How to paint kitchen cabinets

Looking for advice on how to paint kitchen cabinets? A popular choice, painted cabinets offer an affordable solution for updating old units, find out how in our step-by-step guide

how to paint kitchen cabinets: l shaped kitchen with dark cupboards and light flooring by magnet
(Image credit: Magnet)

Want to know how to paint kitchen cabinets? If you're designing a stylish kitchen on a budget, painting plain kitchen cabinets is the perfect way to create a bespoke look. Or, if you like the structure of existing kitchen cabinets but not their finish, to refresh a tired kitchen without spending a fortune. 

Whether classic and muted, or bright and fresh, the colour in which units are painted completely dictates the look and feel of the whole room. Use our step-by-step guide to find out how to paint kitchen cabinets and revamp your kitchen for less than you might have imagined. 

If you're taking on a larger kitchen renovation, our ultimate guide to planning, designing and furnishing a kitchen offers all the advice and inspiration you could need.

What kind of kitchen cabinets can be painted?

Before you start thinking about how to paint kitchen cabinets, you need to think about whether or not your units can be painted at all.

Solid wood doors lend themselves best to being repainted, but melamine units can also be updated. The key is to ensure the surfaces are properly prepped and primed. Also check that the cabinets are in good order and not warped.

Finally, you need to find suitable paint – check out our pick of the best paints for kitchen cabinets before you get started.

how to paint kitchen cabinets: teal blue toned kitchen cabinets set against floral wallpaper

(Image credit: John Lewis)

How to paint kitchen cabinets

Follow our step-by-step instructions to find out how to paint kitchen cabinets in order to achieve your desired finish. Our handy video provides plenty of tips and tricks, too.


(Image credit: Period Living)

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  1. If possible, it’s best to remove the door fronts and drawers.
  2. Unscrew all ironmongery, and mask off any areas you can’t remove.
  3. Lightly sand the surfaces with fine-grade sandpaper.
  4. Vacuum up the dust and clean surfaces with sugar spray and a damp cloth.
  5. Once dry, use a traditional wood primer or undercoat, or a specialist melamine or universal primer.
  6. Choose a suitable paint for kitchen cabinets; an eggshell paint finish for the doors will be hardwearing.
  7. Use a small roller or paint brush to apply the paint in confident, long strokes. Our pick of the best paint brushes and rollers for all your DIY projects will ensure you have the best tools for the job.
  8. You will need at least two coats. Allow paint to dry fully in between, as per instructions on the paint can.
  9. Reattach ironmongery. Investing in new cabinet handles will help give the units a completely new look.

Which paint colour to choose for your kitchen cabinets?

how to paint kitchen cabinets: Annie Sloan Wall Paint in Antoinette, chalk paint in Aubusson Blue/Emperor's Silk

Annie Sloan Wall Paint in Antoinette, cupboards: chalk paint in Aubusson Blue/Emperor's Silk

(Image credit: Annie Sloan)

Along with neutral shades, black, soft blues, greens and greys are ideal for all styles of kitchens, and lend a light, elegant feel. Light pink is also an on trend shade that can look contemporary matched with greys.

Remember, though, the entire kitchen need not be colourful – a bold shade, such as red or dark blue, can be used to accent a short run of units, a kitchen island or statement dresser, with the rest of the kitchen in a neutral or natural wood finish.

Alternatively, you can consider adding depth and interest to a kitchen by using different shades of the same colour. For example, painting the wall units a lighter colour than the base cabinets is a clever way to make the kitchen feel more spacious.

You'll find plenty of inspiration for each of these coloured finishes in our kitchen cabinet design ideas, as well as in our clever kitchen island design ideas.

how to paint kitchen cabinets: kitchen in a colour scheme of blues with wood worktops, shelves and accessories by benjamin moore

This simple kitchen has been painted in an on-trend dark blue. The cabinets are coloured with Normandy (2129-40) by Benjamin Moore

(Image credit: Benjamin Moore)

How to accessorise painted kitchen cabinets

Once you've painted your kitchen cabinets, you'll want to think about accessorising them in order to complete the look. 

Use the following tips, along with our kitchen splashback ideas and guide to the best types of kitchen worktop for inspiration:

  • An interesting splashback will lift the scheme, and it's a touch you can easily add yourself – have a read of our guide to how to tile a splashback for step-by-step instructions.
  • Smaller details in a natural wood finish, including worktops, peg rails, shelving and chairs, will prevent the look from cloying.
  • If you are after a unique finish, choose vintage (or just vintage looking) appliances in complementary colours. Opting for a brighter or darker tone than the main colour in your kitchen will effectively finish off the look.

how to paint kitchen cabinets: pastel mint shaker kitchen with marble worktops

(Image credit: deVOL)

Paint kitchen cabinets to lift the look of a budget kitchen

Painted kitchens are often associated with higher end bespoke manufacturers of handmade solid wood units, but the beauty of painting cabinets is that the species of timber underneath doesn’t have to affect the end appearance.

For example, a pine kitchen might cost less than half the price of hardwood, and still have the same finish and handcrafted quality once painted and dressed with beautiful cabinet door handles and worktops. 

If you're looking for more easy ways to design a stylish kitchen on a budget, there are plenty in our thrifty feature. 

how to paint kitchen cabinets: stylish and contemporary kitchen by deVOL

(Image credit: deVOL)

Looking for more kitchen inspiration?