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Tips on Painting Kitchen Cabinets with a Paint Sprayer

Guys, our kitchen is DONE!! Well for phase 1 is done, YAY!! And if you are wondering, phase 2 will begin after we finish the basement because we will be removing a wall and adding more cabinets (so flooring & counters will wait until then)… But back to our current phase 1 kitchen and tips on painting kitchen cabinets with a paint sprayer, it will save you a ton of time!!

update kitchen cabinets without replacing them

Before we have shared all the other steps of getting our kitchen cabinets to the point they are now; like painting the cabinet frames, finding the perfect grey paint for us, rebuilding our cabinet drawers, and adding trim to update the cabinet look. But how did we paint the cabinet doors? Answer a paint sprayer…

painting kitchen cabinets with critter paint sprayer

Before I go into details on the steps we took to paint the cabinet doors, I wanted to share my thoughts on a sprayed paint finish and a hand-painted finish.

I hand painted all the frames of our kitchen cabinets and they look great but they have a little more texture to them. For the cabinet doors, I spray painted them in our garage and the finish is wonderful. It reminds me of a cabinet door you would find from a cabinet shop, so smooth… (left door & right frame)

kitchen cabinets after spray painting white

Now that I have explained the difference between the two let me show you our tips on painting the cabinets with a paint sprayer. But let’s talk supplies needed first.

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Tips on Painting Kitchen Cabinets with a Paint Sprayer

SUPPLIES:

  • paint & primer
  • Polycrylic
  • Floetrol
  • mesh paint filter
  • plastic cups
  • #600 grit sandpaper
  • old bed sheet
  • face mask
  • rag/cloth
  • painters tape and plastic bags (for the cabinet drawers)

TOOLS:

Find the list of tools we use.

After adding new trim to our cabinet doors, we were all ready to start painting. We placed an old bed sheet on the floor of our garage then used plastic cups to hold the doors off the ground, starting with the back of the doors facing up. I then made sure the doors were clean by vacuuming or wiping them.

update kitchen cabinets with paint

It was now time to use our Critter Paint Sprayer (find TIPS on using this paint sprayer here). Using our mason jars (that’s right this sprayer using mason jars!), I would fill up two jars (using the mesh filter) and add some Floetrol to the jar also.

cleaning the critter paint sprayer

Floetrol for kitchen cabinets

I then mixed the jars by shaking them with the lid on. After I set up the air compressor, PSI to 80 (found this pressure to work best for paint and primer), and hooked up the paint sprayer to the air hose, putting on my face mask.

TIP: You will want to paint where you can have plenty of air circulation.

I then would test the primer on a cardboard box and adjust the nozzle of the sprayer if needed or add more Floetrol. After I moved to the cabinet doors and primed the wood. You will want to spray in smooth light even coats, as if you were using a can of spray paint.  After the primer dried (look at the can for proper dry times), some doors looked like this.

updating kitchen cabinets

So I took the #600 grit sandpaper and sanded the doors lightly to remove any bumps.

sanding kitchen cabinets

After I would take my Shop-Vac and vacuum the dust/particles from the door, leaving me with this.

smooth kitchen cabinet finish

Then I would repeat the process one more time. After sanding the second coat of primer, I then turned the doors over and applied two coats of primer to the front of the doors the same way.

Once I finished the front side, I then turned the door again to the back of the door and moved to add the paint. I completed the same process 3 times or until you get the coverage you want on each door, remembering to lightly sand between coats. At this point I let the paint cure for 7 days (my base cabinets only cured 3-4 days because of weather problems, more on that later…)

painting kitchen cabinets white

Now what about the cabinet drawers, how did I paint them? Well, some drawers the face of the door will come off but our drawers do not. So I took our painters tape and taped around the drawer where the door front meets the drawer sides.

TIP: Tape any hardware holes to make sure paint does not get inside the box.

taping kitchen cabinet drawers before paint

Then I placed a garbage bag around the drawer and taped it to the previous tape. TIP: After you have finished all the painting and want to remove the tape, make sure to take a razor blade and lightly score around where the tape meets the box. This way you do not peel any paint.

cover kitchen cabinets before paint

And here is my setup with the cabinet drawers.

painting kitchen cabinet drawers

Back to the process of painting the cabinets.

