Print Friendly and PDF

Tips for painting kitchen cabinets

I often receive enquiries for homeowners wanting to paint their kitchen cabinets and the best products and methods for painting kitchen cabinets. Here are some tips to guide you.

There are various options for refreshing kitchen cabinets with a couple of coats of paint, but before you start it is important to note that the most important step when deciding to paint your kitchen cabinets is to take the time to prepare the finish for painting.


A painted finish needs to be able to bond properly to the surface. Any dirt or grease that covers the cabinets and frames will interfere with the painting process. Cabinets must be lightly sanded down with 120-grit sandpaper to ensure a good bond for the paint - this applies to both solid wood and melamine.

Before sanding take the time to do any repairs or touch-ups that will show up once the cabinets have been painted. You can use wood filler for small repairs, or Alcolin QuikWood to fill damaged areas.

When it comes to sanding you have the option to do hand sanding with sandpaper, a sanding block and sanding sponge (to get into detailed areas), or to use an orbital sander. A small multi-sander like the Bosch Primo is ideal for this type of project and is reasonably inexpensive. The design allows this compact yet powerful sander to sand in corners and hard to reach areas and cuts down on laborious hand sanding. After sanding make sure to wipe down to remove all traces of dust.



There are various paints that can be used for kitchen cabinets, however it is important to choose a paint that is not only durable, but one that is easy to keep clean. Kitchens are hard working rooms that are scrubbed and wiped down on a daily basis. 

Pop into a paint store or your local Builders and you can be confused by the various paints on the shelf. It is easy to be confused and end up using a paint that simply will not meet up with the demands. When deciding to paint your kitchen cabinets you should also determine whether you want to hand paint, use a Bosch PFS spray system, or use spray paint. Knowing how you want to apply the painted finish will narrow down the type of paint you need.

Here are a selection of paints that can be used on kitchen cabinets:

◊ Oil- or Water-Based Enamel

Of these two, oil-based enamel provides a long-lasting finish that is easy to clean, but one that needs to be applied using a paintbrush and takes a long time to dry. If using oil-based enamel paint shop for one that is gel formula or non-drip, as these provide a smoother finish. Oil-based enamel is available in eggshell and gloss finishes.

Water-based enamel is the eco-friendly alternative to oil-based paint and one that can be applied manually or using a spray gun.  Water-based enamel dries to a satin finish and can be tinted in a wide range of colours.

◊ Rust-Oleum Gloss Enamel spray paint

As with oil-based enamel in a tin, gloss enamel spray paint offers a hard wearing finish with the advantage of easy application. Added benefits of using an enamel spray paint is that it covers without leaving brush strokes and covers detail and frames.

◊ Rust-Oleum 2X or Universal spray paint

Almost as durable as gloss enamel spray paint, 2X or Universal spray paint is easy to apply and comes in a huge selection of colour options.  

◊ Rust-Oleum Chalked ultra matt paint

If you are wanting a cottage, shabby chic or distressed finish for your kitchen cabinets, then Chalked paint finished with a top coat is an option to consider. However, do bear in mind that any chalk paint is not a finish that can be scrubbed regularly and may need to be touched up over time. 


Before you crack open the paint be sure to put down drop cloths to protect floors and surfaces. Use masking tape and newspaper to cover up fittings and make sure you have space to move around.

If you are spray painting doors and cabinet frames you can remove the doors and paint these separately. Ensure the room is well-ventilated.

When using oil-based enamel or gloss enamel spray paint you will also need to stock up on lacquer thinners for clean up. This is where using a spray paint product is better, since there are no brushes to clean.


Painted kitchen cabinets are just that... painted. Care should be taken to avoid scratching the paintwork by cleaning with cloths and a non-abrasive liquid cleaner.

When looked after there is no reason why painted cabinets should not look good for a long time, and the nice thing is that you can easily touch up later on if required.


back to top