Painted Kitchen Cabinets – Chalk Paint!

Our kitchen has been a work in progress from the time we moved in. It was in dire need of immediate help.  I doubt you can tell from the before pic (crappy I know…taken with an iPhone), but the cabinets had been stripped of all pulls before the foreclosure….and the foreclosure real estate company had graciously put new pulls on for us…but not one was straight or centered!  So, I began the process of sanding and filling the holes and re-installing new hardware.  Don’t you love the GIANT cereal bowl light fixture in the “before” picture. lol
painted kitchen cabinets

before moving in…

painted kitchen cabinets
Once we had addressed the immediate issues (pulls, knobs, new faucet…) I decided it was time to repaint the stark white cabinets a creamier shade of white.
Prep Work:
Sanding and prepping the cabinets was key.    I took all the doors and drawer fronts off the cabinets and labeled each one behind the hinge and on the corresponding cabinet box so I could put them back without losing my mind.  Don’t worry you won’t see the numbers when you put them back – the hinges cover it.  I used a power sander for most of the work since we have soooo many cabinet drawers and doors.  The cabinets were painted with oil based paint and it was done rather sloppily, so when sanding I needed to get the surface smooth (free of all paint drips and globs), but rough enough for the new paint to stick.  I used 120 grit sandpaper for this.
DIY Chalk Paint:
I opted for a DIY version of chalk paint, because for those of you familiar with Annie Sloan chalk paint it is quite expensive…but you get such an incredible finish.  For those of you who don’t know Annie Sloan and her awesomeness (and you can afford $35 per quart) click here for a link to her website.
painted kitchen cabinets
Here’s my recipe:
1. Mix 1 part Dap Plaster Of Paris in your bucket according to plaster of paris instructions. (Fill bucket to first line.)
2. Pour 3 parts Latex paint in satin or semi gloss finish (in the color of your choice) in your bucket. * The lines on the bucket make this especially idiot proof – good for me who is not a math genius. (Fill bucket to 4th line.)
3. Mix REALLY well.
4. Now you are ready to paint!  You can use any brush available, but make sure not to let your brush dry out because getting the chalk paint off dry-ish bristles is not easy.
Once the paint is mixed you can seal it in your bucket and it will stay use-able for quite some time.  I’ve had some mixed for a few months now and it’s still good for touch ups after a thorough stirring.
I used 3 coats of paint on these cabinets to get the look I wanted.  I wanted the cabinets to be slightly distressed so when I sanded between coats of paint (using 220 grit sanding blocks) I sanded the edges to allow a little of the cabinet wood to show through. The picture below shows the drawer already painted with the top coat, which gives more sheen than chalk paint alone.
painted kitchen cabinets
Once the cabinets were painted I used Valspar’s Translucent Mocha glaze from Lowe’s to give some more dimension.

painted kitchen cabinetsIt takes finesse and some practice, but once you get the hang of how much glaze to paint on and wipe off it’s not too bad.

From far away the glaze adds depth to otherwise stark white cabinets.  The glaze was applied only to the grooves to keep the cabinets from looking “dirty”.
To seal the cabinets I opted not to use the soft wax that traditionally goes with chalk paint because I wanted something that could be applied faster and would be a little more durable.  I chose Minwax 63333 Satin Polycrylic Protective Finishes, 1 Quart.  I chose satin finish because I didn’t want the cabinets to be overly shiny or dull matte like the natural finish of chalk paint.
painted kitchen cabinets Minwax Polycrylic is great because it’s not stinky like many oil based products and it dries to the touch in a couple of hours.  By choosing a satin finish, I retained some of the matte look left by the chalk paint. Once it dries completely this stuff allows the cabinets to be cleaned and easily wiped off with a wet rag.
I applied the polycrylic after the glaze completely dried and used a high quality bristle brush. To avoid brush strokes, keep your brush edge wet and don’t go over previously applied areas too soon.  Also, longer more flexible bristles prevent brush marks, so get the best quality brush you can afford.
Distressing Cabinets:
painted kitchen cabinets
You can see in the photo above how a little light distressing goes a long way… I didn’t want my cabinets to look too beat up and junky, but I also didn’t want a brand-new cookie-cutter look.  A light hand and the right sandpaper make all the difference.
painted kitchen cabinets

