How to Paint Unfinished Cabinets

Are you looking to give your home a stylish upgrade without breaking the bank? Painting unfinished cabinets is an easy and relatively inexpensive way to make a big impact in any room. With just a few supplies, plenty of elbow grease, and a bit of creativity, anyone can create their own custom look with professional results.

How to Paint Unfinished Cabinets

In this blog post, we’ll provide step-by-step instructions on how to paint unfinished cabinets like a pro so that you can update your space while staying on budget.

Necessary Supplies

  • Unfinished Cabinets
  • Fine Grit Sandpaper
  • Tack Cloth
  • Primer
  • Paint of Your Choice (Latex or Oil-based)
  • Paintbrushes and Rollers (Make Sure They Are High Quality for a Smoother Finish)
  • Drop Cloths or Plastic Sheeting to Protect Your Floors and Countertops

11 Step-by-step Guidelines on How to Paint Unfinished Cabinets

Step 1: Preparation is Key

Before starting your painting project, make sure you have all the necessary supplies and a clean workspace. Remove all the cabinet doors and hardware, such as knobs and hinges, so that you can paint them separately. It’s also important to thoroughly clean and sand the cabinets to ensure a smooth and even finish. You can use fine-grit sandpaper (around 220 grit) to lightly sand the surface and remove any rough spots or imperfections.

Step 2: Sand, Sand, Sand!

Using Fine Grit Sandpaper

Using fine-grit sandpaper, lightly sand all surfaces of the unfinished cabinets. This will remove any imperfections and create a better surface for the primer to adhere to. You can sand by hand or use an electric sander to make the process quicker. But be sure not to overspend as this can damage the wood. It’s also important to sand in the direction of the wood grain for a professional finish. It may seem tedious, but trust us, it will be worth it in the end!

Step 3: Clean Up

After sanding, use a tack cloth to remove any dust and debris from the cabinets. This is crucial because even the smallest particles can affect the final look of your painted cabinets. It’s important to take your time with this step and make sure you get every surface clean.

This will ensure a smooth and professional finish. You can also use a damp cloth to wipe down the cabinets if needed. But make sure they are completely dry before moving on to the next step.

Step 4: Prime Time

Priming is an important step when painting unfinished cabinets because it helps the paint adhere better and ensures a more durable finish. Use a high-quality primer that is specifically designed for wood surfaces. Apply the primer evenly with a brush or roller, making sure to get into all the nooks and crannies of the cabinets. Let it dry completely before moving on to the next step.

Step 5: Choosing Your Paint

Choosing Paint for Unfinished Cabinets

When choosing paint for unfinished cabinets, you have two options: latex or oil-based. Latex paints are easier to use and clean up with water, making them a popular choice for DIY projects.

Oil-based paints provide a more durable and smooth finish but require mineral spirits for cleanup. Whichever option you choose, make sure to use a high-quality paint in the color of your choice. It’s also a good idea to do a test patch on a small area of the cabinet before painting the whole thing.

Step 6: Time to Paint

Using a brush or roller, apply the paint evenly over the primed cabinets. Make sure to work in long, even strokes and cover all surfaces thoroughly. You may need to apply multiple coats for full coverage, so be patient and allow each coat to dry completely before applying the next one.

It’s also important to paint in a well-ventilated area and wear protective gear, such as a mask and goggles when working with paint. It’s also a good idea to use drop cloths or plastic sheeting to protect your floors and countertops.

Step 7: Don’t Forget About the Hardware

While your cabinets are drying, you can paint the cabinet hardware separately. You can either use spray paint or brush on a coat of paint in a complementary color. This is an easy way to update the look of your cabinets and add a personal touch.

But make sure to let them dry completely before reattaching them to the cabinets. You can also choose to replace the hardware altogether for a completely new look. It’s a small detail that can make a big impact.

Step 8: Optional Finishing Touches

Once the cabinets are completely dry, you can add some additional finishing touches to make them stand out. This could include adding decorative trim, glazing or distressing for a vintage look, or even stenciling for a unique design.

This is your chance to get creative and make your cabinets truly one-of-a-kind. It’s important to plan and test out these techniques before applying them to your cabinets.

