How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets White (+ BEST Paint for the Job)

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You can save THOUSANDS of dollars by painting your kitchen cabinets yourself, but you want to make sure you do it the RIGHT way. This is not the kind of project you want to cut corners on. This project cost around $100 total. Here are a few tips and tricks to get a smooth finish, good coverage and make sure your paint doesn't chip.

Here's the before picture of our kitchen. So much brown and tan! Oak is just not my thing.

And here is the after. I did the island using General Finishes Java Gel stain.
For a tutorial on using gel stain, click this link:

I painted my cabinets a few years ago and didn't take pictures of the process, but my sister followed the same process I did and took pictures of each step, so a lot of these pictures are from her kitchen. Take off all hardware, cupboard doors and drawer fronts. Make sure you number all the doors and drawers so you know which one goes where.

Sand everything with 120- or 150-grit sandpaper until there are no more glossy parts.

Yes, you can even sand that "fake wood" stuff on the side of your island and cabinets.

Fill any cracks or holes with your favorite product for the job.

Tape off all the places you don't want to get paint on. My sister used this large paper to cover everything. I'm a bit lazier than her and just used tape.

What is this? This is the best thing you can do for yourself if you decide to paint an entire kitchen's worth of cabinets. Cut a bunch of small rectangles from a 1x3 piece of wood, then put screws through them. Use 4 of these for each door and drawer and this will allow you to paint both sides instead of painting the back, waiting 16 hours, then painting the front. This is the absolute biggest TIME SAVER! If you need more detail on how to use these, click on this link:

Do 2 coats of primer. Make sure it's stain-blocking and bonding. Follow instructions for dry time on the can. Apply primer by brushing it on, then rolling smooth with the foam roller.

2 coats of BENJAMIN MOORE ADVANCE PAINT. My sister and I both used White Dove. Pick any color you want...the important thing is to make sure you use the BM Advance Paint. Once it cures, it is absolutely rock hard.

Sadly, you can't buy this paint at Lowe's or Home Depot. Check out this site to find a supplier near your home:

Put all doors, drawer fronts and hardware back on. For a more detailed explanation of the whole process, you can visit

Resources for this project:

Random Orbit Sander, Tacklife 6 Variable Speed 3.0A 350W / 13000 OPM Orbital Sander with 12 pcs Sandpaper and High Performance Dust Collection System, Ideal for the DIY and Home Decoration, PRS01A
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Frequently asked questions

Have a question about this project?

