Brush and roller cabinet painting tips
Painting cabinets is a sure way to really update a room while staying on budget. And while paint spraying is probably the most ideal way to get the smoothest paint finish on cabinets, it can be a daunting task. That is why we have always painted our bathroom cabinets and kitchen cabinets using a brush and roller.
Recently we have been getting a lot of questions about the supplies that we have used over the years to paint and even repaint already painted cabinets. In this post, we will share the best type of roller to use when painting cabinets.
Can you get a smooth finish using a paint roller?
Yes, you can get a smooth finish when painting kitchen cabinets. Using a small high-density foam roller and high-quality paint can get a finish you will love. We are fans of Sherwin Williams Urethane Trim Enamel paint applied with a small foam roller. You will not have bubbles and the SW paint has self-leveling qualities that give you a great cabinet finish.
Don’t you have to use a paint sprayer to get the best finish?
Honestly, we are so happy with our technique that we haven’t even opened our paint sprayer (yes we have one sitting in our garage still in the box). You may save on actual time painting, but the prep to spray inside my house has just never seemed worth it.
Just as some people are die-hards that you have to use an oil-based primer you will have the same thing about paint spraying is the only way for a smooth finish. And if you are that picky about the finish needing to be as smooth as glass, then you probably are better off hiring a painting professional and not doing this as a home DIY project.
If you work in thin layers and take your time, I feel you can get a smooth surface without having to learn and buy expensive spraying items. Not to mention, there will be an inevitable learning curve that comes with a paint sprayer. The odds of messing that up are way higher and more expensive with a sprayer than a classic roller and brush for a DIY project.
What is the best roller for painting cabinets?
A small 4” foam roller is best for painting cabinets. The small handle allows you to easily control where the paint goes while being able to fit into smaller spaces. You can also easily use a small roller to smooth out most places you even used a brush to apply cabinet paint.
The foam nap also gives you a smoother finish on your cabinets. A higher nap may leave extra fuzz or small bubbles which is not ideal for trying to get smooth surfaces. Leave the higher nap rollers for surfaces that have a slight texture like drywall.
What size roller is best for cabinet painting?
The 4” is honestly the perfect size for so many DIY painting projects. If your cabinets are larger or completely flat, you may benefit from a 6” foam roller. You can see how a 4” foam roller was also an awesome way to paint our tile backsplash. You can get foam rollers in sizes as big as 14”, but I have yet to a DIY project needed that.
Where to buy small foam rollers?
Our favorite small foam roller is from Home Depot. We have also used Purdy and Wooster foam rollers and those work really well. I would stick with name-brand foam rollers on this one as you really won’t save that much money buying generic brands that you are unsure of the density and ability to create a smooth finish. A high-density roller foam roller is what you are looking for. If you squeeze it, it really won’t lose its shape.
In the image above, you can see that the foam roller on the right isn’t really changing shape when being held in the hand. The small roller to the left has a higher nap and should be left to paint things that have texture.
At the end of this post, we list 5 of the best high-density paint foam rollers and handles for you to consider for your painting project.
What handle to do buy to go with foam rollers?
Paint rollers consist of the roller cover and roller frame. Make sure you are buying a roller handle that matches the roller frame. Most mini foam rollers have a single slot for the handle to go in, The brand we buy from Home Depot fits this type of handle.
If the inside of the roller frame is larger, then it will need a handle that has a cage. See the picture above to see the different types of handles.
Con of using foam rollers
Most of the time we are able to use the same small roller for most of our DIY paint projects. Unlike cloth rollers, it can be pretty hard to completely clean and reuse a foam roller (even though we have done it). Since they are so inexpensive, it is sometimes best to just start with a new roller. Especially if you are doing a large project. When we repainted our kitchen cabinets, a fresh roller was a great idea for our final coat of paint to really ensure the smoothest finish possible.
Consider buying a pack of 5 or 6 rollers to just have. You will save money buying more at one time and will be happy that you just have them in your DIY toolkit.
Can you reuse the same roller?
One of our favorite time-saving hacks is to put your wet roller or brush inside Ziploc bags in between coats. Just make sure to get the air out and completely zip the bag. See above though how a fresh brush or roller is always a great idea for your final coats.
Tips for getting a smooth finish with a high-density foam roller
- Make sure to fully prep cabinet surfaces (get our cabinet door painting tips here)
- Stir paint well (always)
- Use brush first in grooves where a small roller cannot reach first
- Using a small paint tray (our favorite) is the easiest to move around with and the foam roller fits well)
- Make sure all areas of the foam roller are completely covered by pulling paint onto the bumpy part of the tray. The paint should not be goopy in some spots. It should be evenly covered.
- A common mistake when people use rollers is that they just go back and forth and don’t rotate the roller all the way around. Make sure you are covering all sides of the roller.
- Paint in thin layers
- Your first coat may not look pretty and may be a little splotchy. Don’t worry and don’t try to fix it while wet. Wait to do a second coat when the paint is completely dry.
- Check for drips
- Don’t touch your doors or any painted surfaces until completely dry
- Paint the back of the doors first! This will make sure that your best and last painted surface is on the front where people see the doors
- Prop doors up on sawhorses, use push pins or cans to let doors dry off the ground
- Be patient and love your finished work!
Read more>>> Our finished two-toned green and white painted kitchen cabinets all done with a brush and small foam roller.
5 high-density foam rollers to purchase
Note that we linked to the 4” rollers. Each of these can come in a variety of sizes and make sure that you also have the right handle.
What other projects are good using a foam roller?
- painting a two-toned stair railing
- redoing our chalkboard wall
- painting tile
- repainting painted wood
- fun accent walls like our honeycomb wall in our daughter’s room
Believe it or not, we actually loved using this small foam roller to paint our oak stair railing and banister with a two-toned look. We used a brush for the areas the roller wouldn’t reach and the roller for the rest. It definitely saved time and energy than just using a brush.