Painting Cabinets Made Easy: Your Comprehensive Step-by-Step Tutorial

Painting Cabinets Made Easy: Your Comprehensive Step-by-Step Tutorial

If you are new here, just know that I’m not the most handy person when it comes to in-home projects. So anything that I share here, will not be too complex because I believe if I can do it, anyone can! It is a cost-effective and transformative way to give your kitchen or bathroom a fresh, updated look. Whether you’re looking to brighten up the space with a crisp white or add a pop of color for a vibrant statement, the process of painting cabinets requires careful preparation and execution.

If you’re looking to revitalize old cabinets or personalize new ones, this detailed tutorial guide will walk you through the process of painting cabinets to achieve professional-looking results. I will not only cover how to paint your cabinets, but I will also discuss trending colors, the difference between finishes, and how to pick out that perfect color. So let’s get started!


Materials Needed:

  1. Screwdriver
  2. Painter’s tape
  3. Random Orbital Sander
  4. Sandpaper (100-150 grit)
  5. Tack cloth or a lint-free cloth
  6. Primer (specifically designed for cabinets)
  7. Paint (latex or oil-based paint, depending on preference)
  8. Paintbrushes (angled brush for corners, and a larger brush for flat surfaces)
  9. Foam roller
  10. Paint tray
  11. Drop cloths or plastic sheets
  12. Optional: Degreaser and wood filler

To start, I will cover the different types of paint finishes, trending cabinet colors, and how to go about choosing the right color.

However, if you’ve already got those covered, feel free to scroll down to the tutorial!

~ Comparing Paint Finishes ~

When it comes to painting cabinet finishes, there are several options to choose from. Each finish has its own characteristics and can greatly impact the overall look and durability of your cabinets. Here are some popular paint finishes for cabinets along with their key features:

  • Matte Finish: A matte finish is a non-reflective, flat paint surface. It provides a smooth and subtle appearance, making it an excellent choice for modern and contemporary cabinet designs. Matte finishes tend to be more forgiving in terms of hiding imperfections, but they may require more frequent cleaning as they are more prone to showing fingerprints and stains.
  • Satin Finish: Satin finishes have a soft sheen and offer a balance between a matte and glossy finish. They provide a smooth and velvety appearance and are known for their durability. Satin finishes are easy to clean and maintain, making them a popular choice for kitchen cabinets. They also resist mildew and moisture, making them suitable for bathrooms and other high-humidity areas.
  • Semi-Gloss Finish: A semi-gloss finish offers a subtle shine and is a practical choice for cabinets. It provides a smooth, lustrous appearance that reflects light, adding a touch of elegance to the space. Semi-gloss finishes are durable and easy to clean, making them ideal for high-traffic areas such as kitchens and bathrooms. They also resist moisture and are more resistant to stains and damage compared to matte or satin finishes.
  • High-Gloss Finish: High-gloss finishes deliver a highly reflective, mirror-like shine. They create a sleek and contemporary look and are known for their ability to make cabinets stand out. High-gloss finishes are exceptionally durable and resistant to scratches and stains. They are easy to clean and maintain, but their reflective surface tends to highlight imperfections, so thorough preparation is essential. High-gloss finishes are often used in modern or minimalist designs.

Ultimately, the choice of paint finish for your cabinets depends on your personal preference, the desired style, and the level of durability you require. It’s recommended to test out different finishes on a small area or sample piece to see how they look in your space and how they match your desired aesthetic.

As a mother of 3 boys, I always go for the semi-gloss since it is easy to clean…which I NEED.


~ Trending Cabinet Colors ~

Painting Cabinets Made Easy: Your Comprehensive Step-by-Step Tutorial

Here is a visual of trending cabinet colors I put together from Kelly-Moore Paints. Deeper, rich hues are in this year as well as vibrant whites and neutral grays. I love how well these rich colors pair with golden T-shaped handles.