  19 questions
  • Barry Ellis Barry Ellis on Mar 26, 2017
    How did you use the four pieces of 1x3 with a screw in the middle?
    • Sara Sara on Mar 26, 2017
      Set each door on 4 screws, paint the BACKS all the cabinets first, then wait a couple hours, flip & paint the fronts. Every once in awhile I'd get a pinpoint scratch on the back, but it's so small & easy to touch up. For this paint you have to wait 16 hours between coats, so only waiting a couple hours & flipping makes a big difference! You can click on the link to my website on the last pic & see more details for the project:)
  • Pat1514171 Pat1514171 on Mar 26, 2017
    Nice job! I don't quite understand how the rectangles of wood with a screw enabled you to paint fron th and back at th he same time. How was it done?
    • Pat Martin Pat Martin on Mar 26, 2017
      paint one side and place that side down om the screw points; then you can paint the remaining side.
    • Gilda Gilda on Mar 26, 2017
      Does that not leave marks on the wet paint?
    • Betty Richmond Betty Richmond on Mar 26, 2017
      Paint the inside first and then flip it over. Those very small marks from the point of the screw will be inside the cabinet and can be touched up.
    • Sara Sara on Mar 26, 2017
      Set each door on 4 screws, paint the BACKS all the cabinets first, then wait a couple hours, flip & paint the fronts. Every once in awhile I'd get a pinpoint scratch on the back, but it's so small & easy to touch up. For this paint you have to wait 16 hours between coats, so only waiting a couple hours & flipping makes a big difference! You can click on the link to my website on the last pic & see more details for the project:)
  • Lis20867535 Lis20867535 on Mar 26, 2017
    Can you tell me the wall color in your sister's kitchen?
  • WH WH on Mar 26, 2017
    You didn't spray the cabinets? I would think this would product the smoothest finish.
    • Sara Sara on Mar 26, 2017
      I tried using a sprayer before, but always ended up with splatters and it was a pain to keep refilling it. If you can afford a nice enough sprayer like professionals use then that would definitely be a great way to go!
    • Mar8039518 Mar8039518 on Mar 26, 2017
      I am in the process of painting my oak cabinets white. Did the TSP, lightly sanded them, but put only one coat of primer. I still have time to add a second coat because I haven't started painting them yet. Should I put a second coat? Also, I am going to use a sprayer to paint them with a semi gloss paint. As per information found on some sites, I am planning to use Floetrol following the instructions on the container to thin the paint down. Any thoughts about this?
  • Juanita Juanita on Mar 26, 2017
    I live in a mobile home with the fake wood cabinets. Will the paint stay on the cabinets?
    • Sara Sara on Mar 26, 2017
      Yes:) The sides of my island & cabinets were all fake wood & ended up looking just like the real wood when I was done. Just make sure to get a good bonding primer (at whatever hardware or paint store you go to, let an employee know that you need it to prime cabinets & they'll show you the best options).
  • Nee6457549 Nee6457549 on Mar 26, 2017
    Did the oak grain show thru the final finish?
    • Sara Sara on Mar 26, 2017
      That was my biggest worry when I started this project! At certain angles in certain light I could see grain (because I was looking for it) but overall when you're looking at the kitchen as a whole it's not super noticeable & I was happy with it. Maybe more coats of primer/paint would cover it completely? Haven't tried it, so I'm not sure.
    • Nee6457549 Nee6457549 on Mar 26, 2017
      Thank-you, I'm going to try this in my bathroom.
    • Sara Sara on Mar 26, 2017
      Fun! Good luck with everything:) If you want more details before you start check out
    • James James on Mar 26, 2017
      I rid our bathroom cabinet and vanity. They were Oak wood. I used a white cabinet paint. It is called INSL-X cabinet coat. It covered great and is a very hard finish. I ordered it from Home Depot. The vanity and cabinet look like I put new ones in.
    • Frostie Moma Frostie Moma on Mar 29, 2017
      In order to remove the grain texture you need to sparkle the entire cabinet door to fill in the cracks. Then sand, prime, and paint.
    • Frostie Moma Frostie Moma on Mar 29, 2017
      Spackle... Gotta love auto correct!
  • C C on Mar 26, 2017
    What is the wall color in YOUR kitchen?
    • Sara Sara on Mar 26, 2017
      Behr Elephant Skin. Seriously, who names these things? Haha. It's a very dark graphite color, so I had them lighten it by about 70-75%. I can't remember the exact number. I asked them to make samples at different percentages, painted swatches on the wall, then picked the one I liked the best. You could also order it at 50% lightened, then mix white in it until you get the exact shade you want, paint it on a notecard and take it in for Lowe's or Home Depot to color match. It took me awhile to find the right gray...this one doesn't end up looking purple or blue in certain light like a lot of other ones did.
