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How to paint kitchen cabinets with a sprayer

A step-by-step guide on how to paint kitchen cabinets with a paint sprayer.

When we were ready to upgrade our kitchen, we hoped the process would go smoothly, with minimum dust and frustration.

Along the way, we made incredible progress with painting the cabinet frames, finding the perfect grey paint for us, then rebuilding our cabinet drawers, and finally adding trim

update kitchen cabinets without replacing them

So when it was time to paint the kitchen cabinets, we looked for the fastest and most effective way to get the sleek, clean look we wanted. 

And I found this handy tool that made this phase fun and simple:

painting kitchen cabinets with critter paint sprayer

I started by hand painting all the frames of our kitchen cabinets and they look great but I wasn’t completely satisfied – they had a little more texture to them than I wanted. 

For the cabinet doors, I decided to spray paint them instead (in our garage) and the finish was wonderful. It reminds me of the smooth finish of a cabinet door you would find from a cabinet shop (left door & right frame).

kitchen cabinets after spray painting white

Now that I have explained the difference between the two, I’ll show you our tips on painting the cabinets with a paint sprayer. 

But first, let’s have a look at the supplies needed.

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TIPS ON PAINTING KITCHEN CABINETS WITH A PAINT SPRAYER


MATERIALS:

TOOLS:

You can print the material list and instructions below.

PREP THE DOORS

After adding new trim to our cabinet doors, we were all ready to start painting. 

First, 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. 

Then, I made sure the doors were clean by vacuuming or wiping them.

update kitchen cabinets with paint

SET UP THE SPRAYER

Next, it was time to use our Critter Paint Sprayer (find TIPS on using this paint sprayer here). Carefully holding our mason jars (that’s right – this sprayer using mason jars!), I filled up two jars with paint (using the mesh filter) and I added some Floetrol as well. I then mixed the jars by shaking them with the lid on.

cleaning the critter paint sprayer
Floetrol for kitchen cabinets

SIDE NOTE: Floetrol is a great additive for eliminating brush and roller marks and keeping the paint level.

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 in an area where you can have plenty of air circulation.

APPLY THE PRIMER

I then tested the primer on a cardboard box, adjusted the nozzle of the sprayer if needed or added 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 (check the can for proper dry times), some doors looked like this:

updating kitchen cabinets with paint view of cabinets after primer

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

sanding kitchen cabinets after adding primer

After, I took my Shop-Vac and vacuumed the dust/particles from the door, leaving me with this:

smooth kitchen cabinet finish

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

ADD SEVERAL COATS OF PAINT

Once I finished the front side, I flipped the door again to the back 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 do you paint them? 

With 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 attached it to the previous tape. 

TIP: After you finish painting and want to remove the tape, 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

SEAL WITH POLYCRYLIC

After the 7 days of curing, I applied Polycrylic to the doors. There are only a couple of things you do differently when applying Polycrylic than with the paint & primer. 

First, you do not need to thin the Polycrylic and when you apply it, you want to add very light coats so turn the PSI down to 30-40 on your air compressor.

A LITTLE HICCUP

Next, ONLY apply Polycrylic when the temperature is above 70 degrees F. 

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, it was a little thick but I did not think I would have a problem. 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 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. 

And it worked!

Here are my doors after sanding lightly with #600 grit sandpaper to give you an idea of what a disaster it was:

apply polycrylic to cabinets

THE FINAL RESULTS

After sanding with the #220 grit sandpaper (some spots did remove some paint, I lightly retouched the paint). 

I wiped the doors with a damp cloth to remove the dust, let them dry, and 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! And 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.

update kitchen cabinets without replacing them

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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