8 steps to Painting Kitchen Cabinets [pictures, video, and checklist]

Is painting kitchen cabinets a good idea?

Painting kitchen cabinets is quick, easy, and inexpensive. If your cabinets are in good condition, and are simply not a color that you like, this is a great DIY project for you. Here are step by step before and after photos of the process.

We saved money during a recent condo flip by painting the kitchen cabinets. The cabinets had years of grime on them, but the insides were in good condition and we knew we could update them. Here’s a look at how the kitchen and cabinets looked before.

Kitchen before painting

I’ll walk you through the process and provide photos step by step. We used Behr Cabinet and Trim Enamel. For the step by step cabinet painting, you can use the menu below to jump down to any section.

If you prefer the video, you can view it here:

Steps in Painting Kitchen Cabinets

Pick your Paint Color and Finish
Gather your Tools
Do You Paint the Inside of Cabinets?
Prep the Cabinet Surface
Do you Remove Cabinet doors to Paint them?
Painting the Kitchen Cabinets
Adding Additional Coats
Finishing Up

Click here to Jump to Before/After Photos

Pick your Paint Color and Finish

Pick your color! Tint the cabinet paint to any color you like.

In this project, I chose a color that was much more bold and bright than my usual condo flip. For the prior two condo flips we had redone kitchens in all white cabinetry, which was beautiful, but was getting a little boring. This particular condo I was working on is a small one bedroom condo that doesn’t have a whole lot to it. I thought the addition of color to the kitchen would make it very Interesting. The color provides a little bit of a showstopper when people came in to look at the unit.

The color I chose was Naval by Sherwin-Williams. The finish was semi-gloss. I wanted the blue to have a nice shine at the end. When you want a shine on the surface, semi gloss is a great choice. If you prefer a matte finish then you’ll change your finish type accordingly.

Naval is the 2020 color of the year. I thought it would be a lot of fun to see how this looked together with a gray and white granite and beautiful new large cabinet pulls.

Here’s a photo of the type of paint we used:

Kitchen cabinet paint I used

This was my first time using the Behr paint. I really liked the way it went on. I was able to layer it easily and it also leveled out very smoothly and had a a great shine.

2. Gather your tools.

I put together a very simple downloadable list of the tools that I used. You can access it from the free resource library so that you can print it and have it with you. When you sign into the resource library to download the tools checklist, that will sign you up for the blog as well, so that you can receive updates on future projects directly to your email box.

3. Do you Paint the Inside of Cabinets?

It depends on the color you’re using. When we have redone kitchens in white, I always paint the inside of the cabinets. However, when using this blue paint, I thought it would make the cabinets far too dark. So in this case, I chose to leave the inside wood color and only paint the exterior box frame and cabinet fronts.

You can see the dividing line between the cabinet front and the “inside” pretty easily. You can see here where I’ve painted the bottom part of the frame, but the left side isn’t painted yet:

Painting the outer frame of the kitchen cabinets

4. Prep the Cabinet Surface

Use Deglosser to remove all of the grease and grime from the cabinets. I’ll provide a link to the Deglosser that I used for your reference. I put it on with a sponge that had a scouring pad at the back. So I put the deglosser on with the spongy side I let it soak in a bit and I scrubbed it with the scrubby side of the sponge. Some cabinets were very heavily soiled. On those, I went through the cleaning process twice to make sure that I had a good clean surface for the paint to adhere to.

Here’s a link to the Deglosser I used. The deglosser is part of a kit from Rustoleum. I have used the Rustoleum kit several times in white and I liked it very much as well. The paint levels out really nicely.

Here’s a link to the Rustoleum Kit on Amazon:

When you use the deglosser, apply it with one of those sponges with the scrubby backs. Apply with the sponge and then rub the cabinet with the scrub side. Alternatively, you can use a scouring pad. The idea is to take off all of the grime and anything sticky on the cabinets.

Some sources caution you not to overdo it with the deglosser as it may open up the pores on the wood. I, personally, have not had any issues using the deglosser generously. It does wonders to clean the cabinet.

