How to Paint Laminate Kitchen Cabinets the Right Way without Sanding

A contractor once told me that it was almost as expensive to PAINT CABINETS as it was to buy inexpensive new cabinets! WHATTTT! Sure enough, I had more than one person confirm this statement so I thought it had to be true. Actually, it can be very expensive to have someone update laminate kitchen cabinets with paint. That’s why I decided to tackle this project myself. Let me show you how to paint laminate kitchen cabinets the right way without sanding.

how to paint laminate kitchen cabinets

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What kind of paint should you use to paint laminate cabinets?

In a nutshell, if you use a good bonding primer, the type of paint won’t matter as much as long at it’s a good latex, oil based paint or performance paint.

For this project I’m using a Zinsser Bulls Eye primer with General Finishes Milk paint. Also don’t forget to apply a good top coat or sealer.

I used an Ace Hardware latex paint when I painted the rest of the laminate cabinets (without primer; p.s. don’t do this!).

Below is what the Island cabinets looked like before I painted them. Yucky brown laminate cabinets!

BEFORE I painted the laminate kitchen cabinets

Materials to paint laminate cabinets:

HOW TO PAINT LAMINATE KITCHEN CABINETS:

  1. Remove the hardware. Please don’t hate me, but my laziness got the best of me and I did do something I regret; I did not remove the cabinets before painting. I DID tape the hardware and the areas inside the cabinets with blue painters tape.
  2. When you paint LAMINATE Kitchen CABINETS you need a good primer. Since laminate is a cheap surface that is often very slick and smooth, you need a product that will really “grip” and adhere to the cabinets. My go to primer and the best bonding primer for laminate surfaces is the Zinsser Primer, which covers all surfaces without the need of sanding.

3.   Before you prime laminate cabinets, clean them really well. If there is a lot of dirt that a good wipe down won’t remove, you need to use a “degreaser” to make sure the surface is completely clean.

4.    After wiping down the cabinets and making sure they are totally dry, apply one coat of Primer.

Below is a picture of the cabinets with only one coat of primer. Because the cabinets are laminate and the finish is a bit shiny, I realized it was going to take two coats of primer.

5. Apply second coat of Primer.

First coat of primer on painted laminate kitchen cabinets

6. Now it’s time to paint. The picture above was taken after the first coat. I used a foam brush for this part to eliminate brush strokes and still decided to use three coats!

7.  Next you need to apply a top coat (don’t skip this step). For any surface that receives a lot of use, you absolutely must use a top coat. Because I used the General Finishes Milk Paint, I decided to also used their High Performance water based satin top coat.

What is the best top coat or sealer for laminate cabinets or laminate surfaces?

My suggestion is to use a Polycrylic rather than a polyurethane. The polyurethane top coats are known for yellowing over time (especially when applied to white cabinets).I used this product on my other Painting Laminate cabinets part 2 post. The milk paint top coat sealer is very similar to a Polycrylic top coat.

A couple things to note for the laminate cabinet makeover;

  • You could get away with 1 coat of primer, 2 coats of paint, and 1 top coat and it will look great. However, I have two small kids and my kitchen Island gets A LOT of traffic, so I wanted to make sure the paint held up well.
  • The best way, in my opinion, to apply paint is with a good paint sprayer. I used a paint sprayer when I painted the rest of my cabinets. That being said, using the old paint brush and can give you good results too. I used a foam brush to apply the paint to minimize brush strokes and I think it turned out well.
HOW TO PAINT LAMINATE Kitchen Cabinets with NO sanding. Easy tips on painting laminate cabinets.

Since this post I painted the rest of our laminate cabinets without using primer. You can decide for yourself how it turned out. You can also see my entire kitchen update with the painted laminate cabinets before and after for under $4k.

modern farmhouse kitchen update with painted cabinets

After about a year of living with our painted laminate cupboards, I wrote a comprehensive review on how our painted laminate cabinets have held up; with primer and without. You’ll definitely want to read this before you give you reface your laminate cabinets.

It’s always a good idea to explore all your painting options before you dive into a big project like painting cabinets. Also, I hope you can learn from my mistakes! LOL.

I hope this post has been a huge help if you want to know how to paint kitchen cabinets.

I promise that anyone can transform a drab kitchen with just a few coats of paint. You don’t have to be a pro painter to complete this project, and I guarantee you won’t regret it!

Seriously, if I can make a cheap veneer sticker look good with just a few coats, anyone can!

how to paint laminate kitchen cabinets
Painting laminate kitchen cabinets with NO sanding
How I painted my cheap laminate cabinets with NO prep work!

How to Paint Laminate Cabinets

painting laminate cabinets with NO prep work

´╗┐An easy tutorial about how to paint laminate kitchen cabinets with no prep work. This laminate painting technique involves using primer, paint and a top coat but no sanding.

