Can You Paint Kitchen Cabinets? (If Yes, Then How?)

Remodeling your kitchen is always a tedious, overpriced task and kitchen cabinets are no exception. But, since kitchen cabinets influence the kitchen decor largely, you’ll have to ensure that they are spick, span, and perfect enough for a trendy home depot.

And, if your cabinets are old but in good shape, you can still paint them for a quick, budget-friendly revamp. But, can all kitchen cabinets be painted? If yes, how do you paint kitchen cabinets the right way without creating a huge mess? Let us find out.

Yes, you can paint kitchen cabinets, but the ease of painting depends on the cabinet material. Generally, you can easily paint wooden cabinets without much prior preparation, but with the right tools and primer, you can even paint laminated, steel, or PVC cabinets at home. 

Which Kitchen Cabinets Can Be Painted?

Surprisingly, kitchen cabinets come in various sizes, materials, finishes, and textures, but not each one is friendlier with paint. So, which types of cabinets should you paint? First, let’s find out concerning materials.

1. Can You Paint Your Wooden Kitchen Cabinet?

Black Handles

Yes, while you can easily paint all types of wooden kitchen cabinets, straight-grained cabinets such as Birch, Alder, Soft Maple, and Poplar are relatively easier to paint. But open-grained cabinets like Oak or Soft Maple are tricky and require filling and sanding before painting.

However, suppose you have glossy finished or transparent stained cabinets. In that case, it’s advisable to create a rough foundation layer by rubbing them off with sandpaper or using a liquid deglosser to help the paint stick and have a smooth finish. If your cabinets are plain, solid wood, you can skip this step and start painting right away.

Quick Tip: Since wood is a porous material, it will absorb a lot of paint and may require 2-3 coats to achieve the desired finish. Hence, it’s advisable to use a primer beforehand and finish it using water-based paint for a uniform finish.

2. Can You Paint MDF Kitchen Cabinets?

Painted MDF Kitchen Cabinets

Yes, MDF is a relatively easy-to-paint cabinet material. But, just like the rest of the interior materials, it needs basic surface preparation and sanding before anyone can paint it.

Here, you have two options. You can either seal off the edges of the MDF cabinet door using an oil-based primer and paint it off with a glossy latex or enamel paint for a bright, shiny look.

Or, you can sprinkle some drywall compound or putty on your cabinet doors and finish them off with 2-3 coats of oil-based paint for an easily cleanable surface.

Quick Tip: You can use oil paint only for the first coat of cabinet paint and use a water-based paint for the successive coats to save up on costs.

3. Can You Paint Veneer Cabinets?

Gray Handles

Yes, veneer cabinets, like IKEA, can be easily painted as they are nothing but thin sheets of rich hardwood pasted on a piece of particleboard. But if your veneers have a polyurethane or UV coating, you must first sand them and use a primer to create a rough surface that can easily hold the paint.

Quick Tip: Double-check the veneer’s surface for any cracks, chips, dents, and breaks, and seal them off with solid wood glue.

4. Can You Paint Over Laminate Cabinets?

Yellow Cabinets

Yes, you can paint laminate cabinets, but it is more difficult and time-consuming than painting wooden cabinets. Plus, since laminate is a composite, plastic-like material, you’ll need to clean the surface thoroughly before painting cabinets.

Here, you can follow two methods. First, you can sand the laminate surface using fine sandpaper, add a primer, and finish it with any melamine, acrylic, or oil-based paint that sticks easily to the surface.

Alternatively, you can remove the laminate using low heat from a hairdryer and paint it later as any regular wooden cabinet.

Quick Tip: Always clean grime and grease off your laminate cabinets with a trisodium phosphate solution to make sanding and painting easier.

5. Can You Paint PVC Kitchen Cabinets?

Orange Cabinets

PVC cabinets are indeed tough to paint since they are glossy and plastic-like. But, you can still paint them by sanding their surface and using 2-3 coats of any oil-based primer. After priming, you can paint cabinets with any water-based paint like acrylic or latex or use spray paint as a quick alternative.

Quick Tip: You can add another layer of clear polyurethane varnish to your painted cabinets to prevent the paint from peeling or warping quickly.

