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Painting Your Kitchen Cabinets: A 101 Guide - Modern Mural
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Painting Your Kitchen Cabinets: A 101 Guide

Last Updated on May 20, 2021

Interior design styles are very specific to a category, but every so often, certain categories do tend to overlap with others that are similar. This creates a unique opportunity to effectively update old cabinet surfaces by repainting them. Since there are so many painting techniques, you’ll want to stick to methods that deliver the best results. This article will cover the top 3 methods for repainting kitchen cabinets.

Choose Your Paint Wisely

Obviously, some pros and cons relate to painting that you may be aware of. In a nutshell, it all boils down to the quality of the paint that is used to repaint cabinets. The benefits of using quality paint do give you an advantage for long-lasting color and less chance of showing wear and tear. But there are also plenty of drawbacks if you aren’t careful and use paints that are bargain buys.

Not all paint is going to hold up over time so you do need to think about surface prep. This involves sanding, painting, and even sealing a painted surface with a good clear sealer. There are also drawbacks if you want to paint surfaces that have laminate. Since wood is often easier to paint, laminates are trickier to bond paint unless you are using specialized paints that are meant for these surfaces.

All of these concerns will have a direct effect if you measure the cost differences of buying new cabinetry. Are these cost differences relevant to repainting or will it be cheaper to buy new cabinets altogether? If you manage your materials carefully, the cost of repainting cabinets is more effective than purchasing new ones

Things to avoid when you DIY /Common fails

Repainting kitchen cabinets is not just taking a paintbrush and some paint and going to town. There is a certain degree of preparation that makes all the difference. You wouldn’t repaint a car without prepping the surface first, so the same applies to any kitchen cabinet’s original color. It’s also important that the cabinet doors, hinges, and handles are all removed before any repainting work begins.

There should be a work area that has very low dust, to keep a newly painted surface from getting marred. Sanding should be done outside or in the backyard to allow excessive dust and sanded the paint to fall away from your cabinet doors. Since you can’t move installed cabinet furniture outside so easily, these surfaces can still be sanded where they stand. This means you’ll need to carefully vacuum and wipe down surfaces with a tack cloth afterward.

There are painting methods that work and others that don’t depend on the type of paint that you’re using. Oil paint is not the same as acrylic and certain solvents are needed for oil-based paints. Thankfully, there are new acrylic brands that are meant for high durability. These can contain additives that include polyurethanes and other enhancements, which will extend the life of these painted surfaces.

There is also the issue of certain paints and stains that also need sealing after they are repainted. Sealers help protect a painted surface and are very effective at general wear and tear. This leads us to help you understand how painting techniques can work best on your kitchen cabinets.

Best Paints for Painting Cabinetry

This section gives you three prime examples of painting tricks and tips. Each of these will introduce a painting style, types of paint, and how it works best while working on a budget. This doesn’t reduce the quality of re-painting work, but rather it helps and enhances the durability moreover.

1. Using acrylic paint

how to Use acrylic paint on cabinet

This is the most common type of paint that is easy to use for most people. It’s water-based and all the paintbrushes can be cleaned using warm soapy water. But there are improved versions that contain additives that help keep the paint lasting longer. But the first step is searching for the right type of acrylic paint. Here is a shortlist of acrylic paint brands that really work well for repainting kitchen cabinets.

High gloss acrylic

This is the most basic of interior paints that were developed for high-impact areas, which is why it’s perfect for kitchen cabinets. The scope of this type of paint goes from high gloss down through super matt. These acrylic paints are easy to clean and usually don’t contain VOCs that can be hazardous to work around.

Interior satin acrylic

This type of acrylic is another great variant since it has a formulation that’s similar to alkyd enamels, but is still water-based. The advantage of satin acrylics is that this paint resists stains and fingerprints. Because it’s built like an alkyd enamel, it’s tougher and meant for the long haul of kitchen furniture.

Oil enriched acrylic paint

Because many paint stores are now banning paints that contain VOCs, this type of paint is harder to find. That doesn’t mean it’s all that dangerous if you paint in a well-ventilated area. This paint is essentially acrylic paint that’s infused with oil so it reacts more like an oil-based paint. But just like acrylic paint, paintbrushes can be cleaned up with soap and water.

2. Using oil paint

how to use Use oil paint on cabinet

Oil paint is one of the trickier paints to use since this process takes longer due to the drying time. It also requires that you paint in an area that is well ventilated. Oil paint doesn’t need much thinning unless you want to have thinner coats. This thinner includes solvents that make you feel lightheaded. This is why you need to paint in a room that has flowing air. Oil paint also needs the same solvents to clean your painting brushes.

These solvents are best kept in a left-over jelly jar since they are effective at cleaning brushes. You can use a rag to wipe down brushes that have all the oil paint wiped off. After each layer is painted onto cabinets, these must be allowed to dry before adding the next layer. This takes at least 2 days to dry enough to add another new layer. Oil paint dries leaving no visible brush strokes, making it nice and glossy as a result.

3. Using alkyd enamel paint

how to Use alkyd enamel paint on cabinet

Make no mistake, alkyd enamel paints are optimal for kitchen cabinet painting. They are very durable but feature all the same properties as acrylic paint. This means you can still wash out brushes with soap and water. The advantage of alkyd paints is that it dries to a hard enamel-like finish but is similar to oil-based paints. Because it doesn’t need thinners like oil paint, the smell is better to work around.

The only disadvantage is that certain surfaces will need a primer added to the cabinets so the adhesion is much stronger. The reason for this is to prevent natural Tannins that are found in natural wood. This will affect alkyd paint more than it would on cabinets that are mainly laminated. You can use any primer that is added to the surface of natural wood that you want to repaint.

There are differences between alkyd enamel paints with can be thicker and thinner mixtures between brands. There is also a major price difference jump if you prefer thinner mixtures, even though thicker can be thinned a bit with ordinary water. Thinner mixtures will always have a shorter drying time.

Which painting tool to use?

Paintbrush

Paintbrushes have advantages and disadvantages since brush hairs can come loose. There is also the issue of brush strokes, so you have to be careful how dense the brush happens to be. How you drag the brush over the surface also needs steady and smooth motion to reduce brush stroke texture.

Fine foam roller

These special rollers give you a lower amount of texture as it rolls over a surface. Unlike regular paint rollers, these will splatter and create a bumpy texture. Many kitchen cabinets don’t look good if they have an uneven and bumpy texture. This only adds more chance that dirt and grease will get onto the cabinets faster. This makes them nearly impossible to clean because of all the texture.

Paint pad

Paint pads are an option that works well for painting many kitchen cabinet doors. These pads act like foam sponges rollers, but instead, the paint is slid over the surface. You need to dig these pads more often and work better on surfaces that soak up paint quickly. It will take longer when painting laminate surfaces due to this type of painting method. Wood surfaces are better since they soak up water-based paints faster.

Paint gun

There are electric paint guns that fill up with paint that can be thinned with water or solvents. Though anything being sprayed should involve a painting mask, so you don’t breathe in vapors or paint spray. This method works well if you want a finer surface coat or are adding a finishing lacquer. Watch out for paint guns that are cheap models, here’s our value pick when it comes to purchasing a new gun. The spray nozzle can make unwanted splatters if it’s not using a fine needle tip.

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