Paint Your Kitchen Cabinets WITHOUT LOSING YOUR MIND!

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Learn to paint your kitchen cabinets without losing your mind!  Full tutorial by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body.  #paintcabinets

Hopefully, you have already read all about our budget kitchen makeover, part 1 and part 2, which including painting our kitchen cabinets.  I have received TONS of questions about how we did it.  So, I am here to tell you how you can paint your kitchen cabinets without losing your mind!  

That’s right, friends, I PAINTED MY KITCHEN CABINETS AND LIVED TO TELL YOU ABOUT IT!  I am not going to lie.  It was a time consuming project, but we simplified it as much as possible.  It would have been much, much worse if I had followed those “how to paint your kitchen cabinets like a professional” tutorials.  Here’s the truth folks.  I am NOT a professional painter.  I am a a busy, full-time working attorney with a busy, full-time working firefighter husband and we have busy 3 1/2 year old twins.  THAT’S WHY WE DECIDED TO PAINT OUR KITCHEN CABINETS LIKE AMATEURS WITH PROFESSIONAL RESULTS.  If you are impatient and want to skip down to the tutorial, go ahead.  If you are curious about how and why we decided to use the materials that we used, read the whole post.

Now, I know a lot of you are reluctant to paint your kitchen cabinets, and we were, too.  We were really, really concerned about the durability of the paint, since we hope that this makeover will carry us 5 to 10 years before we do a complete gut-job renovation.  You may recall that I painted the cabinets in our laundry room about 9 months ago using regular latex paint that we had leftover from another project.  Well, I am sad to tell you that some of that paint chipped off ON THE VERY FIRST DAY after we rehung the doors.  So, you can see why we were nervous.  But the finish on our kitchen cabinets was badly damaged and we didn’t care for the orange oak look, so something had to be done.

Learn to paint your kitchen cabinets without losing your mind!  Full tutorial by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body.  #paintcabinets

Because of our concern about paint durability, we had all but decided to stain our cabinets using Java Gel Stain by General Finishes.  You have probably seen stunning cabinet transformations using the General Finishes Java Gel Stain all over the place.  Seriously amazing stuff.  And General Finishes generously sent me a sample of the Java Gel Stain to try out.  But as we exchanged emails about my kitchen project, the folks at General Finishes also mentioned that they have a line of Milk Paint, which is a high quality acrylic paint that is very durable.  WHAT’S THAT YOU SAY????  I was so excited about the possibilities.

After further exchanges, I learned that using the Milk Paint in conjunction with General Finishes High Performance Top Coat, our kitchen cabinets should withstand daily use just fine.  YAY!  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the Java Gel Stain cabinet projects I have seen, but I had dreamed of grey cabinets.  It was my heart’s desire.  So, General Finishes generously sent me samples of the three grey colors the Milk Paint comes in: Seagull Gray, Driftwood and Queenstown Gray.

When the samples arrived, I could not wait to put up the samples.  I mean, LITERALLY, I could not wait.  I arrived home from work on afternoon, greeted my sweet Attley and Avery and asked them if they wanted to watch me paint a little bit.  They did {they totally take after their momma and love all things crafty}.  I quickly, and rather sloppily, painted the three different gray colors on one of our upper cabinets.  I spent no more than 2 minutes doing it, and did not even try to use good technique, etc.

Learn to paint your kitchen cabinets without losing your mind!  Full tutorial by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body.  #paintcabinets

First of all, I was completely amazed by how well one coat of the paint covered our outdated oak cabinet.  But what most impressed me about this paint is that YOU CANNOT SEE PAINT BRUSH MARKS.  Seriously.  There is not a brush mark to be seen on our cabinets.  It’s amazing.  AND this paint dries quickly and is not tacky, like latex paints.  Are you ready for the best part?  YOU DON’T HAVE TO PRIME BEFORE YOU PAINT WITH THIS STUFF.  I was sold.  There was no question that I wanted to paint our cabinets with Milk Paint by General Finishes.

It have to stress that I am NOT being compensated by General Finishes is any way whatsoever to recommend it to you.  General Finishes did provide me with the paint I needed to complete my project, but all opinions are 100% my own.  I am recommending it to you solely because it is AMAZING.  I honestly would recommend against painting your kitchen cabinets unless you use General Finishes Milk Paint.  We only painted ours because we found this awesome paint.

After some debating, we decided to use General Finishes Seagull Gray Milk Paint {affiliate link*} for all of our perimeter cabinetry and the General Finishes Driftwood Milk Paint {affiliate link*} on our island.

As recommended by General Finishes, we also used General Finishes Water Based High Performance Polyurethane Top Coat for added durability. {affiliate link*}
There are so many detailed tutorials about how to paint your cabinets like the professionals.  That is not what I am going to give you.  I am going to tell you how to paint your kitchen cabinets without losing your mind, but WITH professional results.


