How to Choose the Best Way to Paint Kitchen Cabinets

The Design Twins
by The Design Twins

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets: Transform Your Kitchen with Paint

Read this step by step guide on how to paint your kitchen cabinets. We share a side by side comparison of mineral paint vs. acrylic paint, and the pros and cons to help you choose.

Painting your kitchen cabinets is no small project.

white kitchen after transformation

In this post I’m going to answer all your questions to help you decide:

  1. If you should paint your cabinets
  2. What type of paint to choose: mineral or acrylic

I’m going to compare the two processes side by side to make it easy for you to decide.

I will show you how to paint your kitchen cabinets step by step so you can save thousands of dollars.

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Home Value and Kitchen Cabinet Painting

Let’s talk about the value of your house. I’m talking real value, which is only equal to the resale value of your house. The focus is always on the kitchen.

If you have old cabinets in your kitchen you obviously will improve their value by painting them.

But if you are like me and have wood cabinets that are new or are in good condition you might hesitate before painting them. If there is “nothing wrong” with the condition of your cabinets, it’s a little less clear whether painting your kitchen cabinets will actually result in a higher home value.

If you are considering giving your kitchen a facelift you have several choices:

  1. replace your cabinets
  2. reface your cabinets
  3. hire someone to paint your cabinets
  4. paint them yourself

You can pay someone to replace your cabinets or paint them for you. However, I suggest reading what I did. I painted them myself. You can literally save thousands of dollars by doing what I did and paint them yourself.

Here’s what my cabinets looked like BEFORE I painted them.

dark wood kitchen cabinets before
farmhouse white kitchen transformation
Should you Paint your Kitchen Cabinets?

No matter how much you want to paint your cabinets there may be nagging questions:

  • Will painting the cabinets decrease the value of my kitchen/home?
  • Will I ruin perfectly good cabinets with an amateur paint job?

and lastly, but no less important:

  • Can I convince my husband?

Because of the above questions I ended up not painting my kitchen cabinets for over 4 years.

Here are a few more before photos. For several years I contented myself with painting only the outside of my island. It was a small task and easy to paint over. Plus, two-toned kitchens are very on-trend.

dark farmhouse kitchen, dark wooden cabinets
green kitchen island before
How to Get your Husband to Let You Paint your Kitchen Cabinets

You can wait for years to try to get your husband on board with this project, or you can try what I did. I told him I wanted to remove all the upper cabinets and install “ open shelving.”

  • Don’t just say it.
  • Start cleaning out shelves and throwing away all the extra, unwanted stuff that has accumulated, so he knows you’re serious about it.
  • Talk about how great it’s going to be, the kind of shelves you’re going to get, and how you’re going to want to tile the entire wall up to the ceiling.
  • Once he gets an idea of what a massive project it’s going to be, he will end up begging you to “just paint” the cabinets.
  • Or, he might like the idea. You’ll have a new kitchen either way.

On a side note, there is absolutely nothing wrong with beautiful wood cabinets. But that’s an entirely different discussion. I assume you wouldn’t be here unless you wanted to know how to paint your kitchen cabinets. So, let’s go!

white painted kitchen cabinets
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What is the Prepping Process?

Now that everyone is on board it’s time to prep.

Step 1. Start by cleaning the surface before you begin to paint kitchen cabinets.

  • No matter which paint you use, latex, chalk, or mineral paint, it’s important to start by cleaning the cabinets with TSP.
  • This is a cleaning product that is available at any hardware store.
  • TSP removes any grease or residue.
  • Do this before you sand.

Step 2. Do you need to sand before you paint kitchen cabinets?

  • This is the same whether you are painting with either latex, chalk, or mineral paint.
  • The answer depends on the condition and finish of your cabinets.
  • If your cabinets have a very shiny, slick surface or varnish, giving them a light sand (like a scuff) will help the paint adhere.
  • If you are painting on a surface that has any chipping, flaking or uneven surface, you’ll want to sand to make it smooth.

Step 3. Wipe down your cabinets after you sand.

