Painting Kitchen Cabinets

Do’s and Don’ts When Painting Kitchen Cabinets

Did you inherit unattractive cabinetry when you bought your home? Do your kitchen cabinets feel outdated or drab? One of the simplest ways to give your kitchen a facelift is painting your cabinetry.

“Cabinets can account for nearly 40 percent of a kitchen’s cost,” according to This Old House, so even if you’re looking at a total kitchen remodel, painting your cabinetry can significantly reduce the cost of your new kitchen.

But, before you decide whether painting your cabinetry is a good option for you, let’s explore the process and learn more about the do’s and don’ts of painting kitchen cabinets.

Is Painting Kitchen Cabinets a Good Idea?

Your decision to paint your kitchen cabinets will likely come down to a number of factors, like how long you plan to stay in your home, the condition of your kitchen cabinetry, and whether you are happy with your current cabinet layout.

Painting your cabinetry can be a serious cost-saving option if your cabinetry is in good condition and you like your current kitchen layout. In fact, painted cabinetry has been a popular trend in kitchen design for a number of years now.

On the other hand, if your cabinetry has a lot of dents and dings or the wood is deteriorating, painting your cabinetry may not help much. Or you may need to put in extra work to make your paint job look attractive.

If you want to add additional cabinetry or reconfigure your appliances and cabinet layout, investing in new kitchen cabinetry is a much better option.

You’ll also need to consider how patient and detail-oriented you are. While painting cabinetry isn’t difficult, it takes time and attention to detail to achieve the results you want.

What color should you choose?

The first rule about painting your kitchen cabinets is that there really are no rules. So which color should you choose?

It really comes down to your personal preferences and whether you plan to sell your home in the near future. Neutral colors have a broader appeal, so consider using them if you plan to sell your home. Otherwise, anything goes. Here are some color ideas to give your cabinetry new life.

Warm Neutrals

If you aren’t sure which color to choose, you can’t go wrong with mid-range neutrals including muted shades of yellow, light tans, grays, or off white. Neutral colors blend seamlessly with other patterns or colors in your kitchen design and work well with just about any decor.


Want to make a bright, bold statement? Red tones can brighten a dark kitchen in a hurry, injecting excitement. You can also use red as an accent color to draw attention to a particular focal point.

Rich Browns

Time-tested and traditional, rich brown tones give kitchens a warm farmhouse feel that’s cozy and inviting.


If you love contemporary styles, the clean, simple look of bright white can really shine. White can also provide contrast against darker furniture or countertops for a balanced look and feel.


One of the most popular kitchen colors, yellow brings sunny warmth to kitchens, and feels right at home in both traditional and transitional designs.


While blue is not a popular kitchen color today, using blue accents throughout your kitchen can create a retro feel that’s both calming and stylish.

Tools You’ll Need

After you’ve selected the color you want to use, it’s important to gather all of the supplies you will need to complete your painting project. Here’s an overview of the basic tools and supplies you’ll need to paint your kitchen cabinets. We’ll discuss some of these in later sections.

  • Multi-surface Primer
  • Latex Enamel Paint
  • Painter’s Tray and Liner
  • Paint Rollers
  • Square Paint Brush
  • Angled Paint Brush
  • Sandpaper
  • Wood Filler
  • Shop Vacuum
  • Tack Cloth
  • Drop Cloths
  • Rosin or Brown Builder’s Paper
  • Drill & Drill Bits
  • Degreaser Cleaner
  • Painter’s Tape
  • Rubber Gloves
  • New Cabinet Hardware (optional)

What is the best paint to use on kitchen cabinets?

For best results, it’s important to apply the correct primer and paint to your cabinetry. Paint typically used on drywall doesn’t work well on most cabinetry. Regular wall paint is formulated to penetrate the pores of the drywall to adhere to the surface. However, most cabinetry is not porous due to the variety of varnishes or other finishes used for kitchen cabinetry.

What you need is a paint that chemically bonds with the surface of your cabinets. Look for a good bonding primer at your local hardware or paint store. If you aren’t sure whether a certain paint is good for cabinetry, be sure to read the instructions on the paint or ask an expert at your paint store.

Prep Work

The key to a professional-looking paint job is all in the preparation. Your attention to detail now will save you hassle down the road and give you the best chance for a smooth, even paint job that will last for years to come.

Removing Hardware and Doors

Don’t be tempted to paint your cabinet doors while they are still on the hinges. While this might seem like it would save time, you’ll likely end up with paint on the door hinges which will look sloppy after the paint job is complete. Plus, removing the doors and drawers gives you better access to paint the cabinet boxes.

Begin by removing one door or drawer at a time.

Number each drawer. Numbering the doors will take the guesswork out of reinstalling the doors again later. If you are keeping the same hinges and hardware, place the hardware in a bag and mark the bag with the number you assigned to the drawer or door. You could also store the hardware for each door inside the cabinet box so it’s there when you go to reinstall the doors.

Protecting Your Countertops & Backsplash

You’ll want to cover your countertops, appliances, backsplash, and flooring to keep them free of paint, solvents, or cleaners while you work.

Drop cloths are helpful for backsplashes, countertops, and flooring. You can also use rosin paper or brown builder’s paper to protect countertops and backsplashes. Rosin paper is available at your local hardware store in rolls 35 inches wide by 140 ft. long, providing plenty of coverage with lots to spare.

Use painter’s tape to protect the inside of your cabinet boxes when you are painting the outer edges.


After you’ve removed the doors and hardware, you’ll want to clean the cabinet doors, drawer fronts, and cabinet boxes with a spray degreaser such as Spray Nine or TSP. Be sure to follow the directions and wear gloves and eye protection.

Don’t be tempted to skip this step. Cleaning your cabinets is vital to ensure the primer and paint adhere to your cabinetry properly. Pay particular attention to cabinets around your cooktop or range hood, as grease buildup is particularly heavy here.


While many people ask how they can paint their kitchen cabinetry without sanding, in most cases sanding is absolutely essential. Some paint brands claim you can eliminate sanding, but unless your cabinets are fairly new or made of solid wood with little or no finish, you’ll likely need to sand your cabinetry to some degree.

Sanding your cabinetry scuffs the surface so that the primer can adhere to the surface of the wood or other material.

Use a palm sander with 100-grit or 120-grit sandpaper to scuff the surface of your cabinetry. You’ll want to sand the doors, drawers, and cabinet boxes thoroughly, but don’t go overboard. It isn’t necessary to go down to the bare wood to get good results. If some of the old finish or paint remains, the paint will still adhere to the surface. You’ll know you’ve sanded enough when the surface loses its sheen.

Switch to hand sanding to complete the sanding process in molded corners and where details meet the panels of your doors and drawers.

Fill any dents or holes with a wood filling compound, using a putty knife to press it into the hole, then smooth it out. Be sure to read the directions to determine the correct drying time.

Tip: Don’t fill in the hardware holes if you are planning to reinstall the same hardware. If you are replacing your pulls and knobs, you may need to use wood filler to fill the holes left by the old hardware if those holes don’t match up with the new fixtures.

After sanding is complete use a wet/dry vacuum to remove all the dust from the cabinet boxes, doors, and drawers. Then go over the surfaces with a clean tack cloth to remove the last traces of dust.


How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets – DIY Network


You’ll need to prime both the cabinet boxes and the doors and drawer fronts.

If you plan to paint the inside of your cabinet boxes, start priming from the back and work out to the front. Use a brush for corners and detail areas. Use smooth, even strokes, and wipe up any drips right away.

Next, use a 2” to 3” wide-angled brush to apply primer to your cabinet doors. Start at the seam where the panel connects to the molding on all four sides. Then paint the rest of each door or drawer panel.

You can use a small paint roller to paint the stiles and rails on the outside of the door frames to save time and achieve a smooth finish without brush marks.

Creating a jig out of a board and pair of ladders can make painting cabinet doors easier and reduce drying time.

painting jig drawing

Image from This Old House

Remember that primer doesn’t have to look perfect. It just needs to cover the surface of your cabinets to provide a good base layer for the top coats of paint. Take your time and focus on each area before moving to the next.

Painting Your Cabinetry

After you prime your cabinetry, you’ll want to repeat the same process with two or three coats of latex paint.

Look for paint that is made for trim, often referred to as enamel paint. This paint has a higher sheen and is more durable.

High gloss paint is usually easier to clean than satin finishes, but it’s also harder to hide imperfections in your paint job. In most cases it’s best to go with a semi-gloss for a good balance.

If your kitchen gets a lot of traffic, consider adding a latex bonding agent designed to add strength to regular latex paint. Ceramic beads inside the additive bind to the resins in the latex paint, creating a water-based, latex paint that offers the same strength as many oil-based paints, for increased hardness and resistance to dings, chips, and scratches.

While the painting process involves lots of steps, painting your cabinets can be a very cost-effective way to revive outdated kitchen cabinetry and give your kitchen a fresh splash of color and style before embarking on a more extensive kitchen remodeling project.

Re-painting works best when your cabinetry is still in good shape and you are happy with your current kitchen layout. It can also be an effective strategy to ready your home for resale without breaking your budget.

However, if your goal is a complete kitchen redesign, Red Rose Cabinetry can help you bring your dream kitchen to life, often for less than you think! Visit our showroom in Lititz, PA to see the latest in quality kitchen cabinetry in a wide range of styles, colors, finishes, and hardware options to suit any budget!