How To: Painting Kitchen Cabinets

When we moved into our new house, I knew repainting the kitchen cabinets would be a top priority.  I also knew that using a paint sprayer was the way to do it, however I was hesitant considering I had heard horror stories from everyone who has ever tried to use a paint sprayer.

Luckily I have a amazing father-in-law who stepped in and spent the entire weekend tackling this project with us.  He had some tips and tricks up his sleeve to get the paint sprayer to cooperate and used it without a single sputter!

I will say, the project was somewhat of a hassle, but the results were amazing.  With the help of a new kitchen sink, dishwasher and floor, the kitchen looks instantly updated.

Here are the cabinets before we painted them:

And after:

You will need:

Good quality latex primer (we used Benjamin Moore)
Good quality latex paint  (we used Benjamin Moore)
air compressor
spray gun
sand paper

Prep Work

First, you will want to take down all of your cabinet doors.  It helps to label them so you don’t mix them up.  Although they might all look the same size, each one can be just a little different.  You will then want to sand the surface just enough to scratch it up so the paint has something to grab hold of.

Remove all of the hinges and door handles. Be sure to save the hardware whether or not you plan to reuse it. You never know what kind of problems you will run into when you go to reinstall the doors.

Once the cabinets are prepped, wipe them down with a damp cloth to remove dirt and dust and let them dry completely before you start painting.

Next, tape off anything you do not want painted.  It helps to tape newspaper between the cabinets, over the counter tops and sink and on the walls.  Here is a picture of our kitchen taped off with the first coat of primer on the cabinets.

Setting up the paint sprayer

Once you hook up your paint sprayer to your air compressor, you can start to prep your paint.  Latex paint is too thick to be used in the paint sprayer by itself and will cause it to sputter and clog if you do not thin it out.  Depending on what kind of paint you use, the ratios may be different, but we mixed 3/4 parts paint with 1/4 parts water.  That got the paint to a good consistency for the paint sprayer.  Keep in mind, oil based paint should be thinned with paint thinner, but latex paint should be thinned with water.

Next, you will want to fill the paint sprayer and test it on a piece of cardboard to get comfortable with how it works. The sprayer will let you adjust the kind of spray you want and the air compressor will let you adjust the pressure.  Keep in mind this will take some trial and error.  We went to the garage and tested it on a piece of cardboard until we were comfortable with the way it sprayed. You want it thick enough that it covers, but not so thick that it causes paint runs.

Painting the Cabinets

Now you are finally ready to start painting. Be sure to read all of the information that comes with the paint sprayer and follow the directions. You should also wear a respirator while painting.

Start with your primer and spray one thin, even coat on the cabinets. Allow this layer to dry completely before you add another layer.  To paint the cabinet doors that have been removed, just set up a paint shop outside or in your basement and spray the doors the same way you are painting the cabinets.

Let each layer dry for at least a couple hours before you add another layer of paint. Don’t let paint sit in the sprayer while you wait for the layers to dry. You will want to rinse it each time to ensure it does not dry and ruin the sprayer.

Once you have the cabinets primed, continue to paint with your paint color each time putting on a thin, even coat. Our cabinets took 1 coat of primer and 2 coats of paint.

Putting the cabinets back together

Let the cabinets dry completely before you attempt to put them back together.  If you have a hard time installing the doors and making them level, it is helpful to slip a piece of cardboard under the bottom of the door while you drill it to the hinges.  That will keep it level and prevent it from being installed at an angle.

Once your cabinets are up, step back and admire your work!

Although painting cabinets is a slow and sometimes tedious process, your hard work will definitely pay off.  It is an inexpensive way to freshen up your kitchen!

Good Luck with your home projects!



Filed under Decorate, DIY

54 responses to “How To: Painting Kitchen Cabinets

  1. I want to do this to my kitchen but was not sure what would be the best method. Thanks for the step-by-step pics and all of the helpful tips!

  2. A job well done on the painting. I’ve seen enough TV shows where people “reno” their cabinets to know how it’s done, and you’ve done it the right way.

    The Codger

  3. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed! Very nice job. Where were you when I lived in NJ with a really old kitchen I could have used to update, rats!…oh well, that was 5 years ago, and look how far we’ve come with our blogs! Great job on the kitchen, with the SS appliances & the white cabinets it looks very updated! Great step by step pics & directions, kudos to you & your father in law!

  4. Not only beautiful results, but really, really well-described instruction on the process. Lovely.

  5. That is just awesome looking. We had our cabinets painted by our handy man after finding out the cost of replacing them. We were shocked at the cost of new cabinets. Our house was built in 1969 so we were lucky enough to have real wood cabinets that have held up well.

    What a beautiful job you all did here.


  6. by why all white…the yellow seemed a nice touch…are you going to do something more with it or this the final product

    • Anne

      The kitchen walls are shortbread yellow and I will, of course, add some decorative touches as we work to finish up the kitchen. But the cabinets will stay white…maybe it is the minimalist in me, but I love the way the white cabinets help make the kitchen feel cleaner.

  7. doveandcrowdesign

    Very helpful! Thanks! I will be getting new cabinets soon and since they must be custom made from unfinished wood to fit my weird-shaped kitchen, they will need to be painted. This is exactly what I need!

  8. You did a great job. Any tips on painting laminates? I heard it can be done.

    • Anne

      Unfortunately, I have not tried painting laminates before. But, I believe it can be done! I would take a trip over to you local hardware store and ask around. Sometimes they know the best tips and tricks.