  • Make sure you wipe down your cabinets with a damp lint-free cloth after you sand to get all the dust off the surface.

Step 4. Do you need to prime before you paint kitchen cabinets?

  • Fusion Mineral Paint has a built-in primer, so you do not have to prime.
  • With latex paint you will need to prime first. I recommend using Zinsser 123 primer.
white kitchen cabinets make all the difference
Let’s Paint:

Are there any fumes or smells?

  • Fusion Mineral Paint: No, this product is completely non-toxic and has no odor. It’s completely safe to paint inside and doesn’t require any ventilation. All Fusion products are lead-free, have no volatile organic compounds (VOC) and contain no ammonia or formaldehyde.
  • When choosing acrylic paint, you will want to paint in a well ventilated area.

For Julie’s kitchen remodel she used an oil-based paint from Sherwin-Williams which creates a very lasting, high-quality finish. The downside is heavy fumes. Many people will get a hotel for a couple nights because the fumes can lead to headaches etc. Summer months with all the doors open would obviously help, but it’s something to keep in mind.

How many coats does it take?

  • Fusion Mineral Paint: In some cases, it might take 2 coats, but for me it took 3 coats to cover the dark wood using the Raw Silk color.
  • Acrylic Paint: This will depend on the surface you are covering. It will also depend on the paint color you choose. If you choose a bright white that doesn’t have any warmth to it you could end up painting as many as 4 or 5 coats of paint like I did. (I used Magnolia Home True White)

How much paint did you use to paint kitchen cabinets?

  • Fusion Mineral Paint: I ended up using about 8 pints. My project involved painting 43 cabinet doors and 21 drawers, plus the entire back side of a large island. As I mentioned, I painted 3 coats everywhere.
  • Acrylic Paint: I purchased 2 gallons of paint for 8 cabinet doors. Typically, the volume of acrylic paint needed to cover is greater than the amount of mineral paint needed.
white farmhouse kitchen makeover

What paint color did you use?

I chose Raw Silk by Fusion Mineral. I couldn’t love the color more. You can purchase it here:

How much did it cost to paint kitchen cabinets?

  • Fusion Mineral Paint: The total cost for paint was about $200 for my entire kitchen plus bar area cabinets.
  • Acrylic Paint: The total cost for paint was about $90 but this project was about one-fifth of my kitchen project.

If I had used acrylic paint for my kitchen it could have cost about $450.

The reality is that because of the amazing coverage of the Fusion Mineral Paint I was able to save hundreds of dollars on this project. If I had purchased acrylic paint like the Magnolia Home brand at $45/gallon the project would likely have cost at least $600 or more.

When Julie did her kitchen cabinets with Sherwin-Williams brand paint she paid $90/gallon and her paint costs were over $1000.

Fusion Mineral Paints is a cost-saving choice.

How long do you have to wait between coats?

  • Fusion Mineral Paint: This product dries quickly. It dries to the touch within minutes. It is recommended to wait 2 hours between coats.

If you need to sand an area (because of visible brush strokes, for example) you need to wait until the paint completely cures or about 48 hours.

  • Acrylic Paint: You should wait between 2-3 hours between coats. Longer in high humidity or extreme temperatures.

If you need to sand an area (because of visible brush strokes, for example) you need to wait until the paint completely cures or about 48 hours.

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kitchen cabinets painted white
Do you use a brush, a roller, or a sprayer to paint kitchen cabinets?

  • The method you choose is a personal choice.
  • Use whichever method you are most comfortable with.
  • I used a brush because that is what I was most comfortable with.
  • I have used rollers before, both large rollers and foam rollers, but I have never used a sprayer.
  • The same is true for both Acrylic & Fusion Mineral Paint.

Do you need an expensive brush?

  • Fusion Mineral Paint:

    • Use whatever brush you are most comfortable with.
    • I used a medium quality angled brush because it was light weight, easy to work with and easy to control.
    • I was able to direct the paint where I wanted it quickly and effectively.
    • This is important with this paint because you don’t want to have to go over your paint strokes to do your edging.
    • You also don’t want a heavy brush that will create heavy strokes and leave marks in the paint.

