Glazing MDF versus Real Wood

I get so many comments and emails about my glazed cabinets.  Wonderful…Sweet…Kind…and curious comments!

I thought it was time to blog about Glazing MDF versus Real Wood.

Glazing MDF versus Real Wood

Glazing MDF versus Real Wood

Most people are really looking into painting their own cabinets and just want to know how will the glaze look for them.  It is really hard to say exactly how it will look for everyone but I thought I would at least give you two perspectives.

My kitchen cabinets are MDF, which means there are no wood grains.  They are smooth and when painted and glazed you will get a more precise, factory finished look.  You can add glaze over the entire cabinet giving it a faux finish but for my style of home glazing only to showcase the details was what I needed.

On the other hand, when you glaze over a wood such as Oak you will get a totally different look.  The wood grains will show up.  My advice when painting real wood cabinets is to be sure you work with what you have.  Don’t think if you use the same technique as someone else you will get the same look.  The wood determines most of the look! Painting is one of the best and biggest impacts you can do on a very low budget if you are willing to do it yourself.

Glazed MDF cabinets:

Glazed MDF cabinets

Glazed MDF upper cabinets

Glazed Oak cabinets:

Glazing Oak Cabinets-Full Kitchen

Glazing Oak Cabinets

Glazing Oak Cabinet Doors

As you can see from the different pictures, the glaze makes it’s way into the grains of the wood.  I happen to love this look.  This was a full kitchen paint project that I completed for a client last year and it turned out great.

The difference in the way you apply the glaze is this, when working with MDF you will only need to add the glaze in the detail areas then wipe away what you don’t want.  For the real wood cabinets you will add the glaze to the entire cabinet so that the glaze will fill in the grains of the wood. Then you would wipe away any excess glaze.

I would love to know if any of you have used glaze before or if you are planning to!

You may also like to visit my other post that involve my kitchen:

Kitchen Tour, Painted Kitchen Cabinets, and Kitchen Makeover Part 1




  1. Sorry about the errors in spelling and english. I was talking to text.

  2. Hi Deanna. I had peeling laminate on my bathroom cabinets. I removed it heating it up the edges with a hair dryer and it was so easy to peel off! I am not a painter in I’m not crafty at all but I’m pretty excited about home a cabinets turned out. In short, What’s MDF was exposed, I sanded the cabinets, let them dry, wiped them down, sanded again and added another layer of primer. I then added a thin layer of paint, let dry, sanded, wiped and added another layer of paint. I didn’t seal the edges. I just primed and painted them according to the directions on the YouTube video above. I’m thrilled the way they turned out in the first bathroom but now, with the second bathroom, and thinking of glazing on top of it all.

  3. If there are any obvious runs or marks I would lightly sand over those and repaint. Otherwise I would go ahead and glaze. If you do sand over some places do it just enough to remove the bump. The higher the grit # on the sandpaper the more gently it will be.

  4. Love your article… I just painted my cabinets bit the finished product isnt exactly smooth…the parts I did with a brush look good but the part that was rolled looks kinda bumpy? Should I send and repaint before applying the glaze?

  5. So sorry for the delay, I just came across an entire batch of comments from months ago that were missed. So sorry you were flooded! I think if you like the look then it is OK! ~Sonya

  6. Thank you for this article! I just painted my oak and I’m wanting to soften up look with a glaze. I’ve never attempted this. What would you recommend? Also, if I’m not happy – can a glaze be painted over easily? Thank you!

  7. Hi I found this blog after I attempted glazing my cabinets. My home recently flooded and we only replaced bottom cabinets. Top are mdf and bottom is real oak. The bottom shows the grain and top is different. I did whole door also.

    Im wondering if it will still be ok looking. People have told me they like it.

  8. I love these cabinets as well. I must have 100 pics saved on Pinterest, but yours seems to be what I’m looking for. I have real oak cabinets that are a lovely orangeish/brown color…… what kind of paint did you use first, and that being said I’m assuming the glaze will go through the paint to pick up the grains????

