Painting your kitchen cabinets can completely transform the look and feel of your kitchen. With a fresh coat of paint, you can update dated or worn cabinets for a fraction of the cost of installing new ones. But before you start painting, there are some important factors to consider to ensure you get the best results. This comprehensive guide provides tips and advice for successfully painting kitchen cabinets, from proper preparation to choosing the right paint and techniques.

Should You Paint Your Kitchen Cabinets?

Painting kitchen cabinets can offer a budget-friendly way to give your kitchen a whole new look without the expense of a full remodel. Here are some of the benefits of painting cabinets:

  • Cost-effective update – The cost of painting cabinets is significantly less than the price of installing all new cabinetry, which can be tens of thousands of dollars. Painting provides an affordable way to refresh the look of your kitchen.
  • Wide range of colors – Paint opens up many more color options compared to stained or natural wood cabinetry. You can opt for a crisp white, bold colors like navy blue, or warmer neutrals like gray.
  • Quick project – Painting cabinets is a relatively quick and easy DIY project. It can typically be completed over a weekend. Much faster than a full kitchen remodel.
  • High return on investment – Painted cabinets can significantly boost your home’s value and appeal to buyers down the road. It offers a high ROI compared to many other home renovation projects.

However, painting cabinets isn’t the right choice in every situation. Here are some factors to consider:

  • The condition of your existing cabinets – painting severely damaged or deteriorated cabinets may not be worth the effort. Assess their structural integrity before deciding to paint.
  • Your long term plans – If you plan to remodel your kitchen in the next few years, it may be better to live with the existing cabinet finish rather than paint.
  • Wood type – Paint adheres best to wood surfaces like maple and oak. It doesn’t work as well with cabinets made of laminate.

Overall, painting makes sense if your cabinets are in decent structural condition but you want a fresh new color to update the look of your kitchen.

How to Prepare Kitchen Cabinets for Painting

Proper prep work is crucial to achieve an even, smooth painted finish on your cabinets. Follow these steps to get your cabinets paint-ready:

Clean the Cabinets

Use a degreaser or TSP substitute cleaner to remove any grimy residue from the cabinet surfaces. Grease and dirt can prevent paint from properly adhering. Pay close attention to cleaning inside corners and edges.

Sand and Scuff the Surfaces

Lightly sand all cabinet surfaces with 220 grit sandpaper to degloss and roughen them up for better paint adhesion. Be sure to sand both the cabinet boxes and doors.

Fill Any Holes and Imperfections

Examine the cabinets closely and fill any cracks, nail holes, or other problem areas using wood filler. Let the filler dry completely before sanding smooth.

Remove Doors and Hardware

Take off all cabinet doors, drawers, and hardware like hinges and handles prior to painting. This allows you to paint the cabinet frames and doors thoroughly. Number doors to keep them organized.

Use Painter’s Tape

Apply painter’s tape around the edges of cabinet frames where they meet countertops, walls, and the floor. This helps protect those surrounding surfaces from drips.

Clean Again

Wipe down the cabinets one final time with a tack cloth to remove any dust or debris after sanding and filling holes.

Choosing the Right Paint for Kitchen Cabinets

Choosing the right type of paint is one of the most important steps to achieving a smooth, hardwearing finish:

Cabinet Paint

Paints formulated specifically for painting kitchen cabinets offer maximum adhesion and durability. Opt for alkyd/oil-based or latex/acrylic paints made for cabinetry.


Primer helps the paint bond tightly to the cabinet surfaces. Use an oil-based primer for the best results on wood cabinets. Primer also helps cover dark stains and colors needing extra blocking.

Finish Coats

Use a satin, semi-gloss, or gloss sheen for durability and easy cleaning. Matte or flat finishes don’t hold up as well. Prioritize paints with enamel hardness for cabinets.

Color Tinting

Most cabinet paints are available in neutral base colors that are designed to be custom tinted to the shade of your choice.

Be sure to buy high quality paint from a reputable brand. Don’t try to save money on cheaper paints which may not provide adequate coverage and durability. Investing in the right cabinet paint is worth it.

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets

Follow these steps to paint your cabinets like a professional for a beautiful, lasting finish:

1. Apply Primer

Use a high quality oil-based primer to pre-coat the wood surfaces. Apply a thorough coat covering all sides of cabinet frames and doors. Allow to dry fully.

2. Lightly Sand Primer

Gently sand the primer coat with 220 grit sandpaper. This helps the paint bond tightly to the primer.

3. Clean and Tack Cloth

Wipe down cabinets to remove any dust from sanding. Tack cloth the surfaces to pick up any remaining debris.

4. Paint Coat #1

Apply the first finish coat in long, even brushstrokes, being sure to cover edges and corners thoroughly. Let dry completely.

5. Lightly Sand Again

Do another quick sanding with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth any paint drips or unevenness.

6. Clean and Tack Cloth Again

Repeat cleaning and tack cloth process to prepare for the final coat.

