Painting Kitchen Cabinets

Discover how easy it is to create a lighter and brighter new kitchen look by painting kitchen cabinets.

It's also the quickest and most economical way to give your kitchen a total makeover and create a kitchen that you will enjoy to be in.

Painting the doors means that you can enjoy an "up-to-date" modern kitchen without the expense of buying new units...

This Painting Kitchen Cabinets article is to help you to:

  • Paint kitchen cabinets previously painted only once...

  • Paint cabinets previously painted more than once...

  • and to paint over wooden kitchen cabinets...

If you read this article through first, before you begin your project, it will help you to make a list of the materials you are going to need to start working.

You will also find advice on "which primer" to use and "which paint" will give you the best result" as well as giving you an idea of how long it will take to complete your painting kitchen cabinets project.

Your first job is to make yourself a cup of coffee, sit down in your kitchen and slowly and carefully study and assess your kitchen cabinets and drawer fronts before you start painting kitchen cabinets, what do you see?.

Take a photograph for your before and after collection. Analyse the problem areas to see which of the following matches your careful inspection...


PAINTED BUT YOU DON'T LIKE THE COLOR!... Are your kitchen cabinets already painted but you just don't like to color?, it may be too dark, too bright and garish or maybe it's just not a color you like now.

YOU DON'T LIKE TO THE COLOR SCHEME OR THE KNOBS... Easily fixed, there are some really nice designs for kitchen knobs and pulls now available to match all tastes. Once you have finished painting kitchen cabinets your color choice you can really add character, color and style to your kitchen with the accessories you choose.

QUALITY CABINETS - BUT THE KITCHEN IS JUST TOO DARK!... Are your cabinets wooden or wood veneer and seem sturdy but the wood grain, the tone is just too dark making your whole kitchen seem smaller than it really is...

THE CABINETS HAVE A DULL, MATT FINISH!... If your cabinets are painted in a matt finish they are not allowing light to bounce around your kitchen. It will seem dark and dull instead of being light and bright. Also matt finish will show over time, every knock and bump you cabinets receive from continued daily use... and are not so easy to wipe clean.

THE OLD PAINT OR FINISH SHOWS TOO MANY KNOCKS, KNICKS AND SCRATCHES!... Your kitchen is always going to look old and dated if you can see knocks, knicks, scratches or dents in the surface of your cabinets... Visual defects can be well camoflaged using a filler and by sanding.

To get the best results use a good filler to suit the material of your cabinets, let it dry, lightly sand with paper Nº.120 and then fill again. Repeat as often as required to get a nice finish, ending with a fine sandpaper Nº.200 / Nº.300 for the smoothest of results


If your prognosis fits any of the above, then your cabinets should be prefect candidates for a painting kitchen cabinets makeover.

But if you can also see something that matches on the next short list - your painting kitchen cabinets project might not be so easy... take a look!


If a corner of a door has gone missing or if a big crack is giving the interior of your cupboard extra unplanned ventilation, so what's the solution...

The crack in a wooden door could be re-glued (with the proper glue for the material used) and sanded down before painting, you might be able to fix this problem before you start your kitchen cabinet makeover and get on painting kitchen cabinets.

If you have one or two doors with big chunks missing, but all the others on the whole look up to the makeover, you just need to replace these two doors before you start.

Replacement doors are easier to find than you may realize, so you just have to re-fit the replacements and then get on with your painting kitchen cabinets project.


If your cabinets are not sitting nice and firmly against your kitchen wall then you will have to investigate a little to determine why they have come loose!, before everything falls out of your cupboards!!:

Is the wall itself sound or does it feel damp, sound hollow, feel crumbly... if this is you then there probably isn't much wrong with your cupboards (unless they have suffered dampness through the wall), call in the professionals now - deal with this problem before you even think of painting kitchen cabinets.

The wall looks and feels alright and the cabinets are sound... then they may just need longer screws. You will need to take them down and re-plug and screw to re-use the origional holes OR you could leave them up and make additional holes for extra support by drilling through the cabinets and into the wall, plug and screw. Now your all set to get on painting kitchen cabinets

The screws are still firmly fitting into the wall but the cabinet is breaking away at the back... Sorry but it sounds like the quality of materials used at the back of your cupboards is just not up to standard to support the weight of the cupboard and contents.

If the cupboard sides and fronts are still looking good (not probable as the quality of materials used for the back will be in relation to the quality used throughout) then you could consider replacing the back with something more substantial - fairly time consuming, you would have to really love your cupboards to consider this solution...


The quality of the materials used for your kitchen cabinets is just not good enough for the weight and wear and tear they have to endure. Maybe they are just too old to be saved.

If you kitchen is sagging, cracking and breaking up then you know a makeover is not going to solve your problems - in this situation, you really can't fight it any longer - let's face it, you need a new kitchen.



So, let's concentrate on PAINTING KITCHEN CABINETS that are good and sturdy and/or can be arranged!. What we have is a good kitchen that just needs a color makeover to make it look like the light and bright kitchen of your dreams.

Do painting kitchen cabinets well and everyone, you included, will feel that you really do have a BRAND new kitchen.

Lets do it...

Let's get on painting kitchen cabinets...

Step Nº.1


Open the windows - good ventilation is vital.

Take off all the knobs and pulls before you start. Tape over all hinges or magnetic closing devices so that you don't paint over them.

Your cabinets may well be clean but we are going to have to rub some TSP cleaner all over the surfaces... why? well your new coat of paint needs to grip well onto the surface and any remaining grease, even grease you can't see will cause problems for the paint.

Buy some powdered TriSoduim Phosphate (TSP)cleaner from your general hardware store and disolve it in water. Put some rubber gloves on and give all surfaces to be painted a good rub down with this solution.


