Face Your Kitchen
Your Guide to Kitchen Cabinet Refacing

Customize kitchen cabinets with decorative paint

by Karl Fendelander
Face Your Kitchen Columnist

Painting kitchen cabinets might sound like a way to refresh your kitchen. But if you really want to add some flair and achieve custom results, you can use these clever paint tricks and aim for a professionally finished look for your cupboard doors, drawers and frames.

Take these steps before painting:

  1. Empty the cabinets
  2. Clear off the counters completely
  3. Move or cover stand-alone appliances
  4. Tape plastic sheets or newspaper over the windows, counter tops and flooring
  5. Tape off the edges of your cabinets, so the wall doesn't get painted
  6. Remove all cupboard doors and drawers to paint them separately

Painting faux finishes on cabinets

Once you're ready to go, you can choose one of the ideas below. They all use a base color painted on beforehand and accent glazes textured on top. Try out patterns and color combinations on a test board first, both to practice the technique and to make sure you like the finished look.

Technique for stripes and cross-hatch: After applying a base coat to your cabinetry, add pencil stripes or a grid on top of the dry base coat to help guide your accent strokes. Apply accent color to create the stripes or grid. While your accent coat is still freshly painted, vertically drag one of the tools described below through the wet accent paint. To create the cross-hatch look, let that first layer dry. Repeat the technique, this time dragging the tool horizontally.

Check out these effects and the various tools needed to create each:

  • Thick stripes: Take a rubber potter's rib or wide, plastic putty knife and cut quarter-inch long chunks out every quarter inch. You can also cut chunks out of a paint brush for a messier stripe.
  • Thin stripes: Use a comb. Try one-inch stripes with alternating diagonally combed lines for a herringbone look.
  • Coarse linen: Use a thick-bristled brush and do a cross-hatch technique.
  • Silky. Rough up and pull apart some steel wool. Apply a thin layer of glaze vertically with a paint brush, and pull steel wool through it, also vertically, cleaning between strokes.
  • Fake wood grain. You need a paint comb and a wood-graining paint rocker for this one. Over your base layer, alternate between using the rocker to create knots and wider, curved grains. Use the comb to create thinner lines.

To simulate a leather grain alternate between a slightly damp chamois cloth and a dry cotton rag, blotting off some of the glaze. You can mix and match these ideas or make tiled or striped variations by taping off different sections and painting in succession. For example, you could tape off 2-inch squares, apply the glaze or pattern, remove the tape, let dry, tape off, paint the other squares a slightly different pattern or color, remove tape and admire the result.

Take advantage of the shape and style of your cupboard doors when adding accents and borders. And above all, have fun while you reinvent your kitchen cabinets.

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