How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets

Painted Cabinet DoorsSo you want to know how to paint kitchen cabinets? First, before you go to the time and expense there is something you can try to see if the old finish is bad or just grimy. Kitchens tend to have some grease in the air from cooking and it settles on the cabinets and attracts dirt and dust. You will need to do this anyway as it will prep the surface.


Make a mixture of mineral spirits and linseed oil at the ratio of three parts mineral spirits to one part linseed oil. Now, using rubber gloves, gently rub the cabinet surface with # 000 steel wool. Repeat each spot as needed until all the grime is washed away. When you are done you can really assess your cabinet’s finish.

Ready to paint? The first thing to do is to remove all screws, pulls, knobs, and hinges. Set aside all the ones you'll be reusing. This is a good time to consider changing the pulls and knobs though, to complete the facelift. They are very inexpensive. Empty the drawers and pull them out.

If you have any holes or imperfections fill them with wood putty and let them dry. Use sandpaper or more steel wool (you should have some left) to get a smooth surface. Don’t forget, if you have any areas where the previous paint has chipped away, use sandpaper to feather the edges and then prime the bare wood.


Now mask off all surfaces that the cabinets contact with painter’s tape. Spread out drop cloths to prevent splatters on your countertops and flooring. Start by doing the cut-in painting where you have applied the painter’s tape and any other hard to get to areas.

Once all the cut-in work is completed, turn your attention to the face frames. A short (4- or 6-inch) foam roller is a good choice for this part of painting your cabinets. Not having any nap will minimize “lift” and your finished paint job will be smoother.

Doors and Drawers

Next, you should begin on your cabinet’s doors and drawers. The first thing you want to do is to paint the insides of the cabinet doors. While you give them time to dry, go ahead and paint the fronts of the drawers. Finally, paint the door fronts.

With everything painted, let the paint dry. Wait until it is dry to the touch and then wait some more. Even though it might seem dry to you, when the surfaces contact each other funny things might happen. Step back and take a good look at the cabinet faces, doors, and drawers. Does anything need a second coat? If so, do it and go through the drying cycle again.

Clean Up

When a sufficient amount of time has passed remove the painter’s tape. Do a complete visual inspection of these areas. If any paint has snuck under the tape onto another surface, carefully scrape it away with a utility knife. If you find any spots that need a touch up, do that using a small brush.

Now it’s time to put everything back in operational order. Replace the hinges and attach the doors to the kitchen cabinets. Put new drawer liner paper in the drawers and re-install them. Install the drawer pulls – either the ones you initially removed or new ones that you purchased.

There! You’re done. Prepare yourself a celebration meal and enjoy!

photo by Daryn Nakhuda - CreativeCommons Attribution