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Learn to paint your wood, metal or laminate kitchen cabinets like a pro! Image Source: Modern Kitchen

If you’re like most people, your cabinets take up the most visible space in your kitchen. That’s great when they’re in good shape; but if they aren’t as beautiful as they could be, we’ll show you how to paint your kitchen cabinets like a pro.

Sure, you could replace your cabinetry, but that’s a pricey undertaking. Just as painting the walls can refresh a room, painting your cabinets can make your kitchen feel brand new, bringing beauty and style back to this heavily used space.

Painting your kitchen cabinets is a budget-friendly choice for design change, but it’s not as easy as you might think — it requires a lot more prepping than painting. If you feel that it’s beyond your DIY comfort level, many professionals would be willing to take on the project. Undaunted? Go for it! Read on and learn how to paint your kitchen cabinets like a pro.

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Painting your kitchen cabinets is a budget-friendly choice for design change, but it’s not as easy as you might think. Image Source: Collaborative Design

Step 1: Plan Ahead

Painting your kitchen cabinets is completely manageable — as long as you have lots of time, patience and takeout. Make sure you set aside the amount of time required to devote to this project; it’s not a one-day job. Flat-front cabinets are going to be quicker to do than those with raised panels or other details, so plan accordingly.

You’ll need to choose the primer and paint to use. By taking one of the cabinet doors to a paint retailer, you can get set up with the best products for your kitchen. Cabinets require a higher-quality paint than you would use for your walls, so don’t be hesitant to splurge. (You want to paint your kitchen cabinets like a pro, remember?) They suffer daily wear and tear, so it’s best to avoid cheaper paint that may peel, crack and chip.

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teal green painted kitchen cabinets

Painting your kitchen cabinets is completely manageable — as long as you have lots of time, patience and takeout. Image Source: To Do Something

Step 2: Choose Your Color

Just as people often get a little anxious about choosing the right paint color for walls, expect to spend some time debating your color choice. Think of the design elements in your kitchen that you love — it’s easy to coordinate cabinets with something you already own.

Get lots of samples, paying special attention to the darkest color on the strip; it gives you the best idea of the undertones in that series of colors. You can test what the color will really look like next to your appliances, counters and flooring by priming and painting a large sample, such as the inside of a cabinet door or a poster board.

Vibrant kitchen cabinets, including rich colors such as cobalt blue and cranberry red, are a design trend evidenced all over the internet. Too much? Two-tone cabinets are another stylish option; this means your upper cabinets are neutral (think grey, greige or soft white) and the pop of color is saved for the lower ones.

Pastels work well to brighten up a space, if that palette appeals to you. If all of these color options make you even more anxious, white is one of the most common cabinet colors because of its clean, classic look.

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pale green painted kitchen cabinets

Get lots of color samples, paying special attention to the darkest color on the strip; it gives you the best idea of the undertones in that series of colors. Image Source: Maple and Gray

Step 3: Remove and Label the Doors, Drawers and Hardware

As tempting as it may be to paint your cabinets with the doors and hardware (including hinges) still attached, don’t do it — that “time saver” will cost you in the long run. Remove the cabinet doors and drawers, making sure to label where they came from. A simple piece of masking tape with a location written on it will save you a lot of hassle later.

If you are replacing the existing hardware with new pieces, drill the holes for it at this stage, filling all other holes and spots in the wood. Take the hinges off of the cabinet fronts as well. Storing them inside the now-open cabinet is easy, and they won’t get lost while you are painting.

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kitchen cabinet hinges

As tempting as it may be to paint your cabinets with the doors and hardware (including hinges) still attached, don’t do it — that “time saver” will cost you in the long run. Image Source: Home Tips

Step 4: Prep Your Surfaces

No matter how clean your kitchen is, everyone (yes, even you) needs to scrub the cabinet boxes, doors and drawers. Kitchens are work zones, and there is more dirt and grease there than any of us care to admit. Paint will not stick to dirt or grease, so make sure your surfaces are prepped properly.

Mixing one part trisodium phosphate (TSP, found at the hardware store) with four parts water will produce an effective degreaser. Use proper safety gear (gloves and goggles) when handling the cleaner, and give your cabinets a good wipe-down. Allow the cabinets to dry completely before moving on.

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Mixing one part trisodium phosphate (TSP, found at the hardware store) with four parts water will produce an effective degreaser. Image Source: DIY Network

Step 5: Sand Everything You Are Painting

We know you don’t want to, but you need to lightly sand the painting surfaces to get them ready; paint will not stick to the finish. If you can wipe spills off your cabinets, paint will wipe off, too.

Wood cabinets should be sanded just enough to make the finish matte. If your cabinets have previously been painted and there is no chipping or peeling, then the same idea applies. But if you have painted cabinets with flakes of paint coming off, you will need to get down to bare wood.

No matter how much sanding you are doing, make sure you don’t round or wear down any edges (try a sanding block), and take care to vacuum away any dust. Finish with a tack cloth so no residue remains.

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Wood cabinets should be sanded just enough to make the finish matte.Image Source: Simply Rooms

Step 6: Prime Time

The primer that you select should be high quality and suited for the material of your cabinets (wood, metal, laminate). If you are going to be painting over a dark or stained surface, have your primer tinted to match your desired color. This step is important to keep the original color from showing through your new paint.

Use a dropcloth and painter’s tape to protect your surrounding areas, and use either a roller or paintbrush to apply your primer. Rollers work better for flat surfaces and let you cover a lot of area quickly. If you have a lot of architectural details in your cabinetry, you will be better off using a paintbrush to get into the nooks and crannies.

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priming kitchen cabinets

The primer that you select should be high quality and suited for the material of your cabinets (wood, metal, laminate). Image Source: DIY Network

Step 7: Paint Your Kitchen Cabinets Like a Pro

Finally, it’s time to paint … and wait for the paint to dry. And paint again, and wait for that coat of paint to dry. (Yep, this is the exciting part.) Follow the same method you used for applying primer to your cabinets, whether roller or paintbrush (or a combination of the two). Apply a thin coat of paint, making sure to clean up any drips or pooling, and then wait. This may take a few days, depending on your environmental factors.

When the first coat is completely dry, lightly sand your cabinets, paint another thin coat and then wait (again, this may be days). You’ll need at least two coats of paint; depending on your coverage, you might even need a third or fourth coat (and more days of waiting).

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Apply a thin coat of paint, making sure to clean up any drips or pooling, and then wait. Image Source: How to Nest

Step 8: Reassemble Everything

Once the cabinet boxes, doors and drawers dry completely, you’re ready to put your newly fabulous kitchen back together. Resist the temptation to do this too soon; it will result in smears and send you all the way back to Step 5 — and no one wants that.

Now that things are undoubtedly dry, you’ll be glad you took the time to label which door belongs where. If you have new hardware, put it in place as well. Then take a deep breath, stand back and admire your beautiful new kitchen.

Though it’s certainly not the simplest of household projects, you can paint your kitchen cabinets like a pro by following these steps. This could have drawbacks, however; your friends might want you to tackle theirs next.

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Once the cabinet boxes, doors and drawers dry completely, you’re ready to put your newly fabulous kitchen back together. Image Source: Steven James