How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets

Painting kitchen cabinets.

I want to repaint my kitchen cabinets. Do I need to sand and prime them before painting? Also, what kind of paint should I use?” -Courtney

Hi Courtney,

Start by cleaning your cabinets thoroughly to remove any dirt and grease. Next, take off the hinges and knobs, and lightly sand the cabinets to remove the gloss for better adhesion (or use a liquid deglosser).

While priming never hurts, whether it’s necessary or not is determined by the type of paint (oil or latex) currently on your cabinets and the type you plan to use for repainting. If you’re changing the type of paint or painting over natural wood cabinets, then it’s important to prime the cabinets first.

If you are repainting with the same type of paint that is on them now, then priming is optional. To determine the type of paint on your cabinets, and learn more about primers in general, read our article A Homeowner’s Guide to Paint Primers.

Use a high quality woodwork enamel paint on your kitchen cabinets. Either an oil or latex paints can be used, though they each have their advantages and disadvantages:

    • Oil-based paint has a smoother surface and dries harder than latex; but it requires a solvent like mineral spirits for clean up, has a strong odor, and dries slowly.
  • Latex paint cleans up easily with water, comes in low and no VOC (volatile organic compounds) formulas, and dries quickly; but it shows brush marks more and is softer and tends to imprint, allowing items placed on shelves to stick unless shelf paper is applied.

I prefer a medium gloss (such as semigloss or eggshell) for kitchen cabinets, though high gloss hold up well. Avoid using flat paint on kitchen cabinet, since it doesn’t clean as well.

Good luck with your project,


Further Information


  1. Hi, I have a condo that was previously rented out. I am moving in for a year because I bought a house that has been delayed and need a place to live. I decided to redo the kitchen cabinets and counters. I got a quote for $15000.00. A friend of mine was telling me to prime my cupboards and then paint them a really dark brown. So I have put a hold on the new kithen and decided to prime them all not realizing what I had gotten myself into…
    I bought the Behr paint. I chose the darkest of brown I could find. I am using a little roller to roll the paint on and am not liking the way it looks… Is this because I’ve only put one coat on. Will it get better or will you always be able to tell from afar that it was painted. I’m thinking of just ripping out the kitchen and paying the $15000.00.
    What do you think???


  2. You could have purchased new doors and drawer faces from in paint grade hardwood so you can paint them yourself to match the boxes. Purchase doors hinged to save time and money. The cost (depending on the size of the kitchen) could be under $2000 pluse the cost of the painting supplies.

  3. It really depends on the look that you are going for and how much money you have laying around. Painting kitchen cabinets is always like putting lipstick on a pig in my mind. It makes the look better but in what way? There a different color and that’s about it. It may brighten up the room but but its not going to drastically change the kitchens look. Also if you are selling a home in today’s market buyers have become savvy to cheap fixes. If your going to sell you home compare your kitchen cabinets to your neighbors kitchen cabinets if their house is for sale if there painted no worries paint yours too. If you feel that your house needs a little pep in its step to sell go for it.

    If you’ve got the money to spend replace the cabinets, you will love your new kitchen and everyday that you come home will make you smile!

  4. I’ve been using Annie Sloan chalk paint and dark wax for the distressed look. The results are remarkable. Many different colors and looks. Look it up on line.

  5. I’m getting ready to paint my kitchen cabinets. I plan on sanding them to dull and rough up the existing finish. I have satin finish Valspar signature paint and primer in a dark color. Would I need to use a regular primer before the 2 in 1 paint? If so what would you recommend? Thanks.

  6. redoing kitchen cabinets==============can I prime with oil based kilz primer &then paint with a good enamel latex.

    question==can I paint acrylic enamel latex over oil based kilz primer

  7. Remove and number all doors and drawer fronts, remove hinges and knobs, thorough clean. Forget Kilz and other stuff. One coat STIX primer (expensive but one coat is all it’s needed, it will stick to every surface, average kitchen should not need more than 2 qts). You may need to tint the primer for dark colors (2 oz of colorant to a Gal of primer). Light sand (I used sanding sponge in Med and Fine) after priming. And for Pete’s sake, if you want results – buy decent paint, not big box store brand. It is unlikely that you will need more than one gal, it’s not the place to economize. I used Benjamin Moore Advance in Satin – it cleans up like latex but finish looks more like oil paint which is what you want.

  8. I really need to paint my kitchen cabinets and so I appreciate your point about using latex paint. One of my biggest struggles with painting anything is that it is always hard to clean up and so I am glad that that type isn’t. However, is there any type of coating that I can put on top of it so that it doesn’t cause things to stick?

  9. $15000.00 for painting kitchen cabinets? Are they using GOLD paint?
    What kind of cabinets are being installed? I am new at this game of painting wood products, but I at one time painted automobiles. The same rule applies to painting cabinets and that is to sand then down so you have better adhesion. Ever see cars that were painted over and the paint was pealing off, especially the flexible bumpers that are now on our cars? The same situation will exist with any wood products. They were too lazy to sand down them.

  10. I painted my cabinets with a latex and forgot they were drying when it started raining and they got soaked after we dried them and had to sand the puckers spots repainted and they became stickie we sanded most of it off what can I do? and do I have to sand all off?


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