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What I Wish I Knew Before Painting Cabinets

Everything you need to know to achieve smooth painted cabinets. Learn from my mistakes, so you can save a ton of time and money on your cabinet painting project!

Cabinet Painting

I have always loved the look of white cabinets, but I didn’t have the budget to replace the existing outdated laminate cabinets in my kitchen.

So, I browsed the home improvement store and researched online on how to paint kitchen cabinets without sanding.

cabinet painting

This was my first big DIY project, so the Rustoleum cabinet paint kit was a great option for painting kitchen cabinets as a beginner.

At the time I didn’t know much about paint, so this kit made me feel confident that I could take on this big project.

Why I Painted my Kitchen Cabinets

After watching several home improvement shows, I thought it would be easy and affordable to take on these big projects.

When I moved into my first home, I had all these big plans to rip out walls, remove tile, and replace counter tops.

I did a few smaller diy projects around my home and noticed that the price of home improvement started to add up quickly.

So, I realized it was not realistic to spend the money to replace the cabinets or counters and decided painting kitchen cabinets was the best option.

rustoleum cabinet transformations

Before Painting Kitchen Cabinets

Even though I read the instructions included in the cabinet kit, I still made a few common painting mistakes.

Painting cabinets with a cabinet kit is easy, but can be a tedious process.

To simplify this project and end up with a smooth finish, read the common mistakes listed below before you paint kitchen cabinets white!

Items Needed for Painting Kitchen Cabinets:

cabinet painting
My Painted Cabinets!

Cabinet Painting Mistakes!

Make sure to read the common painting mistakes listed below before you start painting cabinets. Learn from my mistakes, so your cabinets come out better than mine did.

We share everything you need to know to paint cabinets the right way, so they last!

Mistake 1

Panic When Applying the First Coat of Paint

The first coat of paint has been applied to your kitchen cabinets and you begin to panic.

You start to instantly regret your decision and think you ruined your cabinets.

Don’t be alarmed if the first couple of coats look terrible (as seen below)!

I almost cried when I finished applying the first coat of the Rust-Oleum Cabinet Transformation kit because I thought I made a huge mistake by painting my cabinets.

After a few more coats of paint the cabinets will look much better and the brush strokes look less noticeable.

A high density foam roller will help achieve smooth painted cabinets while evening out the brush strokes on the cabinets.

rustoleum cabinet transformations
After 2 coats of paint

Mistake 2

How to Avoid Brush Strokes when Cabinet Painting

I made the mistake of only purchasing a brush to apply the Rustoleum kitchen cabinet paint and it took me forever!

If I used a high density foam paint roller and a Wooster angled brush I could have saved myself so much time and money.

I probably would have been able to skip buying an extra cabinet kit to finish the project too.

A high density foam roller creates smooth painted cabinets that will last!

I could have got away with only purchasing 2 instead of 3 kits to paint my cabinets and save a ton of time, if I used this roller.

A friend of mine took my advice to use a high density roller and painter pyramids.

She saved a ton of time using the pyramids and roller, and only needed a max of 3 coats of paint.

Mistake 3

Using the Incorrect Roller to Paint Laminate Cabinets

You purchased a roller and an angled brush, but you purchased a roller used to paint walls.

Make sure to purchase a roller made for smooth surfaces or your cabinets will have a weird texture from using the incorrect roller.

Purchase a high density foam roller that is meant for smooth painted cabinets.

Since I only used a paint brush for the entire project, it took me a total of 8 coats of paint, and almost 3 Rust-Oleum Cabinet Transformation kits.

Mistake 4

Not Prepping Before Painting Kitchen Cabinets

Cover your counter tops and floors with drop cloths because paint will splatter!

I skipped this step because I thought the paint would easily peel off (wrong), and I was thinking of replacing the counter tops.

I didn’t end up replacing the counter tops because of the expense.

So, it ended up taking me forever to clean up paint splatters from the counters and floor.

Next time I would use cardboard, newspaper, or a drop cloth under cabinets and for the floors for an easier clean up.

