Best Way to Paint Kitchen Cabinets

Learn the best ways for painting kitchen cabinets.


The kitchen and sun-room in Katie and Michael Wunderlich's home in Elmhurst, Illinois, after Design Star winner and Host Meg Caswell 's redesign, as seen on HGTV's Great Rooms, season 2 .

Photo by: Jean-Marc Giboux/Getty Images © 2012, HGTV/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Jean-Marc Giboux/Getty Images, 2012, HGTV/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

If your cabinets are old and outdated, but you're unable to replace them yet, learn the best way to paint kitchen cabinets so you can update them. Paint can work wonders on everything, and kitchen cabinets are no exception.

Crave-Worthy Kitchen Cabinets

See All Photos

Form and Function

This kitchen was designed to accommodate an enthusiastic cook and entertainer who wanted a contemporary feel that would not be at odds with her colonial townhouse. To create this look, NVS Remodeling & Design used frameless Dura Supreme Cabinetry in maple, painting the perimeter units in a creamy white and the island in a surprising splash of yellow (Sherwin Williams Butterfield with Espresso glaze). "To maximize storage, we stacked the cabinets to the ceiling, and specified deep drawers and tall pantries," say the designers. "The open corner and ribbed glass doors prevent that wall-to-wall cabinetry look."

Young At Heart

"Creating a hip, young kitchen while respecting the architectural heritage of an old house can be a challenge," says designer Jason Ball. To meet the twin needs of this particular project, Ball chose cabinets in a traditional raised-panel style, but gave them a fresh look with a trendy color: Behr's Dark Granite, in a rich semi-gloss finish. Hidden storage features complete the clever design. Deep drawers under the range keep pots and pans handy; cabinets extend to the ceiling for maximum stow-away space; and a pullout on one side of the kitchen keeps dog food easily accessible.

Real Steel

For a client who owns a company that manufacturers steel scales, Hufft Projects designed cabinetry that would reflect his business and his life. "We used metal panels throughout the house," says the designer. "The kitchen cabinets are one example. The gunmetal cabinets are made from galvanized hot-rolled steel with a clear-coat finish over an MDF substrate. They have integrated edge pulls to maintain a clean, seamless appearance."

Classic Cottage Charm

For a homeowner with a deep love of gardening and a fondness for English cottage style, Wright-Ryan Millwork created custom cabinets of white pine finished with a specially mixed stain of brown and yellow hues. "Concealed storage was important in this highly functional space," say the cabinetmakers. "Flat panel cabinets have adjustable, roll-out shelving inside, and concealed European hinges and soft-close drawers." Decorative feet beneath the sink adds cottage flavor.

Light Effects

In this open-plan kitchen, a combination of glistening white lacquered upper units and a striated wood style below creates a tailored, contemporary look. "Storage and functionality were both key to the design, so we optimized storage space by continuing cabinets along the bottom and into the adjacent dining room," says the designer. Design by DKOR Interiors.

Summerhouse Sophistication

In this luxurious Hamptons-style kitchen, designer Jamie Herzlinger created an updated traditional look that's long on luxury. Acres of white marble top the dual islands, complementing the custom millwork's graphic interlocking diamonds, a motif repeated on the upper cabinets that line the long walls. Panels cover the built-in refrigerators, for a sleek, integrated look.

Contemporary Cabin Style

Set on a wooded waterfront property on Lake Superior, this contemporary cabin shows a close connection to its natural setting. Architect Nils Finne used eco-friendly materials throughout the design, including in the kitchen. "We used PLYBOO, an FSC-certified bamboo product, for the cabinets," he says. "The end panels are mahogany, as is the dining table."

European Elegance

Inspired by the homeowner's love of Old World design, Ron and Martha Wolford created a rich, traditional look with frameless, raised-panel cabinets painted steel blue and accented with a creamy glaze. Important extras include in-cabinet puck lighting, under-cabinet lighting, mirrored glass mullioned doors (not pictured), and marble countertops. For a cohesive look, "the kitchen's cream, gold, and blue palette flows into the family room and covered porch," say the builders.

