18 Easy Steps to Kitchen Cabinet Painting

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Are your kitchen cabinets dated, ugly, stained, or just not the right color? Then paint your kitchen cabinets today with 18 easy and cost-effective kitchen cabinet painting steps.

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Table of Contents

It’s often said that the kitchen is the nucleus of the house.

A kitchen is a place of family gatherings, food, joy, and togetherness.

If your kitchen doesn’t have the right vibe or style, then it’s time to upgrade.

One of the first things my husband and I did after we purchased our new-to-us 1960s home was to upgrade the kitchen. 

before kitchen cabinet painting

After our moving expenses, we didn’t have a ton of money to throw at a full-fledged kitchen upgrade.

After researching inexpensive ways to brighten a kitchen, the cabinets were first on the kitchen renovation list.

RELATED POST: Searching for more great kitchen upgrade ideas? Check out some kitchen decorating theme ideas.

kitchen cabinet painting before and after

Below you’ll find out the easiest upgrade ideas and step-by-step instructions on kitchen cabinet painting.

So – let’s get into it!

Step 1: Select the Kitchen Cabinet Paint Color

There are so many color choices to brighten a kitchen or darken it depending on the goals of the homeowner.

pick the paint color

When we purchased our home, the kitchen cabinets were a 1960s dark walnut wood that made the room look small and drab. 

I wanted to brighten the kitchen and dreamed of bright white kitchen cabinets to make the kitchen look bigger and brighter.  

after kitchen cabinet painting (2)

Popular kitchen cabinet paint choices include:

  • Driftwood (light grey)
  • Celadon (greenish blue)
  • Cocoa (bronze-ish/brown)
  • Navy Blue (darker blue)
  • Titanium (white)

Step 2: Choose the Right Type of Kitchen Cabinet Paint

There are several types of paint available but only certain ones are advised for kitchen cabinets.

kitchen cabinet painting on cabinets

Paint types:

  • Gloss
  • Semi-gloss
  • Satin

Since my husband and I were complete newbies when it came to painting kitchen cabinets, I ordered an all-in-one kit by Nuvo in the platinum (white) color

The Nuvo Kitchen Cabinet Painting Kit made our lives easy since it had almost everything we needed. 

I love the Nuvo Kitchen Cabinet Paint so much that I also repainted my kitchen table and chair legs to match the newly painted kitchen cabinets.

kitchen table painting

RELATED POST: To learn more about how to repaint kitchen table and chairs – check out this related post.

The Nuvo Cabinet Painting Kit made by Giani Granite features:

Step 3: Check Off Your Supply List

To make sure we had everything we needed I made a supply list.

Although the Nuvo Kitchen Cabinet Painting Kit contained many of the necessary supplies, we purchased a few additional items to make the process easier.

kitchen cabinet painting paint and brushes

Kitchen cabinet painting supply list:

Step 4: Clean Out Cupboards

Although it’s not completely necessary to empty the contents of the cabinets, it’s advised.

Even the most careful painter can occasionally slip up and paint a wrong area or spill. 

kitchen cabinet painting up close

To be on the safe side, removing all contents will ensure nothing gets damaged in the kitchen cabinet painting process.

In addition, the cabinets could potentially be out of use for a couple of days, so having access to cabinet contents could be needed during that time frame.

Step 5: Apply Drop Cloths or Painters’ Plastic to Kitchen Floors, Appliances, Counters, and Backsplash

Make sure to protect your kitchen. Although I did my best to be extra careful, I did spill and dribble paint on the countertops, floors, backsplash, and appliances.

Thank goodness I laid out clear painter’s plastic across the floors, countertops, backsplash, and appliances to protect everything from wayward paint.

I did add some clear tape to make sure the painter’s plastic didn’t move around during the kitchen cabinet painting process.

Step 6: Use Painter’s Tape to Tape Off Non-Painted Areas

Be sure to apply a good painter’s tape (I used Frog Tape) to protect areas of the walls that aren’t being painted.

I accidentally skimped on this step at first and got some paint above the cabinets and down the sides of them on the wall itself.

(Thankfully, we were able to find touch-up paint from the previous owners.)

Don’t make the mistake I did, make sure to tape off any area of the kitchen walls that you don’t want to accidentally apply the kitchen cabinet paint.

Step 7: Remove Cabinet Hinges and Pulls

Moving along with the kitchen cabinet painting prep work, remove all hardware with a toolkit like this one to take off kitchen cabinet pulls.

Pro tip: Create a designated box to keep all screws, pulls, knobs, and hinges in one area. Use clear tape to secure screws to the individual pulls or hinges.

Step 8: Degrease Kitchen Cabinets with Windex

As part of the prep work for kitchen cabinet painting, make sure to properly degrease the cabinets

Degreasing the cabinets is an imperative step.

If you were to apply kitchen cabinet paint overtop of grease, the paint would not properly adhere to the surface creating chips, cracks, and peeling.

When I degreased, I used Windex and a paper towel. I carefully went over all sides and surfaces of the kitchen cabinets with the degreaser and paper towels.

Step 9: Begin Sanding Kitchen Cabinets

Probably the absolute most important step in kitchen cabinet painting is sanding.

Now I know there are some kitchen cabinet painting kits out there that boast “no sanding necessary.”

I checked and saw that the Nuvo Kitchen Cabinet Painting Kit did suggest light sanding. I was good with this as I figured the paint would adhere better since my cabinets were from the 1960s.

In general, paint has a difficult time adhering to smooth and shiny surfaces as well as older woods.

I used a few different grit sandpaper types as well as a sanding block.

Use 100 or 150- grit sandpaper to start then go over the area again at the end with 220-grit sandpaper.

The sanding block was great for the middle of the cabinets as it didn’t tire my arms and hands out as much as the sandpaper.

Step 10: Degrease Kitchen Cabinets Again

After sanding, degreasing again is imperative. 

The second round of degreasing with Windex and paper towels removes all the sanding residue as well as any dirt and grime that was unearthed.

If you paint before degreasing again the paint will not adhere to the cabinets.

Step 11: Open the Paint Can and Mix Paint

The next thing to prep before kitchen cabinet painting is getting the paint ready. 

Open the can of paint using: 

To remove the lid off the paint can gently pry the edging with one of the tools above.

Slip the edge of the tool (whichever one is chosen) under the lip and lift upward (slowly) then move to another area and lift again until the lid eventually pops off. 

Pro tip: Be careful when the lid pops off as there could be some paint on it.

Once the paint can is opened, now is the time to mix it.

Mixing the paint is important as paint components, can and often do, separate. 

To prepare the paint, gently use a paint mixing tool (such as a wooden stick) to churn the paint. 

Step 12: Layout Paint Brushes and Rollers

The final prep step of kitchen cabinet painting is to assemble the painting tools.

I added a drop cloth to a counter and created a staging area for all my supplies.

kitchen cabinet painting brushes

I laid out all my brushes as well as the rollers in order of size.

By organizing my paintbrushes, I could easily switch from one brush to another quickly while painting. 

Pro tip: Make sure to have a drop cloth where the paint brushes will lay to make sure paint doesn’t drip or spill on the kitchen cabinet painting staging area.

Step 13: Begin Painting Kitchen Cabinets

Let the games begin! The time-consuming prep work is now complete and it’s time for the fun part – painting the kitchen cabinets.

There are lots of ways to apply paint to the kitchen cabinets such as using a paint roller or a paintbrush. 

kitchen cabinet painting on cabinets

Although a paint roller can apply paint more quickly, I didn’t like the textured look that it produced.

I used brushes for the entire kitchen cabinet painting process to have a cohesive and fluid look.

Step 14: Try Different Paint Brush Sizes

Depending on the style of the kitchen cabinet, different brush sizes may be necessary. 

I purchased a few different size brushes but found I primarily used a thick brush and a thin, fine-tip brush.

  • Thick brush: I used a thick brush for the middle and edges of my kitchen cabinets. 
  • Thin brush: My cabinets had a recessed area around the middle and edging that required a fine-tip brush to apply the paint. Using the thin brush, I was able to really get in the grooves to adhere to the paint properly.

Pro tip: Be very careful to avoid paint drips. These are where too much paint was applied to the kitchen cabinet and the paint starts running down the cabinet door. To avoid this, carefully add paint to the brush in small batches.

Step 15: Don’t Worry About the First Coat Being Thin

Since my kitchen is on the smaller side, I don’t have a ton of cabinets. The first coat took me a little over an hour to apply. 

I will say, I started to second-guess myself after I completed the first coat.

I was so sure that I ruined my cabinets and made an irreversible mistake painting the kitchen cabinets. 

kitchen cabinet painting pictures

My advice – don’t worry! Seriously, this is important. Do not get upset that the kitchen cabinets are not looking good yet.

It will be ok! I wish someone had told me about this right around step 15!

Step 16: Apply a Second Coat of Paint to the Kitchen Cabinets

After allowing ample drying time, it’s now time to apply a second coat of paint to the kitchen cabinets. 

Try to apply the same brush strokes and similar painting style as the first coat.

Basically, if the paint strokes were up and down on the first coat, do that again.

This will allow the cabinets to maintain a cohesive look. 

Step 17: Apply a Third Coat of Paint to the Kitchen Cabinets

Here we go again!

Basically, we’re just repeating step 16. 

After third coat of kitchen cabinet paint

Make sure you allow ample drying time after the second coat and maintain consistency with brush strokes and the overall kitchen cabinet paint application.

Step 18: Reattach Hardware to Kitchen Cabinets

We’re almost done! Yay! 

After the third coat is fully dry, it’s time to reattach the hardware.

Grab that box of all the hardware and sort it out to make sure the proper pulls and hinges go with the right cabinets.

budget kitchen upgrade appliances

Due to the age and quality, we decided to scrap the existing cabinet pulls and upgrade to new ones.

This made life so much easier as we were able to scrap the old pulls and have brand-new ones ready to go.

Easy steps to repaint kitchen cabinets pin 2

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RELATED POST: Want more kitchen DIY ideas? Check out this related post on a DIY countertop upgrade.

Final Thoughts

To upgrade kitchen cabinets by painting in 18 steps, we picked a color scheme, selected the proper paint, cleaned out the cupboards, prepped the area with painters tarps, added painter’s tape to protect the walls, degreased the cabinets, sanded them, then degreased again, opened the can of paint and mixed it, applying the paint to the cabinets with different brushes, let the paint dry before applying a second and third coat of paint then finally re-attached the hardware. 

after kitchen cabinet painting

Your turn!

What color of kitchen cabinet paint are you thinking is best? Are you planning a kitchen cabinet painting project soon? Let me know in the comments!

52 thoughts on “18 Easy Steps to Kitchen Cabinet Painting”

  1. Very detailed instructions! I’ve bookmarked this page for when I get round to doing this in the future.

    1. Hi Liv! Thank you for reading! It’s amazing what a little paint on kitchen cabinets will do. I hope you can paint yours in the future.

    2. Saving this for later when I eventually get around to painting!

    1. I’m glad you found the post helpful. Thank you for reading.

  2. Pingback: Upgrade Your Kitchen on a Budget

  3. Pingback: Repaint Outdoor Decks

  4. Wow who knew there were so many important steps! Thank you thank you thank you for putting together a guide to walk me through it.

    1. Hi Catia!

      You are very welcome! There are definitely a few important steps to make sure kitchen cabinet painting works perfectly.

      Thank you for reading!

    1. Hello Kate!

      I’m so excited to have inspired a kitchen redo! The kitchen cabinet painting process makes such an impact on the space!

      Thank you for reading!

  5. Thank you for this post! We just had our kitchen cabinets painted by someone. I wanted to do it myself but was so scared I would mess them up. The bathroom cabinets still need to be done so your detailed post will be a huge help! Even down to the different grits of sandblocks! Definitely saving this for future reference!

    1. Hi Michelle!

      I’m so glad you found the kitchen cabinet painting post helpful. I hope your bathroom cabinets come out great!

      Thank you for reading!

  6. Stephanie

    I seem to often come across the articles on this site at just the right time! I have a 20-year old bathroom cabinet that has not been treated well. Had thought about replacing it but you have given me the confidence I can do it myself!

    1. Hi Stephanie!

      I’m so glad you found the article at the right time, too. I hope your bathroom cabinet painting project is a success.

      Thank you for reading!

  7. This post makes it sound very simple to those of us scared of DIY lol. It’s amazing what a fresh coat of paint can do!

    1. Hi Katherine!

      I used to be totally scared of DIY projects – but, one day just said – I’m trying. It really makes such a huge change with a fresh coat of paint.

      Thank you for reading

  8. Anita

    So many great tips and super helpful instructions! Thank you so much for posting this!

