How To: Paint Cabinet Doors and Drawer Fronts

Last week involved a lot of primer and painting.  Specifically, drawer fronts.  Though it’s not rocket science, it does take some thought to prevent obvious brush strokes.  So, I thought a tutorial/break down was in order.  And I have a few tips for you.

First, the tips.

1:  It helps to be an OCD, detail-oriented person; if your significant other is more of a forest than a tree person, I’m sorry to say you’re stuck with this task.

2:  Use good quality brushes and a small foam roller.

3:  Before priming, make sure you’ve filled all holes and sanded smooth with a high grit sand paper.

4:  Lay down a canvas drop cloth, then thin pieces of scrap wood.  Raising the painted items will prevent sticking to the canvas.

5:  I find it helpful to rest the drawer front or cabinet on a five gallon bucket when painting.  You’ll easily be able to spin it around to get to every surface.

6:  If you have tons of painting to do, start with the fronts first.  If you’re anything like I am, you’ll start running out of patience, so use up what you’ve got on the obvious parts.  Ha.

Okay, now the tutorial.  These four steps apply whether you’re priming or painting any surface with detail.

Start by brushing paint into the detailed areas, without going overboard.  Catch any globs as soon as possible.

Then, before loading your roller with paint, quickly go over the brush strokes on the raised areas.  Now dip your roller in paint and roll it around on your paint tray to get it evenly coated, but only lightly.  Roll the inside panel, getting as close to the edge as possible.

You’ll have a ridge of paint along the outer band.  Roll it smooth.

Load up your roller again to paint the sides.  Just to be save, lightly run your paintless roller along the under side because the excess paint will drip.

Finally, paint the outer band.  Set it on the scrap wood to dry.

Repeat at least another time on the front, then flip and roll the backs.

Finally, I’m done painting the drawer fronts (still have to build, fill, sand, prime, and paint eight cabinet doors) and we’ve installed them.  Can’t wait to show you tomorrow!

13 thoughts on “How To: Paint Cabinet Doors and Drawer Fronts

  1. Your paint color is so pretty! I love the drawer fronts–great work! I’m completely jealous of your kitchen and hope we can do half as well with our reno coming up. Also love the forest/trees analogy with husbands–mine is completely a forest kind of guy!

  2. Ah! I can’t wait to see the finished cabinets! Sadly, I’m a tree girl while the hubs is a forest guy so I would be the one doing this if we ever decide to redo a kitchen.

  3. I have a question, and forgive me if you’ve already addressed it and I couldn’t find it in your archives. Why did you guys decide to make your own custom cabinets, rather than buying something pre-made? Your cabinets (and kitchen as a whole) are gorgeous, but I’m just curious. Is the from-scratch route cheaper?

    1. Hi Ashley, Thanks! We love the color, too! Seriously, it’s the perfect warm gray. We’ve got more to share tomorrow, too!

      Hey Ellie, Thanks! For the past five years I’ve been jealous of other people’s kitchens, now I don’t have to be. Good luck with your reno!! Men seem to be forest guys… Or maybe that’s their ploy so we’re stuck doing the tedious work?!? Smarter than we thought. Hahaha!

      Hi Katie! I BARELY had the patience for this. Really, I got sick of it, but that’s why I started with the fronts. The backs are so much quicker, they seem easy in comparison.

      Hey Kristen! You won’t have to wait much longer! Just check back in tomorrow. 🙂 You’ll get to see the finished lower cabinets. The uppers are a different story though. Those men are faking it so we’re stuck doing the tedious work.

      Hi Meg, That’s a good question. Because Ben built everything and we wanted such customization, making the cabinets ourselves definitely was cheaper. When we had KraftMaid cabinets priced out, they would have cost $7000 for the cabinets and that’s not including all the customization. I think our cabinet cost is about $700 right now. So even though we’ve spent WAAAAAAYYY more time on the cabinets than we would have with pre-made, we’ve spent one tenth the price, with everything we want. And Ben is never impressed with pre-made cabinet quality. In fact, he just finished fixing my parents pre-made cabinets. Haha.

      Thanks, everyone!!

  4. I’ve got to work on my OCD … Its a bit spotty with me. Great outcome. Did you create a template for the handles? Can you show a pic of it? Sorry I missed it while drooling over your pi-chaws. Love the title of post.

  5. Just clicking over from younghouselove. I can’t wait to see your finished kitchen, clicked through all your kitchen posts 😉 It will look amazing!

    We painted our kitchen fronts as well, although it was just an existing kitchen, just love the look of painted kitchen cabinets.

  6. Hi, Amanda! It’s looking so nice! Sorry if you’ve addressed before, but what color did you use on the cabinets? And is it the same as on the woodwork elsewhere in the house? Thanks!

    1. Hi Vickie! Thanks so much! The color we used for the lower cabinets is Sherwin Williams’ Pewter Tankard. The kitchen cabinets are the only place we’ve used that color. The white on the upper cabinets is the trim color throughout the house.

      Hope that helps!

  7. Thank you for all the good advice. It means the world to my husband and me. If you would answer an additional question:

    What type of paint should a person use to paint a cabinet or drawer front? A regular, semi-gloss house paint or something else?

    Thanks again,

    1. Hi Anne!

      I used paint and primer combo, but what I’d normally use for walls in an eggshell finish. So, I’d suggest using whatever paint you like for walls. So far, the doors have held up really well. The most important thing is the prep. Sand the doors down well to remove a gloss finish and get all dust off. You should be okay then. 🙂 If you still have questions, please let me know!


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