The best sprayer for painting kitchen cabinets

November 04, 2015

I'll do a full painting of the cabinets tutorial very soon -- I want to wait till I'm completely done so I can share all of the steps with you. (Update! Go here to see the finished painted cabinets.) The good news is I'm done with the cabinet doors, hallelujah!! Next I have to finish the frames. If I was smart I would have done those first, but that's what I'm talking about…things I'm learning along the way.

So until then I'm covering the most important part…the sprayer. I've always been a little intimidated by sprayers. I've had a couple of them over the years and both were decent. They were just frustrating enough that I didn't use them a lot. Now that's all changed. I can't WAIT to use this thing on furniture and all kinds of stuff.

First up, here's what I used:
best sprayer for painting cabinets
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It's the Graco TrueCoat paint sprayer. And it rocks. (That exact sprayer is no longer made, but that link goes to the updated version!)

I had a Graco before and didn't LOVE it. Not like this one. The difference is simple -- you don't have to water down the paint in this sprayer. This is HUGE people. The problem with sprayers is the set up and clean up. Those are unavoidable, and those steps used to turn me off of using it more. But now that I've gotten the cleaning down to a few steps it's a lot easier.

Thing is, with other sprayers I've used you have to water down the paint to the perfect viscosity so the sprayer won't spit everywhere. If you don't have it spot on it won't spray smoothly. This used to take me a good 15 minutes at the start -- you have to run the paint through a cup and time it to make sure it's thin enough. If you use one a lot you probably know exactly how much water to add to the paint, but I hated that part. I was thrilled when I realized this one didn't need that step.

You put the paint in and go. It makes things SO much easier.

There are a few steps to follow to insure a nice smooth finish with this sprayer. First, make sure to clean it out one more time before painting. If the nozzle isn't completely cleaned out it will need water running through it to clear the gun. I do that before I start a session, even though I've mastered the clean up and don't really need to at this point. It just saves you headaches later.

Once the gun is cleaned out (just with water), you can add your paint and get going. You'll need to prime it, which is simply lifting a lever and letting it run for a few seconds. You'll hear it pulling the paint up into the gun. Then place the lever down, select the power you want to spray and test it out a few times on some scrap wood or a tarp.

After that you're ready to go. I had my husband take a video of me spraying but, seriously, I have too much self respect to share it. I concentrate hard when I do it so I make a horrible scowl that results in approximately three chins. If you search on YouTube there are a bunch of videos that show you how it sprays.

Here's a visual of how I sprayed each board:
how to spray cabinet doors

Tips for using a sprayer on kitchen cabinets

1. I sprayed each direction along the part closest to me first, back and forth. Get the sides!
2. Move on to the middle, again back and forth. A smaller drawer like this I only did one swipe down the middle (both ways). A larger one you'll need to do the length of the door. 
3. Move around the door and spray the side. You'll want to make sure you can walk completely around your set up. My only complaint about the gun is that it is heavy, you don't want to try to maneuver directly over the cabinets too much. 
4. Again back and forth on the other side, standing directly in front. You need to be moving the whole time. 
5. Finish up the last side. 
6. Walk back from where you came (because you don't want to wind your power cord around each time) and this time I focused on the detailed spots on our cabinets. Those grooves were hard to get sometimes so I did one more pass from up above on the top (4) and then walked around and did another on the bottom (1). 

I hope that helps to explain the process! One more tip -- I showed one of the guys who was here working on another project (I can't wait to show you that!) the sprayer because he's a paint guy. This one has very minimal spraying issues but it does happen occasionally. He gave me some great advice to help with any splatter. Because it usually happens at either the beginning or the end of a spray, he recommended starting to spray off to the side and then ending off to the side. Does that make sense? Instead of starting on the edge of the door, start a few inches off to the left. This lets any spatter go on your tarp, not on the cabinet. It really did help. Overall I had very little problems with that anyway -- FAR less than with any other sprayer I've used. 

One other tip -- make sure to fill up your hopper (where the paint goes), no matter how much you think  you're going to use. I mean, if you're spraying one cabinet you don't have to fill it up, but I would fill it half way thinking it would be enough. When it runs out it sputters a little bit and can cause issues. Just fill it up, you won't regret it. 

