Bathroom Decorating & DIY DIY Basics John and Alice's Kitchen Kitchen Decorating & DIY

More Painting Tips (Painting Cabinet Doors)

Last Updated on February 26, 2013 by Kristi Linauer

I’ve done more painting in the last year that I’ve ever done in my life, and with each project, it seems like I pick up another tip that makes things easier, or makes the finish prettier.  So, like a good blogger who cares about her readers, I’m passing those on to you.  Smile

A few days ago, I was at John & Alice’s house painting cabinet doors and the granite man stopped by.  He was asking me all about the process I was using (Are you using oil or latex?  Oil, of course!  Very good.  Are you using Penetrol?  Definitely!)

Then he asked me if I had ever used one of the little foam rollers.  I have used a foam roller…once…a long time ago…and I hated it.  The finish wasn’t smooth, I could see roller marks and ridges.  It was awful.  But he said that that’s what he used on his own cabinets, and the finish rivaled a sprayed finish.  Hmmmm…I was intrigued.

Then it dawned on me that the one time I used a foam roller, I was still a novice DIYer and really had no idea what I was doing.  Those were also the days when I was still using latex paint for everything.  In addition, that was way, WAY before my discovery of paint conditioner.

So I decided that I would give his idea a try.  At the time, the cabinet doors already had one coat of oil-based primer (that I sanded lightly) and one coat of oil-based paint, to which I had added Penetrol paint conditioner and had applied with a brush.

I started by using 150-grit sandpaper to sand the brushed layer to a smooth finish.

almost perfectly painted cabinet doors 1


Next, I used a dry brush to remove all of the paint dust.  I always use a dry brush for this (rather than a rag or tack cloth) because a brush can really get into crevices and corners, where rags or tack cloths have a tendency to push dust into the corners.

almost perfectly painted cabinet doors 2


Next, I prepared my paint by adding a bit more Penetrol and mixing thoroughly.  (I had added Penetrol previously, but oil-based paint and Penetrol both contain solvents that will evaporate over time, especially if you’re working on a big project where you have the can open for hours at a time, as is the case when painting kitchen cabinets.)

almost perfectly painted cabinet doors 3


I did still have to use a brush to paint all of the routed details and edges on the door.

almost perfectly painted cabinet doors 4


As you can see, the brush left ridges of paint on the flat areas.

almost perfectly painted cabinet doors 5


So I used a rag to wipe away the excess paint.  Leaving it would allow it to start drying as I finished up the other brushed areas, and would be visible on the final finish.  So don’t let your doors be ruined by built-up paint ridges!!  Wipe those away as soon as possible.

almost perfectly painted cabinet doors 6


After all of the routed areas and edges were brushed, and the excess paint was wiped away, I used the roller on all of the flat areas.  Notice the paint ridge left by the roller (see the arrow).  It took some practice to make sure that none of those were left on the final finish.

almost perfectly painted cabinet doors 8


And when it was dry, I was left with a gorgeous finish that is as pretty darn close to a sprayed finish as you can get without actually spraying.

almost perfectly painted cabinet doors 9


I think it’s very important to remove the doors from the cabinets before painting, so the door can be flat while they’re drying.  That way gravity can do its thing and help the paint to even out over the couple of hours after you’ve painted.  (Oil-based paint is slow-drying on its own, but Penetrol extends the drying time, which helps the paint to smooth out even more.)

Next Tuesday the granite countertops go in, and then on Wednesday, the subway tile backsplash will go in.  I can’t wait to see it, and share some pictures with you!!

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  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    April 22, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    Thanks for sharing! Your posts always make me feel much less intimidated by projects. This kitchen's going to turn out great!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Ann @ HouseFinally
    April 22, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    I am gearing up to paint my bathroom vanity but I'm going for a slightly translucent look that shows the woodgrain. I want a dark tone, like an espresso. Any tips? These look great by the way!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Kristi @ Addicted 2 Decorating
    April 22, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    Of course I have tips!! 😀

    I have actually achieved the look you're going for on three separate projects (two kitchens and one bathroom) by using Minwax gel stain from Home Depot. It comes in a range of colors, and instead of using it according to the directions (brush on, leave for a few minutes, wipe off excess), I actually brushed it on like paint and let it dry completely. It took a couple of days for it to dry completely, but the result was beautiful. I did begin by sanding just to give the original finish some tooth before applying the stain, and I think I used a foam brush to apply the stain.

    But it has to be GEL stain…not the regular stain. You might try it on the back of a door, or go somewhere like ReStore and purchase a door that's similar to yours, just to try it out and get a feel for using gel stain.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Anne Sullivan
    April 22, 2011 at 11:51 pm

    For once, my procrastination is paying off! Because this is a bunch of fantastic stuff for me to incorporate into my kitchen cabinet painting project!! Thank you so much for sharing!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Double Glazing
    April 23, 2011 at 3:52 am

    That is an awesome tips. Hope everyone should follow this tips to perfectly design thus project of yours.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    [email protected]
    April 24, 2011 at 1:56 am

    I love the little tootsie rollers! I use them for everything. They splatter less and give you just as good a coverage as the big fat rollers. I used the foam ones last week when I painted my cabinets. Great tool!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Anne Sullivan
    May 1, 2011 at 6:49 pm

    So now that I know the proper way to paint cabinet doors, how do you paint the cabinet frames since those can't be easily removed?

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    June 3, 2011 at 12:34 am

    Thank-you for sharing.  I have painted cabinets in the past and just have never been satisfied with it.  I will try your way next time!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Painting and Decorating
    July 3, 2011 at 11:48 am

    These are very nice tips of the painting. I followed these tips when i started making
    Painting And Decorating as my career. These tips proved to be very vital for enhancing the career as well.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    painting contractors Denver CO
    April 27, 2012 at 3:37 am

    These are very helpful tips in painting cabinet doors! A lot of homeowners will surely find these suggestions effective. Thanks for sharing a very informative article.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    June 19, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience and knowledge. I am in the middle of a project, painting a two piece hutch, and have gotten two coats of primer on it. I have been debating about what paint to use (although I was going with oil based) and how to approach it. I feel much better after having read this post! I did use the foam rollers for the primer (had to brush some of the trim) and it really looks good. I will definitely do the same for the paint coats! Thanks again, your work is beautiful.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    July 31, 2013 at 2:38 am

    Thanks for share these awesome tips, i really like the roller that is good and time savvy. i appreciate the author who post it.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    November 25, 2013 at 9:42 am

    Hi Kristi,
    We are planning on painting our kitchen cabinets black. I will use oil based primer and paint, per your suggestions, as well as sand and use the roller, as we do have the raised-panel cabinet doors. Do you also suggest the roller for the flat cabinet boxes? Are there different sheens to oil paint and which do you suggest? I’m not doing any distressing or faux finishes. We are also going to be painting our trim white. Do you still use a brush for that or the roller? With the oil based paint, do you have to wear a mask for the fumes? We are in MN and it will be cold when we are painting, so I don’t know if we could open the windows. Maybe we should wait until it warms up so we can open all the windows? Do you still use latex paint for walls? I’m totally a novice here and a little nervous about taking on such a huge project! But right now our house is full of 90’s oak and I’d like white trim with black cabinets and doors!