      Keep us updated if you give it a try, I would love to hear how you made it work!

  9. Wow! It looks like a whole new kitchen and really freshens the space up. I would just be a bit scared to start it for fear of it taking to long and my patience running out – leaving me with an unfinished kitchen! 🙂

    Always handy to have a dad around to help.

  10. Great tips, and your kitchen looks fantastic!

  11. Thanks for the helpful hints. The most helpful hint? Call your father-in-law in to do it while you photograph and blog! North Coast Muse @

  12. Nr14

    Very nice:) You got at new kitchen:)

  13. Great looking job! I have a similar condition that I have been nervously assessing for a while now, but it may be worth while. Fortunately I have fewer cabinets. Thanks for the breakdown!

  14. deezahoney

    I’ll be tackling the very same project in a couple of months, and was at a loss about where to start. Thanks for the tutorial!

    Your kitchen looks lovely – great work!

  15. Wow that’s awesome.
    I’d do it just to wear the cool mask and use the paint gun.

  16. That was so helpful. I have wanted to do this for a long time, but thought the outcome would be a mess, after seeing how a neighbor did theirs. So I was scared to try. You made it easy to understand. Thanks.

  17. Pingback: How To: Painting Kitchen Cabinets « My Buddy

  18. handyguy

    Very well done.

    Well thought out and well organized.

    90 percent of the battle is development of a proper plan.

    TJ Kattermann

  19. Ashley

    Thanks for the great tips!!!

  20. Nice makeover; the cabinets look great. Love that you painted the window molding and baseboards too. Bold move (!) that updates the whole room.

  21. Lulu

    I like DIY, even though sometimes it is twice tiring, but it gives you an experience, plus a double happiness knowing that what you see is a trully beauty you have created!
    Ilove your kitchen; it’s such a pretty kitchen!

  22. Very nicely done. Thanks for sharing.

  23. Gerhard

    Can somebody give me directions how to whitewasch cupboards?
    Your kitchen cuboards look great and it seems you are now quite an expert on it.

    • Anne

      I have never whitewashed unfortunately, so I cannot be of much help. I think whitewashed cupboards would look lovely though!

  24. pussola

    Great job!
    I love how your kitchen looks after the painting! 🙂
    I’ve added you to my fav sites….

  25. Congrats on Freshly Pressed!

    Love the new cabinets. You guys did a fabulous job! The new steel dishwasher and sink really caught my eye though.

    I recently helped my Dad replace – not the cabinets or even the sink – just the faucet and talk about hassle! It was such a comically ridiculous experience, I had to write a blog about it.

    Now, after reading yours, I wish I could’ve hired your father-in-law. The faucet design would’ve been a lot nicer and it probably would’ve save us a couple trips to the store! 🙂


  26. Wow, the difference looks amazing! It looks like brand new now!

  27. You really done a great job.
    really nice paint job there.the kitchen cabinet look awesome now.

  28. I want to do my kitchen too. Do you have any recommendations for those of us who want to use no or low VOC paints? Are there any special considerations when not using standard paints? Or is it still the same steps?

    • Anne

      Unfortunately, I don’t have experience using low VOC paints, but from what I understand they contain less solvent than regular paint.

      I would head over to a paint store that you trust and ask them if they wear as well as a regular latex paint and see if there is a difference in the consistency of the paint. I imagine they would know how this kind of paint does in a spray gun.

      Good Luck!

  29. Your cabinets look great, one small thing that you did not mention…..Kitchen cabinets that are existing sometimes tend to be greasy, or have a thin layer of kitchen cooking grease on them. Before even sanding I would wipe the cabinets down with TSP or any other good cleaner to cut thru that grease layer so that the paint adheres, and you have no problem down the road with buckling, bubbling or peeling.

    Just a tip from an artist who has painted A LOT of stuff!
    Luvs, Deb

  30. Pingback: kitchen help (painting cabinets)?

  31. thanks for the useful information

  32. If only I’d read this 7 yrs ago. We didn’t sand, and now the paint is peeling and looks HORRIBLE 😦

  33. Pingback: Best Haute Posts of 2010 |

  34. Pingback: {Before & After} An Affordable Kitchen Makeover |

  35. gina

    Hi…great job. I have a question: I painted my dark wood cabinets white a few years back, using a roller. I now want to paint them black. Can I use a sprayer over the formerly rolled paint? I’ll sand of course, but will I get the same smooth finish? Thanks!

  36. I may have missed this but what kind of sprayer did you use? What specific Benjamin Moore primer did you use? I have heard it matters…..

    Looks very nice!

  37. Okay, that’s it! I am officially chalk painting some ugly old wood furniture in my kitchen! Thanks!

  38. You have a wonderful kitchen! I love the white color. I think that this is the best color for kitchen. It looks clean and fresh. Thanks a lot for these great ideas!

  39. I would paint all the 6 panel wooden doors in my home that are now stained. I dread the brush strokes! A Finish Max sprayer would be a dream come true.

  40. One thing i like about repainting kitchen cabinets is the change that is often obvious after the job is done. If I were to be shown those two pictures, I’ll first doubt it’s the same. Only the structure will make me believe such tranformation. You’ve done a good job.

  41. Pingback: Painting Kitchen Cabinets –

  42. Pingback: Kitchen Cabinet Paint – Home garden ideas, designs and inspiration

  43. Pingback: Painting Kitchen Cabinets - DEHOUSETOP

  44. Albat

    Thanks for share……

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s