Here’s a photo showing the process of cleaning the cabinets with the deglosser. Notice the suds on the cabinets on the left side of the photo. I use the deglosser generously, allow it to sit a bit while I’m applying it on the other cabinets, and then I go back and scrub it:

Deglossing and preparing the cabinets for paint

5. Do you Remove Cabinet doors to Paint them?

Pay attention to the hinges. A lot of people will tell you that you should remove all of the doors and hinges and paint those separately. It is your choice. I don’t like the time it takes to take off the doors and I really don’t like taking them off, carrying them around, and putting them back on. I feel like I can do a great job with coverage right where they are, Just be careful around the hinges so that you can get a professional finished look without any paint over the hinge pieces. Take it slowly and you can do it. Take a look at the video and you’ll see that this really wasn’t difficult at all.

This photo shows the hinges after just my first coat of paint. That’s why the doors look so unfinished. They don’t have enough paint on them yet. But I wanted you to see the hinge and see that it is possible to paint around the hinges completely and avoid painting over them.

Painting around hinges when painting kitchen cabinets

6. Painting the Kitchen Cabinets.

On the first coat of paint, remember not to be heavy-handed. This is just the very first pass at these cabinets and you don’t want to overdo it with the amount of paint. You just really want to focus on getting into the grooves and corners of the door fronts with a light coating. There’s nothing worse than having drips later.

Wait for the paint to dry. For me, when I started on one side of the kitchen and got all the way to the other, the paint was essentially dry enough for me to begin on the second coat. I did not wait an entire day for the second coating. Just make sure that your first coat was light and that you don’t have any thick areas of paint. If you do have thick areas of paint and go over it too quickly, you will start to streak away the first layer of paint and it’ll start to look a bit like a gooey mess. So just remember keep it light. If the paint is still wet, wait before applying that second coat.

Applying the first coat of blue kitchen cabinet paint:

Painting kitchen cabinets blue

7. Adding Additional Coats

Apply a Second Coat. After all, that first coat was just to get into the grooves and around the hinges and to get some light coverage. The second coat is where it’ll start to look like something beautiful. So apply that second coat and then wait.

Give it a day

Here’s how my condo flip cabinets looked after the second coat.

blue painted kitchen cabinets

I recommend waiting overnight before doing anything further. This will let you take a new look at your project with a fresh pair of eyes and make sure that you haven’t missed anything important or any sides of drawers or sides of cabinet doors. I added a third coat of paint after waiting a day on these blue cabinets. It was a light coat but I wanted to make sure that I had great coverage and lots of shine on the cabinet.

8. Final touches

Sealing. You may choose to seal your cabinets with polyurethane. Alternatively, you may experiment with glazes.

(In another home flip, I tried white cabinet paint with an antique glaze and it didn’t work well for me. It looked dirty.)

Cleanup. You’ll notice in my video and maybe even in some of my pictures, that I didn’t worry too much about paint falling on the tile floor. This paint, once left to dry, ends up peeling off pretty quickly and easily with a scraper from the tile floor. Alternatively, you can use a tarp or, I often use one of the tablecloths from the dollar store because they’re even cheaper than a tarp and easy to throw away at the end of the day.

Look at all that paint on the tile! It scraped up easily.

painted cabinet and floor

Hardware. Once the cabinets are painted, the next step to really modernize them is to add the pulls. This step, to me, is essential. You can pick the pulls that go with the decor of your choice. We added 10 1/2 inch pulls on these cabinets and I think they look great. I’ll include a separate tutorial on installing the pulls. This will include the many mistakes that I made installing the pulls on this project and how I learned from them! Stay tuned for that tutorial within the next 10 days or so. Sign up for the blog and you’ll get it automatically in your inbox if you’d like.

More on the condo flip

If you’d like to see how we did on this condo flip, including the expenses and profit, just sign up for the blog and you’ll be advised when that post comes out. Or feel free to look through my other posts to view the gains on other flips along with the specific costs and renovation steps.

If you’d like to walk through a condo flip I helped my son with, you can view it here:

Eric’s First Condo Flip–Start to Finish

Before and After Photos

Here are a few before and after photos of the painted kitchen cabinets. You can Pin these on Pinterest if you’d like to save this article.

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