After the 7 days, I then added Polycrylic to the doors. There are only a couple of things different when applying Polycrylic then with the paint & primer. First, you want to add very light coats so turn the PSI down to 30-40 on your air compressor, plus you do not need to thin Polycrylic.

Next ONLY apply Polycrylic when the temperature is above 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Why do I know all this??? Well if you saw me the day it happened you would probably want to run away… I was NOT happy.

I had finished painting the cabinet bases and let them sit for 4 days (I was running out of time, winter was at our doorstep and I had to finish to get the cars into the garage). I turned on a little space heater early that morning and around 11 am it had warmed up to about 55 degrees F. So I went out to apply the Polycrylic coats but because I was in a hurry and I forgot to turn the PSI on my air compressor to around 30 (it was still set to 80).

As I was applying, I was thinking it was a little thick but did not think I would have a problem. But I was wrong… after a couple of hours, I checked on the doors and to my horror, the Polycrylic had cracked all over my doors. I tried to lightly sand the Polycrylic with #600 grit sandpaper but that did not fix the problem.

I decided to wipe the doors with a damp cloth and apply another coat, at this point, the temperature was around 65 degrees F. After letting the new coat dry, I checked the doors only to find my doors in the same place after sanding.

I was upset I had to walk away from the project for a day… I knew the only way to truly fix the doors was to sand them down and repaint (all my hard work wasted…). After a day of calming down, I decided to take #220 grit sandpaper and sand down as much Polycrylic as I could without hurting the paint. It was worth a shot! Here are my doors after sanding lightly with #600 grit sandpaper to give you an idea of what I was working with and this was everywhere.

apply polycrylic to cabinets

After sanding with the #220 grit sandpaper (some spots did remove some paint, I lightly retouched the paint), I was thinking maybe this would work… So I wiped the doors with a damp cloth to remove the dust, let them dry, then decided to apply another coat of Polycrylic. But this time I turned the PSI down to around 30 and the temperature was about 70 degrees F.

After the first coat dried, I was jumping for joy, the doors looked so much better, maybe after another coat you would not be able to tell. So I lightly sanded with #600 grit sandpaper, wiped with a damp cloth, let it dry, then applied another coat.

Now my doors look so much better, you can barely see the cracking now (only if you are looking for it). TIP: You can decide how many coats you want to apply (I only did 2 because of the weather, it is recommended 3) but on the last coat do NOT sand after, leave as is. 

Please learn from my mistakes when applying Polycrylic and save yourself the headache of cracked Polycrylic…

kitchen cabinets after painting grey

After letting the doors cure for a day or two, I reinstalled them onto my cabinets and my kitchen before and after looks like this.kitchen cabinet makeover white and grey cabinets

What do you think of my kitchen makeover so far? Do you like the two-tone cabinets? Or how about the shaker style doors? Stay tuned for how we created a pendant light above our sink

Tips on Painting Kitchen Cabinet with a Paint Sprayer

6 Comments

  1. You cabinets look great! I’m thinking about tackling my kitchen next summer so I’m watching you as you go to get a feel of what I need to do. I like the two toned look too!

    1. It was a lot of work but I am LOVING the new look!!! I hope you do tackle your kitchen so I can see your remodel!

  2. The cabinets look great! Now that they have been up and used, how is the trim holding up? Does water effect the durability of the material you used?

    Thanks!

    1. Thanks, Erin!! The trim is holding up amazing and I have had no issues with water affecting the MDF. I actually did a how’s that project holding up for the kitchen cabinets one year later. Hope this helps!!!

  3. Allyson Hopkins says:

    What brand and shade of gray paint did you use?
    They look fantastic!

    Allyson.

    1. Hi Allyson! The brand I used was Behr Premium Plus Ultra in Stain and as for the color, it was a mix. I used 3 parts Iron Mountain to one part white. Here is the post where I explained painting the cabinet base. Hope this helps!

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