6. Can You Paint Thermofoil Cabinets?

Yes, you can paint thermofoil cabinets, provided that their vinyl layer isn’t peeling or yellowing. Then, all you need to do is scuff the surface with a high-grit sandpaper and apply the primer to roughen the cabinet door, and then you can paint the cabinets any color you like. 

Generally, 2-3 coats of latex paint are enough, but you can even add a water-based polyurethane topcoat for extended durability.

Additionally, remember that thermofoil cabinets give out fumes while priming and painting. Hence, always paint these surfaces in a well-ventilated area or balcony.

Quick Tip: Never expose your thermofoil cabinets to heat and kitchen moisture for about 7-10 days, as the paint may warp and peel off quickly. Instead, please keep them in a shady, airy space where they can dry well.

7. Can You Paint Metal Or Stainless Steel Cabinets?

Red Cabinets

Yes, paint metal cabinets can be painted, but since they are glossy and smooth, the paint will take a while to stick to the surface. To paint such cabinets, you’ll need to rub off all the dirt and grease with an industrial cleaner, sand the surface and apply a metal primer before painting them with an oil-based paint.

Quick Tip: You can even spray paint your cabinets using hard-wearing enamel paint. Spray painting will ensure that you reach all the hooks and nooks of your cabinet doors and will be a fun, mess-free job.

Which Type Of Kitchen Cabinets Cannot Be Painted?

  • Damaged, Warped, or an Old Kitchen Cabinet: If your cabinets are old, chipped, or warped, it’s better to replace them than paint. Not only will the paint peel off and crack at the joints of these kitchen cabinets, but it won’t even offer a smooth finish.
  • Open-grained Wooden Cabinets: Open-grained wooden cabinets like cherry or mahogany often have huge pores, holes, cracks, and dents that stand out even more if painted. Hence, you better stain them with a color of your choice.
  • Oak Cabinets: Oak adds sores and a bubble-like appearance to paint and does not aid a smooth finish. Hence, it’s better to skip painting and use stains or laminates.
  • Hard Maple Cabinets: Maple cabinets expand and contract when subjected to heat and moisture in the kitchen. Hence, the paint won’t last long and might peel easily.

What is the Best Paint For Kitchen Cabinets?

Painting Cabinet Door

While there are many types of paints for interior and exterior painting, the best paints for kitchen cabinets are usually oil-based or latex paints. But, simple egg-shell or flat paints are the least preferred options because they are challenging to clean and aren’t durable against heat.

1. Oil-based paint: Oil-based paints are a top choice for MDF and veneer cabinets and guarantee a smooth, cleanable surface in no time. Oil paint stands stiff against excessive scrubbing and cleaning and even helps hide minor flaws and fillers in the kitchen cabinet.

However, they take a lot of time to dry and may turn yellowish with time. Hence, always ensure adequate natural and ambient light for a fresh, bright look.

2. Water-based paint: Water-based paints such as latex are washable, durable, and smooth, preferred for materials like PVC, metal, and thermofoil, from where a simple oil paint layer peels out.

The important thing to remember is that water-based paints are more likely to show the defects and flaws present in the cabinet doors and need proper fillers before painting.

Best Paint Finish For Kitchen Cabinets

Although the best cabinet finish for your kitchen depends on the decor style in your space, semi-gloss, satin, or glossy finishes are much more durable and useful in the long run. Moreover, matte finishes are not feasible in a high-traffic, moisture-locked area like the kitchen.

Generally, modern, minimal or industrial kitchens go well with glossy or satin finishes and provide a bright, refreshing look, while eclectic or transitional kitchens look regal with semi-gloss finishes.

And if you need a rustic or farmhouse look, you can even play with faux finishes like linen, crackle, rag-rolling, and color wash.

Alternatively, you can even hire a professional painter for stylized cabinets, special effects, or even a textured look for your kitchen island.

What Is The Best Spray Paint For Kitchen Cabinets?

Repainting Cabinet Drawer With Spray Paint

Many spray paints are available in the market, but the best ones to finish your kitchen cabinets are solvent-based spray paints, emulsions, and timber preservatives. These will provide a smooth finish on timber, vinyl, or PVC cabinets and create a moisture-resistant film that will protect your cabinets from further damage.

