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How to Paint Laminate Kitchen Cabinets the Right Way without Sanding

A step by step tutorial on how to paint laminate cabinets with little to no prep work. This technique involves using primer but no 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

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.

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).

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 to cabinets 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.

Video on how to paint laminate kitchen 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 for those of you wanting to dive into a big project like this. Painting laminate surfaces can be done!

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 6 hours
Total Time 7 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**

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  1. Cathy Burke says:

    I loved the segment you Did On Painting Laminate Cabinets It Was Very Educational My Question Is Can You Do Whitewashing With Chalk Paint Or For That Matter Regular Latex Paint ? Are Do U Know Of Someone That Has Ever Done Whitewashing On Their Laminate Cabinets? Thanks Again & Hope To Here Back From You Soon

    • I did a video a few years ago on creating a “weathered Wood” or “white washed” look on a smooth laminate surface. https://youtu.be/UWoYg8_xp4U
      As far as a true white wash finish on laminate- that would be hard to do. My suggestion would be to test a small area that you normally don’t see with chalk paint and see if you like it. If it works, you will need to seal the chalk paint really well to make sure it’s durable.

  2. Cathy Burke says:

    I Was Wandering If You Could Do White Washing On Laminate Cabinets

  3. Elaine Garcia says:

    They look great. I am no painter. I painted my laminate cabins without using primer. I notice they scratched easy. What can I use to protect it from scratching. I am so disgusted

  4. […] Download Image More @ repurposeandupcycle.com […]

  5. Chelsea says:

    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!

  6. […] Download Image More @ repurposeandupcycle.com […]

  7. […] When painting a laminate or plastic surface, ALWAYS USE PRIMER. See how I painted my laminate cabinets HERE. […]

  8. […] no stranger to painting laminate. As a matter of fact, I’ve tried two different ways to paint laminate and I’ve decided […]

  9. […] can primer be the final coat of paint on a furniture piece? I was giving him pointers on how to refinish laminate cabinets, so I of course told him to use primer first.  After the primer dried, he liked the finish so much […]

  10. […] countertops swapped out, I decided my new gray tones didn’t match the brown cabinets anymore, so I painted them. This was a job but worth every sore […]

  11. Coeba says:

    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.

    • 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!

  12. […] 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 […]

  13. Vikki says:

    could you tell me the color name you used for these? I can only order this on line

  14. Sharon Paul says:

    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?

    • 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!

  15. Pebbles says:

    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?

    • Carmen F says:

      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!

      • 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!

        • Kristen says:

          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!

    • 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!

  16. […] first post, which you can view HERE,  included painting the cabinets with primer, then milk paint and then the top coat. This […]

  17. Cynthia A says:

    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!

  18. Anonymous says:

    The links aren’t working for me. So you didn’t have to use oil based laminate paint?

    • 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

  19. Trying to get an email to your comment. Sorry! Would appreciate the dry time and time your project took to complete. Thanks!!

  20. Great post!!! They look GREAT!!! How long between coats did you leave it dry? Did this project take several hours or days?

  21. How long between coats did you leave it dry? Did this project take several hours or days?

    • 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

  22. Lindsey, you did such a great job refinishing your cabinets and written such a wonderful how to, I really would live to invite you to share some projects over at Fridays Furniture Fix on Unique Junktique, hope to see you there!

  23. linds82au says:

    Great! Yes it took a lot of coats but well worth it.

  24. 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!

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