How To Paint Kitchen Cabinets

How to paint kitchen cabinets successfully depends 90% on your prep. Cleaning and de-greasing them and using an oil-based primer will give you the best shot at getting long-lasting results. Whether you spray them or brush and roll your cabinets, the key is prep!

How Hard Is It To Paint Kitchen Cabinets?

It’s not very difficult to paint kitchen cabinets if you have a few handy skills.

It’s definitely less expensive than replacing them.

Check out this post if you ever wondered about the “Costs involved in replacing kitchen cabinets”

It just needs the right prep work. 

If you hire a professional I would suggest trying to do as much as you can yourself such as taking off the doors, and hardware and maybe sanding them lightly with a 220-grit sanding block. 

Doing that will save you some money because it is less time the painters will have to charge you for.

Just a light scuff will do ( imagine you are cleaning a window). 

Also, you can offer your painting contractor to install everything once your cabinets are painted. 

But if you decide to do it on your own here are some tips on how to paint kitchen cabinets and get amazing and long-lasting results.

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Where to Start When Painting Cabinets?

After you remove your doors or just mask your hinges (depending on how you decide to do it), clean your surfaces really well by using a type of degreasers such as Windex or Zep Citrus Degreaser. 

I think you might like this article too “The best way to clean kitchen cabinets”

If you plan on removing your hinges we suggest that you label your panels. 

Write a number in each panel right where the hinge would go with a sharpie.

Additionally, write the same number on the hinges so that you can keep track of which hinge goes to what door.

Put a piece of tape in the cabinet and write the number on there also.

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Now you will know what door with what set of hinges goes where.

Something To Look Out For When Cleaning Cabinets

Pay special attention to all of your pieces that are closer to/or right above your cooking area. 

Grease and grime will be more likely to build up in these areas. 

You can also use dish liquid such as Dawn for example. 

The dish soap will remove the grease easily by scrubbing the surface with a sponge or scrubby pad. 

If you think that dish liquid will not be enough because there is a high build-up of grease then you should use a dedicated grease remover like TSP

You can find TSP in any Hardware store and dedicated paint store. 

Follow the directions on the label and make sure you wear proper protection.

tsp trisodium phosphate

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Do I Have To Sand Kitchen Cabinets Before Painting Them?

Next, you have several options. 

You can use 220-grit sandpaper and lightly scuff your surfaces. 

Scuffing the surface will give your primer something to grab onto. 

The sandpaper will cut into the finish causing it to create tiny little craters. 

These little scuffs on the surface will enable the primer to stick to the surface that was glossy and slick before. 

There is also a way to paint your kitchen cabinets without having to sand them. You can do this with a product called Krud Kutter-Gloss Off.

Krudd Kutter Gloss Off

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We like to pour about 16 ounces or more into a bucket and use a fine brillo pad to clean the surfaces. 

The Krud Kutter Gloss Off will degloss your surface using a chemical reaction. 

It is suggested you wear proper personal protection for your safety. 

Read the label so that you are aware of what you will need. Your surfaces will be deglossed without having to sand them. 

Wipe off the surfaces immediately with a damp rag.

You can start priming once everything dries and you have a work window of 14 days after you apply your Krud Kutter Gloss Off. 

The first time we tried the product we had our concerns but it definitely works and you can paint your kitchen cabinets without sanding them.

You might also like this article “How To Clean Painted Cabinets”

What’s The Best Primer For Kitchen Cabinets?

Your next step is to prime the surfaces with the right primer.

Depending on the type of cabinets you paint you have several options when it comes to priming the kitchen cabinets.

Check out this post if you are wondering “Do I need a primer for kitchen cabinets?”

If you are painting Oak kitchen cabinets I suggest you use an oil-based primer. Zinsser Coverstain is our go-to in that case.

It is a fast-drying and stain-blocking primer that will fill in the grain of the oak. 

I suggest you do 2 coats and sand in between with a 220 grit or a fine sanding sponge.