On the other hand, 2k spray paints or oil-based enamel sprays are not practical for kitchen cabinets since they take about 12-13 hours to dry and are difficult to use with traditional air sprayers.

Do’s Of Painting Kitchen Cabinets

  • Cover all countertops, faucets, and sinks with rosin paper before painting, especially when using a paint sprayer.
  • Label every cabinet door and drawer front by using painter’s tape and put the hinges and hardware in separate pouches so that you can easily find them later.
  • Always remove your cabinet doors and drawer fronts before painting, and paint them in a well-ventilated space where they can dry quickly.
  • Clean each nook of the cabinets with lemon water, baking soda, spot cleaners, and cleansers before cabinet painting, and never just paint them as they are.
  • Always wipe the sanded surface with a wet drop cloth to remove all the particles and sawdust before painting.
  • Use a thicker, less transparent primer to change your cabinet color drastically. For example, if you want to change the cabinet color from black to lime green, use a whitish primer that hides off all the tones of black.
  • Always use thin, multiple coats of cabinet paint; rather than a single, thick coat that comes out easily.
  • Use a fast-drying enamel or acrylic primer to speed up the process.
  • Support your painted cabinet frame and doors with plywood or felt supports instead of rubber ones that might pull the paint off.
  • Use a synthetic brush if you use latex paint and a coarse bristled if you prefer oil paint.

Don’ts Of Painting Kitchen Cabinets

  • Never use cheaper chalk paint to paint the cabinets. Chalk paint doesn’t suit the high usage of cabinets and might come off easily when exposed to heat and moisture in the kitchen.
  • Never use wax to seal off the gaps, chips, and defects on the cabinet surface, and always pick a good quality filler like steel wool or wood filler to prepare the surface for painting.
  • Never apply paint as it is on glossy or transparent stained wood cabinets, and always prepare the surface using a sandpaper or liquid sander.
  • Never use a roller to paint your cabinet’s ‘first coat.’ Instead, prefer square or round brushstrokes that can get to all the tiny spaces.
  • Never sand too much, or you’ll have marks all over your cabinets. Instead, brush just enough to create a rough surface for the paint to stick on.

Can You Paint Kitchen Cabinets Without Sanding?

Generally, most kitchen cabinets will require sanding and scrubbing before painting them. But, you can skip the sanding part if you have solid wood cabinets and instead use a liquid deglosser and primer to speed up the kitchen cabinet painting.

Do You Use Regular Wall Paint To Paint Your Cabinets?

No, you cannot paint cabinets merely with any paint available in the market. Cabinet paints must be durable, more resistant to heat and moisture, and more flexible than most interior paints. Hence, you need superior, high-quality paints like ‘Full gloss paints from Farrow & Ball,’ ‘Satin paint from Benjamin Moore,’ ‘Cabinet Enamel from Valspar,’ and ‘Cabinet Latex by Rustoleum.’

Do You Paint Both Sides Of The Cabinet Doors?

Yes, it would be best always to paint both sides of the cabinet doors because the interior side is clearly visible when you open a cabinet. Moreover, if you have glass panels or louvered cabinets, painting both sides becomes even more mandatory for a seamless, well-knit look in both open and closed positions.

How Much Does It Cost To Paint Kitchen Cabinets?

While the total expenditure depends on the type of paint, the number of cabinets, their size, and the finish you choose, cabinet painting costs roughly 3-10 $ per square foot.

How To Get A Smooth Finish When Painting Kitchen Cabinets?

The key to getting a smooth finish when painting kitchen cabinets is to use a good quality, slightly opaque primer that blocks the existing cabinet color and helps the paint stand out. Moreover, using a high-quality lacquer paint with a paint sprayer device will give you the most smooth and durable finish but will take a lot of drying time.

You can paint kitchen cabinets in the shade and finish of your choice and instantly uplift your kitchen. All you need is to do some cleaning, sanding, and applying primer, and you are all set! Hence, instead of replacing your existing cabinets now and then, consider repainting them to spruce up your kitchen’s look in an inexpensive, budget-friendly way.

Once you decide to paint your cabinets, the next step is to finalize the color. And, if you are specifically searching for cabinet colors that go with gray walls, we have got you covered.