How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets

One of my very best friends wanted to give her kitchen a complete overhaul and it was nothing short of spectacular! The kitchen was in excellent shape, so there was no reason to get new cabinets. They just needed a fresh look! Also, why pay thousands of dollars on new cabinets when you can do a DIY, paint your own kitchen cabinets, and spend some time with your awesome friend (me, duh)! Here’s how to paint kitchen cabinets in one weekend!

Here’s the kitchen before the reno:

The cabinets are a gorgeous solid wood. This is their natural color and it had a clear coat glaze on top to seal the wood. This is a great sized kitchen with A LOT of cabinets! (You’re going to be slated by the transformation!)

If you’re going to paint your cabinets, the first step is removing the hardware. My friend did that before these pictures were taken. Next, removing all of the cabinet faces from the wall.

Don’t worry about emptying the cabinets! There’s no reason to do that unless you’re going to paint the inside. Which is up to you, but might be more trouble than it’s worth!

After removing all of the cabinets and drawers, we took them outside and sanded them down. I used a 120 grit paper on my sander. A lower grade (harsher sand paper) might work faster, but it will not give you a smooth finish. We laughed and cried a little at how long this took us. My friend thought it would be an hour, I said, “no way, it’ll be more like 3 hours.” Well, it ended up taking us just over 5 hours to sand everything. That’s 10 man hours total. If you’re going to paint your cabinets, you’ll need to dig deep. Pro Tip: Do this DIY with someone you enjoy spending time with! It’ll go by faster 🙂

Here’s a before and after of a drawer face that I sanded. You can see the difference in the color of the wood once the glaze was removed. The surface was entirely smooth and almost ready to be painted!

Depending on what kind of hardware you choose, you might need to fill the holes. My friend decided to go with some new hardware and switched from a knob with one anchor,  to a drawer pull with two. You’ll need a flexible joint knife and wood filler to do this.

Take a dab of the wood filler and push it into the hole. The take the joint knife and smooth it out, just like if you were spackling a wall. Do this on both sides of the cabinet or drawer.

For the absolute best results, wait until it’s 100% dried. Then take a sander and lightly go over the filler until it’s flush with the cabinet. Tip: Close your eyes and run your finger over the area. If you can’t feel any dips, cracks, bubbles, or crust, you’re ready to paint!

The Finish-All Paint is available on Amazon and I have only excellent things to say about it. This was my first time using it and I literally could not believe how far 32 oz of this paint goes. For the entire kitchen we only used 3 of them. The paint goes on thin and smooth but is heavy enough that you only need two coats.

kitchen cabinet - cabinet paint

At this point in the day it was pretty dark out. So we brought painting inside and set up a painting and drying station. The paint dries so quickly and does not smell, so it was manageable to work inside. Make sure you used a tarp or sheets to protect your furniture. We used my old bed sheets to cover a pool table.

The best way to paint cabinets is to paint inside the grooves first, then the panel, and finally the trim. Doing it this way will create clean and crisp brush strokes. If you paint the grooves last, the corner strokes will look sloppy.

Here you can see the difference between coats one and two, but coat one is super impressive, especially for white paint. White paint usually takes 3 or 4 coats to cover a dark surface color.

When the cabinet faces are drying, you’ll need to go back and paint the cabinet frames. Once everything is dry, you’ll need to seal the cabinets with a protective finish. My friend used General Finishes. This will protect against general wear and chipping. It will also create an easy to clean surface.

When you’re all done, you can add your hardware and hang the doors back up! I recommend using a hardware guide to expedite the process and more importantly, please your OCDs.

This difference is unbelievable! Those are the same floors! The same space! The same cabinets! The white is so brilliant, it makes it feel like a completely different room. You can basically do cartwheels in this kitchen now. I can’t explain it. But it’s glorious. Just look at it!

Special thanks to Jackie for trusting me to take apart your home, love you, friend!

Want to see more home updates? Read our Interior Blog Posts.


  1. What did you do about the appliance garage? I see it in the before photos but not the afters. Wondering how you painted that? I’m doing my kitchen right now and I’m not sure what or how to do about that door?

    1. Just painted over them! This type of paint required no sanding at all actually. But we did it on the cabinet faces anyway just to be sure there was a nice, flat smooth surface. Cabinet faces take a beating, the frames – not so much!

    2. I washed them with a TSP alternative cleaner, then I deglossed them with a spray deglosser and then primed so tonight I will start painting with Valspar cabinet paint. Crossing my fingers! I will share pics of before and after when it’s done .

  2. I’m assuming that the garage was not sanded. So I was wondering if it came out just as good as the standard doors. My cabinets have a lot of groves and sanding them would be brutal. I was hoping we could just clean them and then paint

    1. You can skip sanding if you use a shellac based primer like Bin. Keep the area well-ventilated, though. I’ve had good results with water based Bin as well, but the shellac base will seal in any grease, etc.

      1. I did a similar project on my pink laminate cabinets. *YUCK – I did not however remove the hardware from the doors because the insides of the doors were white so I left the hardware ON THE DOORS, and I numbered each door so that it would go back to the same spot to prevent mismatching doors. *** Boy am I glad I took that advice – and also – I painted my cabinets black, and I used polyurethane over the black chalk paint, then 2 coats of Glidon high gloss paint.The 4 coats of polyurethane. This project seemed to take forever, it took me at least a month because of the Humidity in Florida – I was cautious about rushing the curing and drying process.

        When I hung them up (during the day) I thought it looked great but at night when the lights in the kitchen were on I was SO DISAPPOINTED because the SHINE showed every stroke of paint! Went to the paint store and asked what could be done? They said to just go with a satin black paint and it would eliminate the shine. Since I was just changing the shine on the upper cabinets – the lower cabinets were not a visible shock like the upper cabinets were and simple to clean.

        I tested it on a drawer first. Two coats. Tried to scratch it, it held up so I just rolled the top cabinets with the satin black and the edges and the base of the cabinet the parts that were visible, Took a straight edge razor to remove the excess paint around the edges and it came out beautiful. Check out “Who say’s you cant paint laminate cabinets”?

        ***HUGE TIP: I really got into my work, and during the polyurethane stages it was on my hands and I couldn’t remove it easily. I later learned from my next polyurethane project that OLIVE OIL removes polyurethane like magic from your hands – it also removes glue from a sticker, it’s a wonderful adhesive remover.

    2. Depending on the kind of paint you use, sanding is not needed. I would still also take into consideration the shape of your cabinets. If they received a lot of wear and tear, it might be a good idea to even out the surface.

    1. We used paint brushes! I recommend getting different sizes to work with, especially painting the cabinet faces. The grooves along the pane can be tricky to paint! Using a big brush can leave sloppy strokes in those areas.

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