How to Prime Cabinets for a Smooth Finish

| |

Learn how to prime cabinets to get a smooth finish with this easy 5-step formula!

Yes, it’s possible to get a silky, smooth finish on all of your cabinets without spraying them. I’ve done it twice now, although I’ve found some paints work better than others. But the bottom line is, you’re not going to have a smooth finish if your foundation isn’t smooth. And that all starts with primer!

NEED TO KNOW! Yes, you can get a smooth cabinet finish using a brush, but it all starts with your primer. How to prime your cabinets to get a smooth finish. | Tutorial at

As you may remember know, I recently painted my kitchen cabinets white. It’s not the first time I’ve painted cabinets, but it was the first time I painted so many cabinets at once. I’m going to share all of the details and steps soon, but it’s a lot of info, so I wanted to break into some smaller posts. So, let’s talk primer and how to get it super smooth!

How to Get a Smooth Finish on your Cabinets with Primer

1. Choose a high quality primer

First things first, you want to pick a high quality primer. I always, always, always use Zinsser Cover Stain Primer. It works amazing and covers so well. I only need to use one coat.

Favorite Primer: Zinsser Cover Stain

2. Fill in holes or cracks

Fill any cracks, crevices or previous hardware holes with wood filler. (This is my favorite filler.)

3. Sand before priming

As you can see on the can above, it says “sticks to all surfaces without sanding.” Well, I don’t like to push my luck, so I always sand my cabinet doors before priming. This helps to make sure to remove any unwanted dirt or grime. (This is my favorite sander.) I don’t sand them down to raw wood, just rough them up enough for the primer to grip.

5 Must-have Tools for the DIYer | Sander |

Allowing the primer to grip will give your paint a much better chance of not chipping. (Mama would cry if her pretty cabinets had chipped already.) So, put in the time and sand your doors first and then wipe them all down with a lint free cloth.

Note: If you’re painting kitchen cabinets, you’ll want to wipe them all down with a degreaser before sanding. Trust me. I thought my cabinets were fairly clean. Wrong! They were nasty, you just couldn’t tell. 

4. Paint the cabinets

Now it’s time to paint! I use a cheap, throw away brush for this step, because primer is oil-based. So, I just throw the brush away when I’m done. Quickly brush the back of the door with primer. (Always paint the backs of the doors first, and then once dry you’ll flip them and paint the fronts. That way if something gets messed up, it’s the back!)

5. Go over the paint with a foam brush

OK, here’s the trick to getting a smooth finish: as soon as you’re done brushing on the primer, you want to go over it with a foam roller brush. Boom! Instant smoothness. You have to do it quick, though, because primer dries super fast.

NEED TO KNOW! Yes, you can get a smooth cabinet finish using a brush, but it all starts with your primer. How to prime your cabinets to get a smooth finish. | Tutorial at

This cabinet has just been primed with a brush. Rough and dirty and full of brush strokes. Blech!

NEED TO KNOW! Yes, you can get a smooth cabinet finish using a brush, but it all starts with your primer. How to prime your cabinets to get a smooth finish. | Tutorial at

And this beauty of a cabinet has been rolled after brushing and now it smooth and ready for some paint!

I did a quick video of how it works in case you need a visual. No judgment. I was trying to multi-task.

This method keeps me from having to sand between priming and painting. Woohoo!

That’s it folks. The full Paint-Your-Kitchen-Cabinets tutorial post is here!

If you have any priming tips of your own, please fill us in! We are all about working smarter, not harder over here.

Similar Posts


  1. Your cabinets looks amazing. I plan to do our cabinets in our home. the last time I painted our cabinets in a previous home, I used Acrylic paint, instead of latex-based paint. Our cabinet did not yellowed/stained at all. I plan to give your technique a try. I simply love how white and professional looking they appears. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Hello,
      I user the same primer and I cannot seem to get it on smooth. Tried foam rollers, high quality nap rollers, bruhses, and a sprayer. Im so frustrated. I do not know what to do.

  2. I’ve painted about 10 pieces of furniture for our recent house renovation to make them fit in with our coastal theme. The secret ingredient I used for a smooth finish (no paint brush marks!) Is an additive that thins the paint a little but more importantly slows the drying process so the brush marks have time to “relax”. I used two products by Flood – Floetrol for latex paint and Penetrol for oil based like the primer. Made my projects turn out much better 🙂

  3. I need these posts! Painting my kitchen cabinets is on my to-do list for this summer. I am tying to read all I can so it will go as smoothly as possible. I will be pinning all your how-to posts on your cabinets! Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *