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How to Paint your Kitchen Cabinetry Without a Sprayer

Y'all have had SO many questions about the process of painting our kitchen island, so I thought I'd go over all of the steps in detail here that way y'all can look back whenever you need! Originally I was going to use our sprayer to paint the island, but I decided to give a brush and foam roller a chance to see if I could get some clean lines.

Here is what I have learned...BE PATIENT! You are not racing against anyone and hopefully you have set aside enough time to slowly go through painting your kitchen because you will need it. There are quite a few repetitive steps that I took to make sure there were "virtually" no brush strokes, the paint adhered well and the paint distributed evenly.

Below are the exact steps I took to paint our island.


STEP 1: clean the cabinetry

Use a warm, damp cloth with some dish soap or whatever else you use to clean every inch of the cabinetry. You want to make sure you remove all dirt, grease and grime that is on the cabinetry because it will interfere with paint adhesion if left.

STEP 2: sand with 220 grit

Before you even think about applying primer or paint you want to sand down all of the cabinetry. I do not care if the paint swears that you do not need to sand. I always sand OR use liquid sandpaper to lightly roughen up the surface. This ensures whatever you apply next will adhere to the cabinetry.

STEP 3: wipe down the island with tack cloth

Make sure there are not any dust particles left on the cabinetry from the sanding. You'll do this EVERY TIME after sanding.

STEP 4: apply primer

I applied Bin 123 water based primer using a foam roller and sash brush. If the cabinetry is laminate (think IKEA) then I would have used Bin123 shellac primer. The shellac primer is apparently the best of the best for laminate type furniture (I have personally never used). I waited 3 hours for the primer to dry (read the back of the can).

STEP 5: lightly sand primer with 320 grit sanding block

I used an angled sanding block which really helped to get into the nooks and crannies of the island. Many of y'all asked why I sanded after priming and it is for the same reason I sanded before I remove any imperfections in the cabinetry and ensure good adhesion of the next layer of paint/primer. Don't forget the tack cloth after sanding!

p.s. if you are planning on using a dark paint color you can have the people at Lowe's/Home Depot tint your primer a dark grey which will help with coverage

STEP 6: again!

This is where the steps become tedious, but I am slightly psychotic and must have absolute perfection, so I primed my cabinetry again. The smoother the primer, the smoother the paint will look when applied.

STEP 7: sand 320 grit

You get the idea.

STEP 8: finally paint

My rule for any paint job is to always cut in first using a brush and then roll...that rule still applies for cabinetry. I cut in first using this awesome Zebra brush (same I used for priming) and then while the paint was still wet quickly used my foam roller. I tried to get the roller as close as possible to the edges to cover up the brush marks. Additionally, DO NOT try to get full coverage in one coat. I don't care what the can says it won't happen. To get a smooth, non-gloopy paint job you need multiple, thin coats. So do not worry when the first coat looks streaky. It will be fine.

The paint I used is an oil-enriched enamel. Oil paint is the "gold standard" for smoothness and durability, but it can be toxic if sanded and is generally not worth it. Water-based latex is easy to apply, but not very durable. That leaves us with the best of both oil-enriched enamel. Because it has some oil it hardens well and becomes durable, unlike latex. You can also clean it up using just soap and water because it is water-based.

The specific brand I used was the Valspar Cabinet and Furniture paint. I used Emerald Urethane from Sherwin Williams on my mom's mudroom makeover. Honestly, I did not notice a huge difference between the two. They both require multiple thin coats, both need 2-3 coats for coverage with a dark color and both go on relatively streak free with appropriate rollers/brushes.

STEP 9: sand 320 grit

No need for elbow grease here. You are not trying to take off the paint, but simply smooth out any drip marks or raised lines of the paint. If you are taking your time and applying thin coats then there should not be much to sand.

STEP 10: second coat of paint

This is my favorite coat because you go from poor coverage to almost complete coverage and the color begins to show its true self! The can suggests waiting 24hrs for dry time between coats, so that is what I did. Now some people might opt to stop after the second coat, but remember I am a little off the rails, so I did a third to make sure it was absolutely perfect.

STEP 11: sand 320 grit

STEP 12: final coat of paint

Make sure you are painting while you have good light or sunlight so that you can see all imperfections and smooth them out with the brush or roller before the paint dries. If you paint at night you might not like what you see in the morning.

STEP 13: wait, wait wait

This is where people can get into trouble. They want to immediately use the kitchen after painting. Now you can use your kitchen, but be very cautious to not bump up against the cabinetry or scratch it because any enamel paint needs weeks to fully cure. The paint I used states that the paint requires a full 30 days to completely cure and be scratch resistant. Same with the SW Emerald Urethane.

So just be cautious and try to be nice to your kitchen for 30 days. Tough, I know. But there is no way around it.

And that's it! Patience, oil-enriched enamel, a good sanding block and a foam roller cover are the keys to a super smooth paint job on cabinetry without using a sprayer.

Now just a heads up. I will be using our sprayer on the cabinet doors because it will take hardly any prep and go super quick. But you could use the same method above and get a smooth finish that is ALMOST the same as the sprayer. Let's be real, nobody can beat technology.

Keep following on Instagram for more kitchen upgrades!


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