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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.

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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.



Monday 3rd of October 2022

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!

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Monday 3rd of October 2022

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!

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