5 TIPS: Painting Dark Kitchen Cabinets White (And the Mistakes I Made)

White kitchen cabinets have been trending for several years now, and don’t seem to be going anywhere any time soon.  It does seem like there has been a slight shift toward other colors such as gray and navy, but white still remains to be the most popular choice. 

If you have been wanting to paint your dark kitchen cabinets white but still can’t seem to commit,  you are not alone.  It took me 5 years (yikes!!) to decide to have our cabinets painted white, and immediately I wished I would have done it so much sooner!!  Let’s Get to It:  5 Tips:  Painting Dark Kitchen Cabinets White (And the Mistakes I Made).


(And The Mistakes I Made)

***Just wanted to give you a FYI for this post- these are NOT my best pictures. *** But I am kind of happy about it because there is absolutely no staging here- just real life. 

I took these pictures before and after we had our cabinets painted, and then we flooded during Hurricane Harvey. 

So, I never had the chance to go back and “stage the kitchen.”  In fact, some of the pictures are actually after we flooded….I just cropped the pictures to take out the missing sheetrock/walls. 

I am thinking I might show that part too.  Anyhoo…..just trying to keep it real.

Here are some before and after pictures to help you visualize.  BEFORE…… 


and AFTER…..


(And The Mistakes I Made)


MY PAINT COLOR:   Sherwin Williams Alabaster (SW 7008)

How do you decide on color?  Look through pinterest & houzz.com and make inspiration boards……. or ask friends what color they used. 

It will give you a starting point so you can narrow the paint color choices down to 3 colors

Then get samples of the 3 choices and paint them on your existing cabinets (or paint poster board, etc… and hang them up on your cabinets).   

If you are still having problems deciding…..go back and look at your inspiration boards.  What accent colors are in the pictures you saved? 

Do the accent colors lean more towards warm tones (yellow- based like oranges, cinnamon reds,  & golds) or cool tones (blue- based like pinks, purples, & silvers)?

Look at the flooring color also.  Hardwoods and tiles with reddish or gold tones will pull out more yellow (warm) tones, and white tiles will bring out blue (cooler) tones.   

You saved all those inspiration pictures for a reason….it’s YOUR likes.  Trust yourself- you got this!!



and AFTER…..




I know there are people who have used latex paint, and I have seen some people even using chalk paint, but I (personally) prefer oil-based paint for the cabinets. 

The look of the cabinet is clean and smooth, plus you can wipe grime right off.   Latex paint seems to “hold” onto smudges more than oil based, and is less durable with scratches, etc. 

I think chalk painted cabinets are fine to do if you are not looking for long term results.  Since we have 2 kiddos AND 2 dogs, choosing oil-based paint was an easy decision for that reason alone. 

Now with that said…..the SMELL is horrible!!  And I mean for about 2- 3 days horrible- really!! 

And the cleanup is much more difficult with oil based paint (turpentine clean up) vs. latex paint (soap & water clean up). Then in about 2 weeks, you have forgotten that it was done and all is good again.




and AFTER….. (area under the oven is part of where it shows the flood damage).



WE CHOSE:  Sprayed Technique

I chose to have our cabinets sprayed (by a painter who used a high grade paint sprayer), not hand painted. 

I have seen cabinets painted with both techniques, and I personally prefer the sprayed look better (***for me***).  I do not want to offend anyone here. 

The hand painted cabinets are gorgeous, especially if they are aged or antiqued with dark glaze.  The hand painted technique gives the cabinets a more authentic look and seem to fit more in a traditional style home. 

I feel the the sprayed technique gives a smoother, cleaner look and seems to fit more in a transitional or modern home. 

The sprayed technique doesn’t look “painted,”  looks like they were manufactured that way.   Really it’s just a personal preference – they are both great techniques. 

Either way you will finally have your white cabinets πŸ˜‰







WE DIDN’T:  Mistake

Move or cover all of your kitchen contents.  If not, you may get over spray (with sprayed technique) or paint splatter (hand-painted technique). 

Bottom line:  if you even THINK that something will get damaged or don’t want to clean the inside of your cabinets afterwards, make the necessary preparations.

Move your contents out or have your painter put something to block your contents….AND double check their technique.  I asked our painter, and he said that I did not need to move everything out of our cabinets and I ended up with this (see below)!!! 

This is NOT DUST, IT IS PAINT.  It took me 2 weeks to clean EVERY. SINGLE. THING……and I mean EVERYTHING!! 

I had to soak it all for about 30 minutes to an hour, then scrub gently with the scouring part of the sponge- BRU-TAL!!! 

