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Painting & Finish Work

Step 13: Prep your Paint & Paint Sprayer


How to Paint Oak Cabinets | Learn about our proven process for how to paint kitchen cabinets and how we hid the grain to achieve factory-like results.

Step 14. Painting Cabinet Boxes with Sprayer

Important Tip: Paint small areas and tough angles first! An example of a tough area is the back of the face frame inside of the cabinet. It’s always easier to fill in a large flat area than to risk overcoating tough to reach spots. Remember- if you overcoat that means you have to sand again :) Those awkward angles also become even more difficult to paint if you’re avoiding already wet surfaces. Move the sprayer continuously with smooth, long strokes. The nozzle of the sprayer can be rotated for horizontal or vertical strokes, depending on the direction of the surface you’re painting. This video from the manufacturer gives a demonstration of the proper technique. We did two coats on the cabinet boxes, with plenty of drying time between. 

Step 15. Setting Up Doors and Drawers and Spraying

The doors must be set up in an upright position for spraying. We created a “spray booth” of sorts in our basement by putting a drop cloth over our bench and putting a piece of scrap drywall behind it. We started with the backs and sprayed with the technique described above.

After allowing for drying time, we sprayed the second coat. We then flipped the doors and repeated the process with two coats. We then repeated the process on the drawers, opting to paint both the outside and interior. Your cabinet doors and drawers may end up requiring more than two coats- but we feel that two is the minimum. After all of our priming, two coats were more than enough for us!

After everything was dry, we rehung our doors and replaced our drawers. It was the moment of truth- I could have cried with happiness (but I’m a little dramatic)!

How to Paint Oak Cabinets | Learn about our proven process for how to paint kitchen cabinets and how we hid the grain to achieve factory-like results.

Step 16. Finish Work

I am the resident finish worker/perfectionist, so this was all my domain.

After the paint dries, I don’t really recommend sanding. I tried on a test piece, and it really dulled the paint and made it appear unfinished. If you really feel that you must, go with the highest grit possible.

As for a top/clear protective coat- I leave the choice up to you. I’m still in the decision-making process. I have done some test pieces and applied regular poly to one and polyacrylic to another, and I am waiting to see how they age. If they yellow, it will be a no go. So far the cabinets are holding up perfectly, so I’m not being rushed into a decision. I did, however, apply polyacrylic to the flat surfaces inside the cabinets- I don’t really care about yellowing in there- it’s more important to me to protect the shelves.

Even with the most well-thought-out project, you will have errors and cracks. At the very end of the project, just a few days ago,  I went around with caulk and applied a nice bead to all joints and edges and any places that I felt needed it. It pays to be meticulous! I really feel that this level of perfectionism is what ultimately gave the project a truly professional look.



To see more photos, visit our Kitchen Reveal Post!

Update/Warning: a little bottle of lemon essential oil was left on the shelf above the command center. It sweated or leaked and ate through all of the finish, including the primer, and turned it into a gummy mess. What I took away from that- don’t use citrus cleaners on this finish! I recommend just wiping down with a slightly damp cloth as needed.

So that is it! I’m sure there will be things I missed, and questions, so fire away! I will update this post periodically, check the comments, and I will also link to related tutorials for the rest of the kitchen project. I believe the materials list at the top is complete, as well as the links throughout.


Make sure to check the comments of this post- as there may be great tips and tricks recommended!

Update 9/20: I have disabled the comments on this post due to volume of repeat questions. If you have any question at all about this project, chances are that it is answered either in the comments of this post, in the ebook, or in my follow-up Kitchen Cabinets FAQs post. You will probably find the answer quicker than I can get back to you! If you have checked the resources and comments but still cannot find the answer, feel free to send me an email, and I will do my best to help you out as I am able! 

Phew! Now that this is all over I’m going to sit down and enjoy it with a big ol’ cup of coffee. :) 

How to Paint Oak Cabinets | Learn about our proven process for how to paint kitchen cabinets and how we hid the grain to achieve factory-like results.

About Nina

Nina is the owner & designer of Nina Hendrick Design Company and the Nina Hendrick blog. Along with her husband Mack, she is chronicling the journey of transforming their builder-grade 80s colonial into a modern day New England dream home. Nina and Mack live in the suburbs of Boston with their three children and golden retriever Lucy.


