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How to paint over varnish. The first thing to determine is whether you want to stick with an oil base and or switch to water born products, being green and all. The best thing to do would be to lightly sand the surface, wipe it with mineral spirits, and if you're not concerned about using oil paints and want to use a very less amount of time involved, paint with an oil base paint, simply as you would with any other paint. Just apply it, stroke it out, get it as even as possible, any color you want. In this instance I just have an oil based egg shell paint that's white and I would probably tint it to whatever color I would want to make these cabinets and then apply it with a brush and or a roller or both trying to get as smooth of a finish as possible. Once this drys you will have a durable finish that can also be wiped over with another poly varnish or something to make it more durable or antiqued or whatever you'd like to do.