Paint Your Kitchen Cabinets WITHOUT LOSING YOUR MIND!

Learn to paint your kitchen cabinets without losing your mind!  Full tutorial by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body.  #paintcabinets

Hopefully, you have already read all about our budget kitchen makeover, part 1 and part 2, which including painting our kitchen cabinets.  I have received TONS of questions about how we did it.  So, I am here to tell you how you can paint your kitchen cabinets without losing your mind!  

That’s right, friends, I PAINTED MY KITCHEN CABINETS AND LIVED TO TELL YOU ABOUT IT!  I am not going to lie.  It was a time consuming project, but we simplified it as much as possible.  It would have been much, much worse if I had followed those “how to paint your kitchen cabinets like a professional” tutorials.  Here’s the truth folks.  I am NOT a professional painter.  I am a a busy, full-time working attorney with a busy, full-time working firefighter husband and we have busy 3 1/2 year old twins.  THAT’S WHY WE DECIDED TO PAINT OUR KITCHEN CABINETS LIKE AMATEURS WITH PROFESSIONAL RESULTS.  If you are impatient and want to skip down to the tutorial, go ahead.  If you are curious about how and why we decided to use the materials that we used, read the whole post.

Now, I know a lot of you are reluctant to paint your kitchen cabinets, and we were, too.  We were really, really concerned about the durability of the paint, since we hope that this makeover will carry us 5 to 10 years before we do a complete gut-job renovation.  You may recall that I painted the cabinets in our laundry room about 9 months ago using regular latex paint that we had leftover from another project.  Well, I am sad to tell you that some of that paint chipped off ON THE VERY FIRST DAY after we rehung the doors.  So, you can see why we were nervous.  But the finish on our kitchen cabinets was badly damaged and we didn’t care for the orange oak look, so something had to be done.

Learn to paint your kitchen cabinets without losing your mind!  Full tutorial by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body.  #paintcabinets

Because of our concern about paint durability, we had all but decided to stain our cabinets using Java Gel Stain by General Finishes.  You have probably seen stunning cabinet transformations using the General Finishes Java Gel Stain all over the place.  Seriously amazing stuff.  And General Finishes generously sent me a sample of the Java Gel Stain to try out.  But as we exchanged emails about my kitchen project, the folks at General Finishes also mentioned that they have a line of Milk Paint, which is a high quality acrylic paint that is very durable.  WHAT’S THAT YOU SAY????  I was so excited about the possibilities.

After further exchanges, I learned that using the Milk Paint in conjunction with General Finishes High Performance Top Coat, our kitchen cabinets should withstand daily use just fine.  YAY!  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the Java Gel Stain cabinet projects I have seen, but I had dreamed of grey cabinets.  It was my heart’s desire.  So, General Finishes generously sent me samples of the three grey colors the Milk Paint comes in: Seagull Gray, Driftwood and Queenstown Gray.

When the samples arrived, I could not wait to put up the samples.  I mean, LITERALLY, I could not wait.  I arrived home from work on afternoon, greeted my sweet Attley and Avery and asked them if they wanted to watch me paint a little bit.  They did {they totally take after their momma and love all things crafty}.  I quickly, and rather sloppily, painted the three different gray colors on one of our upper cabinets.  I spent no more than 2 minutes doing it, and did not even try to use good technique, etc.

Learn to paint your kitchen cabinets without losing your mind!  Full tutorial by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body.  #paintcabinets

First of all, I was completely amazed by how well one coat of the paint covered our outdated oak cabinet.  But what most impressed me about this paint is that YOU CANNOT SEE PAINT BRUSH MARKS.  Seriously.  There is not a brush mark to be seen on our cabinets.  It’s amazing.  AND this paint dries quickly and is not tacky, like latex paints.  Are you ready for the best part?  YOU DON’T HAVE TO PRIME BEFORE YOU PAINT WITH THIS STUFF.  I was sold.  There was no question that I wanted to paint our cabinets with Milk Paint by General Finishes.

It have to stress that I am NOT being compensated by General Finishes is any way whatsoever to recommend it to you.  General Finishes did provide me with the paint I needed to complete my project, but all opinions are 100% my own.  I am recommending it to you solely because it is AMAZING.  I honestly would recommend against painting your kitchen cabinets unless you use General Finishes Milk Paint.  We only painted ours because we found this awesome paint.

After some debating, we decided to use General Finishes Seagull Gray Milk Paint {affiliate link*} for all of our perimeter cabinetry and the General Finishes Driftwood Milk Paint {affiliate link*} on our island.

