I bought paint-ready custom kitchen cabinets. They will be arriving
shortly and I'm wondering what the best way to paint them is. I want
to achieve a smooth cream, white finish. I will need to paint only
doors since the insides of these frameless cabinets will be finished.
Should I spray them or use a brush. Also would oil based paint be the
best? What kind of primer should I use? How are the "glaze" finishes
achieved on cabinets?
For spraying cab doors, lacquer works best. Use a flat white undercoater
tinted with a little UTC to give the color you want, then top coat with
clear. Waterbased lacquer will work fine. Nitro lacquer will have a
yellowish tint to the topcoat, so make a start to finish sample to make sure
you like the end result.
If you're not already familiar, comfortable, and set up to spray lacquer,
painting the doors with a brush would work fine, especially since you want
to add a glaze. The brush strokes will give extra nooks and crannys for the
glaze to settle into, and will actually enhance the antiqued look.
I don't know if there is really any advantage to using oil paint or using
modern latex paint; they can both give fine results, and it's probably best
to use the one you're most familiar with. Use the primer that's made for
the paint you choose. If you choose latex, you should raise the grain &
lightly sand the doors first, or you won't get a very smooth finish.
Oil-based paint won't raise the grain, and will give a glossier finish if
that's what you're after.
Glazes are available as either latex or oil based tint bases. Pick out a
paint chip color you like, and the paint store folks can tint the glaze for
you. The UTCs in the glaze tint tend to stain the underlying paint finish a
bit, so if you want cream as the final color, you might try starting with a
just barely off-white paint, and topping with a yellowish brown glaze. THe
glaze will dry plenty dark enough to provide a nice accent, and should stain
the paint to your cream color. Again, do a finish sample using exactly the
same steps and procedures you intend to do on the doors, to make sure the
final color is acceptable.
In short, lacquer will give you the smoothest finish. Oil-based with a real
good brush will give you a nice finish, but the glazing will exagerate the
brush strokes. Flat latex, without raising the grain or using a primer, top
coated with glazing, will give you the most antiqued look.
Some years ago I did a kitchen's worth of cabinets from low cost kits.
I finished them starting by sanding with 100 grit and then 220 grit. An
orbital sander helped a lot. Then I applied one coat of shellac with a
brush. Sand. Apply one coat of oil based gloss enamel with a brush.
Let dry at least a day, two is better. Sand again with 220 grit. Apply
a second coat of enamel with a brush. Let dry again, sand again with
220 grit. Wipe off the dust. Wax with Butcher's floor wax. This
finish stood up well for 9 years, at which point, I sold the house. The
finishing took some time, but the results were good enough to brag about
At the time I didn't have a spray gun. If you have a one, then
spraying on lacquer is the way to go. You have to spray lacquer because
lacquer dries so fast that the brushmarks don't have time to level
before the stuff is hard. The shellac primer is cheap, offers a good
surface for the finish coats and dries fast.
The air pollution folk are driving oil based paint off the market,
but I feel oil paint makes a stronger film, better able to stand up to
the fingerprints, grime, and scrubbing that kitchen cabinets are
subjected to. It would be worth shopping around for oil based enamel.
You might mention to your decorating consultant (significant other)
that custom colors are available and could achieve a more custom look
than off-white (aka landlord white).
If the doors are made from MDF, use a water-based primer/undercoat, that is the
advice that I have received from paint pros. For doors I would recommend either
brushing with oil based enamel paint, or spraying with laquer or oil based
enamel -- latex type paint is not considered to be wear resistent enough for
doors. With all spray applications, if you can spray properly and use gloss or
high gloss products, you will get a very smooth and shiny finish. (remember to
sand lightly between coats) If you want super looks, consider taking your paint
and the doors to a professional spray painter, they have dust free, temperature
controlled spray booths that will give an unequalled result.
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