Wow professional job!!! I noticed you replaced your under-
mount sink with a farm sink, and you had to cut your cabinet down. Can you tell me how you went about that??? How did you measure for your sink? I currently have granite but with a cheap drop in sink.

Hi Michele- Thank you! We have all of the details about our Farmhouse Sink here!

We are currently in the process of sanding our cabinets and we just aren’t sure how sanded they have to be? Do they just need a light sanding or are you bringing them back to an unfinished wood? I’ve been a little picky and have sanded some of them right back to natural (with the exception of a few spots that you just can’t really get that well), but am just not sure if that’s necessary.

Hi Rebecca,

We basically brought them back to unfinished wood! That was the only way to open up the grain for the Drydex. Basically you have to open up the grain in order to eventually fill it in. I hope that makes sense!

Beautiful job! What did you have to do to your base cabinet to make it ready for the farmhouse sink?

Hi Kelly- Thank you! We have all of the details about our Farmhouse Sink here!

Hi! I am so thankful for this blog. my husband and I have just spent the last 2 months painting our kitchen cabinets. The boxes are done and look great but the doors (which we just finished today) look awful. We barely survived the first attempt and now we are facing it again. :( I read your blog and I felt like all of our issues were covered here. The black grain shows through and we have the orange peel look. We have the same paint sprayer and we trade a sanding sealer that was recommended on another blog. We are going to sand everything off and try the drydex but i’m a little nervous about mixing the paint to avoid the orange peel look. Can you help me?

Hi Alicia! We found it was best to add the water in slowly in order to thin the Cabinet Coat. For example, try adding in 2% dilution first, then test it and see if there’s orange peel- if so, adjust the sprayer and a another 2% of water. Build your way up until you achieve the correct consistency without orange peel and without over-thinning. I hope that helps and good luck!!

Hi, Nina, your new kitchen looks fabulous! For the last few days I’m searching for information about how to renew ours and I’m now about to come up with a real plan thanks to you! Your advice and thorough information are priceless. Thank you very much, Nina. I wish you all the best.

I am so happy to have helped Amanda! I hope your project goes (or went) smoothly!

Hi, I’m just curious how your cabinets are holding up and if you decided to do a top coat at this point. I know you said it took you 4 months. What was your process? Would you just do sanding on a few cabinets a week? Also did you pray inside your cabinets? Thank you!

Is it possible to thin the primer and apply with the spray painter and do multiple coats? thanks

You would have to check with the manufacturer of the paint sprayer you choose. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s important to use oil-based primer in this process to prevent tannin bleed from the oak. Oil based primer doesn’t thin easily (I believe it requires a chemical) and won’t cover as well once it’s thinned. I would use a brush or roller at full strength and sand it well between coats. We did both spray can primer and brushes, depending on where we were working.

Hi Nina. We’re bored of our lovely solid oak kitchen. Of course not all of the wood is actually solid oak e.g. Cornicing and plinth covers at floor level. You can see that when you contrast the naturally ageing oak. So the question is how does the veneer look when painted?



Hi Judi,

Our kitchen was all solid oak, no veneers, so unfortunately I didn’t research how veneer looks when it’s painted. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help!


Hi Nina! I noticed when you put the new backsplash in you removed the granite edge piece that went up the wall (I am not sure what it is called) when u removed it was the granite underneath ruined at all? I would like to remove mine as well so the backsplash goes all the way Down to the counter top like yours does now. Thanks!

Hi Colleen! I apologize for being so late to answer, I took a step back from the blog when my daughter was born last winter. This is a really great question! Our countertop was not damaged by removing the matching strip of backsplash, but there was silicone adhesive left behind that we carefully scraped off. Also, a word of caution- in our bathroom the backsplash strip was used to hide a very uneven gap between the countertop and wall. If you discovered something like that, I would recommend installing a thin piece of white trim around the perimeter to cover the gap before you begin your tile.

How wide is your kitchen? Thanks!

Hi Mary, it is 12′ wide! Technically we left less open space around the island than a kitchen designer would recommend- but we can still move easily and open cabinets and appliances without issue- so we are happy with it :)

[…] never gotten the results we did with a brush! You can read more about our paint spraying technique here. You will notice that we were very careful to mask everything off- especially the TV! There were no […]

Did I miss how long this took? That is vital information to be used to convince my husband! From the day you actually started taking things apart to rehanging the cabinets, how long did this take? THANKS!

