Update Your Kitchen Cabinets With Paint! Here's How...

12 Materials
1 Week

My neighbor's kitchen is a builder grade oak kitchen from the late 80’s. It has great storage space and great lay-out, but it’s time for the orange-hued oak to go. I think hands down the least expensive and best way to redo your kitchen is to paint your cabinets. It’s a bit of work, but it makes an HUGE difference.

The most important step in getting a lasting, durable finish on your kitchen cabinets is the prep work.

I know prep work is annoying, time consuming and the least fun part of the process, but if you don’t do it right, your paint will chip/peel off.

Clean all cabinets then set aside to dry.

So here’s how you do prep work right:

  1. CLEAN THOSE CABINETS! To ensure painting success, you must remove the grease first! I used Krud Kutter and a scotch brite pad to remove as much as I could.
  2. SCUFF SAND. Not required, but I did go over the flat parts of the cabinets doors and boxes with 220 grit sandpaper. Just sand enough to ensure the paint will stick.
  3. CLEAN AGAIN. I used a TSP cleaning mixture and paper towels to clean off what was left. 

Once everything was dry, I primed the cabinets to be sure they didn’t yellow over time. I chose Dixie Belle BOSS primer because:

  1. It’s water based (ie: not smelly).
  2. Could be sprayed. You can also use a good brush instead.
  3. I think it’s the best water-based stain blocker available.


Overall, the cabinets took 2 coats primer, 3 coats paint, and 1 coat top coat. Priming wasn't necessary on the darker gray island.

Watch me in action!

A little paint, and it now looks like a whole new kitchen!

Be sure to click the blog link  for more cabinet painting ideas.

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New to furniture painting? I can help!

Please grab my {FREE} Furniture 101 ebook here.


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Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!


Have a question about this project?

8 questions
  • Susie
    on Jun 22, 2019

    If you just want to clean up your existing cabinets, is Krud Cutter cleaner the way to go? We have custom cabinets from the late 70’s, (ugh), still not bad, they’re pecan, not too dark, and I would like to paint them! But.... my husband won’t go for it. Just to change the knobs, pulls, would make a huge difference, but would rather paint! Your tutorial is great! Thanks so much!!’

    • Bishop J
      on Jun 22, 2019

      If it was me, I'd use tsp mixed as directed, wear rubber gloves as tsp can be rough on the skin to some people. Use a soft non abrasive sponge or cloth to clean fingerprints and grease. For tougher grease around the stove, use an orange citrus cleaner, test in a hidden spot to see if it damages the finish first. The cabinets will probably lighten up a bit if they have never been degreased in 40 years. A lot of people clean the cabinets, but never actually get the grease. Grease picks up the fine dust and things get darker, a good decreasing should bring several shades lighter.

  • Traci Kelley-Calvert
    on Jun 22, 2019

    I painted my cabinets and love it but...in certain places the paint has chipped. Have you had any issues with that and do you think my issue might be a better topcoat?

  • Kim-Berly Boyce
    on Jun 22, 2019

    The transformation is wonderful! This is what I’m hoping to do in my kitchen, except the previous owner already painted the cabinets a very dark brown and it was not done well. Do you think the previous paint needs to be removed before repainting?

    • Shirley
      on Jun 22, 2019

      Of course! No harder than all of that prep on bare oak. Nothing would cover dark brown except another very dark color, and you would still need to prep to make it stick.

    • Sharon K Hein
      on Jun 23, 2019

      Use chalk paint and ckear 2ax.

  • S Davis
    on Jun 22, 2019

    Never painted so tried to pull up your paint 101 ebook but there was a problem with the URL. Can you help?

  • Deborah Anthony
    on Jun 22, 2019

    I an halfway through my lotsa kitchen cabinets. They are the old oak veneer as well. I cleaned and painted inside and only the frames of the doors and did some different artwork inside the frames each cupboard door same color scheme but different designs. I am not sure but I think the Modge Podge clear glass finish will keep it from waring. What's your idea on the Modge Podge coating? If it works then the whole thing cost under $100.

    • Liz
      on Jun 23, 2019

      After all that work, use a good brand of clear sealant. Mod Podge won't hold up as well. Your artwork inside the frames sounds delightful, so creative!

    • Shuganne
      on Jul 10, 2019

      Please share pictures! Or write it up and share as a project. It sounds phenomenal!

  • Bonnie
    on Jun 23, 2019

    What did you do to hide the grain of the oak cabinets? I'm in the process of painting mine (just starting), and would prefer not to have the grain marks showing through. My paint store person said to use spackle ... yet another step in the process. Any thoughts?

    • Robyn Garner
      on Jun 25, 2019

      You might want to do a test area using homemade chalk paint with Plaster of Paris. At the right consistency, I'd think it would fill in with 2+ coats. Let us know!

      You'll have to seal them well, especially for kitchen use. If you were looking to make them look shiny and super modern, just use a high gloss poly, sanding with a super high grit between coats.

  • Margaret
    on Jun 23, 2019

    Could you do this on veneer covered cabinets.

  • Nicole
    on Aug 6, 2019

    I have fake covering on my cabinets. Can I paint over them?

Join the conversation

2 of 10 comments
  • Rhoda
    on Jun 24, 2019

    Beautiful job! Your kitchen looks GREAT!

  • AndradeTea
    on Jun 25, 2019

    Looks AH-mazing! A whole new kitchen with just paint. LOVE!

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