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If you’re craving a new kitchen but don’t have the budget, try a low-cost makeover and paint them! Here’s a step-by-step tutorial on how to paint kitchen cabinets. [this post contains affiliate links, which means we may make a small commission if a purchase is made. see the full disclosure here.]

how to paint kitchen cabinets

Approximately 33 days ago I started the process of painting the kitchen cabinets. Approximately 34 days ago, I remember standing in the hallway of my office, telling my two coworkers that there was no way I wasn’t finishing all the cabinets that weekend. I remember telling them that the blogs I was browsing through made it seem so complicated. What could be so hard about painting a few cabinets?

Well, put my foot in my mouth on this one. Three days… Thirty-three days… Close enough, right?

The Before

13 kitchen cabinets before

I am not a fan of dark cabinets. When we first looked at this house, Brett and I were in complete agreement (which doesn’t happen too often) that they needed to be changed.

At the time, Brett was traveling a lot for work and I needed a project that I could do on my own. Thus, the plan to overhaul the kitchen cabinets was born. It was something that I knew I wanted to get done sooner, rather than later.

So, a few weeks after moving in, I was ready to paint.

The Process

Step one: Begin by taking all the cabinet doors and drawers off the base. Remember to label them so you know where they go after painting. I put each doors’ hardware in a separate plastic baggie and created a key on a piece of paper.

1kitchen island

Step two: Sand down the cabinet base and doors. I used 100-grit sandpaper. After sanding, use a damp cloth to wipe down all surfaces and go over with a dry towel.

Step three: Tape the base of the cabinets. I tend to get a little crazy when I paint, so I lined the walls, floor and inside of the cabinets with painters tape.

12 kitchen cabinets taped

Step four: Start painting. I painted the base of the island first and put two coats on it. Then I started with the base of the cabinets along the wall. I ended up putting four coats on those, plus a little touch-ups here and there. Looking back, I should have used a primer, since the cabinets were so dark to begin with.


Step five: Paint the cabinet doors. I used a brush to paint along the inside edges and then went back over the entire door with a roller. Much to my surprise, there aren’t any visible brush strokes.

4 kitchen cabinet doors

Step six: Apply the glaze to the cream colored cabinet base, the island cabinet doors and the cream cabinet doors. (Stay tuned for a how-to post on the glazing process)

8 kitchen cabinets finished

Step seven: Put the doors back on. I washed the hardware in hot soap and water before reattaching them to the base.

Step eight: Sit back and enjoy!

5 kitchen cabinets finished

What We Learned

  • When multiple blogs say that a project is a lot of work and takes a significant amount of time, they are telling the truth. Don’t be arrogant and think you can skirt the process. It doesn’t work.
  • Check the paint and see if there are any restrictions on its use or compatibility.
  • Also, read the directions and application process.
  • Sanding the cabinet doors and base is a dusty, messy process, but very necessary.
  • Using a roller for the cabinet doors doesn’t leave brush strokes.
  • I wish I would have used a primer on the cabinets that were painted cream.
  • Paint is a game changer. It has this ability to completely transform a space. Who knew color had such an impact on an area?

Final Thoughts

Yes, this mini-makeover took a lot longer than expected. But, you know what? I don’t care. It was so nice to be able to do a project at the speed that I wanted. If I didn’t feel like painting, I didn’t paint. If I wasn’t in the mood to glaze a few cabinet doors, I didn’t glaze. That is the beauty if doing a self-paced project. You can do what you want, when you feel like it.

6 kitchen cabinets finished

In the end, Brett and I are so happy with how they turned out even though I am still convincing Brett that the island isn’t too “girly.” I think he secretly loves it 🙂

kitchen summer home tour

How about you? Do you like self-paced projects? Have you tackled a kitchen cabinet makeover recently? Share your thoughts and comments below!


All our best,


Cabinet paint: Dutch Boy Cabinet and Trim Paint
Island paint: Dutch Boy Cabinet and Trim Paint
Cabinet glaze: Rustoleum Glaze Java Brown




  1. Treenski

    I’m going to be painting mine come summer and this has been the most helpful! 🙂

    • Kelly

      Yay! I am here to help if you have any more questions 🙂 Good luck and send me pictures!

  2. Sabrina

    Oh wow you did such an incredible job with the kitchen makeover! The cabinets look beautiful and I love the island! What a difference!! Great job Kelly!

    • Kelly

      Oh you’re too sweet! Brett is still on the fence about the island, but I love the pop of color!


  3. Leslie

    What color/brand did you use on the cabinets and for the glaze as well? This is exactly what I have been looking for!

    • North Country Nest

      Hey Leslie! Our apologies – I thought we linked everything.

      For the cabinets and island, we used Dutch Boy cabinet and trim paint (found at our local home improvement store, Menards).

      For the glaze, it’s Rustoleum Glaze in Java Brown (link is now at the bottom of the post)

      So happy to hear this helped you – happy painting 🙂



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