Hi Amy! It really depends on the size of your kitchen and the pace you choose to work. We did it in phases, during weekends, and took some breaks when it got overwhelming. It took us 4 months. If you wanted to get it done all at once, it could be done in a week straight (assuming the kitchen is the same size as ours!). I know that sounds like a ton of time- but I would personally do it again in a heartbeat!

I think ours is about the same size and layout as yours. I just love how yours turned out! I am thinking about tackling just the kitchen island first because I think that would be cute white either way. Then I can get a little taste for how it will go and make my mistakes on the parts that don’t show.:-) Thanks for the detailed tutorial!! That really helps me see how it will REALLY go. I am in favor of kicking my family out for a week and going for it! Ha!

Did you ever decide on a sealant? We just finished my craft room and are looking to move to the kitchen next. We used Polycrylic on my desk top, but it has a tacky feeling to it, and I’ve already pulled up the paint in several places because my machinery will stick to the desk. It’s been a few months since we’ve applied the Polycrylic. If you used it on your kitchen cabinets, have you had this issue?

Hi Jessica! I actually decided to leave the Cabinet Coat as is- no poly or any other kind of sealant. 6 months later there is no chipping whatsoever, even where the drawers and cabinet doors bump the cabinets. And that’s with two young kids slamming things shut all of the time :) I have been so impressed with the Cabinet Coat!

Your kitchen is beautiful. Great job! I’m sitting in my garage now following your instructions. The cabinets have been sanded and I’m reviewing the Wagner sprayer instructions. I know I can do this. Wish me luck!

Best of luck Sharon!! I hope it went well! :)

Hi again. How long did you wait to hang the cabinets and put on your hardware. I have read in some places to wait as long as two weeks!! I was thinking letting it dry for 24 hours….Thanks!! We are starting NOW! =)

I’m so sorry I missed this- I want to make sure the answer is here for future reference- the Cabinet Coat takes about a week to cure! I hope you love your kitchen, Jill!

Thanks for the detailed tutorial! We are getting started in two days on the kitchen in the home we just bought (it has the ugly grainy oak too). We have two weeks to do it – hoping that is enough time!! I am printing out your post to help guide me!

I was wondering if you had made a decision about what sealant you are going to use.

Hi! We’re actually going to leave just the Cabinet Coat, for the time being. It’s holding up very well, and is extremely easy to clean!

Nina, you may be one of the few who can answer this question: We also want to paint our oak kitchen cabinets which are similar to yours, but rather than a rectangular shaped inlay, they are that awful cathedral style inlay. I would rather have a plain flat panel than to see that awful arch (especially on the more narrow cabinets). In all your research, what product could I use to completely fill those deep crevices made by the arch shape?

Hi Pamela!

I have heard really great things about Epoxy Wood Filler, although I’ve never personally used it. I remember seeing a blog post where a whole missing furniture leg was sculpted out of it! I can’t remember the post, but it sounds like it may be something worth looking into. I hope that helps!

Thank you for the most comprehensive tutorial I have read on this subject. Thank you!!!

You are so welcome, Kristin! I’m very glad it was helpful!

[…] detail in the inspiration photo. After, I filled in the nail holes with Drydex and sanded. Then we painted it at the same time as the rest of the cabinets, using our paint […]

ha. we are almost at the end of our kitchen cabinet project and couldn’t agree with you more on your points and suggestions. we too sprayed everything and wouldn’t recommend any other way to get that smooth consistent finish. your kitchen looks beatutiful. congrats on a job well done and that I know took lots of time and effort.

Thank you so much Laura! It is definitely a Project. :)

Nina, I wish to use this tutorial to paint unfinished oak media cabinets/bookcases. Since I am starting with smooth, unfinished oak, do I need to do anything different, or start with the Dryex and follow the steps as shown?

Hi Patty! I would still follow the tutorial, including the Drydex. But- Lucky You- you will probably have much less sanding to do before the first step! :)

[…] me just start with saying that I have never worked so hard to write a post (and that includes my kitchen painting tutorial, if you can believe that…). This week has been filled with technical difficulties, including […]

Beautiful! Can you share what you did about the hidden hinges for the cabinet doors?