Step Nº.2 For...


Complete step 1 and then...

If your cabinets have only previously had one good coat of paint on them before, then just give them a light sanding over with sand paper size Nº.200. This will give you a nice matt smooth surface which your new paint will easily hold onto.

You could then use a nice light colored glossy paint called "One Coat Melamine" you won't need to use a primer... just go ahead, follow the instructions on the tin and paint away. This paint really does allow you to take the short cut and get the job done quickly.

***For more information on painting kitchen cabinets that are not made of wood and especially regarding applying Melamine Primers and Paints, take a look at our Painting Melamine Cabinet Guide

Remember to leave the windows open during the daytime, when you are at home and treat the newly painted kitchen cabinets carefully for a couple of days to allow the paint to really harden (cure).

Replace your knobs or pulls or put on new ones to match the new look of your kitchen and your done, you are going to be surprised by the results from just painting kitchen cabinets.


Complete step 1 and then...


If you have inherited cabinets that have been painted numerous times before, you are going to get a better, non-chip result if you take them back to the original surface, sounds like a lot of work I know, but if you have or invest in an orbital sander the work can be finished quickly and give you a good clean surface which the primer coat and the new coat of paint can easily adhere to.

If you have a lot of old paint to get rid of use a coarse sanding sheet to speed up the process and DON'T FORGET to put on your goggles while you are working, flying debris in the form of layers of old paint fragments can be sharp and dangerous, so always protect your eyes. Complete the sanding job by going over the cabinets with a Nº.200 fine grained sand paper to get a good even finish.

After you have sanded and all feels nice and smooth, wipe the surfaces down with good old tap water to make sure that you are rid of all the fine particles of dust from sanding. Now you are ready to apply the primer.(for primer see step Nº.3 below)


Complete step 1 and then...


If you are planning to paint dark wood cabinets you will also need to sand them down to get rid of the old surface, although it's going to be much easier than trying to get rid of layers of paint. (with a good quality paint you should only need apply two coats, but if your wooden or veneer cabinets are particularly dark you may be better applying an extra coat! you will have to decide after you have completed two layers) but first - Now you are ready to apply the primer.



Well... this all depends on which paint you are going to use...!

Using Oil Paint

The Pros: If you want to do this job once and only once (at least not again for years) then you are better off using an oil paint. why?, because if will give you a finish that will last longer, it will cure to a harder and more durable finish. Excellent for painting kitchen cabinets

The Cons: It is going to smell quite strongly at first, but this will of course pass, keep the room well ventilated during the first week after the job is finished and you will help to keep the room aired and the paint to cure quickly. You will need to cover all other surfaces i.e. counter tops, floor, really well to catch any drips.

Oil Based Primer

The Pros: It really is a good primer and the paint will adhere well to it.

The Cons: Same as for the paint, has a really strong smell and needs to be left 24 hours to dry well before painting.

Using Latex Paint

The Pros: This type of water based paint is going to smell much less than an oil based, it will dry quicker and you can clean up any drips and splodges with water. Latex paints are growing in popularity, especially for diy projects like painting kitchen cabinets.

The Cons: Well, it's good, there's no doubt about it, it's hard to knock the good quality products now available, it's just an opinion, but you just don't get as good a finish or as durable a finish as with the oil based paints.

Using a water based Primer

The Pros: There are good quality water based primers available that have excellent adhesion qualities and lets face it, the odour is much less than the oil primer and also dries quicker.

The Cons: As long as you use a high quality water based primer, like a 100% acrylic latex primer, you won't have any problems.


don't forget to put plenty of old newspapers down - COVER ALL SURFACES AND FLOORING BELOW YOUR KITCHEN CABINETS before starting painting kitchen cabinets.

You only need to apply one thin layer of primer, but you do need to give it time to dry well, so when you have finished - take care of your brushes and wait...

(Top Tip: use a synthetic brush for latex
and a natural bristle brush for oils)

After applying the primer and letting it dry, give the kitchen cabinets a very light sanding with a Nº.200 or Nº.300 sand paper, wipe them over again with water to get rid of any particles and you are ready to paint your kitchen cabinets.



Painting kitchen cabinets a light color will allow all the natural light into your kitchen

Painting kitchen cabinets with a gloss paint will allow all that natural light to reflect and bounce around your room greatly increasing the light, brightness and airy feeling of the room.

A gloss paint will clean easily with a wipe down.

A gloss paint will keep your kitchen makeover looking fresh and new.


Make sure your brushes are nice and clean, start painting kitchen cabinets by apply the first coat of paint using nice even long strokes. When you have finished let it dry completely before applying the second coat.

After you have applied the second coat of paint and left it to dry well you can start to replace your old knobs or just go crazy and put on some brand new ones to complement your new ultra stylish kitchen.

Once you have cleaned up all your paint tins and brushes, and the newspaper that you placed on the counter tops and floor - you can sit down with a cuppa and admire your new kitchen in all it's glory, with its newly painted kitchen cabinets.

Now, don't forget to take your after photo, you are going to be amazed at the difference, soon it is going to be difficult to remember what the old kitchen, that dark and outdated one looked like.


Keep your kitchen well ventilated until the odour of new paint has disappeared, it won't take long. Take special care when using your newly painted kitchen cabinets and drawers for the first couple of weeks until the paint has really cured.


More Kitchen Articles

From painting kitchen cabinets to Staining Kitchen Cabinets
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Kitchen Remodeling
Kitchen Cabinet and Equipment
Kitchen Cabinet and Counter Review
Kitchen Island Design

For more home improvement remodeling ideas just go to...Home Improvement Remodeling Trends and Ideas


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