When I asked our painter about it, he said that for some reason, our cabinets were made differently than other cabinets (he had done) and the paint got through. 

He should have checked…..AND I should have checked also. 

So, now I am strongly encouraging you to check.  It will be worth your time in the end.


Those rings (below) are PAINT rings….not dust rings. 

Just thought it was important to show you so this does not happen to you too πŸ™‚







OUR TIME:  One week

This is an important consideration when planning your kitchen cabinet paint job. 

You will be completely out of your kitchen if you get your cabinets sprayed, but will still have partial use of your kitchen if you have your cabinets hand painted. 

When they spray the cabinets, they will have to put plastic/tarps up to protect appliances and between the connecting rooms…. so you will have little to no access.   

If you choose to get your cabinets hand painted, parts of the kitchen will still be covered to protect things, but you will have access into the kitchen. 

You don’t have to worry about over spray with hand painting either.

***FYI*** If you are going with the sprayed technique….have your painter put plastic or covering up on BOTH SIDES of your connecting rooms/openings. 

Our painter covered/taped up from the inside of the kitchen opening, and it STILL went through. Have them put plastic on the connecting room side also (like living room or dining room sides). 

That way if the over spray passes through the kitchen side, the connecting room side will block it.   It’s just an extra precaution, and so worth it. 

Otherwise you may end up like me. 

The picture below is a PAINT LINE, not dust- again!!  The problem with this, is that I couldn’t even tell until I moved our couch and rug back. 

Just trying to save you any headaches before they happen by sharing some of my nightmares!!  The PRICE we pay for gorgeous cabinets- right??!!






(I don’t have the exact picture – sorry)!


I love the 2 pictures above – that show the opening to our dining room. 

  • We decided to enlarge that wall years ago (had a small door there), and open up the kitchen to let more light in. 

It’s amazing what paint and a little remodeling can do to make a space feel bigger and brighter. 






Would I do it all over again….YES,  even with all  of the mess.  I LOVED how much brighter our kitchen looked. 

There is just something special about a white kitchen. 

Have a Great Week!! Love & Hugs πŸ™‚

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  1. Jael thank you so muchfor sharing your experience. By the way spell check wants to make you Joel. Anyhoo, I did not know that you had a blog. Learn something new every day! IT LOOKS BEAUTIFUL!!!

    1. hi dawn!! thanks- those cabinets are before the flood (cry-cry, sniff-sniff)….and im hoping the new ones will look good once they are finally done! Hope yall are doing ok too-been praying for yall cutie πŸ™‚

  2. Your Popo would be so proud of this blog. He continued to teach when to choose Oil and when to choose Acrylic. You were very young when he left this world and this shows you soaked up detailing at an early age.
    Of course you painted in your bedroom when we built. You were 5 years old, a very young student of the art.
    Very well done!

    1. thnx mom! i do feel like my diy passion began with those days spent at the “lumbie” yard with popo & granny. loved every minute of it πŸ™‚

  3. Your cabinets look great! And have convinced me to start planning for this coming summer. We are looking to brighten our dark cabinets too and have been doing the pros and cons of hand paint vs spray. The look of spray is lovely and my preference. I really appreciate you sharing your experience, the good, the bad and the now beautiful cabinets!

    1. Thanks Tannis! Painting our cabinets white, completely changed the entire look of our kitchen – and I loved it. We have white cabinets again after our remodel, and I am still loving the whiter/brighten look.
      Good Luck and keep me posted about how they turn out!
      hugs –
      jael πŸ™‚

  4. Hi there! This is such a nice and most helpful post! i was searching the net of how to redo my very dark cabinet& bring in bright & lighter colors when i found your blog with the best advice ever! Most people wouldn’t give all the details and advice that you shared and that makes your this post a most helpful & great post!you have a very beautiful kitchen there, Again thank you!

    1. Thanks Bijee!! I’m so glad my post helped you. Good Luck on your cabinets.
      hugs –
      jael πŸ™‚

  5. Hi,
    Outstanding makeover. Would you mind sharing your cost for hiring a professional to paint your cabinets? Ballpark is fine.
    Thank you,

    1. Hi Denise! Thanks for the kind feedback. We paid around $1,000 for our job (~10 years ago). I would expect to pay around $2,000-$3,000 now (just to give you a more current price line). Hope this helps and good luck with your project πŸ™‚

    1. Hi Dorothy! Yes, I do recommend using a primer first (that is what our painter did). Primer helps to cover scratches and uneven spots, and gives the paint something to stick to for better adhesion.
      hugs – jael πŸ™‚

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