Clean up is SO important. As soon as I'm done I empty the leftover paint, then fill the hopper with warm water a few times and spray to clear it out. I turn it up to full power spray (it has levels one through ten, I used level one to paint, level ten to clean it out) and shake it so it gets the paint off from inside too. Then I rinse the parts off, put it back together and spray water again. The final step is to take it apart again (there are two pieces I remove), rinse/clean/soak them and then let them dry out. 

When you do this the first couple of times it will take a good 30 minutes. :) When you get the hang of it it takes ten. It's really not that bad. And it's so worth it! You can't get this kind of finish by hand! 

Here's a shot of an island drawer front I've painted with a brush over the years: 
brushing vs spraying cabinets
Honestly it's never bothered me -- it's not awful or anything. But then you see the finish on a sprayed cabinet and you never want to go back. ;) 

Here's one that's sprayed -- what a difference!: 
spraying cabinet doors
Any imperfections are from dents in the door, not the paint. It truly looks like a factory finish! Keep in mind if you have a lot of grain on your doors you will still see that. If you prime well and sand and do a  couple coats, it will minimize the grain, but it won't be this smooth. 

Here's a better shot of the lower cabinet color (Peppercorn) with the granite. It's LOVELY: 
spraying cabinets
It's all I imagined it would be! 

I share a lot of kitchen progress shots there along the way on Facebook and Instagram so check in there if you want more updates! For now I'm off to paint…again. :) I'll have a long, full tutorial on painting your cabinets from start to finish as soon as possible! The sprayer is the most important so I wanted to give some more detail in a separate post.

If you have any questions about the sprayer or how to use it, please let me know. I've been incredibly pleased with it so far. Have you used this one? 

**If you don't have a sprayer and want to paint your cabinets by hand, here's my tutorial on how to do so.  

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  1. Well then, I need one! :)

    As always, your job is flawless.

  2. Would this sprayer also work for walls? We just bought a new (to us) home and everything needs to be painted, walls, ceilings, cabinets...everything. I've been thinking a sprayer might be a good investment as we work on the painting.

  3. your paint job is lovely! I love sprayers too. Good idea to start spraying before your piece. I'm wondering is you finished with a polycrylic coat. I've had fantastic success with the Critter spray gun. It uses a mason jar of all things, and only costs about $40. It does a fantastic job too. I've done lots and lots of big pieces of furniture with it. Once I started spraying I'll never go back to a brush. It's so much better, and faster, and easier!

  4. I have this sprayer and love it. My husband and I have been renovating our kitchen for the last year. We built all the cabinets and this is the sprayer I used. How did it spray inside the house? I've only used it outside since the paint goes everywhere.

    1. I haven't used it inside. I would be too afraid I'd spray something I didn't want to. :)

  5. Awesome look and loveeeee the paint colors with the granite! Any chance you have heard of using the product Floetrol a paint product you add to paint to allow the paint to flow more freely? I assume it can be used in a sprayer, does not alter the color and I have used it many times in painting, but not in a sprayer. Ask your professional paint people as I assume they may have used it as it has been around for years. It is an old product(comes in a bottle) and I used it a lot in place of a glazing product to do a wall paint treatment( but was not really made for this but as additive to allow the flow of paint and open work time with paint). Just thinking of you past thinning paint with water and thought about Floetrol.

    1. Yes! I have used it but didn't notice a big enough difference to use it again. This gun sprays so well it's not needed but it may be worthwhile in other sprayers!

  6. So, you painted the island a different color than it was?

    1. No, just put a coat on the doors to try to match the finish a little bit.

  7. Thank you for this post, very informative and the result looks great! Do you use some sort of a "tent" to protect the room from the paint and the painted doors from dust? Do you have to clean the sprayer between the coats? I've read somewhere about a sprayer you can keep in a bucket of water overnight if you haven't finish the painting.

    1. I did not -- I spray in our garage and our floor is a mess anyway. But it didn't really leave marks on the floor, just dust from the spray. I'm not sure how long you can let the spray sit in there -- if you spray it through the gun every few minutes between coats I would think it would be fine.

