Learn how to paint oak cabinets with this detailed tutorial that includes tips and tricks for filling in the oak grain for a super smooth finish!
Be sure to check out our How To Paint Furniture page for more great painting ideas, tips and techniques.
Are you tired of your dated orange oak cabinets? Painting your oak cabinets is the best, budget-friendly way to update your kitchen!
One of the best things about painting your cabinets, is that you can choose any color you want!
I love the look of white painted cabinets. I’ve been pinning pictures of kitchens on Pinterest for a while now, and most of the pins are of white kitchens with white cabinets. So, that was one of our easiest renovation decisions – the cabinets would be painted white.
Here are the cabinets before we painted them.
Here are the cabinets after they were painted. I absolutely love how light and bright our kitchen is now!
When we decided to upgrade the cabinets with a soffit, I quickly realized that the heavy grain of the painted oak would look a lot different than the painted smooth MDF that was used for the soffit right above the cabinets.
S0, we decided to have the doors of the cabinets sprayed to get the best finish. I found a wonderful guy who was up for trying to fill in the oak grain too.
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HOW TO PAINT OAK CABINETS – TIPS FOR FILLING GRAIN
The painter took the doors to his shop to spray paint them, so I don’t have step-by-step pictures of the process that he used to fill in the grain and paint the cabinet doors, but I do have the steps that he took, and the products that he used.
MATERIALS AND STEPS FOR FILLING IN OAK GRAIN
- Clean all doors and drawers with TSP substitute. Making sure to rinse very well.
- Apply a Muralo Spackle Paste to the cabinet doors with a putty knife. Let dry. The putty fills in the oak grain.
- Sand doors and drawers until smooth.
- Apply a coat of Zinsser BIN Primer. Lightly sand after dry. Clean with tack cloth.
- Apply a coat of of Pittsburgh Paint Undercoater. Lightly sand after dry. Clean with tack cloth.
- Apply 3 coats of Pittsburgh Paint Breakthrough paint.
HOW TO PAINT OAK CABINETS – USING A BRUSH AND ROLLER
*If you don’t mind a little of the oak grain showing after the cabinets are painted, you can skip the steps above for filling in the oak grain, and use the steps below to paint your oak cabinets using a good quality paint brush and roller.
This is the painting method I used to paint our kitchen cabinet boxes and the cabinets in two of our bathrooms.
Here’s a picture of the cabinets in one of our bathrooms. The cabinets are oak and the grain has not been filled in.
- Pittsburgh Paints Breakthrough paint (in the color of your choice) – This is the paint that we used to paint all of our cabinets, trim and most of the furniture we painted. Very durable and adheres extremely well. Our color is actually Benjamin Moore’s White that I had our local Pittsburgh Paint retailer mix for me. On the lid of the can it says the color mixture is L4.
- Oil-based primer that has stain blocking in the title.
- TSP Liquid Substitute cleaner
- Dust mask and/or respirator
- 100 grit sanding block
- 220 grit sandpaper
- Tack cloths
- Painters’ tape
- Painters’ tripods – you could also use paint cans or boxes
- Nylon/polyester paintbrush
- Paintable caulk
- Small paint trays
- Wooster Shortcut paint brush
- Whizz 4″ microfiber roller with 3/8″ nap
- Whizz roller handle
- Small felt pads
I’ve created a step-by-step video to show how to paint cabinets, and I’ve also included written instructions under the video:
The Prep – There are a lot of preparation steps before you can start priming and painting. Don’t get discouraged! Doing them will help you have a great painted finish on your cabinets.
- Empty cabinets and drawers, and number each cabinet. Put the same number on the corresponding door or drawer
- Remove the doors and drawer fronts. Put the tape with door number in the hinge hole after taking off hinges, so that it doesn’t get painted.
- Remove the knobs or handles.
- Tape off the inside of the cabinets and any wall areas next to cabinets with painters’ tape.
- Use dropcloths to protect floors and counter tops.
- Scrape any pads off the backs of drawers and doors.
- Clean the cabinet boxes, doors and drawers with TSP Liquid Substitute cleaner. Following the directions on the bottle. I like to rinse with clean water, and dry with a dry cloth.
- Sand the cabinet boxes, doors and drawers with 100 grit sanding block or sandpaper to get the shiny finish off. If you have laminate on the sides of the cabinet boxes, sand carefully so that you don’t go clear through the laminate finish to the particle board underneath. I recommend wearing a dust mask or respirator.
- Wipe the sanding dust off with a tack cloth.
The Priming – Priming your cabinets with a good stain blocking oil-primer will help to keep any staining from the wood cabinets from showing through to the painted finish. If you have laminate sides on the ends of your boxes and you’re using the Pittsburgh Paints Breakthrough paint, then you can skip this priming step on the laminate surfaces.
- Lay the doors and drawers flat. Use painters’ tripods or something else like paint cans to lift the doors and drawers off of the painting surface.
- Paint the cabinet boxes, drawers and doors with the oil-based primer using a nylon/polyester brush. I like to do the backs of the doors and drawers first. Let them dry, and then turn them over and prime the fronts. Be sure to paint in the direction of the grain of the wood.
- After the primer is dry (usually around an hour, but read the directions on your primer), lightly sand all of the cabinet boxes, doors and drawers with a 220 grit sandpaper.
- Caulk any gaps in the cabinet doors or boxes with a paintable caulk. Let the caulk dry for 20 minutes.
The Painting – Finally, we’re ready to paint! Again, I highly recommend using Pittsburgh Paints Breakthrough paint. They aren’t paying me a penny to say this, I really love this paint! It’s held up for us extremely well – very durable.
Again, I like to paint the backs of the doors and drawers first, let them dry, and then turn them over and paint the fronts.
- Put some of the paint in a small roller tray. Using the Wooster Shortcut paint brush, paint any areas of the cabinet boxes, doors and drawers that will be hard to paint with the roller.
- Using the roller, paint all of the rest of the surfaces. To prep the Whizz roller, use a piece of tape to get the extra lint off. Also, get the roller slightly damp.
- Let the paint dry for 2 hours.
- Apply a second coat of paint to all of the cabinet boxes, doors and drawers. Following steps 1 – 3.
- Apply a third coat of paint to all of the cabinet boxes, doors and drawers. Following steps 1 – 3.
- Let the cabinet boxes, doors and drawers dry for at least 24 hours, and then re-hang the doors and drawer fronts. To protect the cabinets, apply felt pads to the backs of the doors and drawers.
- Put the knobs or handles back on the doors and drawers.
Congratulations – you’re done!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this how to paint oak cabinets tutorial!
Here’s what we changed in the kitchen (and the posts with further details):
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