Painting Your Kitchen Cabinets by RGC

By Barb Skivington for Real Girls Create

Chalk Paint® decorative paint by Annie Sloan is a good choice for painting kitchen cabinets made from wood or finished with melamine or laminate. By keeping the steps simple — prep, paint, wax, and cure — Chalk Paint® produces a quality finish you will enjoy for years to come.


Preparing your Cabinets

The simplest way to paint your cabinets is to paint them in place. Chalk Paint® offers superb bonding capabilities with less prep and easier and quicker application methods. It also offers good adhesion to existing hardware, making it unnecessary to remove the cabinet doors — simply paint over the hinges!

If you do decide to remove the doors and drawer facings for painting, first make a schematic drawing, assigning a unique identifying number to each door and drawer location and marking each component accordingly to ensure that every piece gets returned to its original position. Be sure to indicate on each drawer facing which edge is the top.

Good preparation and a clean surface are critical to a successful finish. With Chalk Paint® most times just a good cleaning will do, but there will be times when an extra step or two may be necessary. Use the following as a guide:

  • Ensure that your cabinets are clean and free of any grease, oils, surface debris, etc. Use a grease-cutting biodegradable cleaner, such as Savogran’s Liquid TSP Substitute, and warm water and gently scrub. A Scotch-Brite™ pad is a good choice for this type of cleaning as it will slightly abrade the surface, making it ready to accept your new paint layers. Be sure to rinse afterwards with clean water and then leave your cabinets to dry. Avoid using any harsh cleaners or chemicals that are difficult to rinse away and may prevent the paint from adhering.
  • Smooth any layers of thick uneven paint or varnish with medium grit sandpaper. Follow with fine grit sandpaper to smooth any rough spots or edges.
  • Repair any cracks and gouges and fill any holes with wood filler or spackling. Let the filler dry completely and then smooth with fine grit sandpaper.
  • Seal any repairs and fills, including areas that may have been previously touched up with a stain pen, with clear shellac. The same is true for knotholes or open wood grain; seal with clear shellac to block any tannins from bleeding up through your new paint layers. Simply wipe on one or two coats with a cloth pad. Use only the freshest shellac.
  • Sand melamine or laminate cabinets thoroughly with fine grit sandpaper to break the surface tension. Don't be tempted to skip this very critical step. Then apply a very thin coat of Chalk Paint® (diluted with approximately 20% water). Don’t worry if your underlying finish shows through. Leave to dry for a minimum of 48 hours.

Special Note: Another surface worth mentioning here is thermofoil. Often used in the making of kitchen cabinet doors and drawer facings, this synthetic material is a thin, heat-sealed wrap molded over an MDF substrate. Thermofoiled cabinet doors can be a solid color or imitation wood grain. Paints of any kind do not bond to a thermofoil finish. However, on older one-piece styles, the thermofoil finish can be removed for painting purposes. Heat first with a hair dryer, and then, starting on one edge, slowly lift or pull the thermofoil finish away, exposing the underlying engineered core. Then follow the preparation steps above.


Painting with Chalk Paint®

Before you begin, test all the steps of your finish in an inconspicuous area (such as the toe kick or back of a cabinet door) to help ensure you get the results you want. If any problems occur, stop and contact your local Annie Sloan Stockist for assistance.

Be sure to shake and stir your paint thoroughly. Shake the can for about 30 seconds, then remove the lid and stir well, getting the stir stick all the way down to the bottom of the can.

Apply your first coat of paint. A small amount of water (approximately 10%) can be added to the paint to help it flow off the brush nicely. Choose a Chalk Paint® Brush when you are wanting more of an aged or distressed finish with some texture in your paintwork, or a Flat Brush when you are wanting a smoother finish. Paint in a manner that is most comfortable for you. While some painters prefer to lay out the paint by brushing in a more linear direction, others will move the brush in various directions, leaving some subtle brush marks and slight texture which can become part of the look. This should be an easy and effortless step so don’t fuss too much — most of the texture and brush marks will lay out as the paint dries.

