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How to Paint Wood Cabinets With Chalk Paint

Looking to update your kitchen on a budget? Learn how to paint wood cabinets with chalk paint. It’s a budget-friendly remodel that is easy to do and totally worth the effort!

Chalk paint is one of the easiest ways to update your kitchen without breaking the bank.

Get started today with these simple tips.

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Farmhouse kitchen with cabinets painted with annie sloan chalk paintrustic farmhouse kitchen fall home tour 2021
Farmhouse kitchen after painting wood cabinets with chalk paint

The Backstory

It’s been about almost four years since I decided to paint the wood cabinets with chalk paint.

And do I regret it?

Absolutely not!

When we bought our house twenty three years ago, we loved the kitchen the moment we walked in.

The former homeowner, who was a cabinet installer who recently updated it so it was all new when we moved in.

He gutted the whole room to install someone else’s “garbage” cabinets and built that awesome hood.

At that time, we were so impressed by how much time and craftsmanship went into the remodel, that we left this room as is.

About ten years after we purchased our home, we ripped the roof off of our small three-bedroom ranch and added a second floor.

The kitchen was the only room we did not touch during that renovation because we still liked it and couldn’t afford to do a kitchen remodel.

Over time, the kitchen really started feeling old, outdated, and dingy.

The cabinets are still in great shape, so I wanted to lighten it them up.

To keep the project budget-friendly, I looked into how to paint the kitchen cabinets white.

After doing a ton of research, I pulled the trigger and did it.

The result is amazing and it was totally worth the effort.

Wait until you see how easy (but time-consuming) it is to paint wood cabinets with chalk paint!

Country kitchen before updating it with pickled oak cabinets -How to Refinish Wood Cabinets with Gel Stain
Country kitchen with pickled oak cabinets before painting with chalk paint

Before I Painted the Wood Cabinets with Chalk Paint

The kitchen is situated on the north side of the house so it does not get a lot of bright light.

Our cabinets are pickled oak and were in pretty good shape so painting them was a no-brainer.

That said though? I was a little nervous to do it.

Because well, they are kitchen cabinets and I didn’t want to ruin them.

While I had experience refinishing furniture pieces, the kitchen is a much larger and riskier project.

To take something like that on was very intimidating.

pickled oak cabinets in country kitchen before updating it
Pickled oak cabinets before painting with chalk paint

Building Confidence

Once the decision was made to do paint the cabinets, I spent months on Pinterest researching every how-to article I could find on painting kitchen cabinets.

I consulted with friends who are experts at refinishing things.

I studied how to refinish wood cabinets, poured over different techniques while picking up tips and tricks.

And I was looking for all sorts of painting cabinet ideas.

To build my confidence with cabinetry, I practiced on smaller items to get a feel for what I wanted to do, how I wanted to do it, and to understand the supplies needed.

When Chris gave me the green light to go ahead with the kitchen remodel, I was totally ready to go!

Yes, there was that little voice in my head saying “Stacy are you sure you want to do this? This might not be a good idea, cabinets are a big deal, blah blah blah.”

But I’ve learned that voice sometimes needs to be told to zip it!!!!

Because you know what?

It’s just paint!

What’s the worse that could happen?

I’d have to paint it again?

If my options were: to keep the kitchen as it is or buy a few cans of paint – I was buying that paint!

country kitchen with wainscotting and corner hutch before updating to farmhouse style
While this country kitchen looked pretty cool 23 years ago, it feels outdated.

The “How to Re-Finish It” Decision

Now, that I had the confidence to do it, I needed to figure out how to paint cabinets white.

What kind of paint should I use to remodel the kitchen?

After much consideration, I narrowed it down to using milk or chalk paint but ultimately decided to paint the wood cabinets with chalk paint.

While I preferred a chalk paint finish for my cabinetry, both are very good options.

Why? Because there’s no need to pre-sand!

Painting cabinets without sanding sounds very appealing, doesn’t it?