As recommended by General Finishes, we also used General Finishes Water Based High Performance Polyurethane Top Coat for added durability. {affiliate link*}
There are so many detailed tutorials about how to paint your cabinets like the professionals.  That is not what I am going to give you.  I am going to tell you how to paint your kitchen cabinets without losing your mind, but WITH professional results.


First note that we worked in sections {i.e., kitchen island one day, upper cabinets sink area another day, etc.}  We also elected NOT to paint the interior of our cabinets because they are in good shape and frankly, we did not have the time or patience to do it.  This saved us the added hassle of having to pack up our entire kitchen.  We left everything in place in our cabinets.  This allowed us to remain sane through the process because the kitchen was still usable, which was pretty vital for our busy family of 4.  Now, here are the steps you will need to follow to paint your kitchen cabinets:

1) Remove all hardware.

2) Remove doors and drawers.  You will have to empty your drawers, but everything can stay in your cabinets!

Learn to paint your kitchen cabinets without losing your mind!  Full tutorial by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body.  #paintcabinets

3) If you don’t like the color of your hinges, you can spray paint them!  It’s way more economical than buying new ones.  Our old hinges and screws were brass–not a good look with gray cabinets.  So, we spray painted our hinges AND the screws with Brushed Nickel spray paint and topped them with a clear protective coat.

Learn to paint your kitchen cabinets without losing your mind!  Full tutorial by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body.  #paintcabinets

Learn to paint your kitchen cabinets without losing your mind!  Full tutorial by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body.  #paintcabinets

4) Wipe down cabinets, doors and drawers to remove any dirt and grime {we used Lysol wipes}.

5) Wipe down cabinets, doors and drawers with liquid de-glosser, like this one Rust-Oleum Zinsser Deglosser {affiliate link*}.

6) Patch any holes that you will not be reusing with spackle and sand appropriately.

7) If you are using General Finishes Milk Paint, DO NOT SAND!  DO NOT PRIME!  If you are using any other kind of paint, I am sorry to say that you probably cannot skip these steps.  So, step 8 is… get busy painting.  We applied two coats of the General Finishes Milk Paint.  We used a paint brush for detail work and a dense foam roller for larger surfaces.

Learn to paint your kitchen cabinets without losing your mind!  Full tutorial by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body.  #paintcabinets

Learn to paint your kitchen cabinets without losing your mind!  Full tutorial by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body.  #paintcabinets

NOTE: You can see in the photo above that we had not yet painted the crown molding and/or trim white.  It was still the color of puke and looked HORRIBLE with the wall color.  You can read all about the painting of the trim and what a difference it made here.

8) After you paint has dried for the correct amount of time {see details on the General Finishes can, but I can tell you this paint dries faster than any other paint I have ever used}, you are ready to apply the General Finishes High Performance Top Coat.  We applied the recommended 3 {yes THREE} coats of the top coat.  Rest assured this step moves fairly quickly.

9) Once everything is dry, rehang your doors and replace your drawers.

10) Attach your hardware.  We ditched our old hardware {not my style} and replaced it with Ikea LANSA Stainless Steel Drawer Cabinet Pulls.  We have a lot of cabinets and doors, so we spent just over $300 on hardware, but I think it was well worth it.  It really updates the space.  Don’t have an Ikea nearby?  Don’t worry, Amazon has you covered.  It offers all the different lengths that Ikea does, but I have to tell you, they are more expensive on Amazon.

That’s it.  We completed this project over the course of 2 weekends and many nights after work.  I am not going to lie, it is time consuming, but so worth the effort.  I mean, LOOK at the transformation.

Learn to paint your kitchen cabinets without losing your mind!  Full tutorial by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body.  #paintcabinets

Learn to paint your kitchen cabinets without losing your mind!  Full tutorial by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body.  #paintcabinets


WOW! Budget kitchen makeoverac by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body. Totally transformed with PAINT! #kitchenmakeover

You can also read all about how we transformed our kitchen backsplash by painting it.  Talk about a thrifty transformation!  And if you haven’t check out the full reveal, I hope you will–there is A LOT more to see!  You can see part 1 of the reveal here, and part 2 of the reveal here.  You can also learn all about our pantry makeover here.

I am so grateful to have found General Finishes Milk Paint.  I am so happy to have the gray cabinets of my dreams and there is not a nick, ding or scratch {or brush mark} anywhere so far.  We are thrilled with how durable the finish is.

What do you think?  Have you thought about painting your own kitchen cabinets?  What’s stopping you?

Learn to paint your kitchen cabinets without losing your mind!  Full tutorial by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body.  #paintcabinets

I was not financially compensated for this post. I received free product from General Finishes to complete my project.   The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.

