A DIY Project: Painting Your Kitchen Cabinets

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Note from Mique:  We are in the middle of our kitchen redo.  This is an awesome post from Bethany for painting your kitchen cabinets! Painting our cabinets wasn’t an option for us but I love what Beth did with hers.  Check out my first post to see how we started ours and enjoy this post on how Bethany did theirs.  Something for everyone! 

painting kitchen cabinets

In July 2014, we purchased a new (to us) home.  We got a great deal, but I wasn’t a fan of the kitchen.  Compared to the other homes we had toured, it seemed dark and closed off from the rest of the house.   It also had annoying features like cabinets too close to the counters to fit a KitchenAid (who builds cabinets like that???) and cabinet boxes too shallow for our plates.  But we love a good project, so my husband and I mapped out a kitchen gut, complete with new cabinets, an island, and a totally different layout.  We calculated the budget and how long it would take us to save the money.  My 2014 Christmas present was going to be an incredible kitchen!

But sometimes we don’t get what we think we want.  One month later, we felt the incredible impression that we needed to adopt.  From China.  Like, now.   Instead of saving for a kitchen, we started saving for something A LOT more important.

Let’s be honest though, I didn’t stop hating the kitchen.  After quite a bit of research, I decided that I could make smaller, inexpensive changes to love our space.  Painting the cabinets white to brighten things up was top of that list.

paint cabinets watermarkI use spray paint a lot, but didn’t know the first thing about using regular paint on wood.  And painting cabinets seems so final (also, scary).  I did a lot of research online, talked to a couple of friends that had painted their cabinets, and came up with a plan.  After one week of lots of hard work (and a lot of time letting the paint dry), we had fabulous new looking cabinets.  It’s been about 5 months and they haven’t chipped at all and still look great.  Best part?  The actual paint was under $100 (we changed all of the hardware-hinges and handles/knobs as well, which cost us another $100)!  So if you already have hardware you love, this is a super super cheap makeover!


  • sandpaper
  • paint rollers
  • a GOOD paint brush: my husband painted homes for several years as a summer job and swears by the Purdy brand
  • Zinsser (oil based) Cover Stain primer: if you want a professional look, you need to use an oil based primer. We only needed 1 gallon of primer
  • Ace Hardware Cabinet and Trim paint: the great thing about this paint is that it can be tinted ANY color!  More about the paint below.  Also, we only needed one gallon of paint (and still have some left over).


How we did it:

Take all of the cabinet doors off (PLEASE do not paint your doors while they are still attached to the cabinet bases).  LIGHTLY rough up the cabinet boxes, trim, and cabinet doors (front and back side) with the sandpaper.  You do not need to sand down to the grain, just enough that the paint has something to hold on to.

Confession: Because I’m super lazy, I left everything in the cabinets the entire time we worked on this project, just scooted things back so they didn’t get dust or paint on them.  I had to wash several things when the project was over, but that seemed easier than removing every single thing from my cabinets.  I did, however, take everything out of the drawers.

Wipe all of your cabinets clean (I used a paper towel and some water.  Nothing high tech).painted upper cabinets watermarkApply a coat of the primer. You just need one.  Remember this paint is oil based so you should keep a door or window open to make sure the area is well ventilated.  With the cabinet doors, we applied primer to the backside, let it dry for about 12 hours and then applied primer to the fronts.  Like I said, letting things dry (and being patient) is the most time consuming part of this whole project.  If there were drips after the primer coat, we lightly sanded again, but for the most part, I didn’t need to.

Once we let the primer dry (about 18 hours), we started painting the top coat.  The color we tinted the Ace Hardware Cabinet and Trim Paint was Sherwin-Williams Alabaster White.  Ace Hardware is very good about tinting their paint to any paint brand’s color.  It looked a little cream on the paint chip, but I’ve never thought “cream” now that it’s on my cabinets.

cabinets2Paint Tip: If you are going to be using the same paint color over several days, rather than rinse out your brush or throw away your roller each time, just wrap it in saran wrap, stick it in a Ziploc, and store it in the fridge! Works like a charm!  P.S. Sorry about the low quality iPhone pics above.

painted cabinets editThe Cabinet and Trim paint is self leveling and very very runny.  This means that you will need several thin coats (to avoid drips) but it’s pretty forgiving.  I wish someone would have warned me how AWFUL it looks as it is drying.  So here’s a warning: don’t think “what have I done???”  when the paint looks streaky and blotchy while it is drying.  It will dry evenly.

