Tips & Tricks for How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets

Want to give your kitchen a facelift? Painting cabinets might require you to be a weekend warrior, but the finished product is worth the effort and a fraction of the cost compared to a total remodel. We’re sharing our favorite tips and tricks for how to paint kitchen cabinets, so you can make the hardest working room in your home feel brand new.

A tuxedo kitchen featuring white cabinets and a kitchen island with cabinets painted in Urbane Brinze SW 7048.
Featured Colors: Urbane Bronze SW 7048 (Island Cabinets), Modern Gray SW 7632 (Backsplash) 

Prep Makes Perfect

We believe in the mantra “prep makes perfect” – especially when it comes to projects like painting kitchen cabinets. Always start by removing cabinet doors and hardware, so there’s nothing in the way when it comes time to paint. Once everything is off, you can clean the surfaces getting painted and protect the ones that aren’t, like countertops and cabinet interiors, with painter’s tape.

DIY TIP: Use a degreasing cleaner to help remove oils that naturally build up on kitchen cabinets over time.

A woman cleaning the surface of her kitchen island.

Use the Right Primer & Paint

Just like prep makes perfect, so does the right primer and paint. Extreme Bond Primer offers exceptional adhesion for hard-to-stick surfaces like cabinets. Plus, when you pair this primer with the power of a clean surface, you might not even need to sand. Once you’ve taken care of primer, the best paint for cabinets is Emerald® Urethane Trim Enamel. This product creates a hard, durable finish that withstands the wear and tear of frequently used areas like kitchens.

DIY TIP: Gloss, semi-gloss and satin are all perfect sheen choices because they help create a smooth finish when painting kitchen cabinets.

A woman holding a can of Emerald paint.

Select a Hue (or Two)

When it comes to picking a color, our Director of Color Marketing, Sue Wadden, shares what she’s seeing in the kitchen. “Right now, painted cabinets are the trend – specifically whites and grays.” And while you can never go wrong with these classic neutrals, earthy shades like Urbane Bronze are becoming another go-to choice. 

If you find yourself thinking two colors are more fun than one, you can also paint upper cabinets in a lighter color and lower cabinets in a darker color to create a two-toned look, also known as the tuxedo kitchen. “This kitchen trend is a great way to give cabinets or islands a signature look,” suggests Wadden.

DIY TIP: Order color chips or peel and stick samples to try out the colors you’re thinking of using.

A woman painting her kitchen island Urbane Bronze SW 7048.

Upgrade Hardware

After you’ve given your cabinets a new coat of color, they’ll be begging for some new accessories, too. Our partners at Rejuvenation have a collection of timeless hardware that keeps cabinets looking in style for generations to come. Whether you opt for knobs, pulls, or a mix of the two, this simple update is the perfect way to give newly painted cabinets their finishing touch.

A woman installing door pulls on her kitchen island cabinets.

Now that you’ve got some tips and tricks up your sleeve, it’s time to start planning your kitchen refresh. Follow our step-by-step tutorial on how to paint kitchen cabinets and drop a comment below to share which paint color you’re thinking about using!

Woman bent down taking a selfie showing off her kitchen island painted in Urbane Bronze SW 7048.
Featured Colors: Urbane Bronze SW 7048 (Island Cabinets), Modern Gray SW 7632 (Backsplash)

Don’t forget to share your kitchen makeover with us! Tag your photos on social media with #SWColorLove or upload them to our gallery for a chance to be featured. 

37 Comments

  1. Great article and just what I needed. I was looking at white for the kitchen wall cabs but since I like slightly creamy whites, I’m not sure what to choose. Also, I was thinking of making the island a blue color. But I wasn’t sure if stain would work. I saw one picture I liked but the color was darker than I thought like anew gray or agreeable gray on cabs and mayonnaise on walls. I’m not sure about the blue but it had a slight teal shade to the blue.