This post contains affiliate links to Amazon, which means I may receive a (very) small commission if you click a link and purchase something.  It does NOT result in additional charges to you or cost you anything extra.  The small amount of affiliate money I earn per month is how I pay the fees to keep this site up and running. Thanks so much for your support!




  1. Katie says

    This is such a relief to see! The fact that I don’t have to sand the doors and prime them and that I won’t have to paint a million layers is beyond relief! Lol. Thanks for posting

  2. Kathryn says

    Tasha that is a super job and you make it sound easy. I wonder if that paint can be used on formica covered cabinets?

  3. says

    Now I’m totally pumped about doing our kitchen cabinets ourselves! We’ve been trying to decide for YEARS what to do…hire a professional or do it ourselves. If we can save thousands by doing it ourselves and also using product that will withstand our boys, then we’re sold! Thanks so much for this tutorial! Sending it to hubby now!

    • says

      You really can tackle it yourself, Jessica! After you do the two coats of paint, you will think, “NOW I HAVE TO DO 3 COATS OF THE PROTECTIVE FINISH?!” but it really does move pretty quickly and makes such a difference for durability. Just stay the course! I hope your husband is on board!

  4. says

    I painted my cabinets a few years ago with the exact same setup and it really does make all the difference in the world that you can leave everything in the cabinets, and not paint the interiors. Being able to go from start to finish in under a week is great too. That is just as fast as paying someone to paint them, but without have people in your house! It is super funny that my post about it titled the exact same thing! Great minds think alike!!

    • says

      Kim! That is hilarious that our posts are titled the same way. That’s the only way I could think to describe it :) I have seen your kitchen so many times on Pinterest–love it! So nice to connect you to such fabulous project :)

  5. Kate says

    How long have they been done for now? Are they still chip free? I wasn’t sure exactly when you completed painting.

    Kim – I actually happened to notice your tutorial a couple days ago on Pinterest!

    • says

      Hi Kate! We finished the painting and top coat about 6 weeks ago. They are still in perfect condition. I plan to post an update at the 6 month mark, but I am confident they will be holding up just as well then. The other cabinets I have painted with regular paint chipped almost right away. SO different from our kitchen cabinet experience with the General Finishes Milk Paint! I hope that helps!

  6. Esther says

    Truly AMAZING!! Great job, as always! I recently painted my cabinets but don’t love the color…do you think the milk paint will adhere to that?
    Also, any recommendations on the spray paint you used for the hardware?
    And where did you get the lighting? Just love those!!
    I also wanted to add that I found some amazing hardware on Amazon by a company called Cosmas!

    Thanks again for sharing!

  7. Stephanie says

    This is FABULOUS news. I have pinned a billion kitchens (including Kim’s, lol!) and keep putting off painting because I can’t bring myself to sand and prime all these cabinets. SO. MANY. CABINET. DOORS. (I know, first world problems!)

    I am ordering this milk paint ASAP. How much paint did you go through? Our kitchens look similarly sized. Wondering how much I should grab.

    • says

      Great question, Stephanie! I actually need to add that to my post. We used just over two quarts of the Seagull Gray (which covered all the perimeter cabinets) and a pint on the island. We purchased a gallon of the top coat and still have quite a bit left. This paint goes FAR! I could not believe it. I hope you love the paint as much as we do! Let me know how they turn out!

  8. says

    Awesome. I cannot believe how great that looks. It is like a brand-new kitchen. Great tutorial and beautiful site. I can’t believe you have time to do this and everything else! Happy SITS!

  9. says

    Stopping by from SITS. Love your blog! I totally needed to see this post today – we want to repaint the cabinets in our bathroom, and I hadn’t heard of this paint before. Thank you!!!! Have a great weekend.

  10. says

    WOAH! That is QUITE the transformation! I love the idea of salvaging all that wood and simply refinishing what you have–it’s nice to give a completely new look to something you already have :)

    Stopping in today from SITS–hope you enjoy your day in the spotlight. You have a beautiful blog here!

  11. Rosie says

    Interesting! I’ve heard of milk paint before in furniture refinishing context. Its GREAT for that chippy paint look and style (which would be not-so-great for cabinets). I wonder what makes this particular milk pain different. Does it come pre-mixed? Most milk paints on the market for furniture are powdered.

    We did the cabinets in our last house (less the an year ago… we finished the cabinets and promptly sold the house) with Ben Moore Advanced paint, which I LOVED, but it was a whole bunch of work sanding and priming… it must have taken us 2 solid weeks with both me and my husband working on it every evening after the kids went to bed.