Since I am all about doing a little less work to get the job done, chalk paint it is!

Supplies needed to paint cabinets with chalk paint -Sprucing Up the Coffee Table with Chalk Paint
Typical supplies needed to chalk paint wood cabinets

How to Paint Wood Cabinets Using Chalk Paint

Chalk paint is an easy way to give your kitchen a new look.

Once you decide that you want to paint the cabinets, it’s time to choose the color.

If you are unsure what color chalk paint to use, pick a cabinet door you do not regularly use and test colors on the inside of that door.

Choose a Color Palette

Before you start painting, decide what kind of kitchen you want.

Do you prefer traditional or modern?

If you have a kitchen island, should it match the rest of the kitchen cabinetry or do you want it to stand out?

Find a Good Paint Supplier

There are lots of great chalk paint suppliers out there.

Technically, chalk paint is a registered trademark of the Annie Sloan brand.

But there are several other companies that make chalk-style paint so there are a lot of brands to choose from.

And there are DIY recipes for making your own chalk-style paint.

I chalk painted my kitchen cabinets with Annie Sloan.

Spring Forward with My Rustic Farmhouse Spring Home Tour
Farmhouse kitchen after painting kitchen cabinets with chalk paint decorated for spring

Supplies Needed to Chalk Paint Kitchen Cabinets

Directions for Painting Cabinets with Chalk Paint

When chalk painting kitchen cabinets, the biggest thing to keep in mind is that it’s easy to do but takes some time from start to finish.

I assure you the time and effort you spend will be well worth it.

How to Chalk Paint Cabinets

Remove doors from cabinets. Mark each door so you know where to put it back when you re-hang them.

If you have external hinges like we have, set them aside. Our hinges were brass, so we sprayed them with an oil rubbed bronze spray paint.

Remove items from cabinets if you do not want to risk getting paint on anything.

It is very important to wash and de-grease all cabinets and doors well. If you use the same de-greaser I did, follow the directions then wash and rinse the cabinets and doors.

It is not necessary to pre-sand cabinets and doors before painting cabinets with chalk paint, but you can if you want to scuff the surface up painting with chalk paint.

After painting base cabinets in kitchen with chalk paint
I did not empty all of my cabinets. I just pushed everything back. Note: There was some paint splatter on things.

Paint all the cabinet bases first, then do the doors.

Use the painter pyramids to keep cabinet doors off the ground.

Start with the inside of the doors first and if possible, start with the doors of the cabinets you don’t look at as often.

When doing projects like this, I find it takes some time to get into a rhythm so it’s good to start with doors you don’t normally look at until you get a feel for it.

Do you have to do it that way?

No, but doing it this way built up my confidence that the kitchen would turn out great and I wouldn’t mess it up!

I did two coats of chalk paint on the bases and doors. You may need three if the color paint you use needs it.

After the chalk paint is fully dry, it is time to distress the cabinetry. If you don’t want the distressed look, you can skip this part.

After painting base cabinets with chalk paint in kitchen

How to Distress Kitchen Cabinets with Chalk Paint

Know what you look you want before you start distressing.

Do you want a light or heavily distressed look?

I distressed the edges of the cabinet bases and the doors. Where the pickled oak veins showed through on some of the doors, I lightly distressed those areas to hide the veins because they looked like stains.

Go light on the distressing at first because you can always distress it more. If you distress more heavily than you want, you can easily go over it again with paint.

Keep in mind this process is very forgivable so if you make a mistake it is easy to fix.

painted kitchen cabinet doors after distressing chalk paint
Because I refinished my kitchen in the winter, I distressed all of the cabinet doors in my basement. Distressing cabinets can get very messy so be aware before you start!

How to Protect the Color After Painting Cabinets with Chalk Paint

After distressing, it is time to apply the top coat to protect the color.

I chose polycrylic over polyurethane because it yellows less. That said, polycrylic does still yellow the paint a little more than wax.

Different poly finishes yellow more than others so test them before applying.

