In partnership withKILZ®

How to Paint Your Kitchen Cabinets

published Apr 26, 2021
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Credit: Ana Hard

Kitchen renovations can be pricey, but luckily there’s a cheap and cheerful solution used by DIYers and A-list designers alike: painting the cabinets. It totally transforms the way your space looks for a fraction of any kitchen renovation budget. We’re not going to lie: This project takes a good bit of patience and precision. But we’re confident it’s within your skillset, and we promise you the after is worth it.

What color (or colors!) you use is entirely up to you, but many pros will suggest you use one key tool in particular. KILZ® Mold & Mildew Primer is formulated for high-humidity spaces like kitchens and bathrooms, and it blocks stains, so it sets you up for an easy-to-clean surface down the road. If there’s one secret to painting kitchen cabinets correctly, it’s to invest in the prep work!

What You’ll Need

  • KILZ® Mold & Mildew Primer
  • Latex Paint
  • Painter’s Mask/Gloves/Eye Protection
  • Painter’s Tape
  • Quality Brushes & Rollers: 2″ Paint Brush, Small Foam Roller
  • Small Rolling Pan
  • Planning Supplies: Paper, Pen, Marker & Bags for Hardware
  • Cleaning Supplies: Soap, Water, Tarps & Rags
  • Screw Driver (Flat Head & Philips)
  • Sandpaper: 120 Grit (Rough), 220 Grit (Fine), 220 Grit Sanding Block (Fine)
  • If Changing Out Hardware: Wood Filler, Putty Knife, Drill & Drill Bits
Credit: Ana Hard

1. Remove cabinet doors and hardware.

To keep track of all your cabinets, draw a simple diagram and give each cabinet a number from upper to lower, left to right. Using painter’s tape and a permanent marker, label the back of each cabinet door or drawer with its corresponding number. Remove cabinet doors, handles, hinges, and hardware—and put the hardware for each cabinet in a bag labeled with its corresponding number. (Start with Cabinet 1, then 2, etc.)

2. Fill in holes if you’re changing out hardware.

If you’re changing out handles or pulls, you can keep the old ones in tagged bags and use them to match the hole location and size. Or, you can start from scratch by filling the old holes, priming, painting, and then drilling new holes for your new hardware. To fill the old holes, put painter’s tape on the back of the cabinet door, covering the hole. Fill the hole with wood putty and a putty knife. (The tape will keep it from leaking.) Once the putty has completely dried, use fine sandpaper (220-grit) to smooth out the surface. You can also use the same process to repair dents or scratches as needed.

Credit: Ana Hard

3. Sand and clean all surfaces.

Laying your cabinet doors down on a flat surface, lightly sand everything with 220-grit paper to remove oil, grease, and grime. (Don’t forget to wear a dust mask!) You’ll also be removing small nicks, dings, scratches and—importantly—the sheen or sealant on your cabinets. Use 120-grit paper for laminate cabinets or surfaces covered in a heavy shellac, but remember that you don’t need to sand down to raw wood—just enough so the primer can get a grip. Vacuum to remove the dust, then follow up with a damp cloth to wipe everything down. For tricky corners, an old toothbrush helps to get out the grit. Let surfaces dry.

Credit: Ana Hard

4. Prime with KILZ  Mold & Mildew Primer.

Kilz Mold & Mildew Primer is an important step in the process if you want a smooth finish. It covers over stains, bonds to the cabinet to create a base for color, and protects the primer film from mold and mildew growth.

Using painter’s tape, mark off surfaces that won’t be painted, like cabinet backs and the sides or insides of drawers. With a quality brush, use even strokes to paint your cabinets, working your way from back to front. Finish each stroke by brushing or rolling back into the wet primer. To avoid drips, don’t go back over areas you’ve already covered.

Let it dry. If you’ve missed an area, go back and lightly sand it with 220-grit paper. Wipe it down, let it dry, and then re-prime the surface. For larger areas, you can use a 4” inch foam roller. When complete, let the primer dry.

Credit: Ana Hard

5. Time to paint!

There’s no need to sand over primed cabinets. Just use the same brush-and-roll method you used for the primer to paint! Light cabinets might need only one coat. For dark colors, you may choose to do a second coat. Let your cabinets dry completely between coats and before moving on to the next step.

Credit: Ana Hard

6. Re-attach your cabinets and hardware.

Following your diagram from Step 1, re-attach your cabinets. If you’re replacing hardware, use the existing holes. If you’ve started over, follow the manufacturer’s template and use their instructions to measure, locate, and pre-drill holes for the hardware.