For hands-on advice from designers and pro DIYers, plus more scrappy before + after transformations, subscribe to Reno. Let your inbox do all the hard work—for now.
The fastest way to give your kitchen a facelift is to update the biggest surface: the cabinets. But between paint indecision and labor costs, it’s not always easy to do. The first part ultimately comes down to personal preference—fancy a bold green or maybe you’re feeling blue?—but the latter portion is all about getting crafty. If you’ve been thinking about DIY painting your kitchen cabinets but weren’t sure where to start, keep reading.
As the founder of Clare Paint, Nicole Gibbons knows all about giving your cupboards an instant refresh. The amount of paint you’ll need varies according to how big your space is, but her instructions, which she shares with us here, are the same, whether you’re in a rental or working on your forever home.
- Surface cleaner of your choice
- Sanding sponge (you can also use 120-grit sandpaper)
- Multi-surface primer
- Paint color of your choice (scroll to see a few suggestions!)
- Fine-bristle brush (about 2 to 2 1/2 inch)
- Optional: Mini paint roller
Step 1: Prep the Surface
Remove all the hardware and take the doors off the hinges. Using the sponge and cleanser, scrub the doors and cabinet frames thoroughly, making sure they’re entirely free of grease and grime.
Step 2: Smooth It Out
Using the sanding sponge or sandpaper, lightly go over the cabinet fronts to ensure your paint canvas has an even consistency. Go along the grain of the wood to prevent any damage to the surface. When you’re done, wipe them down to remove any dust.
Step 3: Brush On the Primer
Apply a fast-drying primer, which will conceal imperfections and block future cooking stains while making it easier for your paint to adhere to the cupboards. Let your base coat dry, then go over the cabinets with the sanding sponge again—just not as aggressively as the first time. You want to be sure any creases and air bubbles are totally gone.
Step 4: Just Add Color
Now for the fun part: It’s time to paint! Use the fine-bristle brush to get into the small corners and details like molding—though if you want something for the flat areas, use a mini roller. (Just be sure to follow that up with a brush to get rid of roller marks.) Start with the inside of your cabinets, then move onto the doors. Gibbons recommends at least two coats for any kitchen cabinet job; let each coat dry thoroughly (about 24 hours) before lightly sanding and applying the second round.
All that’s left to do from there is let the paint fully cure for about 48 hours before reattaching the doors to the hinges and screwing on the pulls and knobs. Then voilà! A whole new room.
Shop our paint picks:
See more about kitchen cabinets:
We’re Demystifying How to Paint Your Kitchen Cabinets
Maybe You Should Paint Your Kitchen Cabinets Many Different Colors
The 7 Best Black Paint Colors for Kitchen Cabinets