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How To Paint Kitchen Cupboards

Renovating your kitchen can add value to your house, both in the enjoyment of using the room and boosting its aesthetic and in terms of selling it. Rather than spending thousands on a new kitchen, there are plenty of budget improvements you can make that are truly transformative.

Such an improvement is painting your kitchen cupboards. Items that take up so much space, with such an important level of functionality and such an aesthetic impact are a great renovation project choice. With something as simple as repainting kitchen cupboards, you can make a real impact on the feel of your home.

Of course, as with any DIY project you have to get the job done well in order for it to actually boost the value of your home. It’s not always that easy if you haven’t painted kitchen cupboards before, and especially if you’re not a dab hand with DIY.

The best news is that to help you, we’ve got not one, but two really simple, easy and effective painting methods that work perfectly for this task. Read on if you’re ready to transform those kitchen cabinets with ease.

Can You Paint Kitchen Cabinets?

Whether your kitchen cabinets are made out of MDF or you have glossy kitchen cupboard doors, painting kitchen cabinets can be done with the right preparation. Furthermore, painting kitchen cabinets is an extremely budget-friendly and effective way of transforming your kitchen without spending big bucks.

What Paint to Use On Kitchen Cupboards

There are multiple options for you to choose from when it comes to painting your kitchen cupboards. By choosing the right paint you have the best chance of not only achieving a great finish but of that finish lasting a long time.

The first consideration to make when choosing your cupboard paint is the material you are painting. Some materials, like laminate, require a primer before painting. The laminate also needs to be in great condition for the best possible results.

Other materials, like wood, will need some sanding and preparation before applying paint.

When it comes to the paint you use to paint your cabinets after the correct preparation, you have a few different options to choose from.

The most reliable choice that is specifically designed for this type of job is a cupboard specific paint. These paint types are made to be incredibly tough and durable so that the regular contact, bumps and scuffs you can expect the cupboard to have will not result in quick degrading of the paint.

However, if you don’t want to get cupboard specific paint there are additional options for you to consider for your kitchen cabinet renovation.

High-quality trade satinwood paint such as Dulux Diamond Satinwood or Johnstones Aqua Satin are really good choices.

The Dulux Diamond Satinwood is a great choice because it is available in many different colours (and can be colour-matched), it has stain-repellent technology within it, and it is highly durable. You can even scrub it to remove dirt and scuffs and it can withstand the cleaning applied.

The Johnstones Aqua Satin is another great choice because it has the same feel and application ease of a normal satin finish but it dries more quickly, and the odour is much easier to deal with than an oil-based product because the Aqua Satin is water-based. In your kitchen, the paint is particularly good to use because it is so durable and will withstand those scuffs and bumps you expect your cabinets to get.

In terms of aesthetics, there are some clever decorating tricks you can use to help boost the way your kitchen looks. For example; if your kitchen has little natural light, or it is compact, a gloss on your cabinets helps reflect the light and may help it to look bigger.

That being said, it may show up fingerprints and dust more than a matt paint would, so if the cupboards get a lot of use, you may want to weigh up the benefit of gloss making the kitchen look bigger and lighter against signs of use being much more apparent with this type of paint.

Do You Need to Use A Primer on Kitchen Cabinets?

As with most paint-related topics, there is no definite yes or no answer to this question. Instead, it depends on the surface you are painting.

Here’s a really easy overview of prepping for kitchen cabinet painting that guides you through which surfaces need priming before painting. This goes into a little bit more detail than our prep guidance below:

Step One – Clean the cabinets

Before you do anything else you need to properly clean the cabinet fronts. A little bit of multi-surface cleaner won’t do in this instance. Instead, you need to use a degreaser to make sure all that oil that kitchen cabinets can collect, is gone.

Step Two – Remove the handles

Step Three – Key the surface

You’ll need to key the surface to make sure there is plenty for the paint to adhere to. It just means lightly sanding the surface with a fine sanding paper so the surface is matt.

You can then wipe off the surface and allow it to dry before doing anything else. You should do this for any wooden surface, but you will need to apply a knot treatment and then a primer if it is raw wood. This is to stop the paint from being absorbed by the wood.

If the surface is glossy you will need to sand the surface down but you shouldn’t need to apply a primer. If the surface is glossy because it is laminate you need to first check the laminate is in great condition. It may need replacing before you take any further steps. If it is in good condition you need to add a bonding primer that is labelled strong enough to stick to a laminate surface.

It is also important to note that if you are painting light onto dark you may wish to try and use a lighter primer that helps get that process of lightening started for you.

How to Paint Kitchen Cupboards

To help you paint your kitchen cupboards we have listed two of the easiest painting methods around so that you get a great finish that makes the heart of the home more functional and aesthetically pleasing:

Method 1: Spray Paint Your Kitchen

Spray painting kitchen cupboards can be a lot of effort!
  1. Remove the cabinet doors and try to add a label sticker in the hinge (and a matching one in the corresponding cupboard) so that you know which cabinet door goes back onto which cabinet.
  2. Clean and prepare the cabinet doors as above, paying special attention to any dings or bangs that need repairing.
  3. Prepare the kitchen itself by covering all adjoining surfaces, walls, ceiling, flooring and countertops. You’ll also want to cover and seal off appliances like the cooker. Once this is done you’ll need to prepare the cabinets like you have prepared the cabinet doors.
  4. If applying a primer, wipe down the cupboard door one last time before you’re ready to apply it.
  5. Prime the cabinet doors on one side before priming the prepared cabinets themselves including the frames and sides. You will want to use a paint brush for this to avoid missing sections and spraying primer everywhere with a roller.
  6. Once you have primed the surface, wipe it again, then apply any necessary compounds or fillers for this stage, wait for that to dry and then sand the surface before priming again. Repeat for the other side once the second primer coat is dry. You will need to do the same to your kitchen cabinet frames.
  7. Now you’re ready to spray paint your kitchen cupboards. To do this the best approach is brush painting the frame and spray painting the cabinet doors. However, you can spray paint the entire cupboard if you have enough reach, and you can adequately protect the rest of the kitchen. You could also totally remove the cabinets and spray paint them separately to avoid any mess, but this can take a lot of extra time. Most people remove the cabinet doors and paint them in full, and then paint around the external sides of the cabinet without removing it.
  8. For any areas you want to spray paint you’ll want to practise spray painting with your chosen spray gun. Contain the spray in a box or booth to avoid spray going everywhere. You can then put on your mask, fill the spray gun as instructed and spray paint around 10-12 inches from the cupboard surface. As you have detached the cabinet doors it is a good idea to do these first to practise your technique. A sweeping motion is generally the best approach so that you aren’t relying on your wrist for a smooth application. Once the paint is being applied without running you’re heading in the right direction.
  9. IMPORTANT NOTE – Before starting on your kitchen spray paint transformation it is important to triple check everywhere is covered adequately with tape or sheeting first.
  10. Let your first coat of the cabinet paints dry overnight and then apply a second coat. Fix any running with a brush whilst the paint is wet, or if it has started to dry, wait for a day and then sand and repaint that section.
  11. Once everything is properly cured you can pop the doors back onto the cupboards.
  12. If you are half brushing/ half spray painting check below for tips on applying paint with a brush.

Method 2: Using A Brush and Roller

Using a brush and roller is easier but doesn’t quite look as good as when sprayed.
  1. Prepare the kitchen as mentioned above, removing the cupboard doors as with the spray paint method.
  2. Follow the same primer processes as with the spray paint process above.
  3. For flat surfaces as with slab doors and the sides of the cupboard, you should use a roller in all directions for a smooth, even finish. You can then touch this up with a brush. Once you have done all the sides and doors once, allow to dry overnight and then sand and coat again using the same method. Very light paint on very dark paint will require a third coat.
  4. For any cupboards with raised panels, you’ll need a brush to work the paint into the various surfaces. For the flat parts, you can use a mini roller which will evenly apply the paint. Any blending can be done with a brush whilst the paint is still wet. Once finished you can let them dry, sand and then apply a second coat.
  5. Reapply the cupboard doors for a beautiful finish.

Q & A’s

To give you even more information and insight into painting your kitchen cabinets we’ve answered common Q & A’s relating to this popular renovation topic:

Can I Paint Kitchen Cupboards Without Removing The Doors?

You can, you just need to make sure the hinges are covered really well with masking tape, as well as any other features you don’t want to paint.

Should I Empty The Kitchen Out Before Painting The Cabinets?

Some people remove everything they can from a kitchen before doing any paintwork. This is because, even with the best intentions, paint can be very messy! So you can either cover everything up with sheets, tape and plastic or remove everything possible and you then have less to cover. It all depends on which is the easiest option for you.

What Colour Should I Paint My Kitchen Cabinets?

Most people choose a neutral colour that can easily work with a variety of flooring, worktop and fixture options. The best way to look at it is – you’re going to change your flooring and worktops less often than painting your cabinets, which is really cheap and easy to do – so you are the least bound by the paint choice you make about your cabinets.

You can check out some really beautiful and funky paint choices for the kitchen in this video, for inspiration and ideas. That being said, if the cabinets are in a rental, the best choice is a durable paint in a neutral colour that most people will like.

How Long Will It Take To Paint My Kitchen Cabinets Start To Finish?

It depends on the size of the kitchen and the manpower, but realistically it is a good idea to allow a week to do it. This is inclusive of preparation, cleaning, sanding, layering the paint, allowing it to dry and finishing the job. The process could be done in a weekend at a push, but about 5-7 days provides plenty of leeway for the process.

Do I Need To Ventilate When Painting My Kitchen Cupboards?

You should ventilate the entire time you are working on your kitchen, including the times you are sanding and any areas you work away from the kitchen, such as the garage. Two-way ventilation is ideal (two points of ventilation open like a door and a window). You’ll also want to wear a mask, and possibly eye protection when sanding.

Is Painting Kitchen Cupboards A Good Idea?

If you are pushed for time and energy, then paying somebody to do the job, or paying for new cabinets is the best idea as long as you have the budget to do that. Otherwise, painting your kitchen cupboards is the cheapest option because it transforms the cupboards with little labour or material cost, and the finish is beautiful.

Do You Paint Both Sides Of Kitchen Cabinet Doors?

This is a personal choice. Some people choose to do this for a cohesive finish. Others, if the inside of the cupboards roughly match the new paint outside and they are in good condition, will leave the inside as they are and just paint the doors and cupboard sides.

How Can I Make My Newly Painted Kitchen Cupboards Look Professionally Finished?

As well as preparing well and painting for a smooth and mistake-free finish, the other way to properly transform a kitchen cupboard is to add new handles. Perhaps the knobs before are a bit scratched and worn, or they don’t match the other metals in the room (including fixtures and fittings).

Adding new handles that are the same metal colour as the lights, accessories and appliances in the room will add a level of cohesion and finish that looks really professional.

Now You Have Gorgeous Kitchen Cabinets Transformed On A Shoe-String

Using either of the methods above you can create a stunning new kitchen cupboard look for very little money at all. The key is to prepare well, use the right paint product and protect everywhere that is not being painted as much as you possibly can.

With all this information you’re now set to switch your dull kitchen cupboards for beautiful, new-looking kitchen features for a stunning heart-of-the-home transformation.