Scrub the cabinets clean so you can assess them. If any of the paint feels gummy or sticky, or peels off, you may need to sand that paint off and prime the underlying areas, especially if bare wood is exposed. The Paint Quality Institute recommends either oil or acrylic stain-blocking primer over any bare wood.
Painting Over Oil-Based Paint
Choose oil- or shellac-based primer. If the cabinets were previously painted with oil-based paint, you must either use oil-based paint again, or prime them with oil-based primer before painting with water-based paint.
Paint Quality Matters
Purchase the highest-quality paint you can afford. It does not take more than a gallon to paint two coats on an average set of kitchen cabinets. Look for 100 percent acrylic paint specially formulated for high-use areas such as doors, trim and cabinets.
Take the condition and texture of the cabinets into consideration when choosing a sheen. The higher the gloss, the more it will accentuate uneven grain in wood such as oak. While semi- and high-gloss paints tend to dry a little harder, a high-quality satin finish offers a good compromise between pleasing appearance and durability on textured or rough cabinets.
While pure white is the classic color for kitchen cabinets, it may not be your best choice. You can still achieve a clean, fresh look with a warmer white or cream. Pure white also may require an extra coat of paint to fully hide the underlying color, since paint with a little pigment added often "hides" better. If your tastes run toward the eclectic, consider stronger colors, painting the lower and upper cabinets different colors, or finishing your cabinets with an antiquing glaze for a very homey kitchen.