How to Paint Oak Cabinets White Without the Grain Showing

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Having mastered the art of painting oak cabinets white while seamlessly concealing the grain, I’m here to guide you toward achieving a flawless, enduring finish. This task can prove to be quite challenging and might even frustrate those unfamiliar with the intricacies of the process.

To that end, let me impart my wisdom, offering you invaluable advice on the preparation and painting of your exquisite oak cabinets to ensure optimal results.

Is it Possible to Apply White Paint on Oak Cabinets Without Any Grain Showing?

With two or three coats of grain filler and 320-grit sandpaper, you may paint oak cabinets white with no grain appearing. 

If you want to paint your oak cabinets white with no grain revealing, you may also use spackle to fill the grain and then sand it down with 220-grit sandpaper before painting.

Cleaning up the dust, priming, and painting will follow. Painstaking though it may be, the result is oak cabinets that seem like a specialist painted them.

cleaning up oak

Steps to Apply White Paint on Oak Wood Cabinets Without a Grainy Finish

Supplies You’ll Need

Step #1: Detach the Hardware from the Cabinet

Gather all the items specified in the list above because you won’t want to go to the hardware shop when you’re halfway into the project. Remove the cabinet drawers and doors and store them in a dry, secure location.

It’s important to mark and number the doors as well as the drawers of the cabinets before removing them in preparation for reassembly after painting. They will only fit as snugly if returned to the right compartment. Keep them safe in a small bag.

detaching cabinet parts

There will be a lot of dust floating around during the process, so be sure to clear out all of your storage spaces. It’s time to show tough love to your kitchen by removing unused appliances and gadgets. This step by itself can be time-consuming but worthwhile.

It’s essential to meticulously cover the floors, walls, and ceilings with plastic sheeting, ensuring every inch is protected. Don’t forget to safeguard your countertops as well. 

Basically, anything in the vicinity that you wouldn’t want speckled with permanent white paint needs to be securely covered up.

Step #2: Sand the Cabinet Surface

Use 80-grit sanding paper to the entire cabinet and sand it down. Sanding will produce a smooth surface that is primed and ready for painting. 

Sand with light, steady pressure prepares the surface for priming and painting. To prevent scratches and marks and to preserve the integrity of the oak wood’s grain, sand in the direction of the grain.

Another option for reducing the dust’s effect on the room is to use an orbital sander with a shop vac. Pay careful attention to the areas underneath the old hinges and the sink that have been damaged.

sanding cabinet surface

Step #3: Prepare the Wood Surface

Dust off the entire piece of oak using a rag once you’re done sanding. Dust and dirt can taint paint coats if proper precautions are not taken. Sawdust in the paint will destroy the entire coat; therefore, getting rid of it is crucial before you start painting. 

The effects of dirt and dust on its finished appearance are significant. The dust on your oak cabinets will be more noticeable against a white backdrop than against any other color.

A shop vac is preferable to tack cloths for keeping a workspace dust-free. You can also treat tack cloth-resistant residues with Trisodium phosphate [1]. Once the surface is clean, primer and paint can penetrate the oak’s fibers below.

preparing cabinet surface

Oakwood fibers are porous; therefore, oil is quickly absorbed.

If you want to avoid true TSP because you are staying at the property during renovations, you can alternatively use a replacement.

Although the substitution is preferable, it remains a hazardous chemical and should be used in a well-ventilated area.

Step #4: Hide the Grain of Wood

After you’ve finished the superficial work, you can go on to the more typical problem of these woods. To get the most out of the process, concealing its wood grain will be the essential step.

One of the most difficult tasks when painting oak wood is concealing the prominent grain pattern that is inherent to this type of wood as this wood is known for its distinct grain texture.

It occurs most noticeably when painting oak wood white, as the grain shows through the wood’s texture and the paint.

hiding grain on the wood

Two Ways to Effectively Hide the Grain When Painting Your Oak Cabinets White

Pockmarks and thick grain in most oak cabinets can be challenging to hide after finishing. Here are the two most effective approaches to white-washing wood cabinets.

Applying Grain Filler

Your oak cabinetry will look much better after being treated with grain filler and painted. A water-based, clear gel called Aquacoat is quick-drying and safe to use right out of the bottle. Oak wood cabinets benefit from having their grain filled and pores sealed off.

It’s simple to implement and gentle on the planet. It has excellent adherence, so it’s simple to cover up the grain, and sanding isn’t a problem, either.

Spread a uniform layer of wood grain filler over the whole surface of the oak cabinet doors. Using the grain filler first means you can get away with using less paint overall.

Other way to hide grain

Let 45 to 60 minutes for the grain filler to dry, then lightly sand with 320-grit sanding paper before applying a second coat.

If painting oak wood white, you only need to apply two or three coats of grain filler to cover the wood grain completely.

Spackling The Wood Grain

If you want to paint your oak cabinets white with no grain appearing, spackling wood grain is a great option.

