How to Paint Your Kitchen Cabinets (Part 2 of 2)

Included in this article:
Cabinet Door and Drawer Anatomy
The Dip-Slap
Blending and Smoothing
Secrets of the Pros

At this point, the grueling prep work of getting your kitchen cabinets ready to paint should be complete. It’s not a good idea to mix these processes. You don’t want to paint one part and then sand another part as you risk getting dust into your finish. The last step before you begin to paint is to protect your floors with a drop cloth and use blue painters tape to protect walls and ceilings. If you’re ready to go….

Cabinet Door and Drawer Anatomy
Most kitchen door and drawers have a decorative element in the form of a recessed panel. The top and bottom parts — which either protrude or recede, depending on the design — are called rails. The left and right sides are called stiles. Whether your cabinets have fancy details or a simple Shaker design, it’s all the same.

Open the primer. Stir well with paint stick. Pour off about ¼ of the gallon into a 1 gal paint bucket. Start with the backs. Let’s do a drawer first. It’s small and easy to handle. Take the 1 ½” chisel brush, dip about 1/3 of the tip of the brush into the primer. Now slap it on the inside surface of the bucket.

The Dip-Slap
The Dip-Slap is a great pro-tip. Most people dip the brush, and then wipe it on the top lip of the can, or bucket. You just wiped off most of the paint you loaded onto your brush, which kind of defeats the purpose. ‘Dip’ loads the brush and ‘slap’ reduces dripping without losing the load.

Technique: It’s all in the Wrist
Hold the brush like you would a soup spoon. Now lay paint onto the back of the drawer face. With the chisel brush you can push paint up to the edge where the face mounts to the drawer. Go all around, and then do the edges.
Don’t try to cover the whole thing in one brush-load; dip, slap, and apply as often as needed. Lay a nice layer of primer down, then smooth by wiping the brush on the top lip of the bucket and lightly passing it over the part you just painted. To keep the paint flowing smoothly, you sometimes need to wipe the excess off the brush with a rag.
When the back is done, check the front and wipe off any primer that might have dripped. Don’t worry about the edges. You’ll touch them up later.

Starting on the front, apply primer to the inside edge of the recessed panel. Start in the corner and go along the edge in a long stroke towards the middle. Dip and slap and apply the next load past where you ended, and paint back into the area you just finished. Painting back into the wet will help reduce any brush strokes.

Go to the next corner and repeat. Wipe off any excess you may have slopped onto the top surface of the rail or stile to prevent a build-up that will leave a rough surface.

With the 2” flat brush, prime the rest of the panel. Start in a corner. Brush down, then dip, slap, and work back into the wet. Once the entire panel is covered, wipe off any excess primer from the brush by wiping the brush on the edge of the bucket. Now, use the brush to smooth out any build up of primer on the piece.

Blending and Smoothing
When the panel is complete, it’s time to do the rails and stiles. Start with the top rail. Dip, slap, and apply primer at the point where the rail meets the stile. Long stroke out, now back into the wet. Do the bottom rail the same way. Then do the stiles. Start at the top, long stroke down. Work back into the wet. You’ll be able to prime all the drawers from the backs, sides, and face at one time. The doors are a different story.

Prime the backs of the doors first. After they dry completely, flip and prime the face and edges. Do the recessed panels first, then the rails and stiles. Just be sure to follow drying times listed on the can.

Go for Smooth
Once the primer has completely dried (at least overnight) you want to smooth the finish one more time with a once-over of steel wool. Steel wool will smooth the primer without removing coverings the way sand paper does. Lightly sand the steel wool over the entire piece. This will give you a nice smooth surface, ready for a second coat of primer, or your first coat of paint. Be sure to dust and wipe completely with a damp cloth.

Applying Paint
You’ve been practicing your technique by priming; now just follow the same process: paint the backs first, then the fronts. On the cabinets, do the rails first then the stiles. Smooth off any drips and excess build ups as you go. The large cabinet side areas can be done with a small roller if you desire. Try the 6” hot dog roller and smooth with the flat brush. This will help speed things along. Remember to clean up as you go.

Secrets of the Pros
For oil based paints, add ¼ cup linseed oil, and 1/8 cup paint thinner to 1 gal. Of paint. This will increase its ability to flow better and layout smooth.

Clean the brushes often. Use liquid dish soap and water for water based, and paint thinner for all oils. Use the wire brush to comb out the brush when you clean. Brush down the bristle then rinse. Always re-shape your brush when you’re done. If you get interrupted during the job or it’s time to quit for the day. Cover the bucket with a wet towel and plastic bags until you’re ready to start again.

Play some music, invite friends to help. You buy the pizza. And remember, it’s only paint.

And Finally…
When the paint has dried for at least 12 hours you can carefully remove the tape from the walls. Slowly pull the tape at an angle. You’ll be less likely to peel paint off the kitchen walls. Clean up any mess and do last touch ups, step back and admire your work.

Congratulations! You just painted your cabinets. Good job!

Kitchen Painting Supplies:
*Paint and primer (oil or water based)
*Paint thinner (for the oil based stuff)
*1 gal paint buckets (2 or 3)
*Stir sticks (usually free when you buy paint)
*Rubber gloves
*Rags (old t-shirts are good)
*Paint brushes (1 ½” chisel brush, 2” flat brush; an all-purpose brush will work with both oil and water based products
*Disposable brush, 3 or 4 inch (to use for dusting off the work)
*Straight razor blades (great for scraping drips off of glass and counter tops)
*1” putty knife
*Tape measure
*Black sharpie or marking pen
*Wire brush
*Steel wool