Bright Idea

In this long, narrow house, Kariouk Associates Architects used walls of glass to usher in light and designed sleek custom cabinets in bold yellow to help to capture and reflect the sunshine. Walnut paneling and accent cabinets offer a warm contrast to the splash of color, keeping the kitchen grounded within the open plan.

Fresh Outlook

For the heart-of-the home kitchen in this traditional Massachussetts home, designer Maqued Barsoum created custom cabinets with rich detailing: inset doors and drawers; deep, stepped crown moldings and a custom range hood canopy. The soft, sage finish lends softness to the look, and helps to highlight the island's dramatic Via Lattea granite.

Painting kitchen cabinets can be tiring and you can easily hire a pro to do the job for you, but if you're up for the challenge and want to save the money, do it yourself.

The best way to paint kitchen cabinets is with a paintbrush and small roller. Spray painting is also an option if you want the process to move more quickly, but it can be tricky.

When you're ready to get started, clear off your kitchen counters, empty your cabinets, and cover your backsplash and appliances. Remove all of the hinges, hardware, doors and drawers from your cabinets. Label each door with masking tape so you'll remember which one goes where and put all of the hardware in plastic bags so you don't lose anything. If you can fit a worktable in your kitchen, it will be much easier to paint the doors. If you don't have a large worktable, 2x4 boards propped on buckets or boxes will also work. If you don't have those materials, work on top of a drop cloth.

You'll want to prep all of the doors and drawers properly to ensure your paint will stick. Start this process by scrubbing your cabinets to get rid of any grease or residue. If you're planning to use new hardware, cover the current holes with wood filler. Next, use 100-grit sandpaper to make all of the surfaces smooth and make sure to wipe away any dust with a tack cloth before drilling your new holes. To ensure a nice finish, use caulk to fill in any gaps or seams.

If you want professional-style results, it's imperative to prime the boxes, door fronts and drawers before you begin painting. Once your primer has dried, use an angled brush and a mini foam roller to apply your paint. A latex satin finish works well on kitchen cabinets and it isn't as hard to work with as oil paint. Start working in sections with your angled brush and go over your work with the roller for a perfect finish. When you're done painting, you can also use very fine grit sandpaper for a final sanding and even a coat of a satin polycrylic for extra durability as well. Once your paint has dried, reinstall the doors and drawers and install your hardware.

Spray paint is another option for painting kitchen cabinets, but this process is best done outside or in a designated workspace so you don't have to worry about overspray. If spray painting your cabinets, you'll follow the same process as above but instead of working with a paint brush and roller you'll use spray paint instead.

Kitchen Colors that Stand the Test of Time

Next Up

Repainting Kitchen Cabinets

What a difference a fresh coat of paint makes on your kitchen cabinets.

Painting Kitchen Cabinet Ideas

The strategy of a well-placed coat of paint on your kitchen cabinets will transform the room.

The Easiest Way to Update Your Kitchen Without Remodeling

Breathe new life into dated cabinets with a fresh coat of paint.

Painting Kitchen Cabinets

Discover ideas for painting kitchen cabinets with these helpful hints and tips.

Repainting Kitchen Cabinets

Get all the info you'll need on repainting kitchen cabinets, including a helpful step-by-step guide.

Painted Kitchen Cabinet Ideas

Explore painted kitchen cabinet ideas and choose the color and style that best suits your kitchen.

Ideas for Painting Kitchen Cabinets

Get ideas for painting kitchen cabinets.

Painting Kitchen Cabinets Antique White

Get ideas for painting kitchen cabinets antique white.

Painting Kitchen Cabinet Doors

Learn the best ways to paint kitchen cabinet doors.

Kitchen Cabinet Paint Colors

Your personality will really shine through with the paint colors you choose for your kitchen cabinets.

Catch Up With Our Blogs

We're serving up the latest news, gorgeous style, DIY projects, clever entertaining tips & more.

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.