How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets the RIGHT Way!

7 Materials
7 Days

The hot home renovation trend – painted kitchen cabinets. I didn’t plan to jump on the bandwagon but I ultimately did and I can’t tell you how glad I am that I did! This tutorial will show you how to paint cabinets the right way, the way that will last and look great years later. To stay up to date on my latest DIY home projects, follow me on Instagram at or check out my blog at

The "Before" picture of our kitchen

The "After" picture of our kitchen

Below are the steps I followed:

1.Create a vision! I searched Pinterest to get inspired and figure out how everything was going to fit together. This is important so that you don’t do one kitchen upgrade project only to realize you wish you would have done it differently based on what you want to do next…I know, it’s confusing but just have a vision ahead of time! Based on my searching, I knew I wanted off-white cabinets and tan/beige/cream tones in my kitchen. A soft, cozy, clean, warm feeling. Also, I knew what style of cabinet doors would and wouldn’t fit my style – not too modern, not too traditional.

2.Buy New Cabinet Doors (if needed): Our boxes were fine but our doors were flat ugly plywood – awful. Therefore, we decided to buy new cabinet doors. A few tips: Ensure you pay more for boring and hinges; this will save you SO much time! Also, measure about 5 times to ensure you have exact measurements. Then you’ll be set! We had no problems with ours. They were gorgeous and perfect.

3.Remove EVERYTHING: Take everything out of your cabinets, take off all the cabinet doors and all associated hardware. Take out the shelves as well. LABEL EVERYTHING. Just do it. You will not remember what shelf goes where and it will be terrible otherwise (I might have made that mistake on a few shelves…) In the above picture you can see the chaos that will ensue with this project!

4.Lightly sand and fill holes: Lightly sand the cabinet boxes and fill the holes, or any nicks, with wood putty. Make sure to sand over the wood putty to get a smoother finish. Just a quick light sanding will do – you don’t have to get all the gloss off of the wood or anything crazy (thank goodness because I think sanding is very boring).

5.Clean: Wipe everything down with a tack cloth and then with TSP. This will prep all the surfaces for paint. It’s more important than you think.

6.Priming time!: Let’s get to painting – errr…priming at least! Do yourself a favor and use Zinsser B-I-N Shellac Base Primer. It’s very thin so make sure it doesn’t run (aka don’t put it on too thick) but it will cover over anything. Put on 2 coats, allowing it to dry in between coats. Prime everything – inside cabinets, outside cabinets, shelves and cabinet doors. At this point you’ll realize just what you’ve committed to doing.

7.Painting time (the never-ending task): Use a high quality paint. If you don’t, you’ll regret it for years because you’ll have to re-paint everything or it will just look terrible right away afterwards, after all your hard work. Here’s the best: Sherwin Williams ProClassic Interior Waterbased Acrylic-Alkyd paint. It’s so expensive, right?? I’m incredibly frugal and this felt painful for me to buy but trust me, it’s worth every penny. It was recommended to me by a Journeyman Painter (aka someone with their PhD in Paint). Use a very soft paint brush to avoid significant visible brush strokes – Purdy Nylox brushes are simply the best and also worth the investment. Give everything 2 coats of paint allowing very ample time in between coats for the paint to dry. A light sanding in between coats, followed by a tack cloth to take off any dirt is ideal. This makes for the best ultimate paint finish.

8.Reassemble everything and you’re done! Put the doors on, add the hardware you like best (Tip: match it to the finish of your faucet, lighting, etc.) and you’re done! Ok, this sounds easy but it takes some time so you'll probably have to let your toddler play in the cabinets to stay entertained - HAH!

9.Wait 21 days until you put items back in your cabinets. If you do so sooner, you will do what I did and have bowls and glasses sticking to your paint, pulling up the paint – and you’ll feel distraught. Trust me. Just wait.

Good luck, brave one. It will be worth it, I promise.

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Have a question about this project?

3 of 7 questions
  • Larry Pettijohn
    on Dec 5, 2019

    If getting replacement doors, instead of measuring everything twice (or more), why not just use the old doors as the template? If using the same type of hinges (looks like you changed from showing to concealed), using the old doors for the precise placement of them as well?

    • That's a great idea! Unfortunately I couldn't do that because I changed the type of hinges and my old doors weren't all placed properly (odd, I know). I felt more confident in my work doing it this way. However, what you suggest is a perfect option that will make this project easier for those able to go this route! Thanks for your suggestion.

  • Mrs Snyder
    on Dec 5, 2019

    Where did you buy your cabinet doors? Lowe’s? Homedepot? Lumber yard? Do they come bare wood and do they need to be sanded before priming? Thanks. I want to do this to my kitchen. Love the look

    • I purchased them from Fast Cabinet Doors ( They have a lot of options! You can choose your type of wood. They don't need to be sanded before priming. Best wishes on your project! Thanks for your question and interest in my project.

  • Alabare AmiSenor
    on Dec 15, 2019

    My cabinet have Formica what I do?

    • I haven't painted formica cabinets before but I recommend the following: As long as you lightly sand them and use a shellac base primer like the one I suggest (Zinsser B-I-N Shellac Base Primer), you should be just fine! This primer can go on nearly anything and makes the surface ready for paint to be applied on top of it. Thanks for your question!

Join the conversation

4 of 17 comments
  • Land
    on Dec 5, 2019

    Just WOW! My dad (a lifetime painter) did this to his cabinets, only in white. He wanted brush strokes to show so he strained the paint-twice- through a nylon stocking. The results were beautiful and held up for many years. Yours are just lovely. What a job!! Inside and out! He did the doors and frames only. We just sold the hosue in 2016 after his death and the paint job was still perfect. (He also used very expensive, oil based gloss! I could never. Kudos to you!!

    • Wow! That sounds like even more work than mine, adding in that straining of the paint. I've never heard of doing that. It's interesting. I'm so glad to hear that they held up well for him. Thanks for your interest in my project and for sharing your story too!

  • Kristina Pluck Yeiter
    on Dec 19, 2019

    How can I share this

    • The easiest way is probably to copy the url from your browser and send that link to whomever you'd like to share this with. Thanks for your interest in my project!

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