How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets White


When your kitchen needs a makeover, your least expensive option sits in a few cans of paint. In just a weekend, you can turn your dark, gloomy kitchen into a space that welcomes and reflects natural light. A coat of white paint on cabinets opens up the space and gives your kitchen a fresh, clean look.

When painting white over darker colors, include a primer coat to avoid the color bleeding through. Oil-based primer and paints create a smooth, durable and long-lasting finish, but you may prefer to use comparable latex paints instead.

Things You'll Need

  • Cabinet cleaner
  • Clean cloth
  • Masking tape
  • Pen or pencil
  • Dropcloths or plastic sheeting
  • Flat work surface
  • Screwdriver
  • Several resealable plastic bags
  • Paintable wood putty
  • Putty knife
  • Sandpaper
  • Tacky cloth
  • Painter's tray
  • 2 paint tray liners
  • 2 paintbrushes, 1 1/2-inch
  • 1 paint roller frame
  • 2 sponge rollers
  • Oil-based primer
  • Oil-based white paint
  • 2 stir sticks


  • Oil-based primers contain volatile organic compounds resulting in strong odors and fumes. When using high VOC paints and primers, work in well-ventilated spaces and wear a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health approved respirator. When working indoors, open windows and doors and use fans for

Step 1: A Clean Start

Wipe down the cabinet doors, drawers and framework with your usual cabinet or countertop cleaner. Allow cabinets to dry.

Step 2: Assign a Number

Create a numbering system to match cabinets and doors so that you return them to their original locations after painting. Write each number on a piece of masking tape and place it on an interior shelf. Assign a corresponding number to an area on the protected flat workspace for each door. This ensures the doors are returned to the right cabinet.

Step 3: Remove Hardware, Doors and Drawers

Remove the handles, hinges and drawer pulls. Place the screws, hinges, door handles and drawer pulls inside a resealable plastic bag. After hardware removal, set the doors on their coordinating spots on the covered workplace. Remove the drawers and also place them on a covered work surface.

Step 4: Wood Filler

Add wood filler to holes and dings. Push the filler down into the hole or ding, and then scrape the putty knife to flatten and smooth the filler once the hole is full.


  • If you are reusing the same hardware, or have new hardware that can be attached using the same screw holes as the old pieces, there's no need to fill those holes with wood filler.

Step 5: First Sanding

Lightly sand the cabinets in the direction of the grain after the wood putty dries, which can take a minimum of 15 minutes depending on the hole depth. Sand filled areas smooth and then all the doors, drawers and cabinetry. Remove dust using a tacky cloth.


  • Always wear a face mask when sanding to avoid inhaling material.

Step 6: Prime Time

Open the primer can and stir well. Pour about 2 cups of the primer into a lined painter's tray. Paint the cabinet framework using the small paintbrush and the roller for larger areas. Cover cabinet doors with the primer, letting them completely dry before painting the underside and edges. Paint drawer fronts. Oil-based primers and paints can take up to 8 hours to thoroughly dry and cure depending on humidity and temperature. Add a second coat of primer if you can still see the previous color bleed through.


  • Designate a well-ventilated space in another part of the home or outdoors for sanding and painting. Use sawhorses to lay doors and drawers while they are drying to allow air circulation. Sawhorses make it easier to work on edges. Or stand doors on an angle on the wall to allow paint to dry.

Step 7: Second Sanding

Lightly sand the primer after painting to ensure a smooth, even coat. Oil-based paints smooth out as they dry, but if the primer surface has any rough spots, these will show through.

Step 8: Apply Paint

Stir the paint well before pouring into a lined paint tray. Apply the paint with the roller or paintbrush depending on your preference and design of the door. Cover the framework and cabinet doors with a coat of paint. Let the cabinet doors thoroughly dry before painting the edges and backsides. Paint the drawer fronts.


  • Use thin coats of paint to reduce runs and bubbling.

Step 9: Touch-Ups and Second Coat

Examine the first coat of paint for smoothness. After thoroughly dry, lightly sand any rough spots and repaint. Once touch-ups are dry, you can add a second coat of paint to framework, doors and drawer fronts, if desired.

Step 10: Reassembly and Finish

Add the hardware for the doors and attach the doors in the order they belong by matching the door numbers to cabinet numbers. Add door handles and drawer pulls and reinstall the drawers.


  • An electric sander and high-volume, low compression paint sprayer can help speed the process along and result in smoother finishes.

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