    Marjorie Easton
  2. Like your product but had to shift to a HOme Depot ( 130 gallons needed)
    Could only find 10 gallons in zNorth Georgia— how can HD have product to sell and you don’t?? Pretty disappointed

    Dr Bob Smith
    • Hello Dr. Smith, We are very sorry for any inconvenience and recommend getting in touch with your local store or rep. They can place you on an out of stock list and contact you as soon as the product you need becomes available. To find your local Sherwin-Williams store please click the link below. https://www.sherwin-williams.com/store-locator Thank you!

      Sherwin-Williams
  3. I can’t say enough good things about the Emerald Urethane product. Remodeling a recently purchased home and have painted kitchen cabinets, laundry room cabinets, wet bar cabinets, and game room cabinets with this product (73 doors and drawers total). A great product (we applied with a HLVP sprayer). Also manager at local SW store was great to work with.

    Tanga Teasley
  4. painting of kitchen cabinets…..note….over kitchen sink a very large stained glass in an opening…..with similiar color of the perfect perrywinkle sw9065
    upper cabinets…novel lilac sw 6.836 lower perrywinkle sw9065
    walls pure white…sw7005 or wisful blue 9065

    stained glass also has light blue in glass….

  5. Hi.
    I am rebuilding my kitchen cupboards. Want to use light colors preferably tints of white as I don’t like a dark kitchen. What’s your recommendation? And which brand for easy cleaning.

    dianne ruthlyn antoine
    • Hello Diane, we will need a little more info before making a recommendation. What other colors are in your kitchen as far as flooring, countertops, backsplash, walls? Let us know when you get a minute. Thanks!

      Sherwin-Williams
  6. This article does not mention what the cabinets are made of–wood, laminate? I have old laminate cabinets that I would love to paint, but am worried about adhesion. Does the above process work on laminate?

  7. How did you get rid of the ‘stipple’ or brush marks on the final product. When it showed her rolling the paint there was a lot of stipple. Do you suggest a leveling agent and does that work??

  8. I used the Emerald brand to redo my kitchen cabinets and they turned out great. The product really does wear well (about a year so far). This is what I recommend:

    1. Use a product like TSP to remove grease and other substances and to prep the surface,
    2. Sand lightly before applying your primer, especially in the areas that get a lot of use (e.g. around the cabinet knobs). Be sure to use a damp cloth (or tacky cloth) to wipe things down after.
    3. USE A GOOD PRIMER! I noticed the difference where I didn’t. It really is important.
    4. Sherwin Williams says Emerald will cover with one coat, but plan for two or maybe three, especially if you are going over a darker paint color. It’s not that it doesn’t cover (no paint really does in one coat), it’s more that these are high wear/highly used surfaces.
    5. DO NOT RUSH! This will be a week long daily process of applying coats. Let them sit at least 24 hours between coats…longer if you can.
    6. Let the cabinet doors cure for a few days at least before you put them back on. The cabinet frames are not as important because they are not really touched much, but you want the finish to really set up before you start handling them to reinstall.
    7. Go easy on them for a little bit (can’t remember what SW recommends for full curing).

    This product is fantastic for this purpose – but it’s not at all like painting a wall.

    I made some errors along the way and learned from it, but they really do turn out great if you do it right and take your time. My cabinets have been used (and abused) for over a year, they are white painted over a dark blue paint, and they still look fantastic.

    Hope this helps.

    Andrew Davidson
  9. I painted a bathroom cabinet using SW Extreme Bond Primer and Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel satin finish. It was much easier to get a nice paint job than I thought. However, I’m wondering if there a different primer product that would fill in the grain of the 1980s, builders’ grade oak cabinets, as I have the same cabinets in the kitchen and would like a smoother texture.

    • Hi Laura, Our Premium Wall & Wood Primer is recommended for unfinished wood cabinets. You can also try multiple coats of primer and sanding between coats.

