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How to paint your unfinished cabinets like a pro for the best overall finish!

With a few tips and professional tools, I learned how to spray paint kitchen cabinets like a pro! Here I want to share not just the best paint for cabinets, but all the techniques that will give a professional look for a lot less.

My kitchen cabinets were ready for a makeover, and doing it myself added my own style and made it a cheap project! I’ll go through the basics of how to get a factory finish on cabinets, but first I’ll answer some of your great questions!

If you missed Part one where we used unfinished stock cabinets to create the base of this unit, check it out here!

What do professionals use to paint kitchen cabinets?

In general, there are a few tools all professional painters keep handy and that you’ll see on job sites. I keep most of these tools in stock for jobs around the house, and you might have several of them already.

  • Tape
  • 5-in-1 Painters Tool
  • Rags
  • Sanding Sponges
  • Latex Gloves
  • Brown Rosin Paper
  • Charcoal Face Masks
  • Paint Mixing
  • 1.5 – 3″ Paint Brush
  • Painter’s Plastic
  • Zip Wall Poles
  • Hand Masker Plastic & Tape
  • Masking Film

You’ll need some extra tools that are specific to whether you brush and roll your cabinets or decide to spray them.

When brushing and rolling, I’d add a 4-inch paint roller, 6 by 4-inch paint roller pads, and a small roller tray to my list.

For those who decide to spray cabinets, pick up some painter’s plastic, an HVLP paint spray, full face charcoal mask, earplugs, and a paint suit.

My big decision was choosing the best paint to spray kitchen cabinets. You’ll have some options at the paint store:

  • Oil vs Latex
    • Oil paints are durable and dry to a glossy, shiny finish. Latex paints provide a flat finish, the kind you see on your walls at home and are much better for the environment. Cleanup is also much easier with latex paints.
  • Oil Based Cabinet Paint
    • A polyacrylic or polyurethane isn’t more durable than enamel paints. I use modern paints made for kitchen cabinets, so I skip the extra protection.
  • Water-Based Cabinet Paint
    • Water-based enamels are a great choice because you get the same durability and a similar look. The gloss factor is usually lower thanks to faster drying times. Cleanup is a breeze and fewer VOCs mean they’re better for the environment.
    • There are now hybrid paints called Acrylic Alkyd, that have low VOCs, easy cleanup, and the glossy, durable finish of oil paint. These paints have oil molecules encased in water, so they dry to an oil paint finish. Pretty neat idea, if you ask me. After doing all my research, my two regular go-to choices have become Benjamin Moore Advance cabinet paint and Sherwin Williams cabinet paint. They each provide similar benefits, and you can see the gorgeous finished product this professional painter had with the Sherwin Williams hybrids!  

How do you paint cabinets perfectly?

I focused on prep work and multiple paint layers to achieve the look of perfect cabinets, with no wood grain showing and a flawless finish.

You will need to invest time and space into the process to get there. Pro Tip: One of the best things you can do, that you will definitely thank yourself for later, is to label everything during prep work. 

Here are the basic steps to success:

Prepping the Space

  • Clean out your kitchen
  • Remove door and drawer handles
  • Remove all doors, drawers, and hinges
  • Clean all surfaces
  • Tape and cover floors
  • Tape and cover countertops
  • Plastic off insides of cabinets
  • Create a barrier between workspace and living space
  • Set up a garage or workshop space to work

Prepping the Cabinets

  • Wash all the wood
  • Sand and vacuum all wood
  • Fill the cabinet grain
  • Repair any damage
  • Caulk gaps and cracks
  • Vacuum everything

How do I get a smooth finish on kitchen cabinets?

I have a few tips on how to get a factory finish on cabinets. Start by priming and then adding on a topcoat. This is a simple process when using a brush, just paint in the same direction, and have smooth starts and stops.

I learned about a special painter’s trick, the flood coat, for finishing oak cabinets. This helps hide the wood grain. You’ll just paint on a really super thick primer coat, about double a normal coat.

Be sure your doors or drawers are lying flat on a sawhorse, so you don’t get runs.

How do you paint new cabinets like a pro?

The work you do in between coats helps create perfect cabinets. You want to start with a line of caulk inside of the door trim, followed up by sanding with 120 grit paper and running the vacuum across all the wood.

Next, prime and let it dry completely. Sand next with 220 grit paper, so your primer coat is smooth and the topcoat adheres really well.

Next, paint the first coat, then after drying, sand with 220 grit paper and paint the second coat. I recommend using Advance topcoat or Kilz Latex 2 Primer, which both give results that pop!

How Much Does It Cost To Paint Kitchen Cabinets? 

The professionals charge on average $4,000 to paint your kitchen cabinets, but that cost can go even higher for bigger kitchens!

If a professional charges a super low rate, expect they might cut corners and leave you with not-so-great results.

What Would It Cost To Paint Your Cabinets Yourself?

The total cost for materials including paint will cost $300 to $500, a cheap way to do the same high-quality job as the pros.

Sprayers are available for $100 to $1,000, but their resale value is good, so you can get back some of the costs.

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Thats it for now…

Talk soon,

Kori

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