Step 9: Reattach the Cabinet Doors

Reattach the Cabinet Doors

Once all the paint is dry and any additional finishes are applied, it’s time to reattach the cabinet doors. Make sure to align them properly and secure them tightly with new hardware if necessary.

It’s also a good idea to add bumpers or felt pads to prevent the doors from slamming shut. You can also add new knobs or handles for a final touch. Although this step is not necessary, it can give the cabinets a more polished and complete look.

Step 10: Clean Up

Now that your cabinets are painted and reinstalled, it’s time to clean up your workspace. Remove all the drop cloths or plastic sheeting and make sure to properly dispose of any leftover paint or supplies.

But make sure to save any extra paint for future touch-ups. Otherwise, it’s time to sit back and admire your beautifully painted cabinets. But before you do that, make sure to follow the final step.

Step 11: Maintain Your Freshly Painted Cabinets

To keep your newly painted cabinets looking fresh and clean, make sure to regularly wipe them down with a damp cloth. Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners as they can damage the finish. With proper care, your painted cabinets will look great for years to come. Always remember, that the key to a successful DIY project is patience and attention to detail. Now go enjoy your newly painted cabinets!

By following these step-by-step guidelines on how to paint unfinished cabinets, you can easily paint unfinished cabinets and transform the look of your space. With a little bit of effort and patience, you can achieve professional-looking results without breaking the bank. So go ahead, give it a try and see the amazing difference painted cabinets can make in any room of your home. Remember to have fun and get creative with your design choices. Happy painting!

Tips for a Successful Cabinet Painting Project

  • Make Sure to Properly Prepare the Cabinets by Cleaning and Sanding Before Priming.
  • Use High-quality Supplies, Including Primer and Paint, for a Better Finish.
  • Take Your Time and Allow Each Coat to Dry Completely Before Applying the Next One.
  • Work in an Well-Ventilated Area and Wear Protective Gear When Painting.
  • Remove Cabinet Doors and Hardware for Easier Painting.
  • Consider Adding Finishing Touches Such as Decorative Trim or Stenciling.
  • Regularly Clean and Care for Your Painted Cabinets to Maintain a Fresh Look.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1: Can I Paint Unfinished Cabinets Without Sanding Them First?

A1: While sanding is an important step in prepping the surface for painting, it may be possible to skip this step if the cabinets are clean and have a smooth surface. However, sanding can help the primer and paint adhere better and ensure a professional finish.

Q2: How Many Coats of Paint Do I Need to Apply?

A2: The number of coats needed may vary depending on the type and quality of paint you are using, as well as the color and condition of your cabinets. It’s best to apply at least two coats of paint for optimal coverage and durability.

Q3: Can I Paint Over Stained Cabinets?

A3: Yes, you can paint over stained cabinets. However, it’s important to thoroughly clean and sand the surface before applying primer and paint for best results. It may also be helpful to use a stain-blocking primer to prevent any color bleeding through the paint.

Q4: Do I Need to Remove the Cabinet Doors and Hardware Before Painting?

Removing the Cabinet Doors and Hardware

A4: Removing the cabinet doors and hardware can make the painting process easier and provide better results. However, if you choose not to remove them, make sure to properly cover and protect them from paint drips and spills. It’s also important to take extra care when painting around hardware to avoid any drips or smudges.


With such an easy process, you can quickly transform your unfinished cabinets into a personalized addition to your home. Work little by little and create a look that expresses your individual style. Even if you’ve never painted a piece of furniture before, don’t be discouraged. You just need the right supplies and prep work to make sure your painting project turns out perfect!

So go ahead – grab some paint and brushes, take off those cabinet doors, and get to work! With all the amazing results you can get with basic painting techniques you’ll have the cabinets of your dreams in no time at all. Thanks for reading this article on how to paint unfinished cabinets.

Photo of author

Adrian Green

Adrian is a woodworking hobbyist and has loved Woodworking since he was 10 years old. Back then in childhood, his father used to have a furniture shop. He used to help his dad and learned a lot from him about how to fix woodworking furniture, basic carpentry knowledge and also about how to work hard and take care of business. He enjoys woodworking as a hobby. He loves the feeling of creating something with his own hands, and the satisfaction that comes from seeing his finished products used by others.

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