This began as a project to add another coat of paint to my existing old cabinets and ended with a complete upgrading of the cabinets into something I can be proud of! These were old cabinets with about six coats of paint on them already. Adding the epoxy turned them into abstract works of art that are easy to keep clean!
Step 1: Sand Those Cabinets to Within an Inch of Their Life!
I used a circular sander with an 80 grit to remove the paint completely. If your cabinets have that routered edge like mine, you want to utilize it to put an edge on the epoxy paint. Either take a dremmel to it to make the entire middle area deeper, or take a router and deepen it to about 1/8th of an inch. If you have neither then use the sander and sand...and sand...and sand to make the middle section deep enough for a pool of epoxy. I unfortunately didn't get a picture of the routing in progress, but this second picture is what I mean by making it deeper. That edge on the second picture was the slight depression around the outer section of the cabinet, the embellishment. If you can router it clean and deep, it will be easier to make even lines when you add the epoxy. Use a fine grit sander to sand it smooth before moving onto the next step. I sanded both front and back so I could paint a nice smooth coat all the way around.
Step 2: Base Coat Paint and Tape
Paint a base coat onto the cabinets. I used country white. You will want to paint all your cabinets and then let them sit for about 24 hours before this next phase. After a good initial coat of paint tape out the section that you want to hold the epoxy. Use a utility knife to go around curved sections. Epoxy is tough to remove from areas you don't want it, so take your time on this section. Tape all the way to the edge of the cabinet doors in case you have runover from the epoxy.
Step 3: Epoxