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How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets

Updated on February 28, 2013
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.

Painting your kitchen cabinets is a great way to update them. It is inexpensive, quick, and not that difficult. There are a number of techniques that you can use to add a unique look to your cabinets and give your kitchen a custom feel. With various types of paints, faux finishes, and special wood moldings you can totally transform your old cabinets in a weekend or less for under one hundred dollars.

That is a great value any way you look at it.

Decide on a Color

Take a good look around your kitchen. What colors do you see?

Unless you are going to be repainting your entire kitchen you will probably want to use a complimentary color on the cabinets.

Some colors to consider are:

  • White is a classic color for kitchen cabinets. It brightens the kitchen and it looks great. It can show dirt very easily.
  • Black is a color that you can see more and more in cabinets. It can give your kitchen a contemporary look but it also looks great in a country kitchen. Black will show ships in the paint very easily.

  • Red is a cheerful color that gives a retro 1940s look to kitchens. It can be too intense for some people.

  • Green is a soothing color and soft sage green cabinets look great for a cottage look. It is unusual for cabinets, although gaining in popularity.
  • Blue shades also bring a cottage feel to a kitchen.

When you are deciding on a color you may also want to consider updating drawer pulls and hinges for a completely new look

Plain Paint or Faux Finish?

The next thing to decide on is the finished look you want. You can paint your cabinets or you can use several techniques to give them a faux finish.

Some faux and special finishes to consider are:

  • marble
  • chippy paint

  • wood grain

  • trompe l'oeil

  • stencil
  • tortise shell

You will need to decide before you begin which finish you want to use. While faux finishes may look intricate and difficult they are quite simple.

By painting and using undercoats, glazes and paints in layers you develop the final look over time. A good instuction book in a great help for this.

Imagine being able to have deco cabinets with tortise shell insets, pink marble trim, or any other material you can think of. You can create a denim look, a canvas look, or any number of fabrics as well. Many brands of paint have created paints and glazes especially for this process can to help make it easier. Ralph Lauren Paints and Behr come to mind.

A Great Faux Finished Kitchen

Change the Look with Wood Trim

Change the look of your cabinets completely by adding wood trim or wooden appliqués to the doors.

In order to do this you will use a product like liquid nails to apply the trim after your cabinet is cleaned and sanded. This is an inexpensive and really easy way to get a custom look.

The wooden appliqués add a vintage charm to kitchen cabinets. They come in many designs and sizes and can give your kitchen a Victorian feel, like a craftsman hand carved your cabinet doors.

How to Paint Cabinets (includes Stenciling)

Steps to Painting Kitchen Cabinets

Prepare your cabinets by cleaning them first. All of the food particles, grease, and dirt will need to be washed off. Remove the cabinet doors and all of the hardware. Lay them flat and wash thoroughly with a good cleaner. Allow to dry.

Now you are going to sand the cabinets down. Use fine grit sandpaper and make a few passes over the doors and the facings of the cabinet boxes. By sanding them you will allow the primer to adhere to the surfaces much better.

Apply the primer to form a good bond with the surface of your cabinet doors. The primer you will choose is dependent on the paint and technique you are going to use. AN interior oil based primer is best with oil paints, while a shellac based primer does very will with latex paints. If you are using a special paint for faux finishing then do what the manufacturer suggests.

Take the cupboard doors to a sheltered spot that is well ventilated for priming and painting.

The next step is to paint the cabinets. A paint sprayer will make this quick and easy, and also give a smooth finish but if you aren't experienced it can be daunting. A brush will work equally well as long as you use very thing coats.

Using a three inch wide brush apply three thin coats of paint. Allow to dry completely between each coat. Before applying the next coat use a 400 grit sandpaper to lightly sand the flat surfaces of your cabinets. Do this after the first and second coats for a professional finish.

Once the paint is dry hang the doors back up and enjoy your new kitchen.

Heart of the Home

The kitchen is the heart of the home. While few people have large amounts of money to spend on kitchen remodels most people can easily afford to update their cabinets in this way.

Be imaginative and let your creativity flow. If you don't like it you can always paint over it.


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    • Nicolas Simons profile image

      Nicolas Simons 

      7 years ago from San Francisco

      Excellent hub. Very detailed and informative. Rated up.

    • henry1robertson profile image


      7 years ago from Los Angeles, CA 90013

      That was excellent!

      thanks for sharing i will try to follow in my hub.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Your article is too good dear.Even i do write for home renovation and remodeling.I get motivated to write more on it.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Good hub.even I write articles on kitchen cabinets.

    • FernandeTizon7929 profile image


      7 years ago from 16822 Sheldon Ln SW, Rochester, WA 98579

      Wow!!Wonderful hub.

    • profile image

      Aaron Price 

      8 years ago

      Very nice job and good tips painting kitchen cabinets. You should post the before/after pics at! That's what it's for. widwi = what i did with it

    • michelle.dragon99 profile image


      8 years ago

      great hub marye!

    • Kanila profile image


      9 years ago from the universe!

      Love your hubs. Great stuff on kitchen appliances.

    • midnightbliss profile image

      Haydee Anderson 

      9 years ago from Hermosa Beach

      Very helpful hub with useful information.

    • betherickson profile image


      9 years ago from Minnesota

      Wow, this is a wonderful hub! You inspired me. Now all I need is time so I can do a make over of my kitchen cabinet. Great work.

    • C.S.Alexis profile image


      10 years ago from NW Indiana

      Good job here. This is a useful hub, thanks for your research and share. C.S. Alexis

    • gjcody profile image


      10 years ago

      This was very informative ...I was wondering about painting my cabinets. They are very strong ...but I am tired of the dark wood. I like the idea of making the top different than the bottom.

      I appreciate you research you have done best to you!


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