Painting kitchen cabinets: all you need

What’s the best way to paint kitchen cabinets?

Giving your kitchen cabinets a fresh coat of paint can transform them from old-fashioned to stylish for a small fraction of the cost of a new kitchen. Before you get started, it’s natural to ask yourself what you need to paint kitchen cabinets.

You don’t need a lot of stuff, and if you already have a good supply of DIY products, you’ll probably just have to buy paint and primer. Before you start painting, you will also need to prepare your cabinets. Fortunately, the whole process is simple enough that even inexperienced DIY enthusiasts can do it.

How to Prepare Kitchen Cabinets Before Painting

Before painting your cabinets, you will need to prepare them. Without doing the proper prep work, your new finish won’t last and will likely look patchy.

To do the housework

First of all, you need to thoroughly clean your cabinets because you don’t want to paint over the dirt. Kitchen cabinets are particularly prone to cooking grease, so we recommend using sugar soap for its natural degreasing properties. Dr. Bronner’s Organic Sugar Soap is a gentle yet effective option that comes in a range of pleasant scents. You really only need to clean the parts of the cabinets that you paint, but this is a good opportunity to properly clean your cabinets, inside and out.

Remove doors and hardware

Stanley 1/4 '' x 4 '' Slotted Screwdriver

For best results, you should remove cabinet doors before painting them. You are much more likely to get drips if you paint your hanging cabinet doors vertically rather than flat. You should also remove handles and other hardware on the front of your cabinets. For most kitchen cabinets, you will only need a flathead screwdriver to remove the doors and hardware. Label each door so you know where it goes when you hang it up, and be sure to keep hardware secure.

If you really don’t want to remove the doors from your cabinets, you don’t have to. Just be sure to cover the hinges with duct tape and avoid using paint that is particularly prone to leaking, such as glossy paint.


3M Hover Image to Zoom Top Rated Pro Grade Precision 9 '' x 11 '' 120 Grit Medium Faster Sanding Sand Sheets

You don’t need to completely sand your cabinets over bare wood or particleboard, but you do need to lightly sand the surface to roughen it just enough for the paint or primer to adhere well. Without this step, the finish will not last as long and may appear patchy. Use 100-120 medium grit sandpaper and rub it all over the front and sides of the cabinets, basically anywhere you intend to paint. You don’t need to get rid of all the old finish, just create a matte surface. When you are finished, wipe the cabinets with a damp cloth to remove dust and allow them to dry completely before continuing.

What you need to paint kitchen cabinets

Now let’s discuss what you need for painting kitchen cabinets. You don’t need a huge amount of equipment, but you shouldn’t be cutting corners with as big a paint job as your kitchen cabinets. If you consider how much it would cost you to completely replace your cabinetry, spending on the best quality paint and painting supplies will seem like a good deal.

Masking tape

FROGTAPE 1358463 Multi-Surface Painter's Tape

It might not be glamorous, but painter’s or masking tape is essential when painting kitchen cabinets for a clean, professional finish. Ideally, you should remove the doors and hardware from the cabinet, but if you’re having trouble with that, use duct tape to cover them. You will also use duct tape where the sides of the cabinets meet the wall and on any glass parts of the cabinet doors, preventing paint from bleeding.


Zinsser 03504 Cover Stain Interior / Exterior oil sealer primer

For best results, start with a coat of primer before applying paint. Some people think the primer is not important and they might as well use an extra coat of paint, but paint and primer are not the same thing. Using a primer helps the paint to adhere better to the cabinet surface and increases the durability of the paint so it is less prone to chipping. An oil-based primer such as Zinsser Cover Stain Interior / Exterior Oil Primer is a good choice for painting cabinets. It covers old wood stains so effectively that you may not need to sand some old cabinets before application, although we still recommend sanding cabinets with a gloss finish.

However, you may come across special cabinet paints that do not require a primer. It’s a good choice if you want to save time, but you will always get better results using a primer.

To paint

Now comes the fun part: choosing the paint you want to use on your kitchen cabinets. Here you have two main decisions to make. You need to decide what type of paint you want to use on your kitchen cabinets and the color of said paint.

Ultimately, the harder the paint finish you use, the more durable it will be and the longer it will last on your cabinets. Gloss paint has the toughest finish of all interior paints, but it is difficult to work with if you are not an experienced painter and have a tendency to sink and sink. Semi-gloss paint is a little less glossy than gloss but still reflects light. It’s almost as hard but it’s a little easier to paint. Satin is slightly shiny but closer to matte than shiny. It’s not as hard as gloss or semi-gloss, but it’s much less likely to sink or sink, and it’s still tough enough to withstand general use.

Behr Premium Plus Low Odor Interior Paint

Behr Premium Plus Low Odor Interior Paint is a great choice with gloss, semi-gloss and satin options. You can find it in a wide range of colors. You can also purchase dedicated cabinet paint, such as the NuVo Deco Cabinet Paint Kit.


3M Fine Grain Aluminum Oxide Paint 19015ES-CC 3-2 / 3 by 9 inches

You should have a plentiful supply of fine-grit sandpaper on hand when painting kitchen cabinets. It is essential to sand after each coat of primer or paint to obtain a perfectly smooth finish.

Brushes and rollers

Wooster Brush Set

You will need a selection of brushes and small rollers to get the job done. The Wooster brush set contains all the brushes you will need to paint the nooks and crannies of your cabinets. For larger, flatter areas, however, a high-density foam roller gives you a flatter finish.

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Lauren Corona written for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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