Thursday, May 30, 2013

Painting Kitchen Cabinets [Tutorial]

So it feels like I haven't posted in FOREVER!
Oh, wait, that's because I HAVEN'T. ;)

Warning:  this post is LONG.  Like, “Lord of the Rings”-long.
Apparently, I’m a wordy gal with a lot to say.  You’ve been warned.

So just before Christmas I finished up painting my kitchen cabinets.
You may have heard me shouting about it from the rooftops (sorry for the racket ;) ).

OK, I have read some tutorials from people who painted their entire kitchen in like 7 days.  This is NOT one of those posts.  My kitchen looked like this for a long time:

Awesome, right? ;)

Mine took forever, for a couple reasons.
#1 I am a mom of two, working full-time outside the home.  Do I need to explain that? ;)  This project was done in the evenings after the girls had gone to bed, and during naptime on the weekends.  I didn’t want to sacrifice time with them during their waking hours to paint, so that was a choice I made.  
 Obviously, it’s possible for this project to take less time.

Another reason it took so long was that I let each coat dry overnight before adding the next. 
  Waiting for things to fully dry and start to cure only makes the finish more durable.  It’s hard to be patient and wait, but in the end I need the finish to withstand a lot in this hardworking room.  So, it was tough but worth it.
The designated "drying" area.  Baby bottles or kitchen cabinets, takes all kinds. :)
The first step is to remove the hardware and take off your doors and drawer fronts. 
I did my cabinets in sections (see earlier photo), so I didn’t need to label anything because I could keep track of the one or two doors/drawers that I was doing at a time.  If you’re doing everything in one fell swoop, MAKE SURE you label your doors so you can match up with the correct hardware when you’re done.

I suggest a numbered system: for the doors, write the number in the hole left by your hinge hardware.  It will get covered up when you put the hardware back on, so you won’t be painting over that space.  Put all the hardware for that door into a baggie and label the baggie with the corresponding number.

Once you have your hardware off, you’ll need to sand. 
I’ve seen all the posts on Pinterest “How to Paint Without Ever Sanding Ever Ever” (or something like that).  Well, there’s no cosmic rule that says you’ll be struck by lightening if you don’t sand, or that your piece won’t look nice, but I can tell you the finish likely won’t look as even, you’ll probably end up doing more coats of paint, and it for sure won’t be as durable.  Those scenarios wouldn’t work for me, but do what fits your situation.

Next, clean the bejeezus out of those doors.
You will be *shocked* how much grime and grease and dust can accumulate on cabinet doors without you even knowing – especially on the tops of your doors.
I used TSP to ensure a fully, evenly deglossed surface.  When I paint trim, though, I just use a Clorox wipe.  It’s up to you.

After everything is clean and fully dry, it’s time to prime. (I love to rhyme ;) )

If you are working with a really grainy wood like oak (like I was), I’ll recommend a second coat of primer.  You’re going to really want to fill in as much of the grain as you can to give the overall finish a smooth look.
These little painter’s triangles are super, BTW. 

But when I had more doors than triangles, I just propped my stuff up on cans of food I swiped from the pantry and it was all good.  Now THAT is recycling! (pre-cycling?  Whatever.  It worked.;) )

I did a light sanding after priming, then cleaned again.

Then it’s time to paint.

I went into this project planning to roll the doors and just use a hand brush to get in the small spaces and fill in the details on the doors.

I actually ended up using the brush for literally 98% of this project.  This is where using good paint makes all the difference.  

I used my old standby, Sherwin Williams ProClassic in semi-gloss.
It goes on super-smooth, and because it is self-leveling, those brush strokes all but disappear.  I found I had much more concise control with the brush vs. the roller, so I just stuck with that.

I let my coats dry overnight to ensure a hardened finish.  It’s nearly painful to wait so long in between coats, especially when things are dry to the touch, my paint finger started to itch.  But I’m so glad I waited because we’ve been banging around this kitchen for a couple months now and even with a giant dog and an energetic preschooler running around, I still a haven’t had to touch up a thing.

Overall, I ended up with two coats of primer and three coats of paint on these bad boys (see why it took so long? Ha!)  But I LOVE how they turned out and I wouldn’t change anything.

Happy Painting!

Follow Me on Pinterest


  1. Did you paint the inside (part attached to wall) of your cabinets? I would really like the hubby to make this his summer project at our house! Kate D.

    1. Hi!

      Nope, I did not paint the actual interior of the cabinets. I painted both sides of the doors, for sure, and I did the "lip" of the cabinet (there is the front-facing side of the cabinet, then there is the flat side of the opening - that's the lip).

      You'll notice when you go to custom cabinet stores, or even big box stores, they don't typically paint the interior there, either - they do the paint or stained finish on the exterior and the lip, then the interior is a natural wood, usually something light, like a birch or maple. Mine already had that interior, which was in great shape, so the only thing I changed was the oak exterior.

      Hope this helps - let me know if I haven't explained things very well (it's Friday and my brain is at 50%, max. ;) )

      Good Luck!


  2. Some very helpful tips! I have never seen the triangles before, but those do look handy. Thanks for sharing!

  3. May I ask where did you get the hardware on the cabinets from?

    1. Hi Kay!

      All the cabinet hardware came from Home Depot. If memory serves, the bin pulls were from the Martha Stewart collection, and the knobs were either made by Liberty or Anchor, not sure which. But they're just a standard mushroom-style knob.