Mistake 5

Not Removing Doors and Drawers When Painting Kitchen Cabinets

To save time you decided it would be easier to leave the cabinet doors on instead of removing them. WRONG!!

This is a common mistake when painting cabinets because you are eager to start painting.

You will come across other websites that claim you can leave the doors on. If you want to try it then go ahead, but you aren’t going to get the smoothest finish.

I made the mistake of leaving my cabinet doors on because I was being lazy and I regret it!

This did not save me anytime, in fact this took a lot of time and I ended up getting paint on the hardware.

painting kitchen cabinets
Painted White Cabinets Turned Yellow

Since I left the cabinet doors on while painting, the clear coat gathered around the grooves of the cabinet and dripped down the sides.

This caused the cabinets to turn a slight yellow in some areas, as you can see in the below picture.

I highly recommend removing the cabinet doors!

Tips and Tricks to fix your cabinets, if you painted cabinets chip!

PDF Guide to Painting Kitchen Cabinets

Everything you need to know on how paint kitchen cabinets is now simplified into a PDF guide.

All of the instructions to achieve a smooth painted cabinets are in this post, but it is a long read.

This guide helps simplify this post into a PDF that you can access anytime you want on your phone!

cabinet painting

Cabinet Paint Alternative

If you are looking for an alternative to a cabinet kit, I used another good paint to update a bathroom vanity and desk.

Cabinet kits are definitely helpful for beginners, but there are other options that can get you just as good of results for less money.

If you do not want the extra work, you can even use this to paint kitchen cabinets without sanding.

This paint went on super smooth, is moisture resistant, and did not require a clear coat.

Will My Painted Cabinets Chip?

Yes, they probably will chip eventually because the kitchen is a busy place in your home.

Well it’s a busy place for me because I eat too many snacks and I have 2 toddler boys that enjoy running laps around the kitchen.

How to Fix Chipped Cabinet Doors

Don’t worry though because a small chip can easily be fixed with these tips and tricks.

I have a few small chips around my hardware because I used babyproofing clips that went over the hardware.

The clips scratched against the paint and over time caused small chips.

I recommend using baby proofing hooks that go inside your cabinet doors to prevent nicks in the paint.

Included in The Rust-oleum Cabinet Kit:

  • How to DVD
  • Instruction pamphlet
  • Deglosser
  • Rustoleum Cabinet Transformation Paint – Bond Coat (Tintable paint)
  • Rags
  • Scrub pads
  • Stir sticks
  • Protective Top Coat
  • Decorative Glazing cloths
  • Decorative Glaze (I skipped this optional step)

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets with Rust-Oleum

The Rust-oleum kit makes it easy to paint laminate kitchen cabinets white without sanding.

Before you start your project, make sure to read the common mistakes when painting cabinets listed above!

Even though I read the instructions and took my time with this project, I still made these mistakes when painting cabinets that I regret.

Label Cabinet Doors and Drawers

First prep your work area with drop cloths, painters tape, and remove all cabinets doors and drawers.

Label all cabinet doors and drawers with a post-it note, so you can easily hang the cabinets back up.

Also, label a plastic cup or bag to insert all of the hardware for each cabinet or drawer.

Then remove the cabinets and place all hardware in the label that matches the cup or bag.

Prepping Cabinets

Wipe down all surfaces of the cabinet, doors, and drawers with a damp soapy sponge.

After removing the soapy water from your cabinets, you can apply the deglosser.

The deglosser should be wiped on all surfaces that are going to be painted.

Then clean the cabinets with damp soapy water again before painting.

How to Paint Cabinets Without Sanding

If you are not using the deglosser included in the Rust-Oleum cabinet transformation kit, this is a good alternative.

You can paint kitchen cabinets without sanding, and they will hold up really well.

Just make sure to prep cabinets properly, so the paint will adhere correctly.

Either the deglosser or Krud Kutter will lightly etch the cabinet surface, so you can Krud Kutter.

how to paint kitchen cabinets

Why Can I Paint Kitchen Cabinets Without Sanding?

The Rust-Oleum cabinet transformation kit was designed, so you do not have to sand your cabinets.

