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Painting Kitchen Cabinets without Primer; Does this Work?

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 and NO sanding 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 with a gray paint, this time with NO PRIMER.

Painting Kitchen cabinets without primer

NOTE: After reading this post, you will want to refer to the post where I did a year in review of how the painted laminate cabinets held up with and without primer. This post shares all the details about the pros and cons of painting kitchen cabinets with both methods.

Painting laminate cabinets without primer, does it work?

Let’s go back to where this all began.

When we updated our builder grade to modern farmhouse kitchen, 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 our laminate cabinets WITH primer, I used a couple coats of primer, milk paint, and a sealer. This method worked perfectly!

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.

Disclosure; this post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This does not affect the price you pay. This disclosure statement refers to the rest of the Amazon links in this post. See more on my disclosure page.

Benjamin Moore Winter Gates

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 Kitchen Island Cabinet white I used 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.

Supplies for painted laminate cabinets:

  • 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 kitchen 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.

How to paint kitchen cabinets gray without primer;

  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 gray paint:

first coat of cabinet paint
first coat of cabinet paint without primer
first coat of cabinet paint without primer

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.

Grey painted laminate cabinets
Painting grey laminate kitchen cabinets without primer
Painting laminate kitchen cabinets without primer
Painting gray laminate kitchen cabinets without primer
Painting laminate kitchen cabinets without primer

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.


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  1. I took the cabinet faces off and sprayed them in my garage so it didn’t make that much of a mess. I did use a roller and paint brush on the frames though. Also, I did use primer on the kitchen Island cabinets and it held up better than without primer. The cabinets without primer didn’t hold up terribly, but primer would definitely help. Make sure to check out my post where I did use primer!

  2. Brenda says:

    How were you able to use a sprayer on your cabinets without making a mess. Also everyone who paints laminate swears that if you don’t prime, it will peel off???? Great job!

  3. […] Download Image More @ […]

  4. I used a foam brush to apply the sealer.

  5. Priscilla says:

    For the top coat the last step how did you apply the sealer with a sprayer or do you roll it ? Just wondering the best way to do that

  6. It’s a Benjamin Moore color called Winter Gates.

  7. Anonymous says:

    What is the grey color that you used?

  8. […] is an updated view of my kitchen since I’ve painted my laminate cabinets. If you want to see more details on this entire kitchen renovation on a major budget click […]

  9. […] ways to paint laminate and I’ve decided that one method is the right way and the other is the wrong way to paint cheap […]

  10. Good luck! Let me know if you have any questions.

  11. Kari says:

    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!

  12. oh goodness, we have moved since I wrote that post but that was a very large kitchen. The island was SOOOO convenient I would really recommend it. I hope this helps!

  13. Anonymous says:

    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!!

  14. […] towel rack and bath cloth hook.  This is an affiliate link to the one we purchased: Then I painted the cabinets, because, well, why not!  The rest of the colors in this bathroom were going to be light and […]

  15. […] second post, which you can view HERE, included no prep, no primer, and just painting the laminate cabinets with a poly acrylic Ace […]

  16. […] second post, which you can view HERE, included no prep, no primer, and just painting the laminate cabinets with a poly acrylic Ace […]

  17. […] If you interested in seeing how I painted the rest of my kitchen cabinets a different color with a slightly different method, click HERE. […]

  18. Hi Gail,
    The brand name sealer I used is called General Finishes.

  19. Gail Stone says:

    what is the brand name of the sealer you used?

  20. Oh Wonderful! Good luck, I know you’ll be happy with the results.

  21. Elisha says:

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

  22. […] Lindsey shared how to paint laminate cabinets with NO PREP work (Part 2). […]

  23. Definitely going to hold onto these tips for when I get the time and gumption to paint our kitchen cabinets! Thanks so much for sharing at the #happynowlinkup!

  24. This looks great and I love the white. I have painted mine previously and it is about time for a re-do. I just dread it, but your post has encouraged me. Thanks.

  25. You definitely have inspired me! I have been wanting to redo my kitchen cheaply for awhile now. Thanks for sharing on #HappinessisHomemade

  26. tinmccarthy says:

    The kitchen looks amazing.

  27. Great! good luck with your cabinets! It really wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be. Let me know if you have any questions.

  28. JESS44903 says:

    Wow…everything look so great! 🙂

    I would love for you to share this with my Facebook Group for recipes, crafts, tips, and tricks:

    Thanks for joining Cooking and Crafting with J & J!

  29. Love the cabinets… great help for painting. 🙂

  30. Anonymous says:

    That looks fantastic. Great job! Love it!