Painting Kitchen Cabinets without Primer

I know you’re probably wondering why I’m writing ANOTHER post on the same topic that I wrote about previously. Do I need to write about Painting Laminate cabinets with NO prep work again? Yes, because this time I’ve used a different method for a few good reasons. I can’t wait to share with you my second try at painting kitchen cabinets, this time with NO PRIMER.

Painting Kitchen cabinets

Let’s go back to where this all began.

When we updated our kitchen (see more details HERE), I knew I wouldn’t be happy with the new granite unless I changed the look of the cabinets. Buying new cabinets wasn’t an option so I decided to paint the kitchen island white to tie in with the white of our newly installed bead board.

I LOVED the way the painted kitchen cabinets turned out and I knew I wanted to paint the rest of our laminate cabinets as well.

When I painted the Island white, I used a couple coats of primer, milk paint, and a sealer. This method worked perfectly! You can see more details about this post HERE. I wanted to use the same method, but realized the milk paint did not come in the shade of gray I was looking for.  Bummer.  Now what?

I shopped around and found the perfect color in a Benjamin Moore paint called Winter Gates. The first thing that came to mind when I think of Benjamin Moore is dollar signs. I know it’s a great paint, but you certainly pay for it.

 After a little research I decided to have that color mixed in Ace Hardware’s Cabinet Door and Trim paint.  So I had a different paint, but did I use the same method? No.

When I painted the Island white I knew I had to use a primer to hide the dark wood laminate cabinets.

Since I was painting the existing cabinets a slightly darker shade, I thought “do I really need primer?”  Most people might have said yes, but I was willing to try it without a primer.

If you want to use primer, refer to my first post on painting laminate cabinets with NO PREP WORK.

NOTE: I have written a full review of both of my techniques. It would a good idea to refer to this post if you are getting ready to dive in head first to painting your cabinets. 

Lets start with the supply list:

Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links. This means I will make a small commission if you purchase from them, but in no way will you pay more for the product.

  • decent quality paint brushes
  • decent quality foam brushes
  • painters tape
  • Paint Sprayer – this is the paint sprayer I own. I love this product. It’s affordable and works very well.
  • Cabinet Paint – this is the type of paint I used. It was only $35 per gallon and I only used half of it (and I have a TON of cabinets). Like I said earlier, I mixed a Benjamin Moore color (winter’s gate) into this paint.
  • Polycrylic top coat– I love this top coat because it does not yellow as it dries.  Be careful because some polyurethane’s tend to do this.

Note: I used water based products.  Some people swear by oil based products when painting cabinets, but I can’t handle the smell. It’s also more difficult to clean your brushes and paint sprayer. I had a ton of success with the first cabinets I painted with the water based paint, so I decided to continue using a water based product.

Here are the steps I used for painting kitchen cabinets, the new way:

  1. remove drawers and door fronts
  2. wipe cabinets and all cabinet surfaces down with a Clorox wipe or degreaser and then dry with a lint free cloth
  3. spray the cabinet drawers and door fronts with first coat
  4. use a brush to paint the rest of the cabinet surfaces that you could not remove
  5. wait a few hours
  6. repeat the painting process until you have applied 2-3 coats. If your cabinets are light, 2 coats will probably work. Because my cabinets were a medium to dark wood, and I DID NOT use a primer, I needed 3 coats.  Use a foam brush for the last coat of paint.
  7. After the paint is thoroughly dry, apply the sealer.  In my opinion this is the most important step. Painting laminate cabinets would be a disaster if it wasn’t for a good sealer. This being said, I use 3 coats of sealer.  
  8. The last step is to attach your drawers and door fronts and put your kitchen back together again!

NOTE: For the last coat of paint and primer I used a foam brush on the base of the cabinets (that I could not remove). I noticed that a foam brush minimized brush strokes, and you definitely don’t want any of those.

Here are some progress pictures of the first coat of paint:

If you notice on this last picture at the top, the paint did not want to “stick.” This is normal. You have to keep applying the paint, and eventually it will stick.

That’s it! For more of the “process” pictures, refer to this quick video with tips and tricks about painting cheap cabinets.

Painting Laminate Cabinets with NO prep work
Painting kitchen cabinets
Painting kitchen cabinets
Painting kitchen cabinets
Painting kitchen cabinets

What a difference a little paint makes! For about $60, I feel like I have a brand new kitchen. I hope this post on painting kitchen cabinets has inspired you to paint your cheap cabinets too.


Related Posts:

painting and refinishing furniture 101
modern farmhouse kitchen remodel

27 thoughts on “Painting Kitchen Cabinets without Primer

    1. I think you just convinced me to paint my cherry IKEA cabinets, white!!! Eek but this gives me hope! Thx!

      1. I will let you know. I have seen a variety of different posts on the subject but I like seeing the entire process. It makes it easier knowing that if I want to redecorate or remodel my kitchen that I can always give it a little pop of color with the cabinets.

  1. Your kitchen is the exact same layout as ours! Except we don’t have an island – and I want one!! What size is your kitchen roughly? Thank you!!

  2. This is just the advice I was looking for. My cabinets are very dark laminent but I got a paint and primer in one in a semi gloss scrub able for trim and cabinets. With maybe 3 coats and a sealer, I think they will turn out great. Thanks for the tips!

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