets

“Do we have to take apart our cabinets?” Lisa questions.

Taking them apart ensures you can do the best job possible. This means not missing any areas for the family to point out next time they come over (right, Lisa?)

Remove the doors and drawers. Label everything with painter’s tape and a pen so you know where it goes for reinstallation. This includes the screws and smaller parts. You can put these in labeled, sealable bags so they don’t end up lost.

“That is a great idea! I wish I’d thought of that sooner”, Robert reflects, “would have made my life so much easier.”

7. Sand Cabinets Smooth & Even

Use medium-grit sandpaper (150 grit or so).

Sanding helps the paint stick to the surface, well, as long as you clean up the dust afterward. Sandpaper is great because you can fold it up to reach in corners and other detail areas.

It’s finally time to start using the painting tools.

8. Prime Kitchen Cabinets

But it isn’t time to paint just yet.

“Do we even need to prime?” Lisa asks. “If we want a great, longer lasting paint job then yes.” Robert replies. Primer helps paint bond to the surface even more tightly. This means it will be a longer period of time before it needs painting again, which can save time, money, and effort in the long run.

Start at the back of the cabinets and work forward using even strokes. Make sure your final stroke finishes back into the wet primer (all the pro painters do this.) After finishing, take your now dry roller and “lay off” the primer, i.e. remove any buildup by collecting it on the dry roller.

“Now we can finally start painting!” exclaims Lisa.

9. Paint Doors & Drawers

Start by painting the backs of the doors and letting them dry. As they do, paint the fronts (and only the fronts) of the drawers. Painting the sides and such can cause them to stick to the rollers.

Then paint the fronts and let them dry. After the first coat completely dries add on your second coat and let it dry.

Then you can paint the actual cabinet parts.

10. How To Paint Kitchen Cabinets (The Actual Painting Part)

Start by painting the frames. Brushes are ideal for detail areas and mini rollers for the larger ones. Use even strokes, always finishing back into the wet paint. Then move to the backs of the cabinets and paint from the top down. Take your now dry roller and roll it over the paint to even it out so there aren’t any lumpy areas. Let it dry completely .

11. Reassemble Kitchen Cabinets

“This is like putting together a puzzle. Good thing we like puzzles, right Robbie?” Lisa teases.
Robert’s never been great with puzzles.

Follow the labels you made at the beginning and put everything back where it should be. Then you can step back and admire your handiwork.

Let’s Start!

Lisa and Robert now know how to paint kitchen cabinets. They can transform their kitchen with a brand new look or refresh the old so it looks good as new. Next time the family won’t have anything to complain about. Now they should probably move to cleaning the hardwood floors