    I just got out Ben Moore Advanced again this past week to paint a desk for my daughter, and it has me thinking about painting the cabinets in our new house. Such a big project, but the impact is so worth it! I’ll be interested to see how the milk paint hold up over the long term.

    • says

      Hi Rosie! The General Finishes milk paint does come pre-mixed. It is a high quality acrylic paint. So far, our cabinets are holding up PERFECTLY even with our young twin girls banging into them with chairs and their toy grocery cart. We finished painting them about 10 weeks ago. So far, so good! I’ll plan to post a 6 month and 1 year update as well :)

  12. Morgan Spaulding says

    Can you use a paint sprayer for the application for either the milk paint and/or the top coat?

    • says

      Good question, Morgan. I really don’t know the answer to that. I have never used a paint sprayer. The folks at General Finishes are EXTREMELY helpful. I bet if you call, someone can answer your question for you!

  13. Amy says

    Did you really not sand? The tutorial on the GF site shows the guy sanding. Also how old would you guess your cabinets to be? We’re rocking 1979 builder’s special in our house. I had painted the kids bathroom cabinet w/ primer and latex paint and also found it chipped right away. But even w/ the chipping it was 1000% better then the old nasty dark brown builder’s special they had.

    I’ve wanted to paint our cabinets, and I’ve been debating the 10,000 pintrest tutorials vs the rustoleum kit. But this (milk paint) sounds like it could be a dream!

    • says

      Hi Amy! I REALLY did not sand. I used “liquid sandpaper,” also known as liquid deglosser. That’s it! It was super quick and easy prep. Our cabinets are original to our house, which was built in 1986, so not much newer than yours! I painted our laundry room cabinets with primer and latex paint and experienced chipping right away as well. So far, our kitchen cabinets are in PERFECT condition even in the face of constant use {which is more than I can say about our laundry room cabinets}. You may want to test the method on one cabinet door first. That’s what I did! I hope that helps :)

      • Glenda says

        Thank you Tasha for this blog on painting kitchen cabinets. Two weeks ago I had a professional come in to give me an estimate on Labor (I would buy the paint) & I freaked. Now I feel confident that I can handle it thanks to discovering this General Finishes Milk paint & your blog. I originally used oil based paint on my cabinets & hated every minute of it…plus the fact that they don’t look so good. That’s been 14 years ago. I appreciate the heads up about the deglosser also. I never knew that existed. Your kitchen looks great & thanks again for the info.

        • says

          Thank you, Glenda! So happy you found my post useful. I am not 100% positive you can go right over oil-based paint with milk paint. A quick call to General Finishes should be able to answer that question! Let me know how your project turns out.

  14. Sandy F says

    I love the stunning transformation. Quick question though: Did you paint both sides of the cabinet doors, or just the outside? Thank you for sharing.

  15. Leanne Perez says

    Your cabinets look great! I was wondering if for the High Performance Top Coat you used flat, satin or gloss.

  16. Michelle says

    Question Tasha, Man do I wish I had seen this before we started mine! We’ve got a mess & I don’t know how I’m going to straighten it out either! :-(. ANY WAY, can you paint a laminate backsplash (or countertops for that matter)? If so, where can I find instructions?

    Thank you SO much!

    • says

      Hi Michelle! Hmmm, I honestly don’t know. I have never tried painting laminate countertops or backsplash. But, my guess is that you absolutely could do it with the General Finishes Milk Paint and protective top coat. I would give it a shot {but I am kind of a risk taker}. I wish I could give you a more definitive answer!

  17. Wendi says

    We did this last week and followed your instructions and……….WE LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!! So happy with how it turned out. Thank you for all of your ideas!!

  18. Christina says

    Love this.. I usually love chalk paint but love the glass like finish that the milk paint has.. General Finishes. Did you have any trouble with covering wood grain?
    Christina Casey

    • says

      Hi Christina! The milk paint itself has a very velvety, flat finish. The protective top coat adds a tiny bit of sheen in flat {which is what I used}. But the protective top coat is available in gloss finishes also. I did not have any trouble covering the wood grain. This paint gives EXCELLENT coverage. Hope that helps!


  1. […] Now, turning our attention to the OTHER side of the eat-in-area, allow me to introduce you to our fun and functional chalkboard wall where the base cabinets now reside.  LOVE this area.  The door you see leads to our garage.  This is the door we use 95% of the time, so having the cabinets right there is so convenient for placing bags, etc. that we either need to grab on our way out OR to drop off when we walk in.  You can read all about my tutorial for painting your kitchen cabinets without losing your mind here. […]

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