If you are painting Hickory kitchen cabinets I would suggest using a shellac primer such as Zinsser B-I-N 

bin shellac based primer

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It dries within 30 minutes and bonds extremely well. It has a strong odor and is similar to work with as an oil-based product.

In addition, if you have laminate cabinets to paint I suggest you use a primer coat of “INSL-X Stix” which is a urethane acrylic You can find it online or at your local Benjamin Moore Supplier. Check your local Hardware store. 

inslx stix bonding primer

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Why Is This Primer So Good?

This primer will stick to tiles and even glass. It only needs a light coat but has to dry for at least 16-24 hours before you can apply your topcoat.

You might also like this post “How Do I Prime My Cabinets So That They Don’t Peel?”

With any of these primers, I would always test a small area first and let it dry overnight. Then do a fingernail scratch test. If the primer doesn’t chip or scratch off then you are good to proceed.

There are a few good options when it comes to picking the right primer for painting your kitchen cabinets. A lot of painters will traditionally use an oil-based primer. 

Oil-based primers are self-leveling, sand-able, and have great adhesion on difficult surfaces. 

They are also great stain blockers, but unfortunately, they have a very strong odor and it is necessary that you wear the proper respirator that is specifically made for blocking out fumes. 

These masks are typically higher priced than your regular dust mask.

You can check out our head-to-head test of the 3 best primers for painting kitchen cabinets in this article. How to prime kitchen cabinets the right way

What Are Other Primer Options?

Also, another option is synthetic shellac-based primers. Just like oil-based and regular shellac primers they are sand-able, stain-blocking, and provide great adhesion. 

In addition, they stop tannin bleeding better than any other primer. 

You might want to check out this article “Best Primer For Kitchen Cabinets Without Sanding”

Plus it dries within 30 minutes and is ready for your first topcoat. 

The downside is that it has a very strong odor and it is very thin inconsistency. 

Almost like water. That can make it a bit messy when applying.

Our personal favorite primer for painting kitchen cabinets is Seal Lock® Plus by Insl-X. A

insl-x seal lock plus synthetic shellac primer

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It is an alcohol-based interior primer/sealer.
It not only stops bleeding on plaster, wood, metal, and masonry but also blocks odors and stains. 

Therefore, it is a great substitute for shellac-based primers.

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Painting Your Kitchen Cabinets

Using a good-quality primer and good-quality paint will help

you get the best finish possible.  Personally, I will not spray a solvent-based paint that is specified to be applied in a shop setting. Therefore, we use hybrid products or water-based ones as much as we can!

If a quick turnaround is not needed I would suggest using Benjamin Moore Advance Alkyd. 

benjamin moore advance cabinet paint

Note: BM Advance tends to level out better when drying horizontally

Another durable option is PPG Breakthrough 250 VOC

ppg breakthrough kitchen cabinet paint

Whether you use an HVLP sprayer or you brush and roll, both of these products level really nicely without having to thin them.

Brushing And Rolling Kitchen Cabinets

Using a 2-inch Nylon paintbrush start cutting in around the hardware (if you did not remove the doors). I would always suggest removing them. Cut in any place your Whizz™ roller will not reach. 

In addition, use your Whizz™ roller to apply your ALKYD enamel

Try to paint in the same direction as your grain (if your cabinet has a fake wood pattern). 

Let it dry overnight and repeat. 

You can hang your doors now but keep in mind that even though the enamel will dry overnight, it still takes 30 days to fully cure so be careful and try to avoid scrubbing them before those 30 days. 

At 518 Painters we like to use these plastic hinge plugs to cover the holes before painting. 

In that way, the hinges will fit again perfectly.

You can get them here or check out our Suggested Products Page

Paintingspray booths

You might also like “How to Restore Old Cabinets in 4 Easy Steps”

13 thoughts on “How To Paint Kitchen Cabinets”

  1. Thanks for all your help could not done it without your video.They turned out beautiful
    I had a bid that was $3,900 to do the work ,this was way out of my budget. It did take me
    about a week but we replaced all hardware cost was about $550.00 with the hardware .
    Thanks again !!!!