  • Linda Linda on Mar 26, 2017
    How many days did it take to do this?
    • Sara Sara on Mar 26, 2017
      Depends on how much time you have on any given day, but here's what's possible assuming you don't have work, etc...Day 1: Remove doors, clean, sand, clean out your cupboards. Day 2: 1 st coat of primer in morning, 2nd coat in afternoon, 1st coat paint in evening. Day 3: 2nd coat paint (make sure it's been 16 hours since 1st coat). You're supposed to let them cure for quite a few days before putting them back up, but I'm too impatient & waited about 3 days and was really gentle with them. I think it takes 30 days to completely cure to full strength. I did this project in sections so I still had a functioning kitchen the whole time. Because of this, it was about 3 weeks start to finish for me.
  • 861650 861650 on Mar 26, 2017
    Can you use a paint that has a primer in it?
    • Sara Sara on Mar 26, 2017
      I wouldn't. There may be some amazing paint with primer out there that's great for cabinets and I just haven't heard of it...if anyone else know, please feel free to chime in! From my experience, I'd say you need 2 full coats of primer to prevent the color underneath from bleeding through and to help cover the grain. If a good paint/primer does exist, you'd probably still need 4 coats total so it wouldn't save much time. If you end up finding one that does the job in fewer coats, please let us all know:)
    • Touchedpainter Touchedpainter on Mar 28, 2017
      Primer in paint is a come-on & a fantasy. Technology in paints is frenetic right now & has been since the turn of the century. As I have posted in several projects, primer just/ONLY means first coat. There are many paint projects (painting paint) that using just 2 coats of a GOOD quality of the finish paint is all you need. Just wipe sand the walls, woodwork, etc, dust it off & paint. Use soap & wipe off grease. If painting varnish, wallpaper, badly stained creosote, water leaks, etc. just put 1 coat of "Gripper" . Gripper can be gotten at Home Depot, or any place that sells "Glidden Paint". It is the best stainkill & gripping primer on the market. Far better than "Kilz" or "Zinzer 123". It can also be painted over just as soon as it is dry, usually in 1 hr, unless the air conditions are extremely humid. I am a Comm. Painting & Surface Coating Contractor of 40+ yrs. No paint has "primer" in it. Technology has become so advanced in the surface coating industry, that today's, better quality paint, has high hiding/cover-ability & durability. Your brand name paint companies, have high end paints & lesser/cheaper paints. "Behr" used to be pretty bad... They now have a highend (is their most expensive) paint that will knock your socks off; be it porch/deck, solid body stain, interior wall, or trim... I only use egshel on ceilings, it reflects light back in the room & reflects dirt. Ceiling paint is so chalky it absorbs light & absorbs dirt, only good for the paint store 'cause you have to repaint more often. So when in doubt just 1 coat of Gripper, (it even adheres to & locks grease) follow with 2 coats of what ever you were going to use for the finish paint, even if it is the cheep stuff. Oh ya, paint color doesn't bleed,;the crud in the pores of the old paint can. The first coat may not cover the old paint color, that is not bleeding, that is from the first coat not having enough cover-ability to hide the old color. Second coat should take care of that, especially if you are using a high grade product. Exception, because of the way the human eye works, yellow can be hard to cover. Yellow because of the pigment tints to make yellow can struggle to hide previous colors, you may need 3 finish coats. The other is magenta reds, boy do they struggle to cover anything. Ask the clerk, if there is a lot of magenta tint pigment to make you choice of red, you will need to prime with a coat of medium pale oxide red first. Now you are painting over red. If your favorite red leans more oxide red than magenta red, no problem just 2 coats 'cause oxide red can cover most any color in 1 coat, if using a high end product. The money is in the labor, you work hard enough; cheat on the quality of paint and you get to enjoy twice the hard labor. Have fun!
    • Cel12418567 Cel12418567 on Apr 23, 2017
      very informative. Thanks!
    • 861650 861650 on Apr 23, 2017
      Hey Touchedpainter! Thank you for all the great information as it is well appreciated so I read it twice. I was surprised about the egg shell paint for the ceiling and love the idea that it reflects light. Further, I had read that satin paint helps to hide the not so perfect wall surfaces. Any truth in that? Last, thanks again for setting us straight on primers.
    • Mocha Mary Mocha Mary on Mar 31, 2018

