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.  This post contains some affiliate links.  Click here to read my full disclosure policy.

After some debating, we decided to use General Finishes Seagull Gray Milk Paint for all of our perimeter cabinetry and the General Finishes Driftwood Milk Paint on our island.   We used 3 quarts of the Seagull gray and 2 pints of the Driftwood. We also used about 1/2 gallon of the top coat.

As recommended by General Finishes, we also used General Finishes Water Based High Performance Polyurethane Top Coat for added durability.
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.

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.    We used 3 quarts of the Seagull gray and 2 pints of the Driftwood. We also used about 1/2 gallon of the top coat. This paint gives excellent coverage and goes a long way.

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. Liz Willoughby says

    Such an inspirational blog–thank you for sharing your makeover! I’m knee deep in this project…did you sand between your polyurethane coats? Thanks again!

    • says

      Hi Liz! Thank you! No, we did not sand between coats of the General Finishes High Performance Top Coat, which is a polyacrylic, not a polyurethane. Is that what you are using?

      • Liz Willoughby says

        Oh yes…that’s what I’m using. Thanks again! I deglossed and sanded my cabinets which are orange oak as well…I’m getting some bleeding through the paint but only in a very few spots. Did you experience that as well?

  2. Melissa says

    I love this idea and think I might just be brave enough to try it! Question- did the grain from the wood show through the paint?

  3. debbie says

    I’m so glad I found your blog today. I’m a little less scared to try to paint my cabinets! Just wondering…did you paint both sides of the doors?

  4. Keri says


    I love your cabinets! I purchased everything you said and began my project today. I had a question regarding the paint deglosser though. How much did you use? Did you just wipe the cabinets down, or scrub? How much work needs to go into that process?

    Thank you so much!


    • says

      Hi Keri! I didn’t put much work at all in the deglossing process. Maybe 10 seconds per door–I just wiped them down. I hope that helps!

  5. Laurel says

    Hi Tasha,

    Your cabinets look great! I see that this post is over a year old now. I’m just wondering how they are holding up with time? Have you needed to do any touch ups?

    Also, I don’t have a big outdoor space to do my painting in, so it will have to indoors for me. Were the fumes particularly bad?

    • says

      Hi Laurel! They are holding up PERFECTLY. There is one spot where I take my huge coffee can out every morning and have banged the edge of the cabinet a million times that I need to touch up a tiny spot, but that’s it. I am AMAZED. The fumes aren’t bad at all, actually. I hope that helps.

  6. Lauren says

    Hello Tasha,

    Great post and I am very interested in using the same technique for my kitchen cabinets. I would like to request a sample, as you did, from General Finishes. How did you go about requesting a sample? I can only find a fax number and the contact form clearly says it is NOT for sample request.

    • says

      Hi Lauren! Obtaining a sample was a perk of being a blogger. I don’t know that they are able to offer samples to everyone. If you can find a store that sells it, the store should be able to give you a sample.

  7. Shelly says

    Thank you for this post, this paint has transformed my kitchen! I love the fact that it keeps the grain – it is fantastic especially as it dries so quickly and I would agree with others that at least 2 coats are needed but so worth it. If only I could paint the worktop with it rather than having to replace it.

  8. Chris says

    I prepped my cabinet doors as you instructed and threw the first coat on with a brush. I painted with smooth technique, but still have brush marks. The instructions on the can say to use a foam brush and/or roller. Will that help with the brush marks, or will the marks be minimized once the second coat goes on?
    Thanks, your project results are awesome!

    • says

      Thanks, Chris! We had to use a brush to get into the grooves of our cabinet doors, but we used a foam roller for the smooth panels and all the cabinet boxes and don’t have any brush strokes at all. The second coat will make a big difference, but I would recommend a foam roller to apply as much paint as you can. I hope that helps!

  9. Annie says

    Hi Tasha,
    After reading your blog, I purchased General Finishes Milk Paint in Linen (LOVE the color) and just painted the back side of the upper and lower cabinets facing the family room to see if I’d like it on the faces of the cabinets. The first coat looked not so great, but by coats two and three (I probably could have stopped at two), they looked amazing! Just the look I was going for. I want to do my entire kitchen now.

    I’ve a question, first: Did you use the flat finish top coat, as shown in the photo, or a satin? I already bought satin, but I think I’d like the look of flat better. Please let me know what you used. Thanks. (Great blog, by the way. Your kids are way cute, too!)


  1. […] Now, before you get to enjoy more photos, let me tell you that 90% of our budget kitchen remodel was accomplished by simply PAINTING nearly every surface!  We painted the tile backsplash, the walls, the trim and doors, and of course, the cabinets.  You can check out all the details on how we painted our kitchen cabinets without sanding or priming …. […]

  2. […] I love the pop of color this adds to our eat-in-kitchen area, which we recently completed as part of renovating our entire kitchen for less than $700!  It includes that gorgeous herringbone plank wall that you can see behind our kitchen table.  Oh, and you can learn all about how to paint your kitchen cabinets WITHOUT LOSING YOUR MIND. […]

  3. […] 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! […]

  4. […] 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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