      I've been really pleased with it - easy to install, nice and heavy, and chic and simple.

      Thanks for stopping by!


  4. I have painting my kitchen cabinets on my summer to-do list... and I'm dreading it! Great tutorial... I'm featuring it in the PoPP Spotlight this week. Thanks for linking up :)

  5. Girl, I feel your pain! When I did my cabinets I was working full-time too. I don't know how I did it! Pure determination I suppose. ;-). They look beautiful! Great job!!

  6. They look great! I have just finished painting my cabinets. The doors and drawers will have to wait a bit as it is so humid here. Would you share the counter top and floor info? I love how everything works together.

    1. Hi Beth! I'm flattered you are interested in the counters and floors - they're really nothing out of the ordinary. Our counters are Corian (solid surface), in River Rock Mosaic. The floors are just vinyl in a tile pattern - I really can't even remember the name of it! Hopefully we'll be able to replace the floors sometime in the next few years, but for now the vinyl works well with the crazy kiddos and the gargantuan pooch. Until then, a girl can dream... :)


  7. What a fantastic job! Hey, I get where you're coming from. While I am not a mom of anything other than a sort of foster-something to the wildlife that visits my backyard daily and nightly to get fed (the beggers, ha!) I do have a full-time job outside my home plus commute time and it just sucks a lot of energy and ambition out of this poor old bod, let me tell you. That leaves nights after work (mostly ain't happening) and weekends, when I'm trying to cram in everything else, to get projects done. The point is -- you finished, and it looks fabulous, and kudos to you, kiddo. You did good! Visiting from Thrifty Decor Chick.

  8. OMG! Your kitchen turned out fabulous! I am in this exact process now, and loving your colour choices! Can you please give me the wall and cabinet colours you used? Great job!
    -Rebecca ( fellow DIY gal with a job and kids!)

    1. Hi Rebecca! The color on the walls is Windsor Greige by Sherwin Williams. The cabinet color is a custom color match (also from Sherwin Williams). It's similar to Navajo White, but you can find the exact code for the color in this post:

      Just print out that picture and take it to any Sherwin Williams store and they can mix you that exact color.

      Thanks, and Good Luck! :)

  9. Hi Emily!
    This is a great tutorial, thank you! What primer did you use for the cabinets? Also, when you cleaned again after sanding the primer, did you use the TSP or just soap & water?
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Laura! I only used tSP for the initial de-gunkifying. It's a pretty powerful cleaner, and you don't want to strip away any of your fresh prime job, so I just used a damp cloth to give a really good wipe down in between coats. Good luck!


  10. Hi Emily - this is so great! I'm so excited. Did you use an electric sander? I'm not so good at being thorough and letting paint dry and using primer so want all details! :) Also, did you use a roller on the frame of the cabinets or a brush on pretty much everything?

  11. Just found your site and I love it! and Thanks for the inspiration! I hoping to paint our wood kitchen cabinets this year.

  12. Good read, This blog has provided the helpful data to us, continue the good work.

  13. Thanks for these outstanding pictures . These are really beautiful. thanks for sharing with us

  14. Thank you for sharing this interesting and informative article, painting with airless spray gun will be faster and more interesting!

    Airless Sprayer

  15. Thanks for Sharing useful information for kitchens. Keep up the work. Best Kitchen Extensions in London.

  16. Download over 16,000 WOODWORKING Plans at here
    Woodworking guide offers anyone of any skill level the ability to build amazing projects. The guide is extra helpful because it offers more detailed explanations, videos and blueprints then your typical woodworker magazine.
    Arbor Projects ,
    Adirondack Chairs ,
    Artwork Display ,
    Bathroom Unit ,
    Box Designs ,
    Billiard/Pool Table ,
    Barn Plans ,
    Bed Plans ,
    Bedside Cabinets ,
    Bee Hive Plans ,
    Bench Projects ,
    Bird Feeders ,
    Birdhouse Plans ,
    Boat Plans ,
    Book Case Plans ,
    Baby Changing Table ,
    Coat Rack ,
    Cabin Plans ,
    Cabinet Plans ,
    Carport Plans ,
    Cart Plans ,
    Cat House Plans ,
    CD/DVD Holder ,
    Cellar Projects ,
    Chair Plans ,
    Chest Designs ,
    Chicken Houses
    Childrens Room Plans ,
    Clock Plans ,
    Coasters ,
    Coffee Table Designs ,
    Cold Frame Plans ,
    Compost Bin ,
    Computer Desk ,
    Containers ,
    Cradle Projects ,
    Small Crafts ,
    Cutting Board ,
    Deck Plans ..

  17. Thank you for sharing this interesting and informative article, painting with airless spray gun will be faster and more interesting!

  18. Thank you for sharing! This article is very informative and helpful. I hope other articles will be as good as this article.

  19. Rallison Appliances, leading Kitchen Appliances Manufacturer in India offers Best Kitchen Appliances Online LPG Stoves, Pressure Cookers, Mixer Grinders, Glass Cook Tops, Non Stick Cookwares, Wet Grinders, Ceiling Fans, Roti Maker.

  20. Quoc Cuong furniture is specialized in consulting, design and interior. With the professional work process, bring customers products with the best quality, warranty service attentive, meet all needs of customers: Kitchen cabinets, price of kitchen cabinets, acrylic kitchen cabinets, oak kitchen cabinets, walnut kitchen cabinets