  8. I've been wondering about sprayers since I decided (a couple years ago .... ahem) that my kitchen cabinets need to be painted. This post is very helpful. Thank you! What a difference between the brushed and the sprayed.

  9. oh my gosh. I could fall off my chair at the difference between the brush and the sprayer. I mean, I've heard it's better, but have never seen a comparison like that before. Wow!!! Thanks for the info! I'm sure it's so much work putting all these posts together step-by-step, but it's so helpful for all of us who are trying to make the best from what we have!

  10. Can you plug it into an outlet or do you need to have one of those air compressor things?

  11. Wow! We are getting ready to do some spray painting. I bought another less expensive brand that i definitely need to thin paint. I am going to lowes after work and getting this one and returning the other.
    I will be using Ben Moore advance. Can you tell me what paint you used?
    I am excited to get my stuff done and see the finish! Thanks for the review!

    1. I used the same! You have to wait almost a day in between coats but it's great stuff.

    2. Great! Heading to lowes later today! Thanks for letting me know bout waiting a day between coats!

  12. Very informative! Thank you Sarah. I'm going to tackle my kitchen in January after Christmas. The finish is peeling off my kitchen cabinets so I need to redo them. I'm definitely going to follow your suggestions.

  13. My husband keeps telling me that no paint sprayer I get will work because we don't have a big enough air compressor. So what kind of air compressor do you use with this thing? I'm so impressed by the difference between the sprayed finish and the brush finish.

  14. I was wondering about an air compressor also. Will have to come back to see if you answer that ? We have one but it's not strong enuf to use with paint sprayer. Maybe I could rent the sprayer if it's too expensive for us. Would love to try using one as our cupboards are the type with vinyl paper on them, typical manufactured home cabinets, ugh. Tried to paint one side and it didn't go well at all. Paint had primer in it but still didn't look good at all. I want my cabinets painted, hate the vinyl paper color. Why do they do that, ugh? Love your posts, all the stuff you do is incredible and I'm just plain too lazy to try. Happy weekend

    1. The compressor is inside the gun, no need for anything else! Spraying will give you a great result if you are patient with it. Good luck!

  15. Looks so simple, almost makes me think I could pull it off!! What paint brand is the granite color?

  16. Hi Sarah! I have been in love with your blog! Thank you for all you do to share with everyone. I spent over 650.00 on an unfinished maple wood vent hood and I am ready to paint it myself with the help here you are giving. We contracted to build our home ourselves with the help of my brother in law a builder so I did not have the vent hood up when the kitchen cabinets were painted…. I don't think I am willing to fork over 400.00 to a painter for a job I know I can do myself. Question- I really don't want to spray paint in my garage because we have 3 classic cars there ( they could be covered) but our garage floors have been professionally painted the "epoxy beige with the sprinkles" since our garage is a :"showroom" and I don't want to have overspray on the floors)
    Should I try to paint there or go find a place somewhere like a vacant garage? ( friends house) In other words - how much overspray will there be on the floor and can it come off easily? Just need your advice.

    Also- I ordered online today the sprayer you recommend. Should I get a cheaper version of it , same brand? Or stay with the one you suggest? I don't want to "cheap out", LOL. I will follow your advice….
    I am really excited about this project. By the way- I have 3 interior doors that need painted so I can start my practice with those…..
    Thank you Sarah!

  17. Hi Sarah I just found your site Googling "should I spray my cabinets" and you answered that question! Great writing too.You explained the use of sprayers so well- especially the cleaning part. Ya kinda need to turn it into a hobby huh? I was kind of afraid to do wood surface(that cheap oak veneer stuff) I already have a sprayer and have done my whole house inside and out--and you CAN spray inside just use lots of tape and plastic drop sheets. Great for the ceiling too. So you didn't use primer? What kind of paint was it?I use a additive that helps the sprayer called Floetrol it kinds of lubes the tip so you don't have to clean it as much.And after all that painting I just learned there are different tips for different jobs. Thanks for the tips!


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