How to change the color of kitchen cabinets

Written by julie hampton
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Remodelling and updating kitchen cabinets can be expensive. Change the look of a kitchen, and save money, by simply altering the colour of cabinets. Paint the cabinets a white or a cream colour for a French country look or choose black cabinets for a polished, modern finish. Many homes also incorporate two different cabinet colours; one colour for the top cabinets and another for the base. Painting cabinets takes several days of work; be prepared to paint several layers of paint and sealer on all cabinetry pieces.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Bucket
  • Kitchen soap
  • Sponge
  • Scrub brush
  • Towel
  • Screwdriver
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Medium-grit sanding block
  • Mini foam roller
  • Paintbrush
  • Dark umber paint
  • Glaze
  • Stir stick
  • Variety of paint colours for mural or stencil work
  • Stencil
  • Stencil stipple brush
  • Water-based polyurethane

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  1. 1

    Wash all cabinets with warm soapy water. Use a sponge and light scrub brush to degrease the cabinets and remove all stains. Dry cabinets with a towel.

  2. 2

    Unscrew all doors and remove all drawers. Place all items on clean plastic sheeting. Don't forget to unscrew all hardware such as knobs and drawer pulls.

  3. 3

    Lightly sand all cabinetry with a medium grip sanding sponge. Move the sanding block in the direction of the wood grain. Wipe down and dry all the cabinetry to remove all sanding dust.


  1. 1

    Lightly roll on eggshell or satin latex paint using a mini-foam roller; a brush can also be used to coat the cabinetry with paint. Ensure the paint is applied light and evenly to avoid drips and sagging paint.

  2. 2

    Don't forget to paint both sides of doors. Apply two layers of paint to the entire cabinetry surface.

  3. 3

    Allow each coat of paint to dry four to six hours between coats.

    Decorative Paint Techniques

  1. 1

    Add decorative paint effects if desired. Lightly sand the edges of the cabinetry for an antique or worn look. Use the sanding block to lightly rub off the newly applied topcoat. Be aware the underlying coat of paint or wood will appear.

  2. 2

    Wipe on stain or glaze on the cabinets for a glazed look. Brush a mixture of one part dark umber paint with four parts glaze onto the cabinets. Wipe the stain off, allowing the glaze to remain in the crevices and corners of the cabinets.

  3. 3

    Paint the inset of doors different colours. Add a stencil or hand-painted design for an additional design element.

    Finishing Details

  1. 1

    Apply two coats of water-based polyurethane to all cabinetry. Lightly brush on the top coat in a thin layer; thick layers can appear cloudy once dry. Allow to dry four to six hours between coats.

  2. 2

    Replace doors and drawers to the cabinetry base.

  3. 3

    Do not wipe down or clean cabinets with chemicals for 30 days.

Tips and warnings

  • Do not use an oil-based polyurethane as a sealer; the finish will yellow with age.

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