  • White: White cabinets have been a timeless and versatile choice for many years. They create a clean, fresh, and bright look in kitchens and other spaces. White cabinets also provide a neutral backdrop that allows other elements in the room to stand out.
  • Gray: Gray cabinets have gained popularity for their ability to add a sophisticated and modern touch to a space. Lighter shades of gray create an elegant and airy feel, while darker grays can add depth and richness.
  • Navy Blue: Deep navy blue cabinets have become increasingly popular, particularly in kitchens. Navy blue provides a bold, dramatic, and yet timeless look. It pairs well with various countertop materials and finishes, creating a striking contrast.
  • Black: Black cabinets can make a strong style statement, adding a touch of luxury and modernity to a space. They work well in contemporary or industrial-style kitchens, especially when balanced with lighter elements and ample lighting.
  • Natural Wood Tones: Many homeowners appreciate the warmth and beauty of natural wood. Light or medium-toned wood cabinets, such as oak or maple, have been sought after for their organic and classic appeal. They can add warmth and a touch of nature to the space.
  • Two-Tone Cabinets: Mixing different colors on upper and lower cabinets or combining contrasting colors within the same cabinet design is a popular trend. For example, pairing white upper cabinets with dark lower cabinets can create a visually interesting and dynamic look.

Remember, trends can change over time, and it’s important to choose a color that you love and that fits your personal style and the overall aesthetic of your space. Don’t be afraid to experiment and


~ How To Choose The Right Color ~

Painting Cabinets Made Easy: Your Comprehensive Step-by-Step Tutorial
Photo by RDNE Stock project on Pexels.com

Choosing the right color to paint your cabinets can greatly impact the overall look and feel of your space. Here are some steps to help you pick out that perfect color!

  1. Assess your space: Start by considering the existing elements in your kitchen or the room where the cabinets are located. Take note of the color scheme, including the walls, countertops, flooring, and appliances. You want to choose a cabinet color that complements or contrasts harmoniously with the rest of the room.
  2. Determine the mood and style: Think about the mood or atmosphere you want to create in the space. Are you looking for a bright and airy feel, a cozy and rustic ambiance, or a sleek and modern look? Consider the overall style of your home as well. The cabinet color should align with the desired mood and the existing aesthetics.
  3. Consider the size of the space: If the room is small or lacks natural light, lighter cabinet colors can help create an illusion of openness and brightness. In contrast, if the room is spacious, you have more flexibility to experiment with both light and dark colors.
  4. Look for inspiration: Browse through home decor magazines, websites, or platforms like Pinterest for inspiration. Look specifically for images of kitchens or spaces with painted cabinets to see how different colors work in various settings. Pay attention to color combinations and the overall visual effect.
  5. Sample swatches and paint chips: Once you have a general idea of the color you want, collect paint swatches or purchase small paint samples from a home improvement store. Bring them home and place them near the cabinets to see how they look in different lighting conditions. Colors can appear different under various lighting sources, so it’s important to assess them in your specific space.
  6. Test on cabinet doors or panels: If you’re still uncertain, purchase a cabinet door or a small wood panel that matches the cabinet material. Apply a few coats of the desired paint colors to the door or panel and place it in the space to get a better sense of how the color will look on your cabinets.
  7. Consider the undertones: When selecting a paint color, pay attention to the undertones. Some colors have warm undertones (yellow, red, orange) while others have cool undertones (blue, green, gray). Ensure that the undertones of the paint color you choose harmonize with the other elements in the room.
  8. Think long-term: Cabinets are a long-term investment, so consider the durability and timelessness of the color you choose. Neutral colors like white, cream, gray, or beige are versatile and tend to age well. They also provide a great base for future decor changes.
  9. Seek expert advice: If you’re still unsure about choosing the right color, consult with a professional designer or a paint specialist at a home improvement store. They can provide valuable insights and suggest color options based on your preferences and the existing elements in your space.

Remember, selecting the perfect color for your cabinets involves personal preference and the overall aesthetic you wish to achieve. Take your time, gather inspiration, and experiment with samples to find the color that brings your vision to life!


– Tutorial –

Step 1: Preparation

Painting Cabinets Made Easy: Your Comprehensive Step-by-Step Tutorial
Photo by Anete Lusina on Pexels.com

The preparation part can be time-consuming and quite a snore. However, for a seamless job, it’s a critical aspect of the project that needs to be done right. If not, then it can lower the value of your home with a sloppy paint job on the kitchen cabinets.