  9. To be perfectly honest I do not remember exactly but if you are going to glaze over as I did here on the oak cabinets then check out these Sherwin Williams colors…Creamy SW7012, Dover White SW6835 or Alabaster SW7008. Also, starting today Oct 14-17 is Sherwin Williams 40% off sale.

  10. Hi Sonya – Can you tell me the paint color you used on the kitchen you did for a client? I absolutely love it and if I don’t have to stand there and look through 500 paint swatches at Lowes I will be ever so grateful! Thank you so much!!

  11. Yes, it should. If the cabinets are oil based paint it may be a little harder getting the glaze to stick so you may have to let it sit a little longer before wiping away excess.

  12. My cabients are white MDF. I only want to glaze the details on doors, drawers and crown molding. My question is will I have to paint them first? I don’t want to, the white is fine. I just want a light grey in the detail. Will the glaze stick to the current finish?

  13. hi sonya , what kind of wood were your cabinets and what kind of paint /glaze did u use?

  14. hi , have yellowed age oak cabinets that i intend to stripp and want them to keep the grain and wood style but clear , woul i acheve that if i glaze over natural stripped oak with pewter glaze or any off white/linen glaze?

  15. Is it better to have a factory finish for a glaze and what is “Glazed and accented?”

  16. If you like the look of less glaze but have real wood you can use mineral oil to wipe of more glaze and leave it more in the cracks like your cabinets. Great job, they look fantastic!

  17. Awesome! The type of paint is up to you based on the shine finish you prefer but I personally like a matte finish like satin or eggshell. The SW Cashmere paint comes with different finish names. I used low lustre on mine.

  18. Hi Sonya,
    After having your site pinned for months, I’m ready to update all the oak cabinetry in our house (we’ve done Venetian gold granite, neutral walls and I think the updated oak will look great). It will also give me a chance to “try-out” the look before we build our next home, to see if it’s what I love! My question is, what type of paint as in latex, eggshell, semi-gloss, gloss etc? I will be doing kitchen, plus 2 bathroom cabinets, and when I went to get paint and they asked what kind I paused… Your mdf tutorial shows a photo of SW Cashmere latex, but I want to be sure I get the same kind you used on the oak cabinetry. Thanks so much, I’m so excited for this project!

  19. I do remove cabinet doors to paint but that is because it is hard to get around the hinges otherwise. I put the doors back up before I glaze because it does help make that step easier. I painted my cabinets 2 coats of paint. Good Luck!

  20. Your cabinets are beautiful! I painted mine many years ago – just white semi-gloss and no glaze, but now ready for a fresh new look. I’ve used the Valspar glaze for ornate frames I paint so I am familiar with how great the glaze is 🙂
    Wondering two things: How many coats of the SW Cashmere did do? And did you remove the cabinets doors first?
    Thanks 🙂

  21. Hi Sonia. I have wanted to glaze cabinets after looking at Kraft Maid(way unaffordable)& you have given me the courage to do it. Got a good deal at a local cabinet store-solid wood used cabinets. I will sand,wood conditioner,paint & clear glaze over the paint. I don’t especially want the detail color in the crevices, just the glaze finish. Wish me luck.

  22. Thank you for all your help. My cabinets turned out beautiful!!!! Absolutely amazing. I can’t believe the transformation. I painted my orange countertops also to a dark brownish faux granite. I’m so happy with the results. Thanks again!

  23. No need to glaze the backs of the doors. Start with half paint and half glaze, if it seems too thick still, add more glaze. The more glaze you add the longer dry time, which is good because it allows you to work with it longer getting the look you are after! Good Luck!

  24. I’ve painted all my cabinets an antique white. They look better already. I’m getting ready to glaze them but I was wondering if you also glaze the backs of the cabinet doors as well??? I bought the clear valspar glaze and a sample of valspar brown called cliveden Virginian soil. It’s not as brown as I like but hopefully it works. I just mix the same amount of paint as a do glaze right?

