How to paint kitchen cabinets like a pro

A DIY GUIDE FOR PAINTING KITCHEN CABINETS…The good, the bad, and the ugly.

First, let’s start with the bad news…

Unless you have a tiny-house or an insanely small kitchen, painting your kitchen cabinets is a project that can not be done in a weekend. That said, the good news is that with some hard work and a lot of patience (dry faster, paint!) you can totally transform your kitchen on a budget.

All in, we spent about $400 on paint and materials (including parts to make DIY saw horses).

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Last summer I somehow convinced my husband that we should paint our kitchen cabinets. We live in a new construction townhouse that came with all the upgrades we could ever possibly want. However, like most new construction units, our house is completely devoid of character.

Everything in our house is “builder grade” blah.

As an interior designer, this drives me nuts! I’ve been itching to put my own touch on just about anything I can. Our kitchen cabinets were no exception. Originally, they were a dark cherry stain paired with black granite counter tops. Definitely not my style. We are blessed with tons of natural light, but the finishes made the kitchen still feel dark.

So, I pushed my vision of brightening up the kitchen with white cabinets pretty darn hard. Shockingly, my husband was on board! I wasted NO time researching what we would need and planned out a time where we could do it together.

And so a “long weekend” project turned into… weeks.

how to paint kitchen cabinets

What we were working with.

File_000 (15)Merillat- cherry veneer front cabinets with a raised panel door and beveled edge


  • Ben Moore Advanced Paint in satin finish in the color Chantilly Lace (2 gallons)
  • Zinnser Smart Primer- 1 gallon
  • Klean Strip deglosser (1 bottle)
  • Sand paper (for hand sanding)
    • 60 grit
    • 200 grit
  • Hand sander (power)
    • 200 grit sand paper
  • Rags
  • 2″ angled paint brush
  • Power Drill
  • Screw Driver
  • Plastic (roll or tarp)
  • Painters tape
  • Paint rollers (we used the mini ones)
  • Paint trays




To get started we cleared out all the cabinets. You’ll want to cover your furniture and block off the rest of the house, things are going to get messy.

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Remove all hardware, hinges, and doors. We set hardware and hinges inside the same cabinet that it came from so we didn’t mix them up later.


We removed all the doors and drawer fronts and lined them up in our garage. They took up our entire 2 car garage for weeks! We used graph paper to draw a diagram of the doors and cabinet fronts so we knew exactly which door came from where.

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We had to build a couple of saw horses in order to have enough room to lay out all the cabinets. Building the saw horses plus shopping, clearing out the cabinets, and removing all the doors/fronts took up the entire first day.

SAND (Day 2-4)

This took WAY longer than I thought it would. We spent the better part of 2-3 days just for sanding. First, we roughed up the cabinets with a 60 grit paper followed by a 200 grit paper. We had to use a combination of hand sanding and using a power sander so that we could get into all the nooks and crannies of the molding and edges.



After cleaning up the dust from sanding we applied 1 coat of deglosser. Deglosser helps to dull the surface so the paint adheres better. We used 1 bottle of Klean Strip deglosser from Home Depot.

Looking back and reading other people’s stories we probably could have skipped the sanding altogether or not been so detailed with it. But, we wanted to make sure that this paint job was sturdy so we went ahead with both the sanding and the deglosser.

PRIME (day 5-7)

Almost an entire week into our project and we finally got the first coat of primer on the cabinet frames. We used  1 can of Zinsser Primer from Home Depot. It made the most sense for us to focus all our efforts on the cabinet frames before moving to the door fronts in hopes of getting our house back to some kind of order as soon as possible.

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We did one coat of primer (photo above) on the cabinet frames and then started with the paint. Thankfully we hadn’t even touched the doors with paint yet because we quickly learned that we would need 2 coats of primer.


PAINT (Day 7-20)

Prior to starting this project I researched the best paint to use for kitchen cabinets and the overwhelming majority of articles and blog posts I read recommended Ben Moore’s Advance paint. It’s self-leveling, blocks stains, and prevents the wood grain from rising through the finish. Furthermore, it is low VOC and doesn’t yellow, which was extremely important to me since we were working with a white color. See another fellow blogger’s experience with it here.

Now for the ugly…The paint was still see through after 1 coat of primer and 2 coats of paint on the frames. (see photo below)


In the end, we needed FIVE coats of paint. I am not sure if it was the paint or the primer but the coats were very thin and seemed to soak right into the wood. Without 5 coats of paint, you could still see brush strokes and the darker color underneath.

Tip– Paint the back of the doors first so any scuffs or smudges will be on the back of the doors when you flip them over to paint the front!

We waited 24 hours in between each coat of paint to ensure that it was fully dry.


One of the drawbacks of Ben Moore’s Advance Paint is that it takes a really long time to cure. We waited about 3-4 days to rehang all the doors after we finished painting.

close up cabinet

Put your kitchen back together and do a happy dance! (day 24)

straight on stools

Don’t get me wrong, we LOVE how they turned out. The kitchen looks so much brighter and more modern.

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full view toward LR

It’s been about one year since we painted them and so far they’ve held up great! We’ve been really happy with the quality and the satin finish makes cleaning super easy.

full view towards window

corner close up

cookbooks and rolling pin

Doe anyone else have experience painting cabinets? We’d love to know how yours turned out! Comment below with any tips!

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