How to Paint Kitchen Cupboards, Doors and Units

Is your kitchen in desperate need of freshening up, but your funds are limited? Painting kitchen cupboards is an affordable project that can be completed by anyone with basic DIY skills. Just follow the nifty guide on this page.

We’ll tell you which paint is suitable for the type of surface you have in your kitchen; we also have some great tips for you to follow, and you can check out the common mistakes that could ruin your project.

A couple of weeks ago, we published a price guide for anyone looking to update their kitchen by replacing the door and drawer fronts, you might be surprised at how expensive some of the parts were, and then there’s the installation fee to consider.

Painting the existing kitchen units, doors and fronts is by far the cheapest option, so is an excellent choice for those of you on a limited budget.

Real Wood or Laminate?

It doesn’t matter if your kitchen is made of real wood or laminate, you can successfully paint both.

The only difference is the type of paint you’ll need, so keep reading and avoid the common mistakes some people make.

Note: Laminate worktops should never be painted. Solid wood worktops can be treated with a suitable oil stain to alter their appearance. We are not affiliated with this website, but they have some great bespoke products that are ideal for wood worktops so check them out.

If you want to replace your kitchen worktop, check out our researched price guide here.


We won’t lie to you; this isn’t a five-minute project.

You will need to empty the kitchen, remove some of the parts such as drawer fronts and doors, thoroughly clean and sand the surfaces, and then apply several layers of paint allowing for various amounts of drying time between each coat.

It’s unlikely that you’ll get the entire project completed in one weekend so expect your kitchen to be out of action for a couple more days.

Step 1 – Create a Drawing and Remove Parts

First, you should remove all the door handles, knobs and hinges as required.

Now, create a simple drawing of your kitchen and note down the location of each door, drawer front and any other part that needs to be removed before painting (we suggest you take off as many as you can).

Now number each part, the best place to do this is where the hinge was located or behind the handle/knob. Now jot down the number on the drawing.

This is an essential step, your doors and drawers might be the same size, but the hinges and drill holes will probably be in a slightly different location on each part.

Creating a numbered map will save you so much time at the end of the project when it’s time to refit the parts back to their original location.

Step 2 – Empty the Kitchen

Now it’s time to empty the kitchen of its contents.

No matter how careful you are, the paint will get into places it just shouldn’t be.

An empty kitchen is also far easier to clean and prepare.

Step 3 – Degrease and Clean

Every surface should first be thoroughly cleaned.

This is another key step that you shouldn’t rush. Kitchens are often very greasy, and paint will never adhere correctly to a greasy surface.

We suggest you use the strongest degreasing chemical cleaner you can find, normal washing-up liquid probably isn’t up to the task.

Step 4 – Mask Up

Applying masking tape to edges, tiles, light fittings and other sensitive areas is a great way to protect them from paint marks.

We suggest you take your time doing this, on every painting and decorating project it’s the preparation work that is the most important.

Get this step wrong, and you’ll soon be trying to scrub off dry paint which will take ages and frustrate you.

Step 5 – Sand Down the Surfaces

Sanding block

A sanding block is a good investment.

You’ll need to smooth off the surfaces and remove any remaining contaminants with sandpaper. We suggest using fine-grit sandpaper to complete this task.

If the parts have a woodgrain, try to follow the direction of the grain, instead of using a circular motion.

Make sure you thoroughly hoover up all the dust in the kitchen, loose dust gets everywhere, and a small draft can blow it onto the freshly painted surfaces.

Now is the perfect time to wipe down all the surfaces with a cloth dipped in white spirit.

This step will remove not only any remaining dust but also any grease or other contaminants that remain.

This is another of those crucial steps, so don’t skip this part.

Step 6 – Apply the Coats of Paint

The number of primers and undercoats will vary and depends on the paint you have chosen. You’ll never need more than one topcoat.

There’s a limited selection of “one coat” paints that will speed up the drying process, although personally, I prefer to use separate coats; primer, undercoat and topcoat.

If the surfaces are made from laminate, you’ll need to use specially developed paints called Melamine paints. This is because these types of surfaces don’t absorb moisture as regular wood does.

To ensure a neat, smooth and consistent finish we suggest using an expensive no-loss brush; this means it won’t shed bristles, these are ideal for intricate indoor work.

Obviously, you’ll need to allow for the appropriate drying time between each coat of paint.  If you’re storing the doors outside or in a garage, be mindful that paint takes much longer to dry when it’s kept in a damp location. The suggested drying times published on most paint tins assume an average ambient temperature.

Step 7 – Refit the Doors and Drawer Fronts

Once the doors and drawer fronts you removed have been painted and are dry, you can refit them.

Use your drawing as a guide, so each part is fitted in the correct location.

We also suggest you wear a pair of soft gloves to protect the freshly painted surfaces.

Equipment List

In addition to a screwdriver, you’ll find a list of everything needed below:

Paint brush set

No loss paintbrushes, sold via Amazon.

Paint tin for kitchen

A popular cupboard paint on sale at B&Q

fine grit sandpaper

Fine sandpaper, via Amazon.


Bottle of white spirit

White spirit

A powerful degreaser, ideal for preparing kitchen cupboards

Are You Tempted to Paint Wall Tiles?

To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of wall tile paints.

While these products may appear to be a great way of refreshing the colour on the tiles, I think they look odd when viewed close up, and I’ve yet to see a finished project that is acceptable to me.

Painting tiles

Source: Pinterest

Rather than painting the tiles, I would suggest you purchase a small steam cleaner and thoroughly wash them before re-grouting the joints between the tiles.

With a little time and effort, the tiles will look as good as new.

Consider These Other Kitchen Upgrades

The worktop is one of the most important features of any kitchen, so if you do want to spend a little extra and yours is looking tired and scratched, consider swapping it for a new one.

The most challenging part of worktop installation is cutting a neat join in the corners.

This page contains a price guide for replacing a kitchen worktop, go check it out.

One area where you can make a big difference without splashing the cash is by replacing the handles and knobs in the kitchen.

These parts are inexpensive, easy to fit and instantly improve the appearance of the units.

Handles 4 Doors has a decent selection of reasonably priced products, explore their website here.

Floor tiles are another area where you can make a significant aesthetic improvement without spending a fortune.

Rather than painting floor tiles, just rip them up and replace them with new ones.

Topps Tiles is a great store, and floor tiles start at a very reasonable £20 per square metre.

4 Mistakes That Will Ruin Your Project

Make these mistakes at your peril:

  1. Not cleaning the cabinets thoroughly – you shouldn’t underestimate the importance of this step. Paint won’t adhere to surfaces that have even the slightest amount of grease on them. Spend more time preparing the surfaces, and you’ll spend less time trying to correct problems later.
  2. Not allowing enough drying time between each coat – just because the surface is dry to touch doesn’t mean it’s ready for the next coat. Follow the guidance on the tin and make an allowance for the temperature.
  3. Having high expectations – solid wood can be oiled and returned to its original colour, but laminate surfaces are different as the paint adheres to the surface rather than absorbing into the wood. The quality of the finish on laminates isn’t always perfect; we suggest doing a test patch on a piece of laminate first.
  4. Not using masking tape and sheets to protect sensitive areas – paint splash marks on handles, knobs, tiles, floors or walls will ruin the finished project. Even the slightest mishap can leave anyone visiting the kitchen with the impression that the work wasn’t completed to a professional standard.

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If you don’t fancy doing this work yourself, hit the button below to see how we can help you get a competitive price for a kitchen upgrade:

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