Is Spraying Better Than Brushing and Rolling When Painting Kitchen Cabinets?

If you ask this question of professional painting contractors, there are strong opinions without much context. In this article, we will try to explain the differences between the two options and why you or your contractor might choose one over the other or a hybrid approach.

Is spraying faster than brushing and rolling?

While spraying paint is often much faster than brushing and rolling, there is a need to protect adjacent areas from overspray and dust. This includes masking off every door and drawer opening on your cabinets, counters, backsplash tile, walls, and ceilings in the workspace. It is also important to control the airflow so that the overspray doesn’t drift around the home and settle on furniture, floors, and other items. We find the time saved by spraying instead of brushing and rolling doesn’t save any time, the time spent protecting all areas from overspray takes much longer than a more minimal approach to protection that brushing and rolling require. In short, the time saved by spraying isn’t equal to the time spent protecting all areas for spraying.

Does this mean that spraying is better?

The finish that spraying provides is superior to brushing and rolling, but the cost of site protection in terms of labor and materials may not be cost-effective. If you have oak cabinets, for example, the oak grain pattern will be visible (unless you grain-fill the wood) regardless of spraying or brushing and rolling. In fact, brushing and rolling oak wood allows the painter to seal the oak grain with primer and paint, whereas a sprayer often doesn’t seal the pores of the grain, causing the black grain to still appear after multiple coats of primer and paint have been applied. Brushing and rolling push the material into the pores of the grain so that all that remains is the natural texture of the oak wood.

When is spraying the better choice?

If you have closed grain cabinets – Maple, Walnut, and Cherry, for example – spraying may be a better choice. The cabinets already are as smooth as glass from the varnish or lacquer so spraying the boxes will retain the smooth appearance. Brushing and rolling will introduce a light stipple, or texture, from the brush or roller and provide no benefit of sealing pores of grain that aren’t present.

What is a hybrid approach to painting cabinets?

If you have the proper equipment, including a paint sprayer, it may make sense to spray the doors and drawer faces, while brushing and rolling the cabinet boxes. This hybrid approach allows the doors and drawers – the parts of the cabinets that are the most visible and touched by hands – to have the smoothest appearance and be worked on in a shop, garage, or offsite. The cabinet boxes – which are mostly hidden behind the doors and drawers – can be completed faster with less time for site protection if brushed and rolled. There is an important step if you spray an open grain wood – one coat of the primer should be applied with a brush or roller, then sanded to remove the stipple before applying a final coat of primer. This will result in sealing the oak grain and still providing the look of a sprayed finish. We use a hanging system that allows us to spray all sides of doors and drawers at once which is much faster than spraying each side and waiting for drying and curing time before flipping and spraying the second side.

Other factors to consider:

Spraying inside the home often means that the kitchen will be out of service for the duration of the project. Brushing and rolling can allow the use of appliances including the refrigerator, oven, microwave, sink and dishwasher between coats of primer and paint. Shutting down the most important room in most homes for a week or more is often inconvenient and may be more inconvenient than necessary.

There is also more product used when spraying – some material gets lost in overspray,  priming and cleaning the sprayer also creates wasted material. There is less wasted product with brushing and rolling.


There are advantages to either approach when painting cabinets.  The biggest factors are access to equipment such as sprayers and off-site areas for spraying, as well as the ability of the painter to create a smooth finish with a sprayer. Brushing and rolling come with their own degree of difficulty to minimize stipple and runs in the finish.