DryDex needs only a thin coat to protect the oak wood cabinets. With the putty knife, spread a thin coat of spackling evenly over the surface of the cabinet. Then, lightly sand using 320 grit paper. Sanding down the extra spackling coat is preferable if applied too thickly.

sanding down wood

When you’re done sanding, the spackle will be barely visible, and the surface will be perfectly smooth. Remove the dirt and grime with a dry rag or tack cloth. Wet cleaning cloths will rip spackle off the surface, so avoid using them.

Spackle should only be used on the outside faces of cabinets, such as the doors, drawer fronts, and boxes if you’re on a tight budget. Spackle smoothes off the roughness of the oak and gets it ready to be painted white.

That’s why it’s essential to use a primer before painting oak wood white; otherwise, the grain will show through.

Step #5: Applying the Primer

Apply a primer to the entire area once you have covered the grain, then allow it to dry completely. Because of the oak’s tannin, an oil-based priming paint is required.

Orange-colored tannin oil bleeds into a water-based priming paint. Consequently, it is essential to use a primer made with oil.

applying primer

Priming an oak wood surface is necessary before painting it white since it improves paint adhesion.

When you want to paint oak cabinets white without the grain showing, priming with only one coat is key to achieving this finish. Take your time with painting until everything that has been primed is dry.

Step #6: Paint the Wood Cabinet and Let it Dry

Spread white paint in one long, even stroke once the priming has dried. Be careful not to leave any puddles on the floor.

Another option is to use a paint sprayer after diluting it with water. It’s best to start with detailed work and tricky angles. It is sufficient to apply two layers of paint to oak cabinets.

Ensure you paint the wood evenly and thoroughly. The paint needs to dry thoroughly between coats to prevent a sticky finish.

See Also: Nuvo Cabinet Paint vs Rust-Oleum

paint and dry the wood

After the second layer has dried, the oak wood grain disappears, creating smooth cabinets. It’s time to assemble everything, including the cabinets and drawers.

If oak cabinets have been appropriately painted without the grain revealing, the grain can never emerge via the wood’s texture and seep into the paint.

It takes paint about one week to fully cure after being applied. Hence, you should exercise caution for a week, although it appears dry after a few hours.

More articles for you:

My Top Picks for Primers to Cover Oak’s Wood Grain

In the process of selecting the right primer for your oak cabinets, it’s crucial to take into account the specific oak variety, assess the current state of the cabinets, and have a clear vision of the final appearance you aim to realize.

Here are the finest primers for hiding wood grain before painting white cabinets:

top picks primer

Most experts recommend an oil-based priming paint for dealing with oak due to the wood’s tannins. If the oak cabinets have been previously painted or stained, you will need a primer that can effectively adhere to the existing finish.

A bonding primer is a good choice for this situation. To achieve a high-gloss or glossy finish, you will need a primer to help create a smooth surface for the topcoat. A high-build primer is a good choice in this situation.

If you’re looking for an eco-friendly option, consider a water-based primer low in VOCs (volatile organic compounds).

primer picks water based

When choosing a primer for oak cabinets, you need to consider the type of oak, the condition of the cabinets, the final look you want to achieve, and any environmental concerns you may have.

Always read the manufacturer’s instructions before use and follow the recommended application process for the best results.

Can You Simply Apply White Paint Over Oak Cabinets?

White paint can be applied directly on the oak cabinets if the grain isn’t too pronounced. It’s pretty tricky to paint over an extensive grain white, as this will cause this paint layer to bleed. The wood surface must be extremely smooth for the white paint to stick nicely.

While it is technically possible that you apply white paint directly over oak cabinets, it is not recommended.

Oak is a porous wood with tiny openings and pores that can absorb and release moisture. This can cause problems when painting over oak cabinets with white paint.

If you paint directly over the oak cabinets without proper preparation, the paint may not adhere well to the surface and may chip or peel off over time.

applying white to oak cabinets

Additionally, the tannins in oak can cause discoloration or bleed-through, affecting the final appearance of the white paint.

Is it Worth it to Paint Oak Cabinets White?

Painting oak cabinets with white paint is a good idea. White paint gives the oak wood cabinets a fresh, modern look that increases their value. White cabinetry is a simple way to update the look of your bathroom or kitchen without overdoing it.

One of the best improvements you can make to your home is to paint the oak cabinets with white paint.

Whether you’re going for a more classic whitewashed design with oak cabinets painted white or a more contemporary, eye-catching aesthetic, white can do wonders for your kitchen.

white oak cabinets

Applying white paint to oak cabinets can be worth it if you are looking for a budget-friendly way to update your space and like the look of white cabinets.

Just ensure that you carefully consider the condition of your cabinets, your style, and the cost and effort involved in the process before deciding.


Mastering the art of painting oak cabinets white while concealing the grain is a woodworking proficiency that you can swiftly acquire. Although it might require a bit of patience, the investment in time is truly worthwhile. 

By adhering to my meticulously developed method for painting oak wood cabinets, you are poised to attain a seamless, professional-grade finish, effectively masking any grain and imperfections.

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You've probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.
Robert Johnson

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