  • Acrylic: I alternated coats between a brush and a small foam roller to try to cover brush strokes.

Do you need a sealer or topcoat when you paint kitchen cabinets?

  • Fusion Mineral Paint:

    • This depends on how you are going to use the piece or surface.
    • If it’s a high-use surface like a kitchen then yes, you will likely want to seal the surface with a topcoat.
    • If you are painting a piece of furniture that doesn’t get much use, there probably isn’t much need.
    • Fusion Mineral Paint makes a high quality non-yellowing clear top coat called Tough Coat.
    • It was very challenging to apply without getting streaks.
    • I opted to use a non-yellowing acrylic polyurethane topcoat by Benjamin Moore instead. The product is called Benwood Stays Clear. I used the flat finish. You will need to apply a minimum of 2 coats but I recommend applying 3 coats.
    • I had experience using this product before and knew it went on easily without streaks and without yellowing.

  • Acrylic: No sealer or topcoat is required.
farmhouse kitchen transformation using white paint
My Personal Experience Painting Kitchen Cabinets

My original experience using regular acrylic or latex paint on my dark wood upper cabinets in my laundry room (identical to the ones in my kitchen) made me dread the project in my kitchen because it was so long and difficult.

Reasons why painting with latex paint was difficult:

  1. I had to work outside in my garage because of the fumes.
  2. 2 coats of primer (I thought this might save on paint).
  3. I painted 4 coats of paint, 5 coats in some places.
  4. To have better coverage I attempted to apply the paint thicker and I ended up with a lot of drips.
  5. The paint was thick and physically exhausting to apply.
  6. The project took much longer than I ever imagined and made me think I never wanted to paint cabinets again.
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white painted kitchen cabinets in large great room with hanging pendent light lights and shiny stone floor
My Fusion Mineral Paint Experience

I found Fusion Mineral Paint after a lot of research. I knew the experience would be very different, and it was.

  1. The application process was very calming and very meticulous.
  2. Instead of feeling like a physical fight against the paint it was more of an artistic endeavor.
  3. The paint is very thin and glides on very easily. It never feels like you are struggling.
  4. There definitely is a learning curve. I had to figure out how much paint to apply and how quickly to move.
  5. At first I started with too much paint on my brush and ended up leaving brush strokes.

Reasons I found the Fusion Mineral painting process enjoyable:

  1. I was able to paint right in the living room because there are no fumes or toxic chemicals.
  2. Only light sanding was needed.
  3. There was no priming.
  4. The paint only required 3 coats of paint (vs. 5 with acrylic).
  5. The coats dried so quickly I was able to do several coats per day.
  6. Coverage was so good that the project moved quickly, and I saw results almost immediately.
  7. The project left me feeling like I was ready to take on any painting project.

Lessons I Learned from Painting Kitchen Cabinets

I wish I hadn’t spent four years wondering whether or not to paint my kitchen.

Follow your gut. If you are tired of your kitchen I highly recommend trusting your own instincts and getting busy.

Also, with my experience using both Fusion Mineral paint and acrylic paint I am a huge fan of Fusion Mineral paint. The process is so much more enjoyable. I never thought I would say I enjoyed painting cabinets, but I actually did enjoy painting my kitchen. And we all love the new light, bright kitchen. It feels like a new house.

jodie & julie

How to Choose the Best Way to Paint Kitchen Cabinets

Article NameHow to Choose the Best Way to Paint Kitchen CabinetsDescriptionStep by step how to paint kitchen cabinets. Side by side comparison of mineral paint vs. acrylic paint, pros and cons to help you choose.Author

The Design Twins

The Design Twins
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2 of 10 comments
  • Amy Cannon Amy Cannon on Oct 18, 2023

    Well, I am a little more inspired.

  • Roberta Honeycutt Roberta Honeycutt on Dec 27, 2023

    Love your tutorial! When I start painting my cabinets, sometime in the future, I think I'll go with the mineral paint. On another subsect, I love the light fixture above the sink. It looks like it was a can light at one time. Can you give me any info on it?