When painting a traditional 5-piece cabinet door, begin with the center panel. Then move on to the rails and stiles, brushing on the outside edge first and working your way in towards the center panel to avoid a heavy buildup of paint on inside edges and corners.

Apply enough coats of paint for good coverage. Most times two coats will do, but this will depend on your color choice and application thickness. Allow each coat to dry completely before applying the next.

After each coat has dried, look for any loose bristles stuck in the paint or unsightly accumulations of paint along edges and in corners. You can remove any bristles with the tip of a razor knife and sand away any unwanted paint accumulation with fine grit sandpaper. It’s best to apply another coat of paint after making these repairs to avoid any unsightly marks in the finish.


Finishing with Wax

Finish with two or three coats of Clear Chalk Paint® Wax. Easy to apply, Chalk Paint® Wax makes a good bond to the paint for protection and gives a beautiful natural sheen. It’s water- repellent and food safe too, making it a wise and durable choice for kitchens.

Spread a thin coat of Clear Wax over the paint using a Chalk Paint® Wax Brush. There’s no need to use a lot of pressure or move in tight circles — simply apply a small amount of wax using a gentle sweeping motion, letting the tip of the brush get the wax into inside corners and other details. Work in manageable sections at a time and wipe off any excess wax with a clean absorbent cloth as you go. Let the wax dry just until the surface no longer feels cool to the touch. Then add another thin coat of Clear Wax just like the first to even out the finish.

Let the remaining wax penetrate the paint layers and dry 24 hours. If the sheen appears a bit uneven, apply another thin coat of Clear Wax and let dry yet another 24 hours.

For a natural sheen, you can leave as is. For a more polished look, allow the wax to dry overnight and then buff with a soft cloth.

Letting the Finish Cure

Be patient and allow your new wax finish to “cure.” Curing, a hardening process that takes significantly longer than drying, is what strengthens the finish and gives it its durability. This process typically takes 5 to 21 days. Warm, dry conditions are preferable; cold temperatures, high humidity, and application thickness will extend drying and curing time substantially.

You can use your newly finished cabinets during the curing process; however, treat them carefully. Wipe up spills immediately and avoid scratchy objects, excess steam and moisture, and harsh cleaners and abrasive pads.

Helpful Tips

  • Become familiar with your painting technique. If painting with Chalk Paint® is new to you, consider painting a small piece of furniture first to get used to applying the paint and wax.
  • Remember that hand-painted cabinet finishes do not have to be perfect. They're meant to give a beautiful handcrafted look with character and interest, rather than a perfectly smooth “factory-like” finish.
  • Complete each step of the finish across all of your cabinets before proceeding to the next to help ensure a consistent look.
  • Start with the bottom cabinets. If you make a mistake it will be less noticeable, and by the time you get to the upper cabinets you’ll be painting like a pro!
  • Protect your new cabinet finish with Clear Chalk Paint® Wax only. It's best to avoid using colored waxes as they can make any future repairs difficult; touching up with additional colored wax can often result in a halo or ring effect in the affected area.
  • Caring for your cabinets is easy. Wipe them clean with a slightly damp cloth followed by a dry cloth. For noticeable marks, add a little mild soap to your cloth. More stubborn marks, such as scratches and stains, can be easily rubbed away with a little Clear Wax on a cloth pad. Avoid liquid furniture polishes and oils. Chalk Paint® Wax is water resistant but will spot if not wiped immediately. It is alcohol soluble and should not be used in bar areas.
  • Refreshing your cabinet finish is quick and simple. When your finish becomes dull and you can no longer buff it to a nice sheen, apply a thin coat of Chalk Paint® Wax. A small pad of extra fine (#0000) steel wool can make this step go fast and easy. Remove any excess wax with a clean absorbent cloth and let the remaining wax dry. Gently buff with another clean cloth.

Permission to publish this article given expressly to 3PaintGirls by Barb’s estate.