  25. Hello. Does it matter the finish of the paint? I bought Olympic one paint and primer in satin finish. But I’ve read that you need semigloss? Can I use the satin for my oak cabinets?

  26. I’m a bit confused as to what you are doing with the railings…paint and glaze or stain? If stain it will be very hard to match. If paint then you will need to strip off the varnish in order for paint to stick. I would still recommend a primer over stain so you don’t have bleed through. If I didn’t answer your question let me know…just want to make sure I understand what you are asking. ~Sonya

  27. I am getting new kitchen cabinets that will be rustic alder with a Van Dyke glaze (it’s dark brown). I want to match my existing railings. The question I have is that I painted my one railing and was not happy with it, so I have sanded it to the raw wood. The other railing has a light oak stain and varnish on it. What do I need to do to prep the second one so that they will turn out similar? Can I just use a deglosser? Or will it turn out much darker when I glaze them both?

  28. Hello. Do you happen to know how your clients cabinets are holding up?? I’m so nervous to paint my oak cabinets and glaze them because I’ve read a lot of different things saying that they will peel. Any suggestions or facts??? Thanks.

  29. I have never used the kit and not sure what it contains. The glaze goes a long way. A small sample of paint and glaze will do most kitchens. Of course, if you have lots of cabinets you may need a little more.

  30. Hi! I love your cabinets! We are about to redo our cabinets and I thought I was going to use the kit at Lowes that can be tinted for about $75 I think. I forget the brand but it says it has everything included that I would need. Have you used those kits before or would I save money buying paint and glaze separately? I’m a little nervous about it but love your look! Thanks!

  31. Lovely, just lovely, and what a great explanation.

    My only question is: after doing the primer, and latex paint (i am doing a test door from the IKEA bang and dent area…) and then applying the glaze…. since it is a kitchen and there will be future cabinet cleaning…do you have to put anything over the glaze/latex paint as a final coat ? You would think i could ask at the paint store but the young man there knew NOTHING about glaze. Go figure.

    thx so much 🙂

  32. My daughter just painted her cabinets from an off white to light brown. Can she add red to the glaze to give it an old barn wood effect?

  33. Love your cabinets! I am trying to help my daughter paint her cabinets and then glaze. I cannot find the Valspar glaze in my local Lowes. What product(s) can I use. They are painted “snowbound” by Sherwin Williams and I want to glaze in a shade of Gray. What do I do, how do I mix and with what. Thanks so much

  34. Glaze works great on MDF. I do not have any experience with emulsion paint mixed with glue…You may have to strip that off or prime over it before you paint.

  35. Hi, my father in law has just made us 2 really nice MDF cupboards on either side of a fire place in our dining room. I’m trying to find a way to make them shabby chic. I have never heard of this glaze that you’ve talked about, is this something that would do this to MDF? most of the cupboards apart from one door have been painted with white emulsion mixed with PVA glue. DO you have any suggestions please.


  36. MDF is a paint grade. More than likely that is what they are using. The glazing technique will be the same on any painted surface but the outcome may look different because of the type of wood. Good Luck!

  37. I am getting ready to do a kitchen remodel and your cabinets have the exact look I want. The contractor will paint them, but the prices I’ve gotten so far to do the glazing are definitely out of my budget. I’m not sure if my cabinets will be MDF or not. I will have to find out, but what I got pricing on was paint grade cabinets. Have you ever worked with paint grade cabinetry?

  38. I love your pictures! I too painted and glazed my cabinets and love the look soo much that I’m going to do them all throughout the house. I have the wood cabinets and they turned out beautiful!!!

  39. You can use any type of paint you like, I used Cashmere from Sherwin Williams in my kitchen. If this is new unpainted MDF make sure it is primed with an oil base primer first. I do not clear coat my cabinets but you can if you prefer.

