How to paint your kitchen cabinets {professionally}

Aug 23rd, 2012

I promised it wouldn’t be long before the tutorial was ready on how to paint your kitchen cabinets. I have worked hard to include all the information that you will need to do a professional job, so beware, this post is going to be LOOOOONG. It’s ok, when it’s time that you need the instructions, you will be glad.

How to paint your kitchen cabinets
I will first talk about the prep work, the list of supplies you will need, and finally the techniques you will need to complete the task of transforming your kitchen.
All of my information on this project is from Shawn from Aspen Mill. A good friend and an AMAZING cabinet maker. He does amazing work and made me an unbelievable TV frame for Jill’s house. He agreed to teach me the “RIGHT” way so that I didn’t steer anyone in the wrong direction and cause thousands of dollars in damage. This project has been in the works for months and months, and I’m so glad that Shawn was on board. {You can help thank him by checking out his shop}.
First off, the kitchen is the most important room in your home, at least it is in my home. It is the gathering place. It is used every day, all day. You deserve to have your kitchen look like YOU want it to look. One thing I have found about painting kitchen cabinets is that EVERYONE {and their dog} has something to say about this decision. They even think their opinion counts {gotta love ‘em, but it doesn’t.} So, if your dream is to have purple cabinets with a coral glaze, go for it. I might even look at you a little wonky, but who cares. You can have whatever color of cabinets you want. Kapeesh? Don’t let anyone talk you out of it.
But, now that we have established it is YOUR decision, don’t do it without doing it RIGHT. I don’t want you to paint your cabinets unless you commit to doing it correct. I want your kitchen to look like your cabinets were ORIGINALLY that color. I don’t want brush marks, or painted over hinges. I want you to do it professionally so that you aren’t mad at yourself in a year from now.  Let’s start learning how.

Step One: Take before pictures and unpack your kitchen, you will need to remove everything from your cabinets too. {Empty those bad boys}.Painting kitchen cabinets 
 Step Two: Gather supplies:
Drop cloths {we used canvas inside and plastic out in the garage, a rented paint sprayer {this one looks like the one we had, Tinted pre-catalyzed lacquer, clear Satin pre-catalyzed lacquer, Klean-strip Sander Deglosser {we found it at Home Depot}, 220 grit sand paper, Superfine sanding sponges, lint free cloths, oil based tinted glaze {optional}, a painting mask {absolutely NOT optional}, about three rolls of painter’s tape, One roll of brown paper, 2X4s, a few 5 gallon buckets {or boxes}, wood putty, a screw driver, a cordless drill, and a small compressor. How to paint kitchen cabinets copy I know that I’m going to be flooded with questions about brands…etc. so I have put together a picture gallery to help. I also don’t want you to get held-up on the project if your paint store offers a different kind of lacquer..etc. Ask the professionals. They will know which paint sprayer you need to rent. They will know which lacquer is going to be the best choice. The items in the picture are the products that Shawn from Aspen Mill recommended to me.
Step Three: Begin with the prep work. Start disassembling the cabinets and remove the doors, drawers and hardware. Put all the hardware in a safe place. We used a ziplock baggie for all the screws and hardware.
Step Four: NUMBER EACH CABINET in a way that you will remember where each one goes when you get done. We took apart the hardware and put a small number where the hardware was going to be installed again. We even put a small piece of painter’s tape over the number so that it wouldn’t get painted.