    • Great, I am happy to hear that you saved money and that it came out good!

  2. Hi,
    I want to paint my veneer kitchen island – only the 3 sides, not the side with the drawers. I read your website and will use the oil based primer that you recommend but was wondering what paint you recommend. I’m painting it an off white on a brown surface.
    They are in good condition. I’m just tired of the brown.
    Thank you.

    • I would suggest ether Sherwin William’s “Emerald Urethane” or Benjamin Moore’s “Advance”.

  3. Hi,
    I would like to paint my oak kitchen cabinets. I can’t use oil based primer due to smell.
    Would you recommend Zinsser 1-2-3 primer? As of top coat I want to use Benjamin Moore Advance Alkyd. Would that work?
    Thank you

    • I would use InslX Stix first. I’ve done many oak cabinets with that. If there is “yellowing” then go over it with the 1-2-3 Primer again. Stix adheres great but does not block stains well.

  4. Hi. Thank you for the video …very informative. Do you have any thoughts on using Sherwin Williams products? I am painting an oak island. I was thinking of using Zinsser cover stain, then Sherwin Williams Extreme bond Primer (instead of Benjamin Moore Fresh Start) , and then Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel (instead of BM Advance). Actually in reading the description of SW extreme bond primer wonder if using the Zinsser would be overkill. Do you know if it covers as well as the Zinsser? Do you spray on primer or brush on? Any thoughts would be appreciate. Thank you

    • Thanks for watching! I really like your plan and the products that you are planning on using. The SW Emerald dries to a durable finish. BM Advance just has a nicer finish in my opinion. Looks a bit more factory-like in comparison. I would suggest brush and roll the primer. It seals the grain better because you are using pressure to push it into the grain rather than just laying it on with a sprayer. Try the Zinsser or SW-ProBlock. Extreme Bond is good but those 2 are better because I have had stains bleed through the extreme bond on multiple occasions.

      • Thank you! Appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions.

  5. Good Morning, saw your video and it very informative. Im in the process of removing the thermofoil wrap from my kitchen cabinets, I have MDF board cabinets.The primer the BM rep suggested is Zinseer all prime oil base since i will be using the BM Advance paint. Any suggestion or tips for removing any glue and having the factory like finish?Thank you in advance for your assistance.

  6. Hi,

    I liked your video very much. I am painting our kitchen cabinets myself because the bid we got for having it done was $3500 which was outside our budget. My question is: you mention that you could use Dawn dish soap as a degreaser. Can this be used instead of the KrudKutter? My oak cabinets are 30 years old, fyi. I don’t have any cabinets that hang over the cooktop. I want to do a good job with prep so I will use the KrudKutter if necessary. To recap: prep with degreasing product, clean, sand lightly, wipe down, 1st primer “Zinsser cover stain”, dry, sand, wipe down, 2nd primer “Benjamin Moore Fresh Start”, dry, sand, wipe down, 2 top coats “PPG Breakthrough 250 VOC”. Is that a complete list of the steps? Thank you SO much!!! – Amy

  7. I printed out this guide and followed it almost exactly. I am very happy with the results. I had a total of 30 orangish oak kitchen cabinets doors and drawers that are 20 years old. It took me two weeks from start to finish working completely alone and only whenever I could slip away from my daily life. A few notable thoughts: Zinsser Cover stain is a pain in the $&@ because it is thick and smells awful. I dreaded using it. But I trusted in the prep process so I sucked it up. I used the TSP but felt I needed something more to degloss. But I didn’t use Krud Kutter instead I chose an equivalent I found at Home Depot. It was a liquid sandpaper and allowed me to only lightly sand before priming. Benjamin Moore advance is BEAUTIFUL paint. It goes on like magic. It was actually relaxing to paint with it. Love it! It’s important to use your own judgment but only to slightly veer from the guide. I am so thankful for 518 Painter’s guide. You are very kind to share this.

    • Thank You! I’m glad you had such a great experience!
      I would love to see the final outcome if you don’t mind sharing.
      If you’d like just send me an email at


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