Your Guide to Cabinet Painting

So you're ready to paint those out dated kitchen cabinets, are ya? Why not get the job done like a pro? Seriously, it's a perk of being in this business... I don't paint a lot cabinets myself, but I know plenty of people that do. So when I was asked to take on this cabinet job, of course I reached out to my pal Emily at Thirteen79 and Design. She paints kitchens on the regular and her results are some of the most beautiful I have seen. She graciously answered any and all question I threw at her. 

I want to mention, this job was a collaborative effort between the client and I. I prepared and painted all the cabinet doors, while she prepared and painted the boxes. Lucky for me, my client was on top of her game and did plenty of her own research on what products were best to get the professional results she was after. Also lucky for me, her choices were straight in line with Emily's recommendations. Our choice, Wise Owl One Hour Enamel in Snow Owl.


Yes it's true, Wise Owl Paint is my preferred brand, so much so that I recently decided to start retailing their vast line of products. Even so, I was more than willing to use my client's choice in products. 

 Let's get this party started, shall we! Like previously mentioned, I was in charge of painting the doors. My client removed and numbered all the doors prior to delivering them to my studio. When removing your doors, pick a starting point. For example, left to right and number all doors indicating upper and lower. I suggest marking the cabinet number underneath where the hinge will go and lay a piece of blue painters tape over it, so that it does not get painted over. You can also mark the tape itself.

The first lesson in painting cabinets is prep, prep, prep and then prep some more! Even if your cabinets don't look dirty, if you actually cook in your kitchen and the doors have been on even a year... trust me, they are dirty. I worked on a batch of doors at a time, as many as I could fit comfortably on my makeshift sawhorse table. I started by spraying the doors with Krud Kutter Degreaser (this can be purchased at your local hardware store) and let it sit for about 10 minutes. I scrubbed with the back side of a kitchen sponge, the green scratchy side. Once all the doors were scrubbed well, I filled a big bowl with hot water and rinsed with the front side of the sponge until I could see through the water. 

This next step may make the previous one seem unnecessary, but trust me cleaning the surface first will make sanding go much smoother. Not only will the finish come off more easily, your sand paper is less likely to have residue build up which will result in using less sand paper. I started with a 150 grit and finished with a 220. Even though I was instructed that only a scuff sand was necessary, the finish was coming off fairly easily so I decided to keep going to basically to raw wood. I'll admit I was also just slightly nervous, this being my first cabinet job and I really wanted it to turn out well... another reason I took the finish all the down.


Yep, there is still one more step to this cleaning process! After sanding and dusting off, I wiped the doors down with a 50/50 ratio of Denatured Alcohol and water mixture using a microfiber cloth.


Okay, we made it... to the final step of prep that is!😅 Now you may possibly be able to get away with skipping primer, but why go through all that trouble and risk it? To ensure not only the best adhesion, but also eliminate your risk of bleed through with wood tannins... just prime it! I sprayed two coats of Wise Owl Stain Eliminating Primer in White using my Husky HVLP pneumatic sprayer.


Primer also aids in building your color and filling in a heavy wood grain, which can possibly cut down on the amount of paint used overall. If you are spraying a heavily grained wood such as oak, it may be helpful to brush on at least one of your coats of primer to help push it into the grain. Wise Owl makes four different Stain Eliminating Primer colors, White, Clear, Gray and Dark Gray. Here is a chart to help choose the best primer for your project.

Finally... lets get that paint on! I allowed 24 hours before spraying my One Hour Enamel after priming, at least two coats. Always make sure to stir your paint adequately, making sure you get all the pigment up from the bottom. My doors got three coats... not necessary, but that is what it took before I was satisfied with my overall finish.  


I hope that you found this guide helpful. If you have questions, please reach out. I'd love to provide further guidance where I can. All of the Wise Owl Paint products in this post can be purchased right here on under the shop tab.


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