  40. Hello! Thank you for confirmation that my MDF Boards can be painted. Please advise what kind of paint I should use and if I need to apply a clear coat to protect the cabinets after the paint and glaze?

  41. Thank you! You should not have to sand to apply glaze. I painted my cabinets then once it was dry, I applied the glaze straight to it.

  42. Absolutely beautiful work! You are wonderful to respond so nicely to everyone!!! We have MDF cabinets like yours and I’m really wanting to do the glaze. Just to be sure about this – I’ve read and re-read your post here but, I’m just not 100% on whether you sanded yours first, or just applied the glaze straight on and then wiped off? And, did you do the same thing to the box? Thank you again!

  43. As with any painted surface there is always a chance the paint can chip but mine have held up VERY well! Only a few marks put not from cleaning, just excessive use of those areas.

  44. These look amazing, and I’ve finally sold Hubster on the lighter cabinets. How does the paint/glaze hold up to scrubbing? I wipe things off immediately, unfortunately, I haven’t successfully trained my boys to do the same.
    PS- I love the “Life’s short… eat cookies” sign above the door! 🙂

  45. I clean my cabinets by just washing them with cloth. For a paint sprayer, if you can it will be a great time saver but for my cabinets I use a roller them a paint brush for the detail panels.

  46. To be honest I have never used anything like that but it sounds interesting. For anything new always try on a scrap piece of wood, not on your cabinets themselves 🙂 Good Luck!

  47. How do you clean the cabinets now? Would you recommend a paint sprayer? I have to pull off the thermofoil first… I find it hard to use a roller in the details (my cabinets are the square panel like yours on the bottom). What would you think of a sprayer? Thanks!

  48. Hi Sonya, I absoultely love how your cabinets turned out! I am getting ready to paint and glaze oak cabinets and I was wondering if I used a wood grain filler if that would make them look more smooth and “MDF” looking like yours. If you could let me know if you have any suggestions or feedback on the grain filler I would appreciate it! Again I’m so happy I stumbled across your blog!

  49. Do you know if you can glaze factory stained cabinets? I just want that “inked look” in corners to add detail? Also if you can glaze do you need to seal the glaze after you are complete?

  50. Hello, Loved all the info on your site and how you have taken the time to answer everyone’s questions! Here is my question, I have off white thermafoil cabinets. So many paint experts at SW and BM are telling me glazing can’t be done on my cabinets. What are your views on this? Suggestions?

  51. I have oak cabinets that I want to paint. I didn’t want to glaze the whole cabinet, I just wanted to have the glazed look in the detailed areas on the doors of the cabinets. After reading this information it sounds as if that wouldn’t look right, is that correct? Have you tried glazing on wood just to accent those areas? Does it look odd to glaze just the inside parts of the wooden cabinets?

  52. No clear sealer needed. I have had mine on my cabinets for 6 years and it looks great still. Thanks for stopping by.

  53. Hi! I was wondering, after you applied dark glaze to the detail areas on the mdf cabinets did you then apply clear?

  54. Hallo! Can you please give me more details on how you did the oak glazed cabinets? I am crazy about it and I love the idea that you can still see the wood grains. Did you first paint it and then glazed it? But I am not sure how you have done it to still see the grains? I am living in South Africa. I can only get a translucent glaze here. Thanks!!

  55. You can do this treatment BUT you will need to make sure to prime the laminate with the right stuff. I would ask the professionals at your local paint store about their recommendations. The guys at Sherwin Williams have always been great.

  56. My cabinets are laminate and I really, really want to do something to them…can I do this treatment?

  57. We are in the process of having our solid oak cabinets glazed. I expected the MDF look and was quite surprised at the difference! Your website did an excellent job of explaining the difference and the “why” behind it. In fact this morning I passed on the article to our painter. He is truly an artist and the cabinets are just beautiful. I will send a picture when the kitchen is complete. Thank you!!!

