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How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets

Hi All,

Today I’ve got the first part of many upcoming kitchen remodel/renovation posts for you.

It’s a mid-renovation-things-are-only-half-done kitchen reveal!

That’s the best kind.

Please excuse the untrimmed window and exposed paint seams.

They’re awaiting finishing touches.

So many pieces and parts go into renovating a kitchen … I can’t believe how much all the little stuff adds up!

But, that aside, we’ve come a long ways since the beginning and I’m so excited to share the first big ticket item from the renovation – How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets. 

how to paint kitchen cabinets


Handy tips to paint kitchen cabinets:

  1. I’ve always been a little wary of expensive paints and skeptical on how big a difference it really makes. No more. I used high quality paint for the first time ever for this cabinet renovation and I just can’t get over how wonderful it is … total game changer.
  2. Work on one section at a time. I primed and painted all the cabinet frames first. Once the frames were done, I moved on to the doors and drawer faces. It’s up to you, but I could only work during nap times, so tackling one section at a time made the most sense.
  3. Prime the backs of all the cabinet doors first, wait for it to dry, flip over and do the fronts. The fronts are the important part. Do them second to get a really good finish and avoid lying them face-down on the work bench.
  4. Paint the same as you primed – backs, dry, fronts.
  5. Consider purchasing a paint sprayer if you don’t want to do everything with a brush and roller.
How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase from one of the links, I may make a small commission at NO EXTRA COST to you. This helps keep the tutorials and plans free here at Bitterroot DIY. Thank you for your support! See my full disclosure here.

Tools & Supplies:


Step 1. Remove Doors

Remove all the doors, drawer faces, and hardware.

I labeled each cabinet, door, and drawer face as I disassembled them in order to keep track of what went where. Simply stick a piece of tape on the bottom of the cabinets and a corresponding number to the doors.

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets

I also placed the hinges in labeled Ziploc bags.

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets

It made re-assembly super easy.

It’s one of those things where you think you’ll remember and then you go to put it all back together and you have no idea what planet you’re on … or at least that’s how it usually goes for me.

Step 2. Clean

Clean clean clean. Make sure to get all the dirt and grime and sticky gooey-ness off the cabinets.

I’ve seen people use intense cleaners like TSP, but I found that soap and water worked great. Mix up a little soapy concoction and scrub really well with a sponge.

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets

Step 3. Sand

Sand all the cabinets (bases, drawer faces, doors, anything you’re painting) with 220 grit sandpaper.

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets

The idea is to rough up the surfaces so the primer has something good to bond to. Be careful not to sand too much – you don’t want to wreck the wood surface veneer if the cabinets are not solid wood (mine are not).

There are some primers that say sanding is unnecessary. It might work just fine, but sanding will definitely make a difference and significantly improve adhesion. For something like cabinets, which see a lot of wear and tear, I highly recommend sanding.

After sanding, wipe the cabinets down with a tack cloth to clear all the dust.


**Update: since painting the cabinets, I have purchased a paint sprayer. Looking back, I should have invested in it before doing the cabinets. I have no complaints about how they turned out – the paint from Sherwin-Williams was self-leveling, so there aren’t any brush marks or anything. However, a sprayer would have been significantly faster. You can most definitely paint your cabinets successfully without a sprayer, but I would HIGHLY recommend one!

The following instructions are how to paint cabinets with a brush and roller. If you decide to go with a sprayer, it’s all the same – simply spray instead of brushing.

Step 4. Prime

Use an angle brush to edge all corners and molding (anything the roller won’t reach) with primer.

Use a roller brush to apply the rest of the primer to the flat sections. I used Bullseye 1-2-3 primer.

Let the primer dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets


Step 5. Paint

Same as with the primer, use an angle brush to edge all corners and molding and apply paint to the rest of the cabinet with a fine finish roller brush.

Apply two coats of paint or as many as necessary for complete coverage.

DIY Modern Farmhouse Kitchen Makeover

I painted our cabinets with Sherwin-Williams SW Alabaster 7008 Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel and absolutely love how it turned out. It’s the perfect soft white – not too warm or cold – and brightens the space so much.

To top it all off, I also changed out all the hardware for brand-spankin-new knobs and pulls!

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets

I went back and forth on the color for a long time but finally settled on Franklin Brass soft iron. It’s not as harsh as black but not quite as bright as brushed nickel – very modern farmhouse.

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets

I used the same sizes as the original hardware so I didn’t have to fill any of the old holes. If you want to replace all your hardware with different sized pulls, make sure to fill and sand all previous holes before priming and painting.

That pretty much sums it up!

I still can’t believe the transformation.

Here’s the before:

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets


How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets

And after:

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets

In addition to painting the cabinets, we removed a wall, demo-ed and extended the cabinets to the ceiling, added glass faces to four cabinets, removed the popcorn ceiling, added new can lights, and are adding a kitchen island for some more counter space – which is still under construction. Like I said …. lots of pieces and parts 😉

How to Add Glass to Kitchen Cabinet Doors

There’s still a ways to go, but things are coming along! I can see the finish line at this point!

The final-actually-all-the-way-finished kitchen reveal is coming in a few weeks.

**Update: The final reveal is live!

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets

Please let me know if you have any questions and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

And make sure to follow along on Instagram for the latest from the renovation!

This post is sponsored by Sherwin-Williams. All thoughts and opinions are my own. See my full disclosure for more info. 

Bitterroot DIY

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets


Monday 22nd of June 2020

Can you still see the wood grain in the cabinet doors after you finished painting them? Wondering if using the primer helped block out the grain. Thank you for your post - gives me the confidence to start this process!


Monday 22nd of June 2020

The primer helped a little, but yes I can still see the grain. They make grain fillers that can help give you a perfectly smooth surface though, so you may want to check those out. Hope that helps and good luck!

Carrie L

Friday 21st of February 2020

How has the paint job held up? I just bought the same paint & color and after the fact, read reviews saying only pros should use SW Emerald Urethane?!


Friday 21st of February 2020

It's held up great. I've been so impressed with it and have used it on all the rest of the trim in our house, as well as our bathroom vanity when I redid it. It was super easy to apply

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