How to Update a Kitchen with Paint

Updating your kitchen with a fresh coat of paint is one of the easiest and most affordable ways to give it a whole new look. With some strategic color choices and proper prep work, you can entirely transform the feel of your kitchen in just a weekend. This comprehensive guide will walk you through everything you need to know to successfully update your kitchen with paint.

Determine the Look You Want for Your Kitchen

Before selecting any paint colors or doing any painting, it’s important to determine the overall aesthetic you want for your newly painted kitchen. Here are some popular kitchen paint styles to consider:

Bright and Cheery

A bright, cheerful kitchen tends to feature walls painted in light neutrals or pastels, along with white cabinetry. Painting the walls a soft butter yellow or robin’s egg blue can give the space a timeless, farmhouse vibe. For a more modern feel, consider pale greens or grays.

Classic and Elegant

For a classic, elegant look, stick with wall colors in the white, beige, light gray or navy families. Trim and cabinets can be painted or stained in a slightly darker shade to nicely complement the walls. This creates a formal yet inviting ambiance.

Bold and Dramatic

Using deeper, bolder paint colors is a great way to make a statement. Try painting an accent wall in a rich color like emerald green, burgundy or navy. Or go for an all-over bold color scheme with darker paint colors on the cabinets and trim as well. This creates a striking, stylish look.

Rustic and Relaxed

Capture a relaxed rustic aesthetic with wall colors like warm tan, almond, slate gray or terra cotta. Weathered wood finishes on cabinets and butcher block countertops nicely complement this earthy, organic color scheme.

Once you settle on the general look you want, it will be easier to narrow down paint options. Be sure to consider the size and layout of your kitchen as well when choosing colors.

Choose Paint Colors

With your ideal kitchen aesthetic in mind, now you can start selecting paint colors. Here are some tips for choosing paint colors for your kitchen update:

  • Consider undertones. Look for colors with warm, yellow undertones or cool, blue undertones to complement your cabinets and countertops.
  • Sample small swatches first. Paint 2×2 inch sized swatches first to see how the color looks in your space before committing to a whole gallon.
  • View in natural light. Colors look different under incandescent vs. natural lighting. Be sure to view swatches at various times of day.
  • Factor in finishes. Matte or eggshell finishes hide imperfections better on walls while semi-gloss is ideal for cabinetry.
  • Coordinate colors. Choose 3 related colors – one for walls, one for trim, one for cabinets.
  • Visualize combinations. Paint overlapping swatches to see how colors will work together.
  • Consider adjacent rooms. Choose colors that will flow well with nearby spaces.

Following these guidelines will lead to a cohesive, pulled-together color scheme for your updated kitchen.

Recommended Kitchen Paint Colors

Here are some of the most popular, tried-and-true kitchen paint colors to consider:

  • Whites – Alabaster, Extra White, Swiss Coffee, White Dove
  • Light neutrals – Gray Owl, Shoji White, Crystal Gray, Edgecomb Gray
  • Yellows – Chrome Yellow, Sunflower, Buttercup, Lemon Chiffon
  • Greens – Granny Smith Apple, Basil, Spice of Life, Caviar
  • Blues – Nebulous Blue, Coastal Fog, Raindrop, Admiral Blue
  • Reds – Chili Pepper, Sherwood Green, Fireweed, flushed

Paint companies like Benjamin Moore, Sherwin Williams and Behr offer an abundance of gorgeous kitchen paint color options. Visit your local paint store to browse samples and swatches.

Gather Your Painting Supplies

Once you have your colors selected, it’s time to gather supplies. Having all the proper equipment before starting will make your painting project go much smoother. Here is what you’ll need:


  • High-quality interior latex paint in your chosen colors
  • Primer – oil-based or latex for bare surfaces
  • Cabinet paint – enamel, lacquer or urethane varieties

Painting Tools

  • Paintbrushes – angled sash, trim, cabinet, and mini-roller varieties
  • Paint trays, liners and strainers
  • Painters tape – for edging and protecting surfaces
  • Tarps/drop cloths – protect floors and countertops
  • Paint roller and extension pole – for walls and ceilings
  • Painter’s pyramids – keeps doors open while drying

Prep Supplies

  • Sandpaper – 150 grit and 220 grit
  • Tack cloths – remove dust between coats
  • Deglosser – roughs up shiny cabinet surfaces
  • Cleaning solutions – TSP substitute, degreaser

Safety Gear

  • Goggles & gloves – protect eyes and skin
  • Masks/respirators – protects from fumes
  • Ventilation fans – keeps air circulating

Stock up on all essential painting supplies before starting your kitchen refresh. This will prevent having to stop mid-project to run out and buy something you forgot.

Prep Your Kitchen for Painting

The prep work you do before painting will really pay off later with smoother application and better adhesion of the new paint. Be sure to properly prep your kitchen using these steps:

Clear Countertops and Floors

Remove everything from countertops and clear a pathway along floors to allow easy access for painting. Relocate appliances if needed.

Clean All Surfaces

Wash down all walls, trim, ceilings and cabinet surfaces to remove grease and grime with a degreasing cleanser. This allows for optimal paint adhesion.

Repair Imperfections

Fix any holes or cracks with spackle or caulk and sand smooth. Address areas of peeling or chipping paint.