    1. Hi Anita!

      You are very welcome. I’m so glad you found the kitchen cabinet painting post helpful!

      Thank you for reading!

  9. I love DIY and doing things at home like this. We might not change it any time soon, but will keep this in mind just in case. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Hi Fransic!

      I love home DIY projects like kitchen cabinet painting, too. Always fun to change things up.

      Thanks for reading!

  10. Wow these turned out great! If my cabinets weren’t falling apart I would totally give painting them a try. It’s amazing what a fresh coat of paint can do.

    1. Hello Dallas!

      Thank you so much – I love the finished look of the kitchen cabinet painting project.

      Thank you for reading!

  11. Stephanie

    I would not have thought I could paint cabinets on my own – thought I would need to pay a pro mucho $$ to have it done. This article just saved me a ton of money!

    1. Hi Stephanie!

      This kitchen cabinet painting project is so affordable. I really needed something that wasn’t expensive – so I did tons of research and love the finished cabinets!

      Thank you for reading!

  12. Such a detailed post! Pretty helpful. Really fascinating to learn the various steps involved in kitchen cabinet painting. Thank you so much for putting together this amazing guide!

    1. Hi Hari!

      I’m excited you found the kitchen cabinet painting post to be helpful. Although there are 18 steps, they go quickly and are very easy to do.

      Thank you for reading!

  13. Well done, amazing outcome and great tips! So helpful.

    1. Hi Maria!

      Thank you so much for the compliment! I’m excited about the outcome of the kitchen cabinet painting project, too.

      Thank you for reading!

  14. Amazing tips and ideas for kitchen cabinet painting! Thank you for sharing such a detailed blog post!

    1. Hi Loshane!

      I’m excited you found the kitchen cabinet painting tips and ideas amazing.

      Thank you for reading!

  15. Thank you so much for these detailed instructions on kitchen cabinet painting. I hate our dark brown cabinets because there’s not much natural light in the kitchen, and I also live in Washington so it’s dark as it is….so the kitchen is not as bright as I’d like. I think white cabinets would brighten it up at least a little bit. 🙂

    1. Hi Jenna!

      I know exactly what you mean about hating dark brown cabinets. When we moved into the house – ours were a dark walnut/cherry. I was so impressed with how well the paint covered the cabinets and with just a few coats of paint.

      Thanks for reading!

  16. Saving this for when we start to reno our kitchen! Love all the great and helpful tips!

    1. Hi Brooke!

      I hope your future kitchen reno turns out great!

      Thank you for reading!

  17. We have played around with this idea for quite sometime now. This post is very helpful to organize thoughts and an actual list of supplies.

    1. Hi Vaishali!

      We debated taking the leap into kitchen cabinet painting – but, are so glad we did. I’m glad you found the post helpful.

      Thank you for reading!

  18. My kitchen cabinet definitely needs some work. I’m glad I came across this post. I’ll follow the steps you have outlined. Thanks

    1. Hi Fleek!

      I hope you are able to update your kitchen cabinet through painting with these 18 easy steps.

      Thank you for reading!

  19. The before and after pics are great! The end result looks wonderful. It is nice to have this option when it comes to updating a kitchen.

    1. Hi Marysa!

      I’m so glad you liked the before and after pics of the kitchen cabinet painting process. Painting is really a great option on a budget.

      Thank you for reading!

    1. Hi Sonia!

      Thank you so much for your kind words on the kitchen cabinet painting project. I really liked the end result, too.

      Thank you for reading!

  20. Nnniiccceeee…these are very detailed steps, I must say! I highly appreciate you sharing them with us here. I will need them soon.

    1. Hi Ntensibe!

      I hope you are able to use some of the kitchen cabinet painting in 18 easy steps tips soon.

      Thank you for reading!

  21. Thank you for these great tips on kitchen cabinet painting. My sister is going to do this but is nervous about the outcome. I’ll share this with her.

    1. Hi Healing Oils!

      I hope your sister’s kitchen cabinet painting project goes great!

      Thank you for reading and sharing the post with her!

    1. Hi Klaudia!

      I hope you enjoyed the kitchen cabinet painting post.

      Thank you for reading!

  22. I am so grateful for the easy steps. I am getting ready to do my kitchen and this post was a lifesaver!

  23. Great steps. Your steps gave me the confidence I needed to get started. Thank you.

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