There are multiple ways to paint your cabinets, so naturally we always get the question “what is the best method for painting kitchen cabinets? For years we’ve been doing cabinet painting both ways and we always enjoy providing options to our clients. After all, the most important consideration is ‘what’s best for the customer?’
Most often, the question comes down to the painter’s expertise (or yours! )and the tools that will be used. There is a time and a place for both spray painting and painting by brush – here are a few of the differences:
Painting by Brush
Painting by brush has been a standard for hundreds of years, and fabulous finishes can be achieved using this time proven method of applying paints and finishes. Museums are full of examples of wood paneling, cabinetry, and furnishings with absolutely flawless finishes all applied before the advent of modern spray equipment.
Achieving good coverage and levelling is the challenge when working with a brush. As with everything, there are paint brushes of a very wide variety and quality. So, choosing the right brushes to use is key. All professional painters know how to use, clean and maintain their brushes. They’re like chefs who carry their knives with them. Below is a photo of some of my high quality brushes.
The key question is what bristle should be matched with which paint. Generally, oil based paint is used when painting cabinets by brush. The baseline brush goes by the name “chinese bristle” (whatever that means). It is a white colored bristle and is commonly sold in most paint stores. It’s often called a “varnish” brush. More elegant finishes are achieved by using boar or sable bristle brushes. These would more typically be used for fine finishes
Most people agree that a sprayed on finish provides the highest quality result, and the lowest cost, on cabinets and fine woodwork. The spraying process allows for application of a primer and multiple, thin, finish coats of high quality materials which can be mixed all colors and alkyd or lacquer. The hardness of the finish is unsurpassed by other methods.
Spraying is certainly not a panacea, though. And, the old adage especially applies here: the “right” tools and materials in the “wrong” hands will always result in a bad job. A great deal can go wrong, very quickly, when paint spray machines are involved inside of a home.
We spray paint cabinets using alkyd materials and airless or HVLP sprayers using fine finish tips. These spray machines need to be meticulously cleaned and maintained before, during and after every job. A variety of manufacturers of spray equipment sell their products through specialty stores and paint stores catering to professional painting contractors. The HVLP type machines required to do a fine finish job on cabinets – as opposed to those used for the outside of your house – will cost about $2,000, all in.
The HVLP machine we use when spraying lacquer finishes sells for a bit over $7,000. Without all the drying racks and accessory items that go along with it to each job.
It’s probably not a good idea to run out and buy one if you’re just trying to freshen up your kitchen cabinets. But, if you do, make sure you practice at someone else’s house first 🙂
As you can see, there are pros and cons to both methods. As a professional painting company, most of the kitchen cabinets we paint, we use our HVLP machine. However, if this is your first time attempting a DIY cabinet painting project, it’s probably best you stick to using brushes!
The next key decision to make is what paint to use…