7. Paint Coat #2

Apply the second finish coat, again using smooth, even brushstrokes. Allow to dry fully before reinstalling hardware and doors.

8. Reinstall and Admire!

Put cabinet doors and hardware back on, step back, and admire your fresh, new painted kitchen cabinets!

Taking the proper steps to prep, prime, and paint your cabinets will help them look amazing for years. Be sure to clean and care for them properly after painting to maximize their durability.

5 Tips for Painting Kitchen Cabinets

Follow these top tips for getting professional paint results on DIY kitchen cabinet projects:

1. Work in a Dust-Free Environment

Paint adheres best to clean surfaces free of contaminants. Set up plastic drop cloths and tape off the work area to minimize dust. Turn off forced air HVAC systems during the project.

2. Apply Primer Generously

Don’t skimp on primer. Use a high-quality primer designed for wood cabinets and apply a thorough coat to ensure maximum adhesion.

3. Use High Quality Paint Brushes

Invest in good paintbrushes made for fine finish work. Tapered “sash” brushes excel at painting cabinet frames. Mini angled brushes work well for doors.

4. Maintain a Wet Edge

Maintain a wet edge as you paint cabinet surfaces to prevent lap marks and unevenness in the finish. Work systematically and don’t let painted areas dry before brushing adjacent sections.

5. Sand Between Coats

Lightly sanding between paint coats allows the next coat to bond tightly. Use 220 grit sandpaper and avoid over-sanding through the paint.

How Long Does it Take for Cabinet Paint to Dry?

Drying times vary based on factors like temperature and humidity. Here are some general cabinet paint drying timelines:

  • To touch: 1-2 hours
  • Between coats: 24 hours
  • For light use: 3 days
  • For full hardness: 1-2 weeks

Lower temperatures or higher humidity will prolong drying times. Avoid exposing freshly painted cabinets to steam, grease or water until fully cured.

Some ways to help speed up drying include:

  • Working in warm, well-ventilated areas
  • Using fans to circulate air
  • Choosing fast-drying cabinet paint formulas
  • Allowing extra time between coats

While cabinet paint dries relatively quickly initially, waiting the full cure time of 1-2 weeks allows the paint to reach maximum hardness and durability.

How to Choose Paint Color for Kitchen Cabinets

Choosing a color is one of the most exciting parts of painting cabinets. Keep these tips in mind when selecting a color:

  • Coordinate with countertops/backsplash – Contrasting or complimentary colors can look amazing. Make sure the tones work together.
  • Consider the room’s light – Lighter colors suit well-lit rooms, while darker shades work better in dim kitchens.
  • Complement flooring – Wood flooring looks great with light neutrals. Tile flooring provides an opportunity for more color contrast.
  • Factor in cabinet style – Modern cabinets suit bold colors. Traditional styles look best in creamy or wood-inspired neutrals.
  • Collect inspiration – Look at photos online or in design magazines for palette ideas. Always sample paint colors on cabinets before fully committing.

Some of the most popular current kitchen cabinet colors include:

  • White
  • Light gray
  • Navy blue
  • Sage green
  • Black
  • Wood grain colors

Don’t be afraid to get creative with painted finishes like ombre tones, faux marble, or contrasting islands. Paint allows for many exciting color options!

How Much Does it Cost to Paint Kitchen Cabinets?

The cost to paint kitchen cabinets can vary, but on average expect to budget:

  • Cabinet paint: $30 – $50 per gallon
  • Primer: $20 – $40 per gallon
  • Sandpaper, brushes, rollers, trays: $20 – $50
  • Painter’s tape, drop cloths: $10 – $30

Professional painters often charge $50 – $100 per cabinet door and $150 – $300 per cabinet box. This averages $3,000 – $7,000 to paint an entire medium-large kitchen.

DIY painting can be done for under $300 in materials. While not free, painting cabinets professionally or on your own provides big visual impact for relatively little cost compared to installing all new cabinets.

Should You Hire a Professional or DIY Cabinet Painting?

Painting your own cabinets can save thousands over hiring a professional, but also requires much more time and elbow grease. Consider your skills and budget to decide which route is best.

Benefits of DIY Painting:

  • More affordable – under $300 vs. thousands for contractors
  • Creative control over every step
  • Learn a new skill!

Benefits of Hiring a Pro:

  • Experienced with achieving flawless finishes
  • Perfect results with less personal effort
  • Cabinets completed much faster
  • Licensed and insured

Many homeowners opt to paint boxes and frames themselves but hire out door painting which requires more precision. Or split other painting steps with a contractor. Combining DIY and pro work is a great way to save money while still getting high quality results!

How Long Does Painted Kitchen Cabinets Last?