Prep Time 1 hour
Active Time 5 hours
Total Time 6 hours
Difficulty Medium
Estimated Cost 75

Materials

  • Foam brushes
  • Regular brushes
  • Bonding Primer
  • Latex, oil based or performance based paint (I used milk paint)
  • Degreaser or cleaner
  • High Performance water based satin top coat

Tools

  • Paint sprayer (not necessary but it makes it easier)

Instructions

  1. Remove the hardware
  2. Use a cleaner or degreaser to fully clean the surfaces
  3. Use a good primer and spray or paint the cabinets with two coats
  4. Once primer is fully dry, apply two coats of paint
  5. Make sure to apply a top coat after the paint is dry. You can apply 1-2 coats.

Notes

  • You could get away with 1 coat of primer, 2 coats of paint, and 1 top coat and it will look great. However, I have two small kids and my kitchen Island gets A LOT of traffic, so I wanted to make sure the paint held up well.
  • Side note about the top coat. The polyurethane top coats are known for yellowing over time (especially when applied to white cabinets). My suggestion is to use a polycrylic rather than a polyurethane. I used this product on my other Painting Laminate cabinets part 2 post. The milk paint top coat sealer is very similar to a Polycrylic top coat.
  • The best way, in my opinion, to apply paint is with a good paint sprayer. I used a paint sprayer when I painted the rest of my cabinets. That being said, using the old paint brush and can give you good results too. I used a foam brush to apply the paint to minimize brush strokes and I think it turned out well.

Lindsey**

35 thoughts on “How to Paint Laminate Kitchen Cabinets the Right Way without Sanding

  1. Lindsey, they turned out great! I bet that you\’re going to end up having a lot of requests from people to do theirs for them!
    We have blonde wood cabinets and have debated painting them white. We are just nervous about how they would turn out, so this is really helpful! Going to pin and show it to Bobby!

    1. Hi! this project took me a little longer than it would have taken most people because I had to paint around my kids naptime and bedtime. I painted coats twice a day; around 1 PM (naptime) and 8 PM (bedtime). I would wait atleast a few hours between coats. I can’t remember what the paint’s suggested dry time is. Due to drying time, this project will take you a few days. Hope this helps!
      Lindsey

    1. Hi! Sorry the links aren’t working for you. I’ve only used water based paint ever for my cabinets.I can’t handle the smell of the oil based paints. I’m currently painting the rest of my kitchen now. I’ve used a few different techniques. I’m going to write another blog post soon. Until then, Here is a link to my youtube channel where I made a quick video about painting cabinets. You can view it here:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2mDJzqZEAaE

  2. how long has it been since you did the update to the kitchen cabinets? how’s the paint holding up now? can you post an update to this amazing DIY project? Thanks in advance!

    1. Funny you ask that, because in the next few weeks I plan to do a post on my review of my painted cabinets. My advice; USE PRIMER and at least a few coats of the top coat.

  3. I wanted to know did you paint the laminate looking sticker on the side of the cabinets ir did you use something else to replace it?

    1. I sure did paint it! As a matter of fact, I didn’t know it was a sticker until after I painted that part of the cabiets. WHen I was pulling the blue tape off (after it had been painted) it started to pull sticker off too- I was shocked. So lesson learned, always take an exacto knife or something similar and score between the cabinet and the wall, and then remove the blue tape. Painting the “laminate sticker” definitely took the most coats because it did not want to adhere. Make sure you prime it, maybe even twice before you paint it. Hope this helps!

    2. Hi! About how much primer, paint and top coat would you say you needed for all your cabinets?? Just trying to figure out how much to buy. Thanks!

      1. Hi there, it totally depends on what type of paint you use. I only used one gallon with two coats of the primer for ALL of my kitchen cabinets. As far as the milk paint, I used an entire quart for two coats of JUST THE ISLAND (it is expensive and it didn’t go very far). I used an Ace Hardware kitchen cabinet paint for the rest of my cabinets and I only used one gallon. I’m sorry I don’t have a more direct answer, but I hope this helps!

        1. Thank you for all your tips! Does the Ace Cabinet paint come in just a generic White color or did you have it mixed or tinted to a particular color?? Thank you again for being so thorough and helpful!

  4. Hi! Thanks for this informative post. We just bought a house and I am about to tackle painting laminate kitchen cabinets. The previous owner has already painted the bottom this very dark brown. Would this same method work over already painted cabinets?

    1. As long as the paint they used isn’t peeling, I think you should be ok to paint right over it! Make sure to prime first (esp if you are painting a lighter color over a darker one). Good luck and I hope my post helped!

  5. Hi Lindsey, thank you for this article, was directed from the part 2 of this article to this. I think this is the reason why most people says to use primer when painting cabinets as it helps them hold up well vs when it’s not used. But I think the results in both cases are well worth it. Would you still use this technique later on after getting this result? Would be great to know.

    1. absalutely! I scrub my kitchen island daily with a clorox wipe due to the fact that my kids are in and out of this drawer a lot (messy hands). I painted that island almost 2 years ago and the paint is still holding strong with NO CHIPPING whatsovever. I hope this helps and good luck!

  6. What technique to do you use with the foam brush please? I’m painting bathroom drawers now, and used a primer (2 coats) & applying thin coats of paint with a foam brush, lightly sanding between coats once dry, but it’s still really streaky!

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