The time has come to upgrade your kitchen, and you are also considering painting cabinets. If this is not the first time, then you also probably know how complicated it is to give cabinets a smooth finish.

Begin by preparing everything you need and inform yourself on sanding and dust control techniques. These are pretty much the two most important steps of the project, and you may need to repeat them several times until the finish is smooth.

Next, check our list of simple painting cabinets tricks and learn how to get a smooth finish when painting kitchen cabinets.

The key is to prepare well

This is not an easy project, so give yourself enough time. The quality will depend on how carefully you paint kitchen cabinets.

Remove the cabinet door, shelves, and the hardware

Before you begin to paint, remove everything from the cabinets. This also means loosening screws and hinges from the doors and removing knobs from the drawers. To do so, you will need a basic toolkit and a screwdriver.

Next, take off the shelves’ faces (you can find these inside the drawers). Collect these and other small parts in a plastic container so that you don’t lose any of them.

If you have several cabinets to paint, mark the doors to know where they belong. If you mix them, the hinges may cause additional problems and you will lose time reinstalling them.

Clean the surface

Ready to paint cabinets? It is important to clean cabinet surfaces in advance to let them absorb color perfectly. We recommend you use a degreaser to ensure there are no stains. Scrubbing sponges are just perfect for the task. In the end, wipe over once more to ensure they are completely dry.

Make sure paint won’t reach any unwanted areas of the kitchen. All open places, such as floors and other countertops must be covered with rosin paper. You should also fasten the covers with masking tape.

Cleaning is an essential pre-step of painting cabinets, especially when there are grease stains on the cabinets. You can remove these with a cabinet-friendly agent or the grease cutters you already have at home.

Do some repair work – holes, dents, and groves must be fixed in advance

Damage to the cabinets is probably the main reason why you decided to repaint them. Yet, a paint of layer won’t be enough to fill in scratches and holes, and you need to repair those before you begin.

Get some spackling and use a flexible putty knife to apply a thin layer on the affected areas. Let it dry for a few minutes, and you can then sand the excess layers off with high-grit sandpaper.

Before you move forward with painting cabinets, make sure that the filled surface is completely dry.

Sand carefully

Sanding is another important part of your project. It helps you take off the protective lacquer coating from the cabinets so that you can prime and repaint the wood base.

At the same time, it ensures you work on a smooth finish and a splinter-free surface that absorbs color easily.

You can also skip this step altogether and apply paint directly, but it won’t look as nice. While sanding, don’t forget the edges and the corners, as you will also need to paint those. While sanding, don’t forget the cabinet door.

Once you’re done, vacuum the dust particles up, and wipe the kitchen cabinets with sticky garments. You should be able to find those in any paint store.

Prime the cabinets to let wood bond with the paint

Apply the primer before painting cabinets. You can even add several layers to ensure a smooth finsih, as primer helps wood and paint build a better connection.

Another thing primer does well is to hide stains and damaged areas from the kitchen cabinets. If you apply enough of it, it will also ensure dirt doesn’t stick to the cabinets in the future.

When it comes to doors, drawers, and trim boards, you can use the foam roller prime only on the external side. The corners and the edges, however, must be thoroughly coated, as this is where your cabinets are most sensitive and damage-prone.

Prime in the same direction as the grain, so that leave as few brush marks visible as possible. Once done, let the prime dry out overnight. This means you need to invest some extra time in the project, but the result will be worth it.

There are many types of primer you can use, but professionals recommend foremost enamel underbody products. These primers are oil-based and therefore need more time to dry, but their finish is way more attractive.

They are also thicker than their water-based competitors, and you can only apply one coat for a solid result. We still advise applying two coats, as this will guarantee there will be no stain bleed-through at all.

If you have some enamel primer left, use it for painting cabinets in your bathroom or laundry room. It produces a very smooth finish and it is safe to use on any surface.

Here are some extra tips on sanding the primer: you can smooth the surface out with 220 grit. This is enough to get fine powder without damaging the coating to bare wood. 150 grit will be enough to clean imperfect spots or accidental fingermarks.

Buy the adequate paint

In essence, there are two options: latex paint and oil-based paint. For each of them, there is a special brush you should use.

Painting cabinets works the best with high-gloss or semi-gloss paint, but not just because of their looks. These paints make cabinets more resistant to dirt and damage, such as dents or scratches.

Keep in mind that the kitchen is a high-traffic area, and you need to keep it safe and durable.

A very simple and easy method is to apply lacquer paint with a paint sprayer. This smooth finish is also durable, and it also comes in all colors and nuances you can imagine. The only downside is that it dries out too fast, and you may not be able to brush it.

If you decide on lacquer paint, you may also need to change your priming routine. Appy enamel with a stir stick and make sure there are no bubbles or marks at all. This is the only way to keep the surface smooth.

