If you missed part one of my series on painting kitchen cabinets and you’re following this as a tutorial, you need to read that post first. I know we want to get right to the good stuff, but your painted cabinets will look crappy if they aren’t prepped properly. Take the time to put in the elbow grease before you crack open a can of paint.
You will be happy you heeded my warning.
So, now let’s talk about priming. Using a quality primer is every bit as important as using a quality paint. It may be ever more important, because it is the foundation that will help the paint grip the pre-finished surface of the cabinets.
For this project, I used Zinsser’s Smart Prime.
For the doors (since they were removed), I applied the primer with a paint sprayer. I have a Graco HVLP Finish Sprayer 7.0 that I bought about 8 years ago when my business was focused on decorative painting, murals, and custom-painted furniture. It was a worthwhile investment at the time, because I was painting several pieces of furniture each week. It’s a huge investment for someone just doing a couple of painting projects. If you compare it to hiring a professional, it’s a bargain, but there are less expensive options out there. I’ve only ever used this one, though, so I can’t offer a review on those budget-friendly options.
I’m spraying them in the Homeright Spray Shelter, which has been working well. It doesn’t take too long to set up and it definitely contains the overspray.
A few tips on spraying…
- Dress for spraying head-to-toe. The overspray could possibly get on your shoes, your clothes, in your hair, etc, so wear old clothes and old shoes.
- Wear a respirator mask. This needs to be an actual respirator mask, not just a dust mask. A dust mask just isn’t going to catch all of the fine paint spray and it’s very important to protect your lungs.
- Practice first. Practice with the sprayer by just running water through it and spraying it on a piece of cardboard. This will help you get used to the way the sprayer works. When you’re doing well with that, start spraying primer, but still practice on a piece of cardboard until your sprayed paint looks smooth and even. There shouldn’t be drips (too thin) or splatters (too thick).
- Thin the primer/paint. Add water to thin the primer or paint, so it goes through the sprayer without splattering. I like to mix my paint until it’s thin enough to run off a stir stick in a steady string. (Most paint runs off in a ribbon, which is too thick for a sprayer.)
- Start spraying in the air. Pull the trigger on the spray gun when it’s not pointed at what you’re painting. Splatters and drips are most likely to happen right when the paint starts coming out of the nozzle. These drips will just fall on your drop cloth instead of on your cabinet door. So, start spraying and then move it over the cabinet in smooth, even strokes until the door is covered in a thin, even coat.
- Keep the spray gun moving. Don’t leave the spray gun pointed in one spot for too long or it will cause the paint to have an “orange-peal” texture. Also, rotate the thing you’re painting, so you spray it from all angles.
If necessary, sand your primed piece with 220 grit paper after the primer dries. This is just to smooth out any drips that might happen or any texture left from the sprayer. A good sprayer with the right consistency of paint, applied properly, will be perfectly smooth. Sometimes, though, imperfections can happen and it’s worth smoothing them out now.
Since the cabinets themselves are in the house and our house has furniture and people in it, I can’t use the sprayer inside. That means the cabinets need to be painted by hand, with a brush and a roller.
I used a brush (a 2″ angled sash is my favorite) for the trim and small parts of the faces of the cabinets. Work in long, smooth strokes and continue to review the paint you’ve applied to check for drips.
For small recesses, like on this detail molding, push a small amount of paint in the recess and then brush the excess away.
Pull the brush over the flat areas to level it all out.
For the larger areas, like the cabinet sides, I used a 4″ micro plush roller to minimize roller marks.
I use a paint bucket called a Pelican by Wooster to hold the primer. It has a “ramp” for the 4″ roller, but it’s a bit easier to work with than a traditional roller tray. I do use the liners, but I let them dry out when I’m done and I keep reusing them.
Generously load the roller with paint, but roll slowly to prevent splatters. Roll in a narrow W shape to distribute the paint over the cabinet. Once the paint is applied in an even coat, roll back over it without reloading the roller with paint. Use light pressure. This is just to smooth out the primer and knock down any edges caused by the roller.
And I’ll throw out a warning, so you’re not alarmed. Primer always looks ugly. It looks messy, you can see brush strokes and roller marks, but it’s okay. What matters, at this point, is how it feels, not how it looks. And I’m not referring to how it feels in your heart and soul. I mean how it feels to the touch. It should feel smooth, even if it doesn’t look it.
Once the primer is dried, it’s time for the paint…
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