Painting Kitchen Cabinets Gray? Here’s How to Get It Right

If your kitchen is feeling tired and dated, painting the cabinets gray can give it a fresh, modern look without the high cost of brand new cabinets. Gray is versatile enough to work with nearly any style, from farmhouse chic to sleek contemporary. But painting cabinets isn’t as simple as grabbing a can of paint. Follow these tips to choose the perfect shade of gray and get a flawless, professional finish.

Why Go Gray?

Gray kitchen cabinets are having a major moment right now. The neutral tone pairs beautifully with any color scheme, from white and light woods to bold colors like navy blue. Gray adds stylish sophistication without feeling too dark or somber.

Painting worn oak or outdated cabinets gray instantly modernizes them at a fraction of the cost of new cabinets. It’s an affordable way to transform the look of your kitchen in a weekend. And because gray works with so many design styles, it has versatile resale value if you decide to sell your home.

Choosing the Best Gray Paint Color

With so many gray paint options out there, it can be tricky to select the right undertone for your space. Here are some tips for choosing a gray that you’ll love:

  • Factor in the existing colors and finishes in your kitchen like countertops, floors and backsplashes. You want your gray to complement what’s already there.
  • Consider the lighting. Is your kitchen bright and sunlit or do you rely more on artificial lighting? Cool-toned grays look best in bright spaces while warm grays are ideal for darker rooms.
  • Decide on the overall mood you want to create – light and airy, relaxed, moody and dramatic, etc. Warm grays have a cozy feel while cooler grays feel more sleek and contemporary.
  • Test out paint samples on the cabinets themselves before fully committing to see how the gray looks in your specific kitchen.

Some popular cabinet gray paint colors to consider are:

how to paint kitchen cabinets gray
  • Benjamin Moore Chelsea Gray – A rich, warm deep gray with brown undertones.
  • Sherwin-Williams Repose Gray – A light warm greige that avoids looking too brown.
  • Behr Silver Marlin – A gorgeous blue-gray that brightens up the space.

Prep Work is Crucial

Preparing your cabinets properly before painting is the key to getting an smooth, evenly coated finish. Here are the must-do prep steps:

  1. Clean the cabinet surfaces thoroughly with a degreaser or TSP substitute to remove any oils, grease and grime. Rinse and let dry.
  2. Sand lightly with fine 220-grit sandpaper to rough up the surface so the paint can adhere properly.
  3. Fill any holes, scratches and imperfections with wood filler and let dry completely.
  4. Apply a high-quality primer like Zinsser’s Bulls Eye 1-2-3 and let dry.

Be patient with the prep work, don’t rush through it. Taking your time will lead to better final results. Use painter’s tape for clean edges and lay down drop cloths in the workspace. Wear safety goggles and a mask when sanding to avoid inhaling fine dust particles.

Painting Techniques

When it’s finally time to start painting, you have three main application options: brushing, rolling or spraying. Each has pros and cons.


Using a high-quality angled sash brush to apply the paint by hand takes patience but gives you great control, especially for cutting-in around edges and lines. This works best for smaller cabinets and detail work.


A mini foam roller allows you to quickly apply gray paint to large flat surfaces like cabinet fronts and sides. Look for high density mini rollers made for smooth surfaces. Load the roller evenly to prevent blotchiness.


For those comfortable using a paint sprayer, this is the fastest method to get full cabinet coverage. Wagner and HomeRight make affordable paint sprayer kits for beginners. Remove doors and hardware before spraying.

Regardless of technique, apply in thin, even coats and give proper drying time between coats to avoid drips and runs in the paint. Most cabinet paints require 2-3 coats for full opacity over wood.

Use Quality Cabinet Paint

Investing in premium cabinet paint ensures you’ll get a smooth, durable finish that lasts. Look for brand name paint lines from Sherwin-Williams, Benjamin Moore and Behr made specifically for painting kitchen cabinets. You want paint with a satin, semi-gloss or gloss sheen.

Oil-based paints provide the hardest finish, but latex acrylics have less fumes and cleanup is easier with just soap and water. Primer, paint brushes, rollers, trays and other supplies can add $50-100 onto the total cost for DIY painting.

Hiring a Professional

While a motivated DIYer can certainly paint their own kitchen cabinets, hiring a professional painter that specializes in cabinets ensures a flawless finish. Experienced painters have specialized tools and methods for achieving a smooth, durable coating.

Professional cabinet painting costs between $2,000-5,000 on average based on the size of your kitchen and local labor rates. While pricier than doing it yourself, pro results last longer and avoid the potential hassle and frustration of painting cabinets as an amateur.

The Painting Process Step-by-Step

Once you’ve selected the perfect gray color, prepped your cabinets properly and have your painting supplies ready to go, follow these simple steps:

  1. Lay down drop cloths in your workspace and remove cabinet doors and hardware. Give doors a fine sanding.
  2. Wipe all cabinet surfaces with a tack cloth to remove any dust from sanding and prep work.
  3. Stir your paint thoroughly before starting. Apply your first coat using a brush, roller or sprayer using long, even strokes.
  4. Allow the first coat to fully dry then sand lightly with fine grit sandpaper to smooth out any brush marks or uneven texture.
  5. Vacuum and wipe down the cabinets to remove dust before applying your second coat. Repeat for a third coat if needed.
  6. Allow the final coat to cure for at least 24 hours before reattaching the cabinet doors and hardware.

Take your time with each step – slow and steady yields the best looking cabinets. With patience and proper prep work, you can achieve a gorgeous, professional-looking gray kitchen cabinet makeover.

The amazing thing about gray is that it complements nearly any kitchen design style from modern to farmhouse. Here are some quick tips for styling your gray cabinets:

  • For counters, white quartz, marble, butcher block and wood tones all pair beautifully with gray cabinets.
  • Use natural textures like stone or brick backsplashes to add visual interest.
  • Warm metal hardware like brass, gold and champagne bronze helps gray cabinets shine.
  • Incorporate accent colors like navy blue, sage green, crisp white or black for a sophisticated color scheme.

Your kitchen is going to feel brand new with the freshly painted cabinets. It’s amazing what a simple paint color change can do to transform the look, feel and functionality of your kitchen. Enjoy your stylish space!

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