      Sherwin-Williams
  10. I used all of the suggested products, painted my bathroom cabinets and it looks beautiful. Take your time. Don’t rush

  11. I did My kitchen cabinets with the same paint but not the same color. Love my kitchen before and afters. People don’t realize I painted Then my self

  12. Can this be used on teak kitchen cupboards that’ are vanished with lacquer

    Naseema Ragbir
    • Hi Naseema, be sure to lightly sand your cupboards before applying Extreme Bond Primer. Testing in an inconspicuous area is always a good decision.

      Sherwin-Williams
  13. I just had my kitchen painted agreeable gray and now I have decided to have my cabinets painted…I was thinking of white but thought maybe a color would be nice…I need something light as most of my furniture is white and I live in a warm climate…I thought maybe a slightly darker gray but I find that agreeable gray is looking beige in areas…I am confused…I need help

    • Hello Celeste, Agreeable Gray SW 7029 is a Greige (grey+beige) so it can look beige in a lot of lighting. Can you tell us what color flooring and countertops are in your kitchen?

      Sherwin-Williams
  14. An important step!! Number the cabinet doors so they get back on to the corresponding cabinet! It’s so easy to mix them up when painting, moving to dry, etc. Put the number on the back of the door and label the cabinet with masking tape, in a spot you won’t be painting.

  15. I was told by a SW employee that the Extreme Bond Primer is out of stock everywhere and won’t be back until after the first of the year. If that’s the case, it’s not helpful for you to promote it here.

    • Hi there! The availability of specific products may be impacted due to the challenges all suppliers in our industry are facing. We’d like to help you find the product you need. Please contact us at 1-800-4Sherwin (474-3794) or by email at http://bit.ly/2Dgu0Ti for assistance.

      Sherwin-Williams
  16. This coming winter I want to paint over one layer of wall paper. can I use your Extreme Bond Primer to seal the wallpaper in?? I used to use an oil based primer on top of wallpaper which worked quite good. thanks!!
    Eileen Squiers

    Eileen Squiers
    • Hi Eileen, we typically do not recommend painting over wallpaper. However if you choose to, there are many issues to consider. The seams may not lie down properly. Moisture from the paint could cause blistering or peeling. Over a heavy vinyl the paint’s adhesion may be minimal. The texture from the wallpaper may not look very good on a solid wall. Note that the seams may be visible in some areas. Any of these things could cause a problem. For these reasons we always recommend testing the system prior to taking on the whole job.
      Keeping in mind the points stated above, the only paper that may be primed is nonporous paper. If removal of the paper is not an option first clean the surface. Then lightly sand the seams to make them as smooth as possible. Test a quick drying alkyd primer like the Sherwin-Williams ProBlock Interior Oil-Based Primer on the wallpaper. If the primer dries without lifting or blistering, move to the next step of applying a finish coat over the primer.

      Sherwin-Williams
  17. I didn’t use primer, but I gave my laundry room cabinets a good sanding before application. The guys at the store told me that I didn’t need primer. The paint looks great and is holding up just fine. I think it’s worth mentioning that Emerald satin feels a bit like paper once it dries. It is odd. It’s worth it to me, though, because of the easy of application/clean up, the fact that it can be used over oil, and the self leveling.

  18. We are planning to paint our cabinets. Our counters are brown/black granite. Is there a cream color you would recommend that would pair well with the counters?

    • Hello Luanne, take a look at these warm whites, any of which would complement your counters beautifully. Check out:
      Origami White SW 7636
      Natural Choice SW 7011
      Arrowroote SW 9502

      Sherwin-Williams
  19. I’m planning on repainting my already painted kitchen cabinets (they’re white). I thought I would need to strip them down to the wood but are you suggesting that I can just clean, sand and apply primer before painting?
    Thanks so much.

    • That’s right, Rachel! With our Extreme Bond Primer, you do not need to completely strip the cabinets. A light sanding will do.

      Sherwin-Williams

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