Painting Kitchen Cabinets

You can read 10 different blogs on how to paint kitchen cabinets and you will probably read 10 different tutorials. Water or oil based? Brush or roll? Sand or not sand?  I think it’s all up to you.  I’ll give you the steps on how I did mine and reasons why I made the choices I did, but I honestly think you can do whatever you want.

Step 1: take cabinets off.  I’ve read on many different tutorials that you should take off your doors and label them so you know where to put them back.  I didn’t do this.  I painted one wall at a time {because I didn’t have room to do it all at once, and frankly, I work better when I have small victories along the way} so as I took them off, I laid them out in the garage on my drop cloth in the same order they go back up.

This made it easy to take down and put back up and eliminated the step of labeling everything.

Next, I lightly sanded all the doors.

This is a personal choice.  I wanted to get rid of the graininess of the doors so I sanded it down a little.  Personal preference.

I did paint the fronts and backs of the doors but I only sanded the fronts because the backs did not have the graininess on them.

Step 3: paint.  I simplified here.  I used Behr’s paint and primer-in-one in Pot o’ Cream.  Isn’t that the perfect name for a kitchen color?  Anyway, this eliminated the priming step and saved some money by not having to buy the primer.  $30 for the whole kitchen! Pretty good, huh?  I rolled most of the doors but had to brush in the creases.  Tip: even though Pudge looks cute hanging out with me while I did this…

And was a great watch dog for all those pesky people walking by…

I wouldn’t recommend painting cabinets with your dog because he might just do this…

Seriously?  I was literally painting the door as he walked right over it like I wasn’t even there.  That’s my puppy.

Anyway, here they were after one coat:

And after the 2nd coat:

I did a third touch-up coat on all the cabinets as well so three coats total.  As the doors were drying, I painted the cabinet fronts of the same wall.  See the insides of my cabinets?  I left those as-is.  The inside is very light and pretty so I didn’t feel the need to paint them white also {once again, personal preference}.

I took the same steps with the fronts as I did with the doors.  I lightly sanded them by hand and then painted three coats all over.  For the drawers, I just pulled them out and painted the fronts by sitting them on the cabinets.  Here they are all pretty and white and done.

I think it took me about 12 hours total but it was worth every minute.  Pick a nice few days, sit outside with your cabinets and radio, and paint away.  It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.  And if you thought the cabinets were good before, they are even better with our new counters:)

Next up on the kitchen how to’s: subway tile backsplash.  I also have some fun accessory tutorials to share later this week so make sure you come back and see it all!


  1. I’m kind of curious about how you attached the beadboard to the sides of the cabinets. We’re looking to do a very similar redo and was excited to see how you used the beadboard.

    • We bought tongue and groove beadboard {2 packages} for the cabinets. Mike cut them to size and then we attached them with liquid nails. Then we nailed them on all 4 corners for extra strength. We also bought some trim to put on the tops and bottoms of the beadboard which covered the nails. Good luck with your redo!

  2. They look great! I love the color you picked, not too stark.

    My dogs do the same thing! lol They managed to step on the ceiling medallion for the dining room and the crown moulding in one day.

  3. Angela Jones says:

    They look just great! I would love to paint my cabinets someday too and it is nice to know what all will be involved! Can I borrow your faithful watch dog? He seems to be such a good helper; lol!!

  4. Looks GREAT! Our cabinets look almost exactly like this, same color & woodgrain but the profile is square and not arched. Anyways, this post is PERFECT timing as we have been hesitant about painting since we couldn’t find any pics of cabinets with the pronounced grain like yours. It looks like the grain isn’t an issue at all when painted over.

    Perhaps I misread, but did you removed the entire cabinet from the wall or just the doors? Also, did you paint after the counter or before the counter?

    • I just removed the doors from the cabinets. I painted the fronts of the cabinets in place. I painted the cabinets before we did the counters but you could probably just cover the counters if you aren’t putting in new counters. Good luck with yours!

  5. I’ve been wanting to do this FOREVER. I’m curious though, do you have a lot of grain showing through from the oak? Thats why I’m hesitant to do my kitchen.

    • Hi Amy!
      We did not have a lot of grain showing through. I lightly sanded it to start and it helped with that. In certain lights you can vaguely see some grains but not enough to bother me:)

  6. Thanks for posting this! (And thanks to Apartment Therapy for bringing it to my attention). We’re moving in a couple of months and I have been contemplating painting the kitchen white so this is a good starting point for how to do it!

  7. Deana Letko says:

    Will you come over and do my kitchen cabinets now!!!!!!!! Actually, I am going to attempt to do our bathroom cabinets, so come on over and help! :-)

  8. Connie Miller says:

    Looks very nice. Did you add a polyurethane for cleaning?

    • Thanks, Connie! I didn’t apply a poly and honestly still haven’t decided if I’m going to. Because of the semi-gloss finish I used, it wipes clean pretty well. I do have some poly sitting around though so I may do it some day!

      • My paint guy said it is best to NOT use poly on painted cabinets. Sometimes it yellows and can actually cause pull off. He said just use a good paint with the right sheen. He was right. I did my bathroom cabinets two years ago and i dont have one chip.

        • I read/heard somewhere that when painting in the kitchen it’s best to use satin finish because it’s highly cleanable. I want to say I heard it on “This Old House”. Has anyone else heard this or know first hand?

  9. Michelle Andrus says:

    Not sure if this was asked…but did u use latex or oil base?

    • I just used latex, although I’ve heard others suggest oil based suggested also. We haven’t had any problems with chipping, scratching, etc. Hope that helps!

  10. Elizabeth says:

    What were these cabinets made of? I have laminate type cabinets and I was told there was no way I could paint them…but these look the same as mine? Are they real wood? Just wondering! Thanks!

  11. Rose Greenhalgh says:

    did our cabinets about 10 years ago..painted them a off white, now I wish I had left them like they were as they look terrible…would be a job to get those 3 coats of paint off and redo them….

  12. You did a wonderful job on your cabinets! They look so fresh and clean. You make it look so easy. I would love to try this on my oak cabinets. Maybe one day… :)

    Sherry @ A Happy Valentine

  13. I want a dog like Pudge! What kind is he? Sooo cute!

  14. My cabinets are already painted white and 9 years old. Now the edges are wearing through to the wood due to repeated cleaning. To repaint them, should I follow the same steps you used? Should I lightly sand the edges only before painting? I don’t know if they are latex or oil based? Can I go ahead and use latex?

  15. What size roller did you use? and did the paint come out smooth and not bumpy with the roller? vs painting via aerosol style?

    Thanks so much!!

  16. So I just did the same project – but I noticed they are hard to keep clean – did you put a clear layer of paint to avoid chipping when cleaning?

    • I haven’t really had any problems with paint chipping. I have been able to wipe mine down pretty easily. You could probably put a clear coat of poly over top to help with the chipping. It would give it an extra coat of defense:) Sorry I’m not much help!

  17. They look great! Thanks for the info!

  18. eileen bush says:

    If you are planning to use a poly or sealer for extra protection please use a latex poly like Minwax poly. I used the oilbased and now they have a yellow tinge. Latex does not yellow. So, now I need to repaint and reseal with the latex.

  19. I love how your cabinets came out. I have the same oak cabinets and HATE them! Have thought of painting them but have been very hesitant. Your posting might be just the inspiration and motivation I need. Thanks! Enjoy your new kitchen!

  20. Hi there, Your kitchen cabinets look great. It’s been about a year since you painted and I’m wondering how they’re are holding up? We’re painting my daughter’s cabinets this weekend and are considering using the Rustoleum Cabinet Transformation kit. That would cost more than your gallon or so of paint, but I’d gladly pay the difference if it means the finish will hold up better.


    • Hi Sue!
      They are holding up great! I haven’t any issues with chipping or peeling or anything. They still look just as fresh as they did a year ago and wipe down very easily!


  21. Thanks so much for your reply! I’ve made several new cabinets to fill in the spaces in her old, old, tiny kitchen. Those, hopefully, will go up tomorrow and then the painting can begin. I’m hoping that they have a “brand new” kitchen to enjoy soon!

  22. I have these yucky oak cabinets and want to paint them white. I cleaned all the cabinets with STP, then used a deglosser, then lightly sanded. I did a sample on the inside of one of my cabinets and it really hasn’t covered well.
    Any thoughts?

  23. Wow, I love this! Always wanted to do it and I will now. Thanks for the inspiration. p.s. I love your dog, too!

  24. There is actually an additive for paint that makes the paint smooth itself out and have a perfect finish after you paint. A professional painter told me about it, any paint store will have it. Then you wont have brush marks. Just a suggestion

  25. Favorite painting tutorial yet!

  26. Did you just do 3 coats of Behr’s paint and primer-in-one in Pot o’ Cream?? Did you have to put anything on top of it after the 3 coats? Thanks!! They look beautiful!

  27. I have one more question…if you were to do this again is there anything you would have done differently? Are they holding up good as far as chipping goes?? Thanks so much!! I am getting ready to do my kitchen. Love this tutorial!!

    • I probably just would have been more precise in some areas. I had a couple of drip marks that I have since gone back and sanded off and reapinted in that area. We haven’t had any chipping, staining, scratching, etc. Good luck with your kitchen!

  28. Wow! Your kitchen looks stunning! I have those laminate kind cabs and I’m not sure if I can ever repaint them.. Any advice?

    • Bonding primer! If you use a high quality bonding primer like XIM UMA you can then paint them like normal.

  29. So I saw this and want to do this to my cabinets. Mine are the original 1964 flat front stained wood cabinets.How do you suggest I start this project. I was this to be as easy as possible but, want results that will give us a couple of years use and look desent in the process. Should I degloss or completely sand before I start. I’m afraid the paint won’t adhere to them the way they are. Please help…

    • I would sand to rough them up. They don’t need to be completely bare, but sand them so the shiny surface is roughed up for the paint to adhere. Good luck!

  30. DId you use Satin,Eggshell or Semi Gloss paint?

    • I used a satin finish, but you can use a semi-gloss or high gloss also. Just depends on what finish you want. The shinier, the easier it is to clean!

  31. What type sand paper did you use? By hand or machine to sand and how much pressure to use?

  32. Love the look of painted cabinets. I found lots of great cabinet hardware choices at Look in the Attic & Company!

  33. Love this! My kitchen cabinets are on my to do list this summer.

  34. I just found your post on Pinterest and I love the way you broke down the areas and made it not so overwhelming! Have put off painting mine for two years because I was intimidated and burnt out on projects….

    Since it has been a while since you have painted, how are they holding up?

    Again, thank you they look great!

  35. Your cabinets look great! I’m definitely going to try this! One question – after you sanded, did you wipe the dust off before painting? And if so, what did you use? I’ve seen mineral spirits used on other websites. Thanks!

  36. Did you paint both sides of the doors or just the outside?

    • I painted both.

      • jessica says:

        What about the drawers. You rarely find postings about painting the drawer fronts. Did you remove completely? How many hours total did this take you? I’m nervous about time commitment with a toddler in my life!

        • I just did the faces of the drawers. I did it over the course of a couple days. I would suggest doing a section at a time-it makes it less daunting:)

  37. crystal@Atlanta says:

    Hello, I love the color looks amazing!! where can I get Behr’s paint and primer-in-one in Pot o’ Cream paint to buy? any suggestions? Thanks!

    found you on pinterest, so following your blog now :-)

  38. I just found this on pinterest and was wondering if the paint is still holding up since it has been 2 years? Is there any chipping or paint coming off?

    P.S. Love your kitchen and your explanations!

    • Hi Leslie!
      Thanks for the sweet comment:) We haven’t had any issues with chipping or discoloring or anything. They’ve held up great. They wipe clean easily and we have been very happy with the update!

      • I found your post through Pinterest and had the same question as Leslie. I’m glad to hear the paint is still good and reading the painter’s comment below also motivates me to move forward on my kitchen project. Thanks!

  39. Maybe I missed it somewhere, but how long did you let your doors dry before you re-installed them?
    Work in progress in my kitchen now…..

  40. Did you wash your cabinets first, as our’s seem “greasy” from normal kitchen ware? If so, what product did you use?
    Love the look!!

  41. Great tutorial! I am a professional painter, and as crazy as it sounds I actually love my job. I consider myself a student of my craft even after doing it for more than twelve years now. Your opening statement that if ten blogs were read that ten seperate ways of painting cabinets would be given. Is a very true statement. I get asked about painting cabinets often. And there simply is no stock answer. But let me lend this, your method works in prob 2/3rds of all situations. What many do not realize is that the paints of yesteryear are no more. “latex” paints at one point would have been a big no no for cabinets, and that frame of mind is still with many. But as this tutorial shows the waterborne or water based paints of today are good choices for cabinets. Almost everything you find is “acrylic” or “100% acrylic” etc and these paints simple are not the paints you were using as little as ten years ago. Select a good quality “paint and primer” I dont work for behr, but its 90% what I use. I spary mine using an airless, other than that this tutorial is spot on what I do, and I get paid to do it :) for those of you scouring the web for cabinet painting, pay close attention to the date of the info your getting, what was true 7-8 years ago, may not hold true today.

    Great tutorial.

  42. I want to do my kitchen cabinets, but I recently did my bathroom ones-which are identical to the kitchen, and after two coats of the Behr paint and primer (both sides of doors and cabinet fronts) I went to rehang them and we found that they were ‘off’. They were on their correct spots, but were no longer closing or some even hanging crooked. It was all pretty slight, but still… A contractor friend said that it is common for that to happen. We had to take them all off, shave off ends, re-sand, re-paint and re-hang. Not fun. So I am reluctant to start a project with even more cabinets. Is there a way to avoid this? We didn’t drill new holes to hang them either.

    • Hi Tami!
      I’m no help here-we didn’t have that issue on our cabinets. I’m sorry! That sounds like a lot of work…

  43. Marleen says:

    I followed your instructions, the best around and it is working great!! Great tutorial, and pretty easy!!! THanks so much for putting this on!!!

  44. Hey Jessie!
    Question, I’m literally in the process of taking off my cabinets to paint… How have yours held up? Any chipping (more than regular ware and tare)?
    I have oak cabinets with a thin clear coat over them. Wondering if I can simply clean with TSP and begin painting?… Have you ever heard of that holding up?
    Thank you for your fabulous blog!

    • Hi Kayla,
      We no longer live at that house but for the time we were there, they held up great. They wiped clean easily and didn’t have problems with chipping. I can’t really speak to how TSP does since I didn’t use that but I have heard good things about it! You may want to search around and see if you can find someone who has used it just to be sure it would work for you. good luck!

  45. Troy Richey says:

    When you were finished could you see any grain? I am planning on sanding as well just trying to figure out if I am going to use wood filler for the grain or not.

  46. Matt garrity says:

    Did u have any bumps or brush marks? Im having a hard time painting an armoire and getting perfectly smooth finish even with sanding with 400-800 grit and great brushes.

    • I had some subtle brush marks. After a couple of coats they tend to fade away. Also, I would suggest a foam roller for any flat areas-it gives a much smoother finish.

      • jill morelock says:

        I am using your tutorial to paint my kitchen cabinets. I have done about 18 cabinets and still have about 10 more to go. I have noticed that the foam roller has left a slightly bumpy finish. It is not very noticeable unless looking for it. Did you have this problem with your cabinets? At any rate, I am pleased because all of my estimates to repaint were thousands of dollars!! Thanks for all of your suggestions!!!

        • Hi Jill!
          I didn’t have that issue-could it be the type of roller you bought? Hopefully it turns out great! Good luck!

  47. Looks amazing!! Made such a huge difference to your overall kitchen! Thanks for sharing.

  48. Kathryn Vaughn says:

    How do you prevent the raised panel doors from cracking? I found that wood expands and
    contracts which makes the panels crack.

  49. Great information. Lucky me I ran across your site by accident (stumbleupon).

    I’ve saved as a favorite for later!

  50. If you are going for finest contents like me, only go to see
    this web site all the time because it offers feature contents, thanks

  51. Now that some time has passed since you painted your cabinets (beautiful), how are they holding up to dirt, scratches, etc? Also, would you do anything differently now that they’ve been in use for some time? Did the sander leave round scratches?


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