Painting Cabinets (and Using Shortcuts)

I have self-diagnosed myself as an “impatient perfectionist.”  I like things done right, but FAST.  I have done a lot of painting (if you hang out with me for just a little bit, you’ll discover paint is my solution for almost anything), and I’ve discovered several shortcuts along the way.  Today I’m going to share what shortcuts to use (and not use!) when painting cabinets. I recently transformed my boys’ bathroom using mainly paint for a contest involving colored light switches and outlets. To see more about the bathroom transformation, click HERE.

Painting Cabinets (and Using Shortcuts)

Below is a photo of my boys’ bathroom before.  Now, you may be wondering why in the world I didn’t keep the cabinets white.  Didn’t that crazy girl just paint all her kitchen cabinets white?

Boys Bathroom Before

Well, my heart was set on gray cabinets.  I even made an inspiration board for the bathroom:


Step 1: Remove all hardware. (Don’t skip this step.  You do not want paint on your hinges.  It will look sloppy!)

Bathroom Cabinets  

Step 2: Layout all drawers and doors.

Painting Cabinets 12  

Step 3: Give them a quick cleaning.

Painting Cabinets 2

Step 4: Use an all-purpose paint prep. Here’s where I skipped a step.  I *skipped sanding and used this product.  It removed any extra icky residue that cleaning it with soapy water won’t fix.  AND, it does remove some of the finish.  In my case – a glossy finish. *Sanding is always recommended.  I’m a shortcut girl, so I went with heavy doses of primer in place of sanding.  When in doubt – sand!

Painting Cabinets 3

Update: Unfortunately I can’t seem to find this product anymore.  Simple Green is a great cleaner alternative, but it won’t remove any of the finish which is is what made this product work well when skipping sanding.

Step 5: Prime. Here’s how I cheated on this step – spray paint primer.  It went SO much faster!

Painting Cabinets 4

(My kids always want to help.  This “step” can slow you down.  Big time.)

Painting Cabinets 6

Now, I decided to spray prime the cabinets themselves.  This went super fast, but the prep work may have made up for the time I save spray painting.  I had to tape down EVERYTHING.

Painting Cabinets 9

AND, you must have proper ventilation.  Luckily I had a huge window right across from my cabinets.

Painting Cabinets 7

Step 6: Paint the cabinets, doors, and drawers with paint. I did about two coats on each.  Since my primer was tinted, this step went pretty quickly.  I did this with a paintbrush because I could not find the perfect gray in the spray paint can.  Otherwise, I definitely would have spray-painted them! I did go ahead and buy a “self-priming” paint – even though I still was using a primer.  I wanted as much adhesion as I could get – I didn’t want the paint peeling off. The spray paint primer I used is an enamel, so you’ll want to also use enamel paint over the enamel primer.  I bought my paint at Lowe’s and the color is “Dover Gray.”  Step 7: Finish coat. I attempted to spray paint a finish coat on my cabinets.  DO NOT DO THIS!  It looked streaky and bad.  This is not the step to take the shortcut and use spray paint.  After all that work, I went back through and covered everything with polyurethane – by hand.

Bathroom Cabinets After

The above picture is before I added the polyurethane.  I was trying to tell myself I could live with the streaks of the spray finish, but I couldn’t. I hope my shortcuts help save you time.  Painting cabinets can be tedious, but the reward is so worth the time and effort! I painted my kitchen cabinets, only this time I used chalk-type paint.

Painted Kitchen Cabinets Tutorial

If you want the absolute fastest way to paint cabinets and like the (rustic) charm and ease of chalk paint, click HERE to see more.

Go create something!

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