Sand Shiny Surfaces

Degloss previously painted cabinets by lightly sanding to rough up the slick surface so new paint can properly adhere.

Mask Off Areas

Use painter’s tape and plastic sheets to mask off any areas you don’t want painted like backsplashes, floors or countertops.

Apply Primer

Prime all bare drywall, wood, metal and laminate surfaces with a quality primer before applying paint.

Doing this prep work well in advance of painting allows all patched and cleaned surfaces to fully dry. This prevents problems like peeling or bubbling of the new paint job.

Paint Kitchen Cabinets

Updating dusty, dated cabinets with a fresh coat of paint in a modern color instantly transforms the entire kitchen. Follow these steps for foolproof cabinet painting:

Remove Cabinet Doors and Drawers

Remove all doors, drawers and hardware to make painting easier. Number each door and drawer to ensure proper reinstallation.

Clean and Sand Cabinets

Wash cabinet boxes and doors with degreaser. Lightly sand to rough up surface. Wipe away all dust with a tack cloth.

Prime and Paint

Apply a high adhesion primer to boxes and doors. Allow to fully dry. Then apply two coats of durable enamel or urethane cabinet paint, sanding lightly between coats.

Spray Unseen Areas

For hard to reach cabinet interiors, use a small sprayer to apply primer and paint in thin coats around frames and shelves.

Reinstall and Admire!

Once thoroughly dry, reattach the doors and drawers. Step back and admire your dramatically transformed “new” cabinets!

With the right prep work and products, your freshly painted cabinets will look factory finished and last for many years. Take your time with each step for best results.

Paint Kitchen Walls and Trim

Painting the kitchen walls and trim in coordinated colors enhances your cabinet refresh for a seamlessly updated space. Here are tips for flawless wall and trim painting:

Clean Surfaces

Clean walls with TSP substitute and rinse well. Fill any holes or imperfections with spackle and sand smooth when dry.

Mask Trim

Run painter’s tape along the wall where it meets the ceiling and trim. This creates nice clean paint lines.

Cut In With Brush

Using an angled sash brush, cut in along the edges and corners with your chosen wall color. Move any handles or switch plates if needed.

Roll On Wall Color

Use a roller with extension pole to quickly apply wall paint starting from the top. Use a mini-roller for the narrow spaces between cabinets.

Remove Tape

Carefully remove all masking tape before the paint fully dries to prevent pulling up paint.

Paint Trim

Paint all window trim, door casings, baseboards and moldings in trim color using brush. Remove or protect any vents.

With freshly painted walls and trim, your kitchen will look like you hired a professional! Take care of drips or splatters immediately with a wet cloth.

Add Painted Finishing Touches

Once the main kitchen surfaces are painted, consider adding some extra painted accents to tie the whole room together:


Paint a faux tile or geometric pattern on wall area behind countertops with acrylic craft paints.


Paint ceiling same color as walls or a lighter tint for a spacious, airy effect.


Paint base cabinets of an island a contrasting accent shade to add character.


Freshen up open wall shelving using leftover wall or cabinet paint for cohesion.

These small painted touches complete your kitchen transformation with creativity and style!

Frequently Asked Questions About Painting Kitchens

Still have some lingering questions about revamping your kitchen with paint? Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions.

What type of paint should I use on kitchen cabinets?

For the most durable finish, use cabinet-grade enamel, lacquer or urethane paint on kitchen cabinet boxes and doors. Avoid latex wall paints which don’t hold up as well.

Should I use the same paint brand throughout my kitchen?

Yes, stick with the same brand (Behr, Benjamin Moore etc.) for your walls, trim and cabinet paint. Their formulas are designed to work together for optimal adhesion and appearance.

How do I paint behind a fixed oven or refrigerator?

Use a small sprayer tool to apply primer and paint behind tightly placed appliances where rollers can’t reach. Mask well and apply in thin coats.

What’s the best way to paint behind open shelving?

Remove shelving brackets if possible. If shelving is fixed, carefully cut in around brackets with brush and use mini-roller between them.

How long should I wait to use my kitchen after painting?

It’s best to avoid heavy cooking, hot appliances and steam for 3-4 days after painting to allow ample drying time. Limit moisture exposure.

What do I do if my cabinets won’t come clean for painting?

For extremely dirty or greasy cabinets, use a liquid deglosser first to penetrate built-up grime so it can be washed away before sanding and painting.

Should I paint the inside of lower cabinets?

Yes, it’s best to prime and paint all interior cabinet surfaces so no unfinished wood is visible when doors are open. Use small sprayer for hard to reach spots.

Thoroughly prepping and painting your kitchen is not extremely difficult, but does take some time, patience and attention to detail. Carefully following this comprehensive guide will result in a kitchen updated with beautiful, long-lasting paint that looks professionally done.


Updating tired kitchens with fresh new paint is an inexpensive yet highly impactful renovation option. Strategically choosing complementary colors and properly prepping and painting surfaces results in a completely revived space. Use the guidance in this article for how to update a kitchen with paint for a stylish, pulled-together look that will be enjoyed for years to come. With some creativity and elbow grease, you can transform your kitchen into a beautiful gathering spot for family and friends to savor for years to come.