You can use wax if you want, but the poly will protect the color better in a high use area like a kitchen.

Follow the directions on the can of poly and allow to fully dry between coats.

And use the same process as chalk painting kitchen cabinets. Start with cabinet bases first, then the doors.

After painting kitchen cabinets with chalk paint - reinstalling doors

How to Refinish the Hinges

Before putting the doors back on, we sprayed the hinges, allowed them to dry, then re-hung the doors.

We upgraded the handles to drawer pulls and knobs from Restoration Hardware.

From start to finish, this part of the kitchen renovation took about two weeks.

If you have wood cabinets and want to renovate your kitchen, I highly recommend painting them yourself.

It was time-consuming but very easy and inexpensive to do and I am very proud of the result.

Rustic Farmhouse Spring Home Tour - farmhouse kitchen in spring

How to Paint Wood Cabinets with Chalk Paint

Looking to update your kitchen on a budget? Learn how to paint wood cabinets with chalk paint. It’s a budget-friendly remodel that is easy to do and totally worth the effort! Learn how to do it here.
Prep Time7 d
Active Time7 d
Total Time14 d
Calories:
Cost: 500

Equipment

  • 1 Step Stool
  • 1 cordless drill
  • 1 Painters tape roll

Materials

  • 1 Bottle Degreaser
  • 1 Fine grit sandpaper
  • 1 Sanding Block
  • 8 cans Chalk Paint How much you get depends on kitchen size
  • 3 Chalk Paint Brushes different sizes
  • 1 can Polycrylic
  • 1 package Painter Pyramid Stands
  • 2 Foam brushes 1" and 2"

Instructions

  • Remove doors from cabinets. Mark each door so you know where to put it back when you re-hang them.
  • If you have external hinges like we have, set them aside. Our hinges were brass, so we sprayed them with an oil rubbed bronze spray paint.
  • Remove items from cabinets if you do not want to risk getting paint on anything.
  • Tape any areas you do not want to hit with paint.
  • Wash and de-grease all cabinets and doors well.
  • While you don't need to pre-sand, you can if you want to scuff up the surface so it takes the paint better. I did not pre-sand.
  • Paint all the cabinet bases first, then do the doors.
  • Allow to dry for 24 hours. Apply 2nd and 3rd coats if needed.
  • If distressing cabinets, sand lightly using fine grit sandpaper around the edges where there would be natural wear and tear.
  • After distressing, it is time to apply the top coat with polycrylic to protect the color. Follow the directions on the label.
  • Before putting the doors back on, spray the hinges if you want to refinish them or use new ones.
  • Re-hang doors.

After I Painted the Wood Cabinets White

It’s been almost five years since I painted the kitchen cabinets with chalk paint.

And it has held up really well.

When things drip on them, I am able to clean them off with no stains.

The finish still looks great and there is minimal yellowing.

Black kitchen island with white wainscotting in farmhouse kitchen in spring -spring Forward with my rustic farmhouse spring home tour

I am still very happy with this DIY and am so glad I did it!

If you are even considering painting your cabinets, I say, GO FOR IT!!!

It is a very achievable DIY and you can totally do it too.

I’ve been asked a lot about how to chalk paint cabinets so check out my FAQ with lots of answers here.

DIY hydrangea wreath in farmhouse kitchen with painted cabinets -rustic farmhouse kitchen fall home tour 2021

Oh my gosh but you gotta see the hood vent!

Isn’t that finish amazing?

Click here to see how I used General Finishes gel stain to refinish the wood hood vent.

Farmhouse kitchen in fall with range hood that was gel stained with general finishes -How to Refinish Wood Cabinets with Gel Stain

Doesn’t it look amazing!!!

I love how it turned out and can’t believe I waited so long to paint it.

And now that the kitchen remodel is done, I LOVE decorating it for the seasons.

Rustic farmhouse kitchen - bricks 'n blooms weekly

Click here to see what it looks like in spring.

And I love how it looks for fall.

