Everything You Need to Know About Painting Your Kitchen Cabinets

published Dec 19, 2017
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(Image credit: Diana Liang)

At the end of the summer, we spent a week in Michigan with professional painters Chris and Lexi Dowding, of SwatchOut. In just a few days, they totally transformed our Social Media Manager’s kitchen from a dark and dated space to something so bright and fresh, it looked custom built. We had a lot of fun, ate a ton (thanks for being such a gracious host, Kaitlin!), and learned a lot. Painting wooden cabinets is no easy task — but it will be much easier if you use the right supplies, do it correctly, and take your time.

We passed all of the lessons down to you guys at the time. Here’s a quick refresher.

1. Your landlord just might let you paint your cabinets.

Good news for renters: We interviewed a few-dozen landlords, asking if they’d allow tenants to paint their kitchen cabinets. For the most part, it was a hard no — unless the cabinets were decently old and could use the refresh. Then, many of them were all about it.

2. It might not be that expensive to hire a professional.

To DIY or not to DIY? That is the question. That is almost always the question. You can certainly paint your kitchen cabinets yourself, as long as you realize it will cost you (in terms of supplies and lots and lots of time). You can also find a professional for a reasonable amount of money, depending on the size of your kitchen. Figuring out how much a painting project will cost depends on a few factors.

(Image credit: Diana Liang)

3. There’s a lot of prep before you can even start painting.

With any paint project, it’s all about the prep. But kitchen cabinets are especially tricky because, if you really do it properly, you need to take everything apart. We’re talking everything. And you have to prime, sand, fill in scratches, sand again, etc. If you skip any of these steps, you’ll end up paying the price later.

More on Cabinet Painting Prep

(Image credit: Diana Liang)

4. Your supplies matter.

You may be tempted to skip the primer or buy a lower quality of paint in efforts to save some money. Do not. Both are crucial for your project’s success. Spend a little more money to get quality supplies that will give great, long-lasting results.

What to Buy

(Image credit: Diana Liang)

5. Some colors are better than others.

We went with a simple white, but of course, there are hundreds (thousands?) of other options. We did some research and spoke with experts to get a few other suggestions.

Pick a Cabinet Color

(Image credit: Diana Liang)

6. There are many, many steps.

Our detailed how-to instructions included 59 steps. However, that’s only because we wanted to include everything and be as helpful as we could be. You can totally do it! As long as you follow our directions and all the advice we had to give.

Directions for Painting Kitchen Cabinets

(Image credit: Diana Liang)

7. There are some things you can do to make things easier.

It’s not as hard as we’ve been making it sound. Promise! In fact, Chris and Lexi had a few super-smart tips that will come in handy during your next painting session.

(Image credit: Diana Liang)

8. It’s easy to care for your painted cabinets.

It would be a shame for you to put all that effort and money into painting your cabinets if they’re not going to hold up, right? Kaitlin says her cabinets are still in perfection condition, a few months later — no chips or scratches in sight. Two big tips here: Use felt feet on the backs of your drawers or doors (rubber ones can stick and pull off paint) and clean up spills and stains with gentle cleaners.

More on Cleaning Painting Cabinets