Other types of paint can be applied with rollers, brushes, or even spray guns. Keep in mind that canned spray paint is not recommended for kitchen cabinets.

The best brushes and rollers for painting kitchen cabinets

Both brushes and rollers can produce a gorgeous, smooth finish, depending on the paint you work with. There are the fabric paint rollers, for instance, which you can use with oil-based paints.

Alternatively, there are great foam rollers that do excellent work with latex paints. Which ones guarantee the best smooth finish?

Mix paint with conditioner

Paint only may not be enough for a smooth finish. Check for paint conditioners in the local store and mix them with the paint. By doing so, you can eliminate all roller or brush marks and have amazing results.

Paint conditioners are a bit pricy, but don’t skip them – they are the real game-changers when it comes to nice kitchen cabinets.

Paint with the brush but finish with roller

Can’t decide whether to use a brush or a roller? Fair enough, they both have an array of advantages. To make the best out of it, use both.

Paired together, brushes and rollers will provide the flawless smooth finish you are after. Use the brush to paint in even, smooth strokes. Once the paint is there, smooth the coat once more with a foam roller. You won’t be able to see any brush strokes afterward.

The best brush size for kitchen cabinets is two inches, ideally made of natural or synthetic bristle. Don’t compromise on quality – the better the brush is, the nicer the cabinets will look.

Brushes themselves, however, produce an uneven coating. Let the paint dry and apply a second coat. This will ensure a smoother look.

Sand the first coat lightly

Before you add the second (or the final) coat, sand the cabinet with 300-400 grit sandpaper. This paper is strong enough to remove unwanted brush strokes, but also fine enough to protect the coating.

Only use clean brushes with smooth bristles. If the quality is good, the bristles won’t be spreading and falling out. You will get just the smooth finish you wanted.

Apply the second coat of enamel and color

If the kitchen cabinets are dry, you won’t need an additional brush or a foam roller. Just go ahead and get the 2nd coat of cabinet enamel to the base cabinets.

You can use fewer longer stokes to repaint. If the result is not good enough, consider adding a third coat. Once done, let the cabinets dry overnight and clean the brush you used. Foam rollers cannot be reused, so throw them away.

For those of you who have the time, we recommend a third layer of paint. This way, you can protect the wood from overheating and from a worn-out look.

How to paint kitchen cabinets with paint spray

Spray guns also provide excellent results for kitchen cabineta finish. Yet, they can be pretty messy, and we suggest you avoid them on cabinets that can’t be disassembled and brought outside.

Paint sprayers are a great solution because you don’t have to worry about roller marks or brush strokes. Painting with them is fast and effortless, and the smooth finish is very durable.

There is, however, a major downside to using them: the preparation time.

If you want to use a paint sprayer, you must remove all parts, such as drawers, doors, or shelves. You must detach each part from the wall and set up a painting area, ideally in the garage or the yard.

All items around the cabinets must be protected, including the backsplash, countertop, and even walls and floors. If you don’t do that, the project may turn out more expensive than planned.

And don’t rely on you being very careful – overspray can and will happen. This is why you should paint the cabinets outside, at least the main box parts.


Do streaks remain when the paint is dry?

It depends on how you paint kitchen cabinets – if you let the paint dry overnight, the streaks may blend in the coat. However, this is not always the case.

How to get a smooth finish when painting kitchen cabinets that are already painted?

Sure, you can. Do some prep-work first and sand the surface if it is not smooth. Always use enamel primer before you apply the final coat of paint.

Should I wet the paintbrush before I paint?

Never wet the paintbrush before you paint. This can be detrimental to your project.

What happens if I recoat and the paint was not dry?

We discourage you from recoating wet kitchen cabinets. If you do so, you may ruin everything you’ve done to that point, and you may need to sand the previous coat completely.

Ending thoughts on how to get a smooth finish when painting kitchen cabinets

You don’t have to be an expert to paint your kitchen cabinets and to give them a smooth, professional finish. This project, however, requires time, care, and high-quality products.

Prepare yourself and visit the local paint store to gather information. Painting supplies are usually inexpensive, and the project won’t cost you a fortune.

A complete renovation and professional help would be way costlier. Keep our list of tips on how to get a smooth finish when painting kitchen cabinets by hand at all times.

And most importantly: keep in mind that your favorite restaurant called Home will be closed for a while. Plan the meals accordingly, so that you don’t have to cook and clean at the same time while painting.

If you enjoyed reading this article about how to get a smooth finish when painting kitchen cabinets, we also wrote about subjects like how to accessorize a kitchen counter, how to get rid of cockroaches in kitchen cabinets, and what is the effect of oven cleaner on the kitchen countertops.

Besides those, we also have similar articles like how to get rid of ants in the kitchen, how to clean sticky wood kitchen cabinets, how to hide a washer and dryer in the kitchen, how to remove kitchen cabinets, how to unclog a double kitchen sink, and how deep are kitchen counters.

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