How to Paint Your Kitchen Cupboards

This post was first published on 22nd November 2019. Updated and republished 26th April 2021.

A kitchen with painted cupboards is by far my favourite style of kitchen. Don’t get me wrong, I can see the beauty of natural wood, I just can’t live surrounded by it. And glossy contemporary kitchens are okay in the right setting, (I’m living with one at the moment and I’m not entirely hating it) but it’s a painted kitchen that really makes my heart sing. But here’s the catch. A hand-painted kitchen is expensive, and out of the budget range for many of us. Unless of course, you paint your cupboards yourself. Which I’ve done myself in the past, and it’s not a job to take lightly or half-heartedly. If you’re going to do it, you have to do it well, use the right equipment, take your time, and most importantly not rush it.

I can’t take the credit for this guide – we all need expert help from time to time – it’s been compiled by British Standard Cupboards who sell kitchen cupboards primed and ready for painting. Which means you can skip the boring bit, and launch straight into the fun, colouring-in bit.

How to Paint Your Kitchen Cupboards

Kew Kitchen by British Standard

Planning Your Paint Scheme

There are no set rules when it comes to painting your cupboards, but there are several different techniques you might like to try to create different ‘looks’ in your space:

Monochrome: A monochome colour scheme is one in which the walls, woodwork and cupboards are all painted in the same colour. Most cupboards are painted in an eggshell effect paint but other paint finishes can add interest. Gloss paint for instance can add a contemporary edge creating an interesting contrast with traditional style cabinets.

How to Paint Your Kitchen Cupboards

British Standard Kitchens

Tonal: Another way of bringing unity to your kitchen is to create a tonal colour scheme by choosing two or three colours that work harmoniously in your space. You might choose to use the main colour on the exterior of your cupboards with a complimentary colour on the insides, or to paint wall cupboards in a lighter accent colour to give the illusion of space.

Colour Block: For the more adventurous, a colour block scheme is a way to add interest to an otherwise plain room. This is done by splitting the entire room with a horizontal line, with one colour above, and another colour below the line.

How to Paint Your Kitchen Cupboards

Ornail Kitchen by British Standard

Painting Your Cupboards

Oil-based or water-based paint can be used according to your preference. British Standard Cupboards recommend Little Greene oil-based eggshell for its hardiness over time, but for those of us not used to oil-based paint they recommend Farrow and Ball’s water-based eggshell which is just as durable. (I find it hard to use oil-based paint so I’d go for water-based every time). They also recommend a good quality synthetic brush and suggest Purdy’s.

How to Paint Your Kitchen Cupboards

Aspland Kitchen by British Standard

To achieve a solid looking surface you’ll need to apply at least two coats, and sometimes three. You are looking to build up thin coats of paint, so try to avoid applying too much at once or you will end up with thick ‘ridge and furrow’ type brush strokes. Alternatively, if using oil-based paint only, you could apply the paint to the cupboards with a small six-inch foam roller, followed by lightly brushing out the paint. Try to avoid solely using a roller as this can result in an unattractive orange-peel like surface.

How to Paint Your Kitchen Cupboards

Maintaining Your Cupboards

The beauty of painted cupboards is that they can be revived with a quick lick of paint. A little wear and tear from being used and loved is charming, but should you want to refresh them, simply give them another coat of paint. Please note though, that even if you only have small marks on the woodwork you should repaint the entire area (for example a whole door or a whole panel). Just putting a blob of paint on the mark will make it stand out even more.

How to Paint Your Kitchen Cupboards

Plain English Kitchen by British Standard

To do this, simply follow the steps 2 – 5 of the instructions above, but this time apply one coat of paint instead of two. And ideally try to use the same tin of paint that you used originally, as different batches of paint can vary slightly in colour. A tin of paint can last several years as long as the lid is sealed tight and kept indoors away from frost.

How to Paint Your Kitchen Cupboards

Skye Kitchen by British Standard

British Standard kitchens start from £8,000 and are handmade in Suffolk.

Rust-Oleum’s New Kitchen Cupboard Paint

How to Paint Your Kitchen Cupboards

There may be occasions when you need a quick fix. Perhaps you are saving for a brand new kitchen and just want to freshen up the old one for now? Or perhaps you live in a rented house and the landlord has given you permission to paint the existing kitchen but you don’t want to spend too much time and effort on the job? In which case there’s no reason why you shouldn’t take advantage of a chalk paint that needs no primer or topcoat even on melamine cabinets.

How to Paint Your Kitchen Cupboards

Rust-Oleum‘s new Kitchen Cupboard Paint, is available in 110 mouth-watering colours from (RRP £22.99 for 750ml) and this premium chalky blend is a treat for cupboard doors. It has an ultra-flat matt finish and an ultra-incredible depth of colour that’s touch dry in just an hour. The result is soft to touch, yet hard-wearing enough to handle regular wipe-downs of splashes and splatters and stand up to cannoning corks.

How to Paint Your Kitchen Cupboards

Even glossy cupboards can be painted, simply sand them down first with a fine grit sandpaper. Note: although you don’t generally need a primer, you should use one on any areas where stain may bleed, including around knots.

How to Paint Your Kitchen Cupboards

  • Before you start painting, clean all surfaces using a degreasing detergent.
  • Cover any tricky edges or anything you do not wish to paint. Masking tape will allow you to create a clean, crisp edge to the painted surface. Cover worktops, appliances and the floor with a sheet to catch any drips.
  • Remove cupboard and drawer handles and set them to one side and stir the Kitchen Cupboard Paint thoroughly before use.
  • With no primer or topcoat needed, this is a recipe for success. Use a brush to paint any hard to reach areas, followed by a short nap roller to coat the remainder.


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  1. Reply

    C2 Design & Build

    November 22, 2019

    Great read Carole, thanks ever so much for sharing this.
    Some great tips here.

    • Reply


      November 22, 2019

      Glad you found it useful. 🙂


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