We had to paint three coats of this paint to cover the cabinets completely (remember, thin paint).  Again, we painted the cabinet doors with the backside first, let them dry, then flipped them.  The cabinet doors definitely took the most time. We set them all up on drop cloths in our garage for a few days (if you live somewhere cold and do this during the winter, check the instructions on the paint before attempting this in your garage.  Cold does weird things to paint).

You must let the paint dry COMPLETELY between coats.  Drying took between 18 and 24 hours.  We were in a rush (we needed to get the kitchen done before a large planned party in our home), so we leaned more towards the 18 hour mark and it worked out just fine.  On the cabinet boxes, we mostly used a roller, but our cabinet doors have a beveled trim, so we had to use a paint brush on those.  After it dried, there were no visible brush strokes.  You can still see the wood grain in my cabinets, but I don’t mind that.  We probably could have covered it up if we had painted several more coats.

cabinet_watermarkBecause all of our hardware in the “before” kitchen was brass, we had to purchase new hinges and new handles/knobs.   I purchased the hinges and pulls on Amazon. I bought these hinges, (make sure to measure your current hinges before purchasing your own) and these handles.  Amazon has a great selection, quick shipping, and their prices are just as cheap as other sites I found.  I also purchased pulls online for the drawers, but ended up hating the shape once they arrived, so instead bought some at my local Home Depot.

One more tip: Because we spent so much time painting, I did not want the paint to chip the first time one of my kids slammed a drawer, so I bought small felt pads (you can pick them up at Walmart or your local dollar store) and stuck them on to the inside of each cabinet and drawer.  Now they close softly.

before and after kitchenThis is one of my favorite home improvement projects ever.  It was extremely rewarding, especially since I spend so much time in the kitchen , and wasn’t very expensive!  It completely changes my feelings about the whole kitchen (though I still can’t fit my Kitchenaid under the darn cabinets).   If you’ve been hesitant about painting your cabinets, take it from a novice like me—you CAN do it!

Next project on our list?  A new back splash!


  1. Mindy says

    I’m painting some bed frames, would you use the same trim paint on them as you did on the cabinets?

  2. Sandy says

    I want this to be my Summer 2015 project!! You inspire me soo much to do this now that I know what products to use. Just one question….how is the white with dirty hands? Is it easy to clean? GREAT job!

  3. LaPriel says

    Beautiful work!

    Did you consider Annie Sloane paint? This is not a negative question. I am just curious. So if you did look into AS paint, what made you decide to use traditional paint?

    • says

      We did look at chalk paint (though I looked more at the BBFrosch version since it can be tinted to any color), but I wanted something that I didn’t have to put a wax coat on and left a very very even finish. Also, the original cabinets look a little bit lighter in the picture than they are in real life–they are quite dark wood and I wasn’t sure how well the chalk paint would cover them. I’m sure in the end chalk paint would have worked, I just didn’t want to experiment with it on my cabinets (big project that I didn’t want to redo) and I wanted an even, smooth finish.

  4. Janet says

    We painted our cabinets a few years back. They need to be done again. I appreciate your tips. I am not looking forward to this job. My cabinets are painted a dutch blue with wrought iron pulls. I have to pick a new lighter color as it is a darker space but I don’t know if I am brave enough to paint them white :)

    Have a good night.

  5. Sara says

    Hi, great tutorial, thanks! I was wondering what color you used to paint your kitchen walls??? I am in the process of picking out paint and the color you have is right in between the 2 colors i’m choosing between and i love it! Painting the cabinets white is next! :)


    • says

      Sara, We love the paint color and it looks so great with the white cabinets. The color is Benjamin Moore Palladian Blue. We had it mixed at Ace Hardware :). Good luck with your kitchen projects!!!