I would love to know about the hidden hinges as well. I just scheduled a painter to do our kitchen (after doing 2 bathrooms I have no desire to tackle the kitchen!) and I am researching hinges. I have been looking into Blum hinges, but am curious about yours. Thanks!!!

Hi Theresa! Changing the hinges was a bit of a process. Our cabinets were partially inset with a 1/4″ lip. We had to first add a thin filler strip so that they would sit flush. Then we had to figure out the correct angle for our overlay before we ordered the hinges. We worked with Blum ( and they had excellent customer service to help us figure out the particular angles and corresponding parts we would need! Our particular parts probably won’t be of use to you- there are thousands of combinations- but they will help you find the right ones based on your specific measurements. We ended up eventually ordering the Blum hinges from Amazon, as it was the best price. I’ve attached a photo link of the filler strip and recessed space that the hinge went in. As I said, it was a bit of work- but I think it really helped give the room a more professional look. I hope that helps!

Wow–first of all, you have a LOT of cabinets! I have maybe half of what you do and while I want to paint my cabinets, I am totally procrastinating, so you are my hero! These look beautiful. This tutorial was so thoroughly written–I especially appreciate the part on covering up the wood grain, because that is a worry of mine–thanks for sharing your experience!

No problem at all Brittany! Thanks for your kind words! :)

[…] approach, which was the polar opposite of the compulsive research and development I put into painting the kitchen cabinets. Luckily both paid off […]

Wow – your kitchen is seriously STUNNING and what an amazing detailed tutorial! We are going to be painting our cabinets this year (though the doors aren’t oak so we won’t need to minimize the grain) – but your tips on the paint and sprayer are super helpful. Pinning this post- a couple of times!!

Thank you for your kind words and the pins Krista :) Best of luck with your kitchen- I’d love to see how it comes out!

I’m just wondering if you happened to try out the Benjamin Moore Advance paint that lots of people recommend to paint wood cabinets? They said it has a hard finish and is very self levelling? I have oak cabinets just like these and want to paint them soooo badly but everyone keeps saying I’ll hate the finished product because I’ll see the grain, but I love white and hate my dark oak cabinets! So this summer I hope to find myself painting cupboards! Thanks for all the tips! Your kitchen is awesome!

Hi Lyndsay! I painted my office cabinets and built-ins with Benjamin Moore Advance. It’s true that it has a very hard finish, and it was self-levelling. Unfortunately, a year later it’s chipping. So I crossed it off my list of possibilities! But that is what I paint my trim with in the rest of my house, and I am very happy with it for trim!

I am hoping to paint my oak cabinets this summer and this was a great tutorial to get me started. We have a great paint sprayer already, but knowing what paints and primers to use are great. All that prep work is what has kept me from digging into the job sooner. Thanks for sharing such an in-depth tutorial!

Hi Lauri! Yes, the prep work was very daunting, for sure! Best of luck!

What an excellent tutorial! Were your cabinets oak? Mine are maple so maybe I wouldn’t have to worry so much about the grain?

Thank you so much Elaine! Yes, my cabinets are oak. Maple is a very smooth wood and is generally what “designer” white cabinets are made from (Kraftmaid, etc.). Lucky you, you would get to skip the grain filler if you decided to do this process! :) If I had maple, I would still make sure to de-gloss, sand, and prime before spraying the cabinet coat.

Thanks so much for all your info. Do you know f the Cabinet Coat yellows over time? I was told that BM Advance could. Deciding between the two. Also, how long was the curing time? Some say BM takes a few months. EEk!

I have used both products. I prefer the Cabinet Coat for anything that you will be using as a surface (like a shelf), but the BM Advance does work very well for wall treatments and doors. In my particular experience, we didn’t experience yellowing with either product. The Cabinet Coat is especially bright white still! The curing time for the Cabinet Coat was fairly quick, it was only about a week. I would agree about BM Advance, it takes a long time to cure. I grew impatient and put things back on my office built-ins about a week after they were painted with BM Advance and things stuck and chipped the paint.

[…] here that I get to share this project with you all! What a Happy Valentine’s Day this is! :) All of the months of effort have finally paid […]