If your kitchen cupboards are looking worn and dated, a fresh coat of paint can make a world of difference. Painting cupboards is an affordable way to update the look of your kitchen without a full remodel. The key to success is proper prep work, choosing the right paint and finish, and applying it correctly for a seamless, durable finish.
We’ll cover picking the best type of paint, prepping your cupboards, primers vs no primers, application tips for a flawless finish, and top mistakes to avoid. With the right products and techniques, you can easily refresh your kitchen cupboards with a durable, beautiful painted finish.
Types of Kitchen Cupboard Materials
The first step is identifying what type of cupboards you currently have. Different materials require different paints and levels of prep work. Common kitchen cupboard types include:
Real Wood Cabinets
Real wood cabinets are a classic choice found in many kitchens. Paint adheres well to wood, but proper sanding and priming are important prep steps. For real wood, high quality latex or acrylic paints deliver the best finish and durability.
Laminate cupboards have a plastic laminate coating over particleboard or MDF. The slick surface needs proper prep and adhesion primers so paint will stick. Oil or latex bonding primers create a surface paint can adhere to.
Thermofoil cupboards are covered in a thin layer of plastic that looks like real wood. This material needs heavy sanding or etching so paint can bond. Specialty bonding primers designed for plastic are required for the best results.
Melamine has a smooth plastic coating that resists paint adhesion. Proper etching and priming with a bonding primer designed for laminates and plastics are musts for successful painting. Oil-based primers work best for getting paint to stick to tricky surfaces like melamine.
Prep Work is Key
Preparing your cupboards properly before painting is one of the most vital steps for achieving a smooth, lasting finish. Proper prep removes contaminants and creates an optimal surface for paint to adhere to.
Cleaning Cupboards Thoroughly
Grease, dirt, and grime can interfere with proper paint bonding. Use a degreasing cleaner or TSP substitute to thoroughly clean cupboard surfaces and remove any oils or residue. Rinse with clean water and let dry fully.
Lightly Sanding Surfaces
Lightly sanding with fine 120-150 grit sandpaper creates a slight texture for paint to grip. Be careful not to sand too aggressively and avoid sanding through laminate finishes. Wipe away dust with a tack cloth when done.
Removing Doors and Hardware
Taking cupboard doors off the hinges allows you to fully paint the door fronts and cabinet interiors with ease. Number doors and remove hinges and hardware prior to starting. This also prevents paint splatter on your handles and hinges.
Primer vs No Primer
Primers aren’t strictly required but provide major benefits when refinishing cupboards. The right primer enhances paint adhesion and durability. But certain DIY-friendly cupboard paints don’t require a separate primer.
Benefits of Priming First
Primers seal surfaces and give paint an uniform base to stick to. They help paint last longer without peeling or chipping. Primers also allow for better coverage with less topcoat paint needed. Oil-based primers in particular provide excellent adhesion on slick surfaces like laminate and melamine.
When You Can Skip the Primer
Quality all-in-one paint and primer blends allow you to skip priming for wood, MDF, and other porous surfaces. But laminates and other slick finishes still benefit from oil-based bonding primers for best results. Read paint labels to see if priming is required before applying to cupboards.
The Best Paints for Kitchen Cupboards
Choosing the right paint makes a big difference in your finished results. The best cupboard paints deliver flawless coverage, excellent adhesion, and durable protection in busy kitchens.
Durable Acrylic Latex Paints
For real wood, high-quality acrylic latex paints provide a durable and easy to clean finish. Leading brands like Benjamin Moore Advance and Sherwin-Williams ProClassic offer great coverage and protection.
Bonding Primers for Laminates
Laminate surfaces need adhesion primers before painting so the finish sticks. Zinsser and Kilz make great options like BIN Primer and Kilz Adhesion specifically formulated for slick surfaces.
All-in-One Paint and Primer
Quality all-in-ones like Behr Premium Plus Ultra and Valspar Cabinet Enamel provide paint and primer together, eliminating the need to prime first for many surfaces. Always check if bonding primer is still needed for surfaces like melamine.