This photo was taken in the morning when the sun streams through the windows.  Depending on the time of day, the cabinets can look more white or more cream-colored. With as much natural light as we have, we could have used a creamier color paint without it looking too yellow.

painted kitchen cabinets
painted kitchen cabinets
Here’s another photo of the drawers up close.
painted kitchen cabinets
…and the lower cabinets.
painted kitchen cabinets

After a couple of weeks of hard work, I am pleased with how my cabinets turned out. They are so much better than before.  Take a look for yourself:

painted kitchen cabinets
Much better AFTER.  Thanks for reading!
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Painted Kitchen Cabinets – Chalk Paint! — 20 Comments

    • Thanks Katie. I fell in love with our little house simply because of the kitchen layout. 🙂

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  3. Thank you, thank you for this wonderful tutorial! I have been researching on how to paint my cabinets or even what to paint them with. Your kitchen is so pretty! I love it!

    • Glad you found a solution! It was a fun project and not as hard as I initially thought. I can’t wait to see how yours turn out. 🙂

    • Hi Caitlin,

      The paint I used is my own DIY chalk paint mix, but the base color is from Walmart, ironically. It’s made by Colorplace and it’s called Country White. However, just keep in mind that any satin paint can be made into chalk paint with the DIY chalk paint recipe I listed in this post.

      Thanks for stopping by and good luck!

  4. My cubboards are an oak and i am wanting to chalk paint them white. Ive heard most chalk paints you dont have to do any pre work like sanding or priming. With the chalk paint mix up you listed do you have to prime or sand the cabinents before painting them?? 🙂

    • Hi Whitney. Typically you don’t need to prime or sand before applying chalk paint, but with our house being a foreclosure the existing paint job was pretty gloppy. Sanding lighting beforehand typically gives a more professional finish, but it just depends on the look you want and the work you want to do. Good luck with your project!!

  5. Can you tell me how, 2 years later, your cabinets are holding up? Does the paint end up wearing off in highly used areas?

    • Hi Betsy! They are still just like the day I painted them. No chips or stains. My husband even spilled coffee down the drawer front recently and I didn’t notice until later that day…cleaned right off with a wet sponge. 🙂

    • WOW! Thanks so much Amanda! They look incredible and I am SO happy to hear that they still look fantastic! Your kitchen is stunning! Thank you for responding!

  6. So, I have completed on a section of my kitchen…looks amazing. However..PANIC time. Val spar has discontinued mocha glaze and they don’t carry anything even close. Any suggestions.

  7. Amanda…What color did you paint your kitchen walls and what color white did you use for your trim and crown moulding? Absolutely stunning!

    • Hi Angela! Thank you so much!! When this post was written the kitchen was still the original builder beige. The color is toasted almond by PPG Paints. Now it’s Cobblestone by the discontinued Martha Stewart line at Home Depot…however, they still have the formula in the computer if you request it! Both are still good neutral colors. Hope that helps. Take care!!

  8. Hi Angela! Beautiful work on the cabinets! I am looking to use calk paint on the island in my kitchen. Not on the cabinets, but on the 3 sides where I am always getting scuff marks. Would you recommend using chalk paint for that surface? I probably would not do any distressing, as I want a smooth finish. I do like the idea of using Minwax Polycrylic to seal it so it can be cleaned. The area is currently an off white, and I plan on using the Graphite color from Annie Slone. I have a table in that room in the Graphite color.

    Thanks for any advice you could give!

    • Hi Cristina! I’m going to assume you meant Amanda and that this was addressed to me. 🙂 I think chalk paint would work beautifully for your island, but don’t be afraid of distressing! It’s not meant to give a rough surface, and any type of roughness that would catch dirt or gunk, is sanded smooth and covered by your topcoat. My cabinets feel smooth as silk to the touch. Good luck and I hope you love it!

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