It looked so good last year for the holidays, that I tweaked it for this year. And I love how it looked!

Fresh cut flowers in farmhouse kitchen with vintage seed prints -How to keep fresh flowers longer

Update on This Chalk Paint Kitchen Cabinets Project

Since writing this post, we moved to a new-to-us 1850 farmhouse that needs some updating.

I’m so glad I practiced refinishing things in our former home because I am planning to take on the kitchen again!

Can’t wait to show you how it goes.

But here are some of the projects we finished so far!

painted piano with vintage mirror, houseplants, vintage area rug and gallery wall with vintage seed prints - front entry hall makeover project
My Thrift Shop Finds and How I Styled Them

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Before and after farmhouse kithen renovation with painted cabinets
rustic farmhouse kitchen renovation before and after with chalk paint cabinets
Before and After farmhouse kitchen painting cabinets with chalk paint -How to Paint Wood Cabinets with Chalk Paint

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18 Comments

  1. I’m just now painting my cabi ets with chalk paint. I wondered if you painted the insides also? Also if when distressing did you use the dark wax and the the poly acrylic over that? I bought the cabinets from someone changing theirs out. I think we got them to fit pretty good. We moved the kitchen over a room. We’ve been remodeling the whole house. I’m excited to have my kitchen done soon.

    1. That is so exciting! It’s a such a great feeling when you are done with this kind of project because you know how much work it is and YOU WILL LOVE IT! Good luck with it!!! I did not paint inside the cabinets. I should have taken out all of the contents but was a little lazy about it. On the cabinets, I did not use a wax at all. On furniture type projects I use a wax, but with the cabinets, I didn’t want to risk having to rewax them. It’s such a high traffic area and I read mixed reviews online.

  2. My 20 year old kirchen cabinets are golden oak so have deep graining….do you fill this in somehow before chalk painting over them for a smooth finish? Thank you!

    1. Hi Chris! I didn’t need to do that. You could try sanding them down to smooth it out, but I’d probably test it on a similar piece of wood before you do it to your cabinets until you get the look you want.

  3. You are absolutely correct and thanks for giving information about how to paint wood cabinets with chalk paint . I loved your blog and thanks for publishing this!! I am really happy to come across this exceptionally well written content. Thanks for sharing and look for more in future!!

  4. I just started this yesterday after finally getting a thumbs up from my husband to start in one of the bathrooms! Though I am finding that after two coats there is still a significant amount of wood showing through. Should I be applying thicker or more coats? Just not sure if I’m totally digging seeing the brush strokes from this chalk paint brush or if I just need to add more. Help this has to work, my husband loves all this old wood, but it is so dated I have to do something!!!

    1. If it’s not fully covered just do another coat. You can always do a very, very light sanding to smooth out the brush strokes before you add the topcoat. But before doing that, I’d test an area with a topcoat that you won’t regularly see to determine if you are getting the look you want. Good luck!!!! I’m sure it will look AWESOME!!!!

  5. Your cabinets turned out beautiful! Can I ask what color you used on the Island? It is just as lovely! Thanks for the directions! They are straightforward and easy to follow.

    1. Hi Tiffany! Thank you so much! I did not paint the island – we bought it that way from Lowe’s several years ago when we did the addition on our house.

  6. Stacy, what an amazing transformation! We repainted our cabinets but had them done with lacquer. What a very stinky process, but still happy with them several years later. I love the staining of the hood over the stove…and the backsplash totally changes the look and feel of the room. I had to laugh when I saw the wall paper border….didn’t we all have that at one time? Thanks for sharing. Really amazing.

    1. Isnt that so funny? And we LOVED that border when we first moved here too 23 years ago. So funnY!

  7. My hood over the stove in the kitchen is not efficient, thus having moisture that rises onto the cabinets, and now the laquer finish is bubbling up. How would chalk paint hold up under these circumstances???

    1. It would hold up great – I would top coat it really well. I don’t think wax would hold up as well as a poly.