Learning the process for painting kitchen cupboards is not as difficult as one may think. Even so, emptying them of all those utensils and supplies might prove to be a chore.

The key to painting your cupboards or cabinets is in using the proper products and tools, along with following certain painting techniques. Doing your project properly will result in a professional looking durable finish that's done in as quick a manner as possible.

Below you will find how to instructions, along with advice regarding the best products and tools to use when painting your kitchen cupboards.


When painting kitchen cupboards your project will involve an assortment of tools and materials. You will need to choose specific items required for your particular job.

  • Paint & primer
  • New handels and hinges (If needed)
  • Painters plastic
  • Painters tape
  • Drop cloths
  • Whizz roller & roller covers/paint tray
  • Sash brush (2" to 2"-1/2)
  • Filler & knifes
  • Soap/water/tsp (for cleaning cupboards if needed)
  • Electric palm sander & sand paper (120 grit)
  • Medium sponge sander
  • Old close (or coveralls), mask, gloves, & goggles (as needed)

Foam rollers work fine but I find that a good quality mini cloth or wool roller works best. If your using an oil base product you will need to change the cover often though as they can tend to shed over a few hours of use.


Before you begin your painting kitchen cupboards project try to remove as many items from the cabinets and drawers as possible. Once you have done that tape, mask and cover everything in the room that your not wanting paint on.

You will need to protect counter tops, appliances, flooring and wood trim etc. Leave the cupboard doors hung and the drawers in their slots until your instructed otherwise.


The only way to bring old peeling cupboards back to their original condition is to use a chemical stripper. You will find though that using a stripper is very labor intensive and the stripper itself is not the nicest stuff to work with.

What you can do though is take one of your worst doors or drawers and sand away the peeling paint. For the best results use an electric palm sander and 120 grit sandpaper. When sanding you don't have to worry about removing all of the paint. You do want to remove any paint that may stick up or through the coating that your about to apply.

Before you start it's advised to un-attach the handles or knobs and avoid the hinges when sanding.


You can prep your cupboards for priming with the help of a step ladder and some filler. I like to use Dap DryDex along with a 2” or 3” putty knife to level out the surface areas.

What you want to do is make your doors, cabinets or drawer surfaces as even and level as possible. You don't want holes, cracks, bumps, humps, grooves, dents or divots in your finished cupboards. Also, if your changing hinges, knobs or handles now is the time to fill those holes.

Keep sanding and refilling until everything looks to your liking. While sanding remember to be careful of the hinges and door or drawer edges.


Raw un-painted woodwork or woodwork that have been clear coated (varnished) needs to be primed prior to your painting kitchen cupboards process. The best way to do that is to leave the doors hung and the drawers in place while at the same time being puled out of their slots. Doing so will make it easier when priming and filling (avoid the hinges though and remove your handles).

Once sanded (and dusted off), roll on a coat of primer. A quart of oil based Zinsser B-I-N Primer-Sealer or some other type of high quality bonding primer should get you started. After the primer is dry, lightly sand it again with a medium grade sponge sander. By using a good primer you'll coat everything while at the same time be binding any top layers of latex paint to the painted surface underneath.

If your cupboards are raw wood or you don't have peeling paint to contend with, a latex primer that's recommended for the type of surface being painted will work just fine.


Your now ready to prime, let the primer dry, then lightly sand the surface. As you prime don't worry about priming edges and surfaces that you can't get at. You will be able to do those after the doors and drawers are removed (to prime follow the painting directions below).

Once the doors, and drawers are primed, filled, sanded and re-primed, remove the door hinges, drawers and doors. Before doing so, number everything (with permanent marker). When marking be sure to use inconspicuous (non-visible) areas such as inside the cabinet, where the door hinges go or on the underside of the drawers themselves. Not doing so can cause you a huge amount of grief.

Place one of your drawers or doors on a drop cloth covered table. You might want to use sticks or pieces of wood to lift the items that your coating above the drop cloth. You can now prime all the areas where the hinges were (your marker number should bleed through). Remember to include the surface areas where your hinges attached to the cabinets (if needed). Keep spot priming until your all of your cupboards including the cabinets themselves are completely coated.

After the primer is dry and prior to sanding, you should be able to easily see how well your filling and sanding process turned out. You will need to re-do the last few steps if it's not up to your standards.

On the other hand if all is well go a head and lightly sand your primed surfaces one more time.


Industry standard suggest that you use a urethane or melamine coating when painting kitchen cupboards. Top of the line melamine, depending on the situation, will work the best.

Even so, a latex product can tend to preform very well just be sure to sand your surfaces throughly and use the best latex paint that you can buy.


The process is the same for priming as it is for painting kitchen cupboards. To start you will need a (1 gallon) paint can filled to 1/4 with the coating that your going to use plus a 2" to 2-1/2 inch good quality sash brush, small paint tray, 6" Whizz roller and roller cover (one that's recommended for the type of product that your using).

If your door or drawer is laying flat use sticks or boards to lift it above the drop cloth. Using 2x4s that do not protrude past the edges of the items being coated tend to work well.

Cupboard cabinets, doors and drawers can either have a flat surface (facing) or are made up of rails, stiles and panels. As an example, a rail would be at the top and bottom of a cupboard door, stiles are on the sides and the panels are the flat areas in the middle of the door, front or along the sides of a cabinet.

You want to use your brush to coat all the molded groves or indents that a drawer or door may have. As an example with a cupboard door brush the top indented groove, then the right side, followed by the bottom, finishing up with the left groove or molding indent.

You want to be working from inside to outside. Its like painting a window where you would brush close to the glass then work your way out toward the trim that goes around the window.

After all the groves are brushed you can then coat the doors edges followed by rolling the facing of the stiles, rails, and panels. Its a good idea to get the paint or primer on then back roll the entire surface in one direction moving from left to right.

While your applying your paint or primer keep a good look out for runs and sags especially on the backside of a door that's laying flat or underside of a drawer.

When rolling the stiles and rails do so in sections. What I mean is is roll only the stile, don't roll onto a rail as your rolling a stile. You want to stop and start rolling where a rail and stile are joined together at the corners.

Flat non-molded surfaces can be coated by first painting any inside or outside edges then follow up by rolling the facing etc. Your objective is to quickly get a good coat of paint on then back roll the entire surface with a reasonably dry roller. With that said, you don't want your roller to be to dry yet at the same time not so wet that your getting sags or runs especially at the door, drawer or panels edges.

Once your paint is dry lightly sand it out then paint it again. Keep rolling, brushing and sanding until all the rest of your cupboards are finished. With everything dry replace hinges, re-hang the doors and slid the drawers part way into there slots.

As a final measure apply a last coat of paint to all of the surfaces that are easy to roll, theres no need to use a brush just roll tight to the hinges. Your door handles or knobs can now be (vary carefully) re- drilled (if needed) and re-attached.

This kitchen cabinet painting page will give you a few extra pointers to complete your project.

As a final note be sure to use a product that's recommended for painting cabinets or cupboards.


I understand that this sounds like a lot of work but by doing one door or drawer at a time to start with you will get the opportunity to decide on whether to complete the rest of the project yourself or have someone else do the work for you.

With that said, a painting contractor usually charges a significant amount of money for priming, filling, sanding and painting kitchen cupboards or cabinets. Even so, if a contractor knows what they are doing it's a lot cheaper in the long run than having to replace your cupboards or kitchen cabinets.

I myself prefer to spray cupboards with an HVLP Paint Sprayer as it's faster and leaves a mor professional finish. Rolling them is much easier though if you have never used a sprayer before. You will need to decide on what works best for your particular situation.

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