  • Empty the cabinets and remove all hardware, such as handles, hinges, and knobs. Use a screwdriver for this task.
  • Label each cabinet door and drawer front to ensure easy reinstallation later.
  • Clean the surfaces thoroughly using a mild detergent or a degreaser to remove any grease or dirt. Allow them to dry completely.
  • If there are any imperfections, such as dents or scratches, use wood filler to fill them in. Once dry, sand the filled areas smoothly.

Step 2: Protect Surrounding Areas

  • Cover the surrounding areas, countertops, and floors with drop cloths or plastic sheets to protect them from paint drips or spills.
  • Use painter’s tape to cover any areas that you don’t want to be painted, such as the walls, appliances, or inside cabinet frames.

Step 3: Sanding

A Complete Guide To Painting Cabinet
Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

It can be tempting to skip the sanding portion and just get straight to priming and painting, I know I’ve been there and it did not turn out too pretty! Sanding is crucial as it creates a rough surface for the paint to adhere to. If you skimp on this step, your paint job will chip easily and look shabby, not in a good way. You will find yourself constantly touching up and repainting the surface. Again, this is experience talking. Do not judge me, I was younger and impatient!

You can either sand by hand or invest about $20 for a sander tool. As an over 30-year-old with an aching back and occasional arthritis flair-up, I highly recommend the sander tool!

  • Lightly sand all cabinet surfaces, including doors, drawer fronts, and frames, using medium-grit sandpaper. This helps to create a rough surface for better paint adhesion.
  • After sanding, wipe down all surfaces with a tack cloth or a lint-free cloth to remove any dust particles. This step will ensure a sleek and flawless paint application.

Step 4: Primer Application

Painting Cabinets Made Easy: Your Comprehensive Step-by-Step Tutorial
Photo by Blue Bird on Pexels.com

I personally like the spray can primer. It’s just less time-consuming and is straight to the point. If you go this route, be sure to cover EVERY surface in the vicinity because it can get everywhere.

  • Apply a coat of primer to all surfaces, including the doors, drawer fronts, and frames. Use a brush or foam roller for large, flat areas and an angled brush for corners and edges.

  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding drying time between coats. Typically, one coat is sufficient, but if the wood grain is still visible, apply an additional coat of primer.

Step 5: Painting

Painting Cabinets Made Easy: Your Comprehensive Step-by-Step Tutorial
Photo by Blue Bird on Pexels.com

Ah, now the fun part! Well, at least to me it is. This is where you can start to see your vision come to life! Once the primer is dry, just lightly sand the surfaces with fine-grit sandpaper to create a smooth surface for the paint.

  • Stir the paint thoroughly to ensure an even consistency.
  • Begin painting by applying a thin, even coat of paint to all surfaces. Start with the cabinet frames and then move on to the doors and drawer fronts.
  • Use long, smooth strokes with a brush or a foam roller, working in the direction of the wood grain. Take care to avoid drips and brush marks.
  • Allow the first coat to dry completely. If a second coat is desired for better coverage, repeat the painting process after sanding lightly between coats.
  • Make sure to paint the backside of the doors and drawer fronts as well. It’s best to elevate them on small blocks to prevent sticking to the painting surface.

Step 6: Finishing Touches

  • Once the paint has dried completely, reattach the hardware to the doors and drawer fronts. Double-check that everything is properly aligned.
  • Carefully reinstall the doors and drawer fronts using the labeled references made earlier.
  • Remove the painter’s tape and drop cloths or plastic sheets, ensuring that the paint is fully dry to avoid any smudging or peeling.

Now gaze upon your beautiful cabinets with swelling pride and take a well-deserved nap…or treat yourself however, you see fit after that extensive but well worth it project that YOU did! Yes, YOU!

By following this step-by-step tutorial guide, you can successfully paint your cabinets and achieve a fresh and updated look for your kitchen or bathroom! Remember, proper preparation and attention to detail are crucial for a professional finish. Enjoy your beautifully painted cabinets!

Have a before and after to share? Go ahead and post in the comment section below!


For more ways to update your kitchen without the cost and hassle of remodeling, click here!

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