I did not sand my cabinets before painting them with the Rust-Oleum Cabinet Kit, and they are holding up nicely.

Krud Kutter removes grease, mildew, stains, and lightly etches the cabinet surface to prep for painting.

My cabinets held up great, but I did get a couple small chips from baby proofing.

Here are a few tips and tricks to fix your cabinets, if your painted cabinets chip!

Applying Wood Filler Before Painting Kitchen Cabinets

If you have cabinets with wood grain, you can paint over it and have the wood grain show through or cover the grain with wood filler.

The wood grain filler should be applied to the grain on cabinets just like you would apply spackle to a wall.

Lightly smooth the Wood Grain Filler, over the surface then scrape away any excess.

Once the filler has dried, lightly sand the surface to prep for painting.

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets White

Once the cabinets have been cleaned and dried, you can brush or roll on the first coat of the Rustoleum Cabinet transformation paint (bond coat).

First apply the Rustoleum cabinet transformation paint with an angled brush into all areas that the roller cannot reach.

Then use this roller to blend the bond coat over the entire surface for a super smooth finish.

cabinet paint kit
Roller for cabinets

Second Coat of Cabinet Paint

Wait at least a couple hours in between each coat of Rustoleum cabinet transformation paint, so it soaks into the cabinets.

I applied all paint to the front surface of the cabinets before flipping the cabinets and working on the back.

One of the common mistakes when painting is not letting the cabinet paint fully cure.

The Rustoleum cabinet transformation paint (bond coat) might feel dry to the touch, but cabinets are not fully cured.

Save Time with Painter’s Pyramids!

I recommend waiting at least 12 hours before flipping the cabinets over to paint the other side.

If you do not wait this long because you want to get this project done, you can use painter’s pyramids.

Painter pyramids prop up cabinet doors, so you can paint both sides of the cabinet even if it is not dry.

I have use these for repainting my bathroom vanity cabinets and this save me a ton of time and prevent paint smudges.

how to paint kitchen cabinets
Save time with painter’s pyramids!

Inside View of Painted Cabinets

I chose not to paint inside the cabinets because I thought it looked fine as is with the natural wood tone.

Even if it didn’t look that great, I think I would have been too lazy to paint the inside of all of the cabinets.

how to paint kitchen cabinets white

Cabinet Top Coat

After the painted kitchen cabinets have completely dried, you can begin applying the final protective top coat.

To apply the protective top coat, I used an angled brush for a smooth painted kitchen cabinet.

I noticed a slight yellowing after painting cabinets because I applied the clear coat too thick.

So, make sure to use a thin layer of clear coat on your painted cabinets.

Think of painting your cabinets like you would paint your fingernails.

You do not want a thick layer of nail polish and clear coat on your nails or they will be smudged instantly.

How to Fill in Wood Grain on Cabinets

Laminate cabinets with wood grain can either be painted right over the grain or fill the grain.

If you don’t mind the look of the grain, you can simply just paint the cabinets and the gain will show through.

Luckily my laminate cabinets did not have wood grain, so I was able to paint my cabinets without filling them.

I don’t care for the look of grain, so if my cabinets had wood grain I would have filled them in using a Wood Grain Filler.

Do Not Forget to Replace Cabinet Bumpers!

After I finished applying the Rust-Oleum Cabinet Transformation kit, I placed bumpers on the back of cabinet doors and the doors.

The cabinet bumpers protect the cabinets, while allowing the doors and drawers to close softer.

Do not forget to replace cabinet bumpers after finishing your project!

Updating Hardware for Cabinets and Drawers

Updating existing handles and hinges can make a huge difference in your kitchen!

Make sure to measure before purchasing new hardware.

how to paint kitchen cabinets

Prevent White Cabinets from Turning Yellow

The clear coat included in the Rust-Oleum Cabinet Transformation kit is made to prevent yellowing, so do not skip this step.

Rust-Oleum’s Cabinet Transformation kit clear coat is an Acrylic/Urethane resin that will not yellow, if applied correctly.

