How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets to Look Like Wood


Faux wood painting is a relatively easy and inexpensive way to bring the rich look of natural wood to already painted or non-wooden cabinets, instead of replacing them entirely. Follow these steps.

Things You'll Need

  • Base paint
  • Stain or glaze
  • Polyurethane satin for finish
  • Paint tray
  • Disposable painting buckets for mixing
  • 1 1/2-inch to 2-inch natural bristle paint brush
  • Rolling wood graining tool
  • Foam painting brush
  • Sandpaper
  • Drop cloth
  • Disposable protective gloves
  • Painter's tape or masking tape for marking off
  • Paint thinner for clean up
  • Clean rags


  • Prepare a large flat work area for painting the cabinet doors.

  • Remove the hardware and cabinet doors.

  • Mask off adjacent walls, trim and flooring that needs protection.

  • Spread an ample sized drop cloth to protect the floor.

  • Mildly sand the cabinets and doors, moving in the direction of the grain. (If cabinets are already painted, sand and apply a chemical de-glossing agent to help the shiny surfaces absorb paint. Ask your paint dealer.)

Apply the Base Coat

  • Using the brush, apply the base coat, again brushing in the direction of the grain.

  • Allow the base coat to dry thoroughly, at least 24 hours, depending on the humidity.

  • After the base coat has dried, sand lightly in the direction of the grain.

  • Wipe the surface clean with a rag dampened with mineral spirits to make the surface smooth and clean.

  • Allow to dry.

Apply First Stain or Glaze Coat

  • Using the foam brush, apply the first coat of stain or glaze.

  • Cover lightly and evenly.

  • Allow to dry.

Apply Second Coat of Stain and Grain Tool

  • Working in sections at a time, apply a second coat of stain or glaze, followed by immediate application by the wood graining tool.

  • Move the tool across the surface with consistent contact and pressure.

  • When wood graining is completed, allow to dry for 15 to 20 minutes.

  • Using a dry, soft brush, gently stroke the surface to blend and soften color.

  • Allow this coat to dry, then wipe off the dust in preparation for final finish.

Apply Protective Finish

  • With foam or brush, apply a smooth, even coat of satin polyurethane.

  • Allow to dry.

  • Lightly sand or rub with steel wool over first coat of protective finish. Wipe down dust.

  • Apply a second coat of polyurethane.

  • Allow entire project to cure (at least 36 hours) before reinstalling the cabinet doors.

Tips & Warnings

  • Consider which wood color matches or fits best in your overall design scheme.
  • Attach color swatches from the paint store to your cabinets. Live with them for a few days before deciding on color.
  • Experiment with different amounts of base paint combined with glaze or tint on a test strip, to achieve the the best effect.

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