Considering giving your dated oak kitchen cabinets a style upgrade? We asked the experts for their advice on how to make painting kitchen cabinets easier.

June 08, 2015
kitchen cabinets

We're not going to lie: Painting kitchen cabinets isn't the easiest home improvement task. But it is possible to do it yourself, allowing you to give your space a fresh look without spending your budget on all new cabinets or paying a professional to refinish them for you. Before you embark on your painting adventure, check out the advice from our experts below and see our step-by-step video on how to paint kitchen cabinets the right way.


1. Be patient.

The process of painting your kitchen cabinets can be a tedious one, especially if done right. Meticulous preparation is key and you need to give every coat of paint the time needed to dry if you want your finish to last. Resign yourself to investing some time in the process and focus on the end result. It's all going to be worth it!

Check the painting aisle at your home improvement store for tools that can make the job a little easier. "I love painting pyramids," says Kate Riley, the blogger behind Centsational Style. "These inexpensive—yet ingenious—tools prop up your doors so you can apply paint to one side and flip it over without waiting for the first to dry. Look for them in the paint department at the home improvement store. You'll love them!"

2. Keep track of what goes where.

As you disassemble cabinets, make meticulous notes about what doors go where. Use painter's tape to label each cabinet box with a letter somewhere that won't show, and give the corresponding doors the same letter. Put the corresponding hardware for each door in a small baggie that's also labeled with the box/door letter so you can match them up easily later. "If you are painting anything with drawers, number and mark each one because the drawers in a lot of old pieces won't fit into another slot," says Eddie Ross, stylist, designer, and author.

3. Pick the right paint.

Picking the right paint when painting kitchen cabinets is key to a strong, beautiful finish that will last for years. There are plenty of choices—oil-based or latex, type of finish, built-in primer or not—but here's our advice. Water-based paint in a satin finish. "I strongly suggest using acrylic enamel paint," says Kristen Grove, the blogger behind "Acrylic, or water-base, paints are low-fume and clean up easily with just water." Look for a formula that hardens as it dries; it may cost a bit more but you'll be glad you did years down the road. As for the finish, a satin finish hides any slight imperfections much better than a gloss finish will and it still holds up to scrubbing.

4. Make sure your cabinets are as smooth as possible before painting.

Proper prep work is key to making sure your finish is as professional-looking as possible. Cleaning surfaces, filling holes and thoroughly sanding surfaces will give you a strong base. Dave DeCarlo, set construction manager for the Meredith Corporation Photo Studio, recommends filling in any holes or dings with Bondo, a product used for bodywork on cars. Get our step-by-step directions for prepping your cabinets for paint.

5. Use the right applicator.

Using the correct paint applicator is key when you want to get a professional-looking finish on your newly painted cabinets. Travis Blake, a certified remodeler with the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI), says the first thing you need to do is degloss the cabinets otherwise paint isn't going to get good adhesion. Once the prep work (the most important part) is done, then it's up to you to get the look you want. "A brush is always going to result in a brush stroke look while a roller will give you a more even finish," says Blake. If you have a raised panel door, you will need a brush to get into the nooks and crannies, then you can finish with a roller. A sprayer will give you the most even finish. Take the handles off the doors. then spray. This will give you the best look; just be careful the spray paint doesn't run.

Comments (3)

December 15, 2018
It is so hard to match whites. Why not go with the newer trend of pale gray or pale blue?
October 4, 2018
i have walpaper in my kitchen ( i know old fashion but I LOVE it) ??? is, wallpaper has a creamy off white background , will white painted cabinets look odd or should I repaint w/ the current creamy off white ??. keep thinking i want a change but not sure . any ideas ??
June 18, 2018
Why not let the cabinet doors dry fully on each side instead of trying to flip over a door and balance it on the pyramids? These can and do leave tiny "holes" in your paint (yes, I have had this happen). It's better to take the added time and ensure your cabinets look the very best they can when you're done.