How to Achieve a Speckled Finish on Cabinets

With nothing more complicated than an old toothbrush, a saucer of paint and a sense of adventure, you can turn your cabinets into eye-catching, quirky pieces of art.

The Toothbrush Effect

Brighten up your cabinets with a spray of color.Brighten up your cabinets with a spray of color.
This style is particularly attractive to those in touch with their inner muddy kid who loves to try out new things and experiment with new ideas. Other methods include spray-painting, or using a dry roller. Practice your stippling technique with whichever method works best for you, and launch into artist mode.

Practice first by using a spare piece of hardboard, MDF or other similar base, and paint a couple of coats of base color matching the existing cabinets, or a new color if you are changing the whole look. Leave them to dry for the manufacturer's recommended time.

Pour a small amount of contrasting color onto a small plate. Dip the ends of the bristles of an old clean toothbrush into the paint.

Use a pencil or your thumb to flick down the bristles to aim a spray of paint against the base color. Allow the paint to dry, and decide which of the color combinations you prefer.

Dry Roller Method

Use a 6-inch dry roller for this method. Using a paintbrush, paint a little of the stipple color onto the roller. Don't overload the roller with paint, or you'll lose the desired effect.

Run the roller lightly across the test surface to be painted. Roll in random directions to create an overall stippling effect.

Allow the paint to dry before applying a second color, or a second coat of the first color. Try increasing the color concentration in one or more corners to enhance the visual effect.

Spray Paint Effect

Take your test pieces into a well-ventilated area. The best option is to go outside to use this speckling method to ensure you do not breathe the paint fumes.

Read the instructions and safety information carefully. Wear goggles or glasses, and a face mask as protection.

Operate the spray can approximately 2 feet away from the test surface. Aim the spray and move the can from side to side for a fine, even, speckled spray. Do not over-spray, or you will lose the stippling effect.

Preparing Your Cabinets for Painting

Decide if you will only speckle-paint the doors of the cabinets, or the whole unit. If you are completely repainting the cabinets, remove the door and wash the entire cabinet and the door, using a sugar soap solution to remove grease and grime. Dry the cabinet with a soft cloth and sand it down, wiping with a second dry cloth to remove any dust.

Apply a coat or two of primer to the cabinet and the door, depending on whether you are changing to a darker or lighter color, and allow the primer to dry. Apply the base coat of color paint to the door and the cabinet, and apply a second coat when the first coat is dry.

Reattach the door if you are treating the whole cabinet. Use your chosen technique to cover the cabinet and door with a speckled paint finish and allow them to dry.

Speckle the door separately if you want only the door to be treated. Allow it to dry, and reattach the door to the cabinet.

Things You Will Need

  • Hardboard or MDF
  • Old toothbrush
  • Pencil
  • Paintbrush
  • Dry roller
  • Goggles
  • Face mask
  • 2 shades of paint
  • Spray paint
  • Sugar soap
  • Clean cloths
  • Fine-grit sandpaper


  • Try using two different colors for the speckling, and experiment with a full cover of each, or blending from one into the other.
  • Gold or silver paint gives a flamboyant speckling treatment to cabinets.
  • Use stencils to create patterns of speckling on the cabinet door. Place the stencil on a sheet of newspaper and attach it on the top and bottom, using sticky tape. Turn the newspaper over and cut out the area covering the stencil, and then attach the newspaper to the cabinet to protect areas from being accidentally sprayed. Speckle-paint through the stencil.


  • Wear a face mask and goggles or protective glasses when speckle-painting to protect your eyes and lungs from random splashes and aerosol particles.

About the Author

Veronica James has been writing since 1985. Her first career was as a specialty-trained theater sister responsible for running routine and emergency operating theaters, as well as teaching medical/nursing students. James's creative and commercial writing has appeared online, in print and on BBC radio. She graduated with an honors Bachelor of Arts in English literature from the University of North London.