First note that we worked in sections {i.e., kitchen island one day, upper cabinets sink area another day, etc.}  We also elected NOT to paint the interior of our cabinets because they are in good shape and frankly, we did not have the time or patience to do it.  This saved us the added hassle of having to pack up our entire kitchen.  We left everything in place in our cabinets.  This allowed us to remain sane through the process because the kitchen was still usable, which was pretty vital for our busy family of 4.  Now, here are the steps you will need to follow to paint your kitchen cabinets:

1) Remove all hardware.

2) Remove doors and drawers.  You will have to empty your drawers, but everything can stay in your cabinets!

Learn to paint your kitchen cabinets without losing your mind!  Full tutorial by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body.  #paintcabinets

3) If you don’t like the color of your hinges, you can spray paint them!  It’s way more economical than buying new ones.  Our old hinges and screws were brass–not a good look with gray cabinets.  So, we spray painted our hinges AND the screws with Brushed Nickel spray paint and topped them with a clear protective coat.

Learn to paint your kitchen cabinets without losing your mind!  Full tutorial by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body.  #paintcabinets

Learn to paint your kitchen cabinets without losing your mind!  Full tutorial by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body.  #paintcabinets

4) Wipe down cabinets, doors and drawers to remove any dirt and grime {we used Lysol wipes}.

5) Wipe down cabinets, doors and drawers with liquid de-glosser, like this one Rust-Oleum Zinsser Deglosser {affiliate link*}.

6) Patch any holes that you will not be reusing with spackle and sand appropriately.

7) If you are using General Finishes Milk Paint, DO NOT SAND!  DO NOT PRIME!  If you are using any other kind of paint, I am sorry to say that you probably cannot skip these steps.  So, step 8 is… get busy painting.  We applied two coats of the General Finishes Milk Paint.  We used a paint brush for detail work and a dense foam roller for larger surfaces.

Learn to paint your kitchen cabinets without losing your mind!  Full tutorial by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body.  #paintcabinets

Learn to paint your kitchen cabinets without losing your mind!  Full tutorial by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body.  #paintcabinets

NOTE: You can see in the photo above that we had not yet painted the crown molding and/or trim white.  It was still the color of puke and looked HORRIBLE with the wall color.  You can read all about the painting of the trim and what a difference it made here.

8) After you paint has dried for the correct amount of time {see details on the General Finishes can, but I can tell you this paint dries faster than any other paint I have ever used}, you are ready to apply the General Finishes High Performance Top Coat.  We applied the recommended 3 {yes THREE} coats of the top coat.  Rest assured this step moves fairly quickly.

9) Once everything is dry, rehang your doors and replace your drawers.

10) Attach your hardware.  We ditched our old hardware {not my style} and replaced it with Ikea LANSA Stainless Steel Drawer Cabinet Pulls.  We have a lot of cabinets and doors, so we spent just over $300 on hardware, but I think it was well worth it.  It really updates the space.  Don’t have an Ikea nearby?  Don’t worry, Amazon has you covered.  It offers all the different lengths that Ikea does, but I have to tell you, they are more expensive on Amazon.

That’s it.  We completed this project over the course of 2 weekends and many nights after work.  I am not going to lie, it is time consuming, but so worth the effort.  I mean, LOOK at the transformation.

Learn to paint your kitchen cabinets without losing your mind!  Full tutorial by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body.  #paintcabinets

Learn to paint your kitchen cabinets without losing your mind!  Full tutorial by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body.  #paintcabinets


WOW! Budget kitchen makeoverac by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body. Totally transformed with PAINT! #kitchenmakeover

You can also read all about how we transformed our kitchen backsplash by painting it.  Talk about a thrifty transformation!  And if you haven’t check out the full reveal, I hope you will–there is A LOT more to see!  You can see part 1 of the reveal here, and part 2 of the reveal here.  You can also learn all about our pantry makeover here.

I am so grateful to have found General Finishes Milk Paint.  I am so happy to have the gray cabinets of my dreams and there is not a nick, ding or scratch {or brush mark} anywhere so far.  We are thrilled with how durable the finish is.

What do you think?  Have you thought about painting your own kitchen cabinets?  What’s stopping you?

Learn to paint your kitchen cabinets without losing your mind!  Full tutorial by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body.  #paintcabinets

I was not financially compensated for this post. I received free product from General Finishes to complete my project.   The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.

This post contains affiliate links to Amazon, which means I may receive a (very) small commission if you click a link and purchase something.  It does NOT result in additional charges to you or cost you anything extra.  The small amount of affiliate money I earn per month is how I pay the fees to keep this site up and running. Thanks so much for your support!




  1. Amber says

    Thanks so much for your post, it has been soo inspiring and full of information! I have a question, you mentioned that you didn’t paint the inside of your cabinets, did you chose not to paint the inside of your doors? Do you regret not doing so when you see both colors when you open them? Also, did you have to use some type of felt, etc. to prevent the doors from sticking? Thanks again – I’m definitely a rookie at this but soo excited to try!

    • says

      Hi Amber! We did paint the inside of the cabinet doors and all of the cabinet frames. I don’t at all regret not painting the inside of the cabinet boxes. We do use small, round felt pads on the doors to prevent sticking. I hope that helps!

  2. Rebecca says

    Did you water down the paint at all? We started this project today and even when getting as little paint as possible on the roller or brush it is so gloppy and thick. Really concerned at this point we will have it sand it all off and try a different project. Not certain what we are doing wrong (we did wipe down with cleaning wipes and deglosser but didn’t sand even though other sites said you had to sand of this product). It just isn’t smooth at all and looks like when you see people use thick coats of regular latex.

    • says

      Hi Rebecca! No, we didn’t water the paint down at all and it was not at all thick and gloppy. Sounds like you may have gotten a bad batch! I would call General Finishes and talk to them ASAP! I am sure they will help you get it figured out. The milk paint I used was thick, but creamy and went on smoother than any paint I have ever used {and I have painted A LOT in my lifetime}. I hope you get it figured out. Keep me posted!

  3. Kelly R says

    Thanks for posting this, Tasha. I’m getting ready to tackle this type of project myself and have nearly cried as I read the “paint your cabinets like a pro” articles out there. I have a few questions about final look of your cabinets. Since you didn’t sand them, is the finish smooth, i.e. no ridges or grain showing through the paint? That’s my biggest concern. The cabinets I’m doing are unfinished oak cabinets so they are going to need a bit of sanding before hand. But did you really just apply one coat of the milk paint? Could you have applied a second? I’ve never used milk paint, but I’m very encouraged by your experience. Thanks again.

    • says

      Hi Kelly! We did apply 2 coats (see step 7). You can see the grain a bit through the paint, but the flat finish minimizes that. I hope that helps!

  4. Connie says

    Hi! I love your posts! How long ago did you paint your cabinets and how are they holding up now? Is there a way to take a close up of the wood grain that’s shows through the paint and share it with us? Like someone else that commented, I’m thinking of doing their Snow White on my oak cabinets but am concerned about the grain and yellowing. Thanks so much!

    • says

      Thanks so much, Connie! We painted our cabinets about a year ago and they are holding up perfectly! You can see the grain, but I’m not sure I can capture it in a photo. The Snow White may yellow some with the top coat if you put it on too thickly and/or have any drips. I did not notice any yellowing on our light gray cabinets except for a few spots where I had some drips. I hope that helps!

  5. Michelle A. says

    You mentioned that you recommend applying the top coat in thin layers, but I’m wondering how you applied the top coat … with a brush? You didn’t have any brush strokes in the top coat either?

  6. JoAnn says

    Thanks Tasha for posting this technique!

    I will preface this by saying I don’t work for General Finishes nor have I ever met Tasha. :). I think I have a unique perspective to add to this discussion. :)

    I stumbled upon this blog four months ago when I made the decision to change the color of our builders grade oak cabinets to black. I was SO EXCITED to try Tasha’s milk paint technique! I thought the brand of milk paint would NOT matter so I went to my local Woodcraft store and bought powdered milk paint from another company (I won’t name it in order to support my claim I dont know Tasha or work for GF :) The powdered milk paint was less expensive and seemed more authentic so I bought it. I go home, do the prep work as Tasha instructed and I was SO. DISAPPOINTED with the results. The milk paint looked rough and chalky and had clumps of the powder from (my fault) not mixing thoroughly enough. Frustrated, I stripped the paint off and switched to General Finishes gel stain..another fail. It looked clumpy around the cabinet face frames and streaky when light hit it at certain angles. I stripped the gel stain, went back toWoodcraft for advice and they handed me a can of the general finishes milk paint in lamp black.

    Holy moly! It indeed dries super fast, soaks into the wood like a wood dye and has a beautiful, non chalky, non streaky look after just two coats applied two hours apart. I’m kicking myself that I didn’t just start this project four months ago with GF milk paint…would’ve saved money and labor.

    MY POINT: In this case, the brand actually does matter (the people at Woodcraft also said the brand mattered because GF milk paint is made with “ingredients” that are different from powdered milk paint.

    Hope this helps someone!

    Thanks Tasha!!!

    • says

      Hi JoAnn! Thanks SO MUCH for your perspective and for sharing your experience! I am sorry that you had a bad experience the first time around, but glad you are happy with the GF milk paint!


  1. […] We saved about$1,800.00 by building our own table and it’s exactly what we wanted!  It’s the perfect finishing touch on our kitchen makeover that cost us less than $700.00 to complete.  Want to see the full reveal?  You can check out part 1 here and part 2 here.  You can also learn all about how we painted our kitchen cabinets without sanding or priming here! […]

  2. […] Now, turning our attention to the OTHER side of the eat-in-area, allow me to introduce you to our fun and functional chalkboard wall where the base cabinets now reside.  LOVE this area.  The door you see leads to our garage.  This is the door we use 95% of the time, so having the cabinets right there is so convenient for placing bags, etc. that we either need to grab on our way out OR to drop off when we walk in.  You can read all about my tutorial for painting your kitchen cabinets without losing your mind here. […]

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