Read This Before You Paint Your Kitchen Cabinets

The right prep, primer, and paint can transform the look of your cupboards—and your entire cook space—without busting the budget

Handsome Painted Cabinets for Cookspace Appeal

If you’ve  noticed the cost of new appliances, countertops, and cabinets, it’s no surprise that renovating a kitchen is one of the most expensive remodeling projects. While few homeowners find ways to boost the look of a dated refrigerator or tired granite, transforming a kitchen by freshening the cabinets that make up most of the room’s visual space is entirely within reach. But there’s more to the job than buying a gallon of your favorite color.

The saying that a successful paint job relies on diligent prep work is fitting when finishing previously coated cabinets. Unlike drywall, cabinets are made out of a variety of materials—from wood to metal—that are then covered with a range of finishes, from oil-based paint to plastics. But armed with the right primer, quality paint, the patience not to rush the process, and a long weekend, a DIYer can overhaul a kitchen without going over budget.

Tools and Materials: Paint

Look for a paint designed for trim, often labeled enamel. The higher the sheen, the more durable the finish—high gloss will stand up better than satin.

Tools and Materials: Square Brush

The straight end of a 3- to 4-inch-wide brush makes short work of large, flat panels.

Tools and Materials: Angled Brush

A synthetic angled brush in the 2½- or 3-inch-wide range helps you get paint into corners of doors with molding, and can coat door frames in one pass.

Tools and Materials: HVLP Sprayer

Not into the hand-brushed look? Spraying on a top coat is the easiest way to get a smooth, factory-like finish. High volume/low pressure sprayers are versatile enough to spray cabinets, fence panels, or exterior trim.

Color Play: Matching Duo

Set against white countertops and a backsplash, these blue-green cabinets have an aged, hand-brushed look. The color is a calm background note to the shiny brass cabinet hardware.

Color Play: Fresh Face

Short on time? You can make a dramatic impact by changing the color on a few doors and drawer fronts. Choose cabinets that are grouped together, as seen here, to avoid a polka-dot effect.

Color Play: Top to Bottom

An easy way to unify the look of a kitchen is to use one color for cabinets and trim. Here, the same cheery yellow on the base cabinets extends up the wall to the casings and crown, contrasting with darker windows.

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