Do not apply a thick layer of clear coat or you will not have smooth painted cabinets.

A thick layer of clear coat will dry in the grooves of the cabinet doors, and may leave drips.

The drips of clear coat will dry a light yellow on the white cabinets.

Also, make sure to remove your cabinet doors and drawers before applying the clear coat to your cabinets for a much smoother finish.

The Best Cabinet Paint!

My Rustoleum cabinet transformation came out great and exceeding my expectations, but I found a great alternative.

If you do not want to use a kit for painting kitchen cabinets then here is the best cabinet paint for the project!

How to Clean Painted Cabinets

Grease and smoke from cooking may make white cabinets appear slightly yellow.

Do not use abrasive cleaners or brushes to clean painted cabinets.

To clean the cabinets simply use dish soap mixed with water and a cloth or sponge.

A toothbrush can also be helpful to clean the grooves of the cabinet doors.

Gently wipe down each cabinet door one by one with the soapy water then dry each cabinet after it has been cleaned.

Items Required to Clean Painted Cabinets:

Replacing Cabinet Doors

Painting cabinets will give your kitchen a quick and affordable transformation.

One thing to note is that a coat of paint can only go so far.

If the existing cabinet doors are not in good shape or are outdated then paint might not be a permanent solution.

There is good news though because you can use the existing cabinet box, but replace the cabinet doors.

How My Painted Kitchen Cabinets Are Holding Up

It has been 3 years since I painted my cabinets, and they are still holding up great.

My cabinets still look good, even with a toddler that “fixes” the cabinets with a toy drill and drives cars along the cabinets.

There were a couple of small nicks in the paint, so I followed these tips to touch up the paint.

I am really happy with how my cabinets turned out, and I highly recommend this Rust-Oleum Cabinet Transformation Kit.

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How to Flock a Christmas Tree with Spray Paint - Rock Solid Rustic

Wednesday 17th of November 2021

[…] Everything you need to know to paint cabinets! […]


Wednesday 20th of October 2021

Is there a way to get more Rustoleum cabinet paint without purchasing the kit again?


Wednesday 20th of October 2021

@Brian & Lacey, Does that include the top coat or is there something else I need to do for that?

Brian & Lacey

Wednesday 20th of October 2021

Hi! I asked someone in the paint department at Home Depot about buying a similar cabinet paint to rustoleum. They didn’t know a good alternative to buying another kit. I ended up buying another kit bc I couldn’t figure it out either. I have since taken on more cabinet projects and found a really good cabinet paint. I had to touch up my cabinets recently so instead of buying another kit this time, I just lightly sanded and painted over them with Behr Interior Semi Gloss enamel. You could have this behr paint tinted the same color as rustolem. Home depot can match colors, so bring the rustoleum paint to the store can and have this paint tinted to match. Below is a link to my post on this paint to learn more.


Sunday 10th of October 2021

Thanks for this tutorial! I'm knee deep in this project right now. Easy process, but tedious. How long did you wait between bond coat and top coat? I'm not doing the glaze. This weekend project has turned into a week and I'm ready to be done.

Brian & Lacey

Sunday 10th of October 2021

You’re welcome! Hope you found this post helpful. I skipped the glaze too. I painted additional coats of the bond coat once the cabinets felt dry to the touch. Typically after a couple hours the cabinets will be ready for another coat depending on humidity. I let my cabinets dry overnight before brushing on the clear coat. Make sure not to apply the clear coat too thick. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Lacey


Tuesday 21st of September 2021

I've never heard of paint kits but they sound really helpful, especially for a newbie DIY'er like me haha. We had our kitchen cabinets painted last year and they still look absolutely gorgeous so now I want to give our bathroom vanities a little upgrade with some paint. Your thorough instructions are going to be so helpful! Thank you!


Monday 13th of September 2021

I hadn't even thought about filling the wood grain--I'm so glad you mentioned it! We had our kitchen cabinets refinished a few months ago and we absolutely love how they turned out so we want to paint the vanity in our guest bathroom to match. Definitely going to bookmark your instructions--they are so helpful!

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