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DIY Painted Filing Cabinet Tutorial


I’m so excited to share this tutorial. Now we can all have pretty, pretty filing cabinets instead of boring beige, black or gray. If you have any questions or comments feel free to leave them in the comments or email me!

Supplies Needed:
Filing Cabinet ($10?)
Spray Paint ($3.48×3 – 2 aqua and 1 white)
Sand Paper (I used 220 because that’s what the spray paint I used told me to) (Free – we had some)
Several cloths to wipe down cabinet after sanding (Free – we had some)
Total: $20.44

Time Needed: About 3-4 hours depending on if yours has stuff that needs to be removed. Also this doesn’t include drying time after you’re done painting, before you can put it back together.


First find yourself a filing cabinet. I got this one for I think $10 at a yard sale a couple of months ago. I did plan on painting it, but didn’t consider how difficult it would be to get all the tape and such off. When you buy one (unless you have one already), go for one without tape or anything on it. It’ll save you tons of time.


I used a putty knife (that’s what it’s called right?) to get as much as I could off. Then poured on some Goo Gone and used a putty knife to scrape even more of the gunk off. If I would’ve picked a better filing cabinet, I probably would’ve saved myself an hour. So choose wisely!


Next you’re going to spend a long time sanding, unless you have an awesome power sanding tool. I spent about an hour sanding this baby because I wanted to make extra sure that the paint would hold and not chip off. Second photo is what you’ll look like after an hour of sanding.


After you’re done sanding wipe down the filing cabinet. Wipe it down and then when you think you’re done wiping it down, do it again at least twice. You want every loose particle off of it. I wiped mine down twice with a damp cloth and then once with a dry cloth. And then one more time with a wet cloth and a dry cloth one more time.

Now the fun part! Spray paint! I’m so attractive in my spray paint attire. Face mask, safety goggles and backwards jackets are the way to go. I used Rust-oleum Painters Tough Ultra Cover in Aqua. And the same type just in white for the fronts of the drawers.


Spray the first coat. Here are my spray painting tips given to me by my husband who knows how to paint cars.

  • Start spraying off the object you’re painting so it doesn’t pool/puddle and then slowly move onto it. It’s hard to explain: basically, if you’re spraying horizontally, start just to the right or left of the filing cabinet and move in a steady line across the filing cabinet and don’t let go of the button until you’re no longer spraying it.
  • Overlap about 50% with each “stroke”
  • Change direction. If your first coat is horizontal, make the next one vertical. This will make it more even.

When I did it I followed all the above tips and it came out great! I followed the directions on the can and did 2 coats a couple of minutes apart. Then I followed with 2 more coats with about 30 minutes in between each coat.


While you’re waiting in between coats, get the drawers ready. Take off all the hardware. I left the buttons because I’m not sure how to take them off and I was fine with them being painted. Make sure you remember to sand these before hand as well. You don’t want to be sanding these in the same area that your filing cabinet is being painted. The last thing you want is debris in your beautiful paint job!


Do as many coats as you need. Like I said, I think I did a total of 4 coats.


The drawers got about 4 coats each as well.


Once you’re done let it dry. I left it for about 15 hours (overnight) and then put it all back together the next morning.


Voila! Your office will now be much more stylish with a pretty filing cabinet. It took some courage to do the drawers a different color, I was afraid it wouldn’t look good. I’m skeptical about my eye for that type of thing, but I think it turned out great!

If you have any questions leave them below. I would love to see your filing cabinet if you do it!

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8 Comments on “DIY Painted Filing Cabinet Tutorial

  1. My fiance has a truly ugly filing cabinet and i want to paint it like this – but he’s afraid that the paint will easily scratch and come off and it will end up looking even worse…so my question is, how well did this beautiful paint job hold up over the last few months? Has it scratched off in any places?

    1. Hi! You know, I only ended up having it for a few weeks. It was fine while I had it though. I’m sure I bumped it and such and it didn’t have any scratches at all. We ended up selling it at a yard sale for a profit since I was obsessed and wanted to paint more of them! I haven’t gotten around to painting my new ugly filing cabinet yet, though.

      I think as long as you clean and sand thoroughly, you should be fine. I figure it might chip or scratch off if you’re too harsh on it, but not any more than the original paint would.

      Hope I helped :)

  2. Love it! I have an old metal filing cabinet that has been sitting in my basement for years but it’s still in pretty decent shape. I am definitely going to paint it and start using it. Thanks for the tutorial, I’m not really very crafty at all but this sounds fairly simple. Now to choose a color…

  3. I am going to paint my filing cabinet! But first, I am going to paint an old metallic typewriter table that I got my daughter to use as a make up table. Thanks for the tips! I think I need to get some of that Goo Gone stuff.

  4. Did the locking latches become stuck once you’ve painted them? Those sliding buttons left of the handles that you didn’t remove. Did they still work after you’ve painted them over?

    1. Yep, they still worked just fine! They suck out pretty far (maybe a little less than a quarter inch” so there wasn’t enough paint build up to make them stick.

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