Painting kitchen cabinets number the cabinets
Step Five: Place your drop cloths on the ground, and the 2x4s on your 5 gallon buckets {or boxes} for the cabinet doors to sit on.
cabinet doors Painting kitchen cabinets
Step six: Tape off the kitchen with your brown paper and painter’s tape. Be picky and make sure that your painter’s tape is perfectly aligned and press hard to make sure it is doesn’t peel up. It helps if you put the painters tape BEHIND the cabinets a little along the edge. If you have the ability to do so, I recommend it. Be careful if you have to climb.
Painting kitchen cabinets Painting kitchen cabinets
You also need to tape around the floor and the inside of your cabinets. Nicole and Justin {my cousins who own this awesome kitchen} wanted to leave the island wood. I love mismatched looks so I loved the idea.
Painting kitchen cabinets
Step seven: Wipe down all the cabinets with Klean-Strip Sander Deglosser {let dry} and sand lightly with Superfine sanding pads. This step prepares your cabinets for the tinted lacquer {the white}. Shawn says that some cabinets {especially old ones} can have a funky reaction when painted. Cleaning them with the deglosser takes off all the dirt and grime and helps prepare the surface. The sanding pads rough up the surface a bit to help the lacquer adhere.
painting kitchen cabinets painting kitchen cabinets
Step eight: Wipe off the cabinets with a dry cloth, and spray off the dust with a small air compressor. Again, if you try and paint your cabinets with dust on them, it will not adhere. So you need to be careful to get all the dust off prior to painting.
Step nine: Paint a light coat of tinted lacquer on your cabinets. Go slow and be careful to not put too heavy of coats on. Lacquer is as thin as water and it comes out perfectly smooth, if you put on too heavy of a coat it will drip. Don’t worry if this happens, I will show you how to fix it, but if you take it slow you will prevent a lot of these mistakes. Painting Cabinets whiteYour lacquer will dry in about 20 minutes. It goes FAST when you get to this point, but beware, you absolutely need to wear a mask. The fumes are insane. In fact, if you are living in your home while you are painting your cabinets, you should consider going to a hotel for a day or two. Painting cabinets
Step ten: After you have painted a light coat of color on your cabinets and it is dry, you will see every imperfection perfectly. You will see nail holes that you didn’t know existed. You will see knots in your wood. You can now decide if you want to fill them with putty or not. We filled all the nail holes but we liked the knots. So, we filled the nail holes and left the knots. Let the putty dry completely before moving on to step eleven.
Step eleven: Sand lightly again with superfine sanding pads. Then wipe down again with lint free cloths. Spray them with the air compressor to make sure all the sanding dust is off.
painting kitchen cabinets
Step twelve: Turn into a robot and repeat. Yep. paint. another. coat. {said in a robotic voice}Nicole and Justins House 290 Nicole and Justins House 291
Don’t forget to do both the front and the back of your cabinet doors.Painting cabinets 101 {P.S. Be extra careful to let the doors dry COMPLETELY before you turn them over…they will stick if they are not and you will be super upset because you will have to sand and re-paint…yep speaking from experience here.}
Step thirteen: Sand, wipe off, and spray off the dust with the air compressor {yes in between every coat}. After the cabinets are completely painted, do a quick check to see if any touch ups need to be done. We marked the spots with painter’s tape and did one last touch up coat.
Painting kitchen cabinetsStep fourteen: Sand, wipe off, spray off. Dude, you are going to know how to do these next couple steps with your eyes closed because you guessed it…IT’S the SAME!
Step fifteen: Now’s the time to change out the tinted lacquer for the clear lacquer. Make sure you get instructions on how to do this because you will need to rinse out your sprayer {hose and all} with lacquer thinner. Then, you will put in the clear lacquer and start spraying coats of clear coat.
Step sixteen: Spray a light coat of clear lacquer on your cabinets. Be careful not to create drips and smudges. But if you do, it’s ok. I’ll teach you how to fix them.
Shawn said, “You can go a little heavier with the clear coat than with the white.” So, I took that to heart and made a HUGE mess. It was a disaster.
Painting cabinets 101
To fix drips and smudges, let the paint/or clear coat dry completely, sand with 220 softly until the smudge cannot be seen. Be careful not to push too hard because if you take off the paint you will have to put more white on {and THAT is no fun because you have to change out the clear coat in your sprayer for white and then change it back to the clear coat when you are done…yes I’m speaking form experience here}. After you can no longer see the smudge or drip, sand with the superfine sanding pad to make it soft again.
Painting cabinets 101 Painting cabinets 101

Voila! Your smudge is gone and you can move on. PHEW. I wanted to cry when this happened, but don’t panic.
Painting cabinets 101
Or if you are like me, you will have a BAD mistake to fix. {Don’t tell Justin and Nicole, they weren’t here for this part}…oh wait. I think I just let the cat out of the bag.
Painting cabinets 101 Yeah, it was terrible. Tears almost came at this point. My excuse? I couldn’t see very well because I didn’t have a light on that side….it dried, and I had to sand off the entire disaster. Again, I used 220 grit sand paper and pressed softly. Don’t push too hard or you will take off the white. Painting cabinets 101 Then use a superfine sanding pad to soften it up again. Painting cabinets 101 Voila, don’t panic it will all be ok in the end. :)
Painting cabinets 101Step seventeen: Glaze your cabinets {if you choose}. We did a light gray glaze on the cabinets to add a subtle charm and they turned out amazing. If you need instructions on how to glaze it is SUPER easy. You use a clean, lint free cloth and wipe on the glaze and wipe it off. That’s it. It isn’t hard. I have a glazing 101 post that shows instructions, but you need to use OIL based glaze for this project, not water based glaze. To glaze cabinets with oil based glaze you need to use a DRY cloth not a wet one.  glazing Step eighteen. Spray on your LAST coat of clear coat {you will need to do two coats total}. Don’t forget to sand, wipe off, and blow off with the air compressor in between each coat. You will get really good at it, I promise. After your last coat of clear coat you do not need to sand! YAHOOOO.Painting cabinets 101  After you have done two coats of clear coat, you. are. done! And you want to cry because you are soooo happy. :)
Step nineteen: Now all you have to do is reassemble, and since you numbered them perfectly and covered it with painter’s tape, all you need to do it take off the tape to reveal the numbers.
how to paint cabinetskitchen cabinets before   Lexee house, nicole cabinets after 351 Lexee house, nicole cabinets after 354Nicole and Justins House 261 Lexee house, nicole cabinets after 329 They look like they were painted in a cabinet shop. I feel like a proud mother showing off her child.

Lexee house, nicole cabinets after 335 Lexee house, nicole cabinets after 351Nicole and Justins House 257 Nicole and Justins House 259how to paint cabinets white Lexee house, nicole cabinets after 352 Lexee house, nicole cabinets after 353

I am in love.

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