      I used the middle priced Ben Moore in a light grey to cover my dark walnut cabinets; it took just two coats.

  • Melody Warren Melody Warren on Mar 27, 2017
    Like Juanita, I live in a mobile home and my cabinet doors are covered with something like contact paper. Do you think this would work for them?
    • Bonnie Eckler Bonnie Eckler on Mar 27, 2017
      Wish someone would answer, as I too have something like contact paper on the front of my cabinets! Please help, anyone!
    • Sara Sara on Mar 27, 2017
      I'm not sure. Can you post a picture of them? I do paint laminate furniture all the time using this same method, but I don't want to give advice on this when I'm not 100% sure. A picture might help.
    • Melody Warren Melody Warren on Mar 27, 2017
      Sara here is a pic of the cabinet in front of the kitchen sink. I sanded the sides and back and decoupaged them, then was going to paint them...then chickened out. LOL. Any help is appreciated
    • Eff6070491 Eff6070491 on Mar 31, 2017
      I had the exact same cabinets in a flip I did. Kind of a clear plastic film. I sanded cabinets, wiped them down. I used Gripper primer, purchased at Home Depot, then 3 coats of paint. Once cured I never had any problems with paint chipping/peeling off.
    • Melody Warren Melody Warren on Mar 31, 2017
      Thank you Effiepearl! I appreciate the advise. Shop at HD all the time and never heard of Gripper primer but will try it for sure.
    • Tracie stone Tracie stone on Mar 31, 2017
      I've painted my bathroom vanities that also had the faux wood "contact paper"... they turned out great! So much nicer than the faux wood look. Don't be nervous! Just do it! You'll be so glad that you did. I did prime first and used an oil based paint in a satin finish. I would advise a polyurethane finish for longevity. Hope this helps
    • Tracie stone Tracie stone on Mar 31, 2017
      I've painted my bathroom vanities that also had the faux wood "contact paper"... they turned out great! So much nicer than the faux wood look. Don't be nervous! Just do it! You'll be so glad that you did. I did prime first and used an oil based paint in a satin finish. I would advise a polyurethane finish for longevity. Hope this helps
    • Sara Sara on Apr 06, 2017
      Hi Melody! I just now saw the picture you posted. It looks like it's in pretty good condition...I'd paint it. Looks like you got a lot of good advice above. I've never tried Gripper primer, but it sounds like a great product! If you do have any bubbling in the paper, that will still show up after you paint, but if it were me I'd still paint it anyway. I'd love to see pictures when you're done!
    • Melody Warren Melody Warren on Apr 06, 2017
      Thank you Sara. But, I am afraid I have to get my sewing room painted first, but will keep this post and will try to remember to take pics
  • Debra L Jacobs Debra L Jacobs on Mar 29, 2017
    Hi - We bought our home 3 yrs ago. Previous owner pd someone to paint the dark kitchen cabinets. Looked good when we bought the house, not so much now. They obviously didn't clean and/or prime properly because we have yellow spots coming thru. Also, trying to keep clean has caused paint to come off in much used places (around drawer pulls and door handles). I know I need to clean with Krud Kutter but should I strip also or just clean, sand, prime, and then paint? I've already painted 5 rms, 7 closets, and 1 ceiling so painting is no biggie but the kitchen cabinets is a little scarey. TIA for all help.
    • Sara Sara on Mar 31, 2017
      Hi Debra! I don't have any experience with cabinets that were previously painted, so I'm not sure what the best process is. If it were me, I'd strip them because sanding enough to get them smooth and ready for primer would end up rounding the edges and details of the doors, which you don't want. I suggest a lot of googling and reading from people who have had experience with this same thing. Sorry I couldn't be more help, good luck with everything!
    • Morgan Morgan on Apr 27, 2017
      I'd strip them first and let them dry then sand well, fill dings, etc, with wood putty, sand, and clean with tack cloth and lastly prime and paint.
  • Pam Smith Pam Smith on Mar 31, 2017
    Can't seem to find that BM paint anywhere! Could you tell me where you bought it? We have Lowes and Home Depot near us. Thanks!!
  • Connie Anderson Connie Anderson on Mar 31, 2017
    iId really like to know the color of the green in your sister's kitchen. It's beautiful, can you tell me what it is??
    • Sara Sara on Apr 02, 2017
      "Float Your Boat" Valspar. In person it's more turquoise than green.
  • Joe Connor Joe Connor on Mar 31, 2018

    Great job! but the link to more info isn't working - could you fix it please?

  • Rebeca Susana Matus Rebeca Susana Matus on Mar 31, 2018

    Beautiful! The link isn’t working, can you pls fix it? Thank you.

  • Josie Josie on Mar 31, 2018

    I painted my kitchen cabinets, but they stick. What did i do wrong. I did the same for my bedroom dresser drawers and every time I open them, they are stuck shut...

    • Karen Bosco Karen Bosco on May 12, 2018

      Buy the felt stick-ons for your cabinets -put on all four corners .

      You can also rip all around the interior edges with paraffin. It works !

    • Karen Bosco Karen Bosco on May 12, 2018

      LOVE the look ! It is so much cleaner and makes the area look larger.

      Great job ! I am inspired to tackle our kitchen cabinets.

    • Josie Josie on May 16, 2018

      thank you for the info on the felt stick ons, but what do you mean about the interior edges with paraffin? sorry I don't know what paraffin is.

    • Wanda Jones-Foote Wanda Jones-Foote on Mar 10, 2019

      Paraffin is wax.

  • Sandy Burk Sandy Burk on Apr 05, 2018

    Already have white cabinets but want to paint gray. Is there any difference in the prep process?

  • Dawn Dawn on Apr 12, 2018

    with that finish, do you see water marks or does it nick easily? Mine is a mess and I want to paint Colonial Blue. That’s only one small area

  • Judith Burhans Judith Burhans on Mar 10, 2019

    Where are the answers to these questions?


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