  58. That’s great help, thanks! So, if I go with the SW cashmere i shouldn’t need a primer? All along I’ve been thinking about using chalk paint (either Annie Sloan or homemade). I made some chalk paint and used it on the bottom of my table and I’ve been painting my chairs to see if I like it. It actually applies pretty nicely but, I like the idea of using something already mixed and I do like the glazed look. I was going to distress a bit if I used chalk paint.

  59. I used Olympic One Paint+Primer and it worked great. You will need to make sure any oil or food splatters of cleaned off. I did use the same color but had it color matched at Lowes where I bought the paint. I did use a sponge brush as well as a rag to wipe glaze on with. The a clean dry rag to wipe away the excess. Hope this helps. ~Sonya

  60. Hi Sonya, I love this! I’ve been doing tons of research to decide what to do with my cabinets which are wood oak. This is what I want to do. You said sanding is not necessary, did you use a primer on these? Also, did you use the same color SW Cashmere in antique white? Did you use the foam brush for the detail parts?

  61. Sure…For the foam roller I use the 6 inch and for the glaze I use all different sizes of foam brushes. I buy them in a multi-pack at Walmart or Lowes.

  62. Can you give a list of items that you used? I have the names of the paint and glaze, but I am hoping to get more specifics with the type of paint brush and size of roller you used. I just picked up my stock, unfinished cabinets yesterday and can’t wait to work on my first new home project. Thanks!

  63. Not dumb at all…mostly the obvious distinction is the wood grain. MDF is pressed boards and doesn’t have any grains that you see in real wood. If you cabinets are currently painted and you can’t see any wood grains, more than likely they are MDF. Also, you can’t stain MDF.

  64. How do I know if my cabinets are MDF or real wood? Sorry, dumb question but I just don’t know!

  65. It totally depends on the surface you plan to paint if it will need sanding or priming. If your cabinets have been sealed with a varnish or poly you may have to do a little sanding before you prime. If it is a surface that primer sticks to easily then no need to sand. Always clean them well with a de-greaser especially in the kitchen.

  66. Do you recommend sanding first? Or can you use something like Zinnser and skip sanding?

  67. What color/brand of paint did you use on the Oak cabinets you did for a client? I have been debating on color and I love this look….Thank you!

  68. I’ve never seen this method in action, I’m so glad I found your post! We’re debating several different finishes for our kitchen cabinets, glad to have another option to consider!

  69. I would love to hear all your tricks and findings. we have Thermofoil on our cabinets right now that are 13 years old. I have been pondering the thought of taking that off and painting and glazing the cabinet doors that are MDF underneath. I would like to go with light on the top and a medium grey on the bottom to match my island I am currently working on right now.
    yours are the first I have come across that I like an envisioned mine to be. I have read that the edges are very porous . did you prep your edges a certain way? you mentioned you painted with a foam roller I think, how many coats did you use? did you use a primer? also did you clear coat them after you applied the glaze. thank you for sharing your projects. I always have so many on the go. taking something that you like and changing it to something you love is so much fun!
    take care,

  70. Wow, a wall is a big project! Good luck on your new cabinet decisions…I would do the stock because I know I would want to paint them!

  71. I LOVE Valspar glaze! Years ago, I glazed the walls in our previous house (my first project using it) and although it was labor intensive (because of the scale of the project) it turned out amazing, giving it an old world, plaster look. When I moved into my husbands house (then, boyfriend), he had already painted his oak cabinets a cream color so of course I had to whip out my little jug of glaze! In our new house, we are still debating the cabinets in the kitchen (custom vs. stock) and honestly, I am leaning towards grade oak finish so I can paint and glaze. Valspar glaze is very user friendly too. It’s water based so you can play with it a little to get the perfect effect you are looking for. I have used it for all of my crafts, as well. It works exceptionally well on textured wallpaper giving it an antique look.

  72. Great illustrations in this post! My cabinets are all wood, but not oak and I used glaze all over them. You are so right, every project is going to look unique based on the wood and the technique. Very informative post!

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