Choosing the Right Sheen
Finish sheen impacts the look and durability of your painted cupboards. The right sheen hides imperfections while still being easy to clean. We recommend:
Satin or Eggshell Finishes
Satin and eggshell finishes provide subtle shine while still masking flaws well. The soft glow hides imperfections better than higher sheens. These finishes are also easy to clean and touch up.
Avoiding Flat or High-Gloss Paints
Flat paint stains easily and needs frequent touching up. High-gloss accentuates imperfections. Both require meticulous surface prep to look good. For cupboards, satin or eggshell provide the best blend of durability and appearance.
Application Tips and Tricks
Applying cupboard paint properly ensures you achieve an even, consistent finish. Follow these tips for flawless results:
Using High Density Foam Rollers and Brushes
Quality application tools create a smooth finish. Opt for high density foam rollers designed for smooth surfaces. Angled sash brushes easily reach corners and details. Purchase quality brushes and rollers specifically for fine finish work.
Thinning Paint for a Smooth Finish
Thin paint slightly with water or enamel paint thinner following label directions. Thinned paint levels more evenly. For final coats, thin by about 10% for the smoothest results.
Applying in Thin, Even Coats
Apply paint in multiple thin, smooth coats versus one thick coat. Thin coats create a more flawless, pro-like finish. Allow proper dry time between coats.
Sanding Lightly Between Coats
Gently sand surfaces with 220 grit sandpaper between coats to smooth away any imperfections. Be careful not to sand through the paint. Wipe away dust with a tack cloth before adding the next coat.
Curing and Cleaning Painted Cupboards
Understanding paint curing times and cleaning methods helps keep your painted cupboards looking like new.
Dry Time and Curing Paint Fully
Paint dries to the touch quickly but needs weeks to fully cure and harden completely. Allow at least 2 weeks before cleaning or replacing doors back on frames. Avoid scrubbing or excessive moisture until paint has cured.
Gently wipe painted cupboards with a soft sponge or cloth and mild soap and water. Avoid abrasive cleaners or scrubbing until the paint has fully cured. Harsh cleaners can damage the painted finish.
Touch Up Tools and Techniques
Keep leftover paint to easily touch up any damages down the road. Touch ups blend better when the paint has fully cured. Use a small artist’s brush to neatly apply paint just to damaged areas.
Achieving a Flawless, Seamless Finish
With careful prep and application, you can achieve a beautifully seamless finish on DIY painted cupboards. Here are some tips for avoiding common finish flaws:
Prevention and Fixes for Brush Marks
Brush gently and thin paint to minimize visible brush strokes. Sand marks lightly between coats. Finish with a foam roller stipple to further blend and hide any remaining marks.
Dealing with Drips, Sags, and Uneven Coats
Avoid thick coats that can sag and drip by maintaining a thin application. Gently sand drips and uneven areas between coats. Check coats with raking light to spot flaws.
Top Mistakes to Avoid
Rushing paint drying times can ruin the finish. Allow proper cure times between coats and before use. Inadequate prep and priming on laminates can also lead to chipping and peeling down the road. Take your time prepping properly for success.
Refreshing kitchen cupboards with a fresh coat of paint is an easy DIY project that can instantly update the look of your space. The keys are proper prep work like thorough cleaning and light sanding, choosing durable paints designed for kitchen use, and applying multiple thin coats for a flawless finish. With the right products and techniques, you can achieve restaurant-quality results.
Painting your kitchen cupboards allows you to update their color and finish while saving the cost of full cabinet replacements. Prepping properly and applying a bonding primer on laminate surfaces are vital first steps. Quality latex and enamel paints designed for kitchen cabinets deliver maximum durability. Careful application and allowing proper cure times gives you a spectacular, resilient finish able to withstand everyday use. Follow the tips in this guide and you’ll gain gorgeous, revitalized cupboards with a fresh painted facelift.