With proper prep, application, and care, painted kitchen cabinets can last 5-10 years or longer before needing to be refreshed. The longevity depends on several factors:

  • Paint quality – Higher quality cabinet paints last significantly longer than cheap paints prone to chipping and yellowing. Invest in top-tier acrylic or alkyd paint.
  • Prep and application – Proper sanding, priming, cleaning, and application technique allows paint to adhere tightly and evenly, increasing its lifespan.
  • Usage and wear – Kitchens with heavy use will need painted cabinets refreshed sooner than lightly used spaces. Areas prone to moisture or grease wear down paint quicker.
  • Care – Treating painted cabinets gently, avoiding slamming doors, promptly cleaning spills, and not using abrasive cleaners preserves the paint job longer.
  • Sunlight exposure – Direct sun can fade painted cabinets over time. Keeping curtains drawn on sunny windows helps prevent UV damage.

With the right prep and paint, kitchen cabinet paint jobs can maintain their beauty for up to a decade before needing to be redone. Proper maintenance helps maximize durability.

Paint Sheen Options for Kitchen Cabinets

Paint sheen (or finish) affects a paint’s glossiness and shine level. Sheens like gloss or semi-gloss are ideal for kitchen cabinets, while matte finishes should be avoided.

Here’s an overview of the major paint sheen types for cabinets:

  • Gloss – A very shiny, smooth finish. The most durable and reflective choice. Best for high-traffic kitchens.
  • Semi-Gloss – A sleek finish with less reflectivity than gloss. Still highly durable and easy to clean. A popular sheen for cabinets.
  • Satin – A smooth finish with a low luster. Provides good durability for high-use cabinets.
  • Matte/Flat – Absorbs light for no shine or reflection. Difficult to clean. Not recommended for cabinets which require wipeability.

Prioritize durability and ease of cleaning when choosing a sheen. Gloss, semi-gloss, and satin provide harder finishes that withstand moisture, grease, and frequent wiping down. Matte paints look pretty but don’t hold up to the demands of kitchen cabinets over time.

Cabinet Paint Techniques to Consider

Beyond just painting cabinets one color, there are a variety of painting techniques to consider:

Two-Toned Cabinets

Painting upper and lower cabinets contrasting colors adds striking visual interest. Grays, blues, greens, and whites make great two-tone pairings.

Contrasting Island

Using a different color just on the island cabinet provides separation from the other cabinets. Bright red or navy islands can look amazing against white main cabinets.

Ombre or Gradient

Ombre cabinets transition from light to dark using one color family. Often the bottom cabinets are darkest fading up to the lightest shade on top.


Apply a heavy clear glaze over painted cabinets then wipe away, leaving glaze just in cracks and crevices for an antiqued worn look. Works great on whites.

Faux Finishes

Use decorative painting techniques like ragging, sponging, or graining to achieve faux finishes that mimic wood, marble, stone, etc. Very unique!


Mimic worn cabinets by intentionally distressing the paint finish using sandpaper, chisels, chain, or other tools to create texture.

Don’t limit yourself to all one color. Get creative with two-tone, ombre, antiquing, and faux finishes to add even more style and interest!

Common Questions About Painting Kitchen Cabinets

Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about painting kitchen cabinets:

What kind of paint adheres best to kitchen cabinets?

High quality oil-based and latex-acrylic paints formulated specifically for cabinetry provide maximum adhesion and durability. Avoid universal all-purpose paints.

Do you have to sand cabinets before painting?

Lightly sanding ensures paint bonds tightly to the wood. Always degloss and scuff the surface before painting.

Should I use primer before painting cabinets?

Yes, high quality primer is strongly recommended before painting to improve adhesion, allow for opacity of colors, and provide a protective uniform surface coating.

How do I get a smooth finish when painting cabinets?

Proper prep, high quality brush application, sanding between coats, and allowing proper drying times leads to the smoothest finishes. Spraying also provides a seamless look.

What sheen is best for kitchen cabinets – gloss, satin, or semi-gloss?

Semi-gloss and satin sheens are ideal for kitchen cabinets. They offer wipeability and subtle shine. Gloss is also very durable but has intense shine that may not suit all tastes.

Transform Your Kitchen with Freshly Painted Cabinets

Painting kitchen cabinets opens up many exciting possibilities for updating your kitchen’s look on a budget. With the proper prep work, paint selection, application techniques, and maintenance, you can achieve kitchen cabinets with a like-new appearance and longevity. Use this guide to determine the best painting approach for your space. Then pick a color that brings your unique style to life. With painted cabinets, you can give your kitchen a gorgeous makeover without the major renovation price tag!


Painting kitchen cabinets provides an affordable way to transform the look of your kitchen with new color. Proper preparation and application techniques help ensure the paint will adhere smoothly and last. Invest in high quality primer and cabinet paint for the best results. Consider hiring a professional painter for assistance if DIY painting the entire kitchen seems too daunting. But with adequate time and care, you can paint your own kitchen cabinets and save thousands over the cost of new cabinetry. Refreshing cabinets with a coat of paint can give you an entirely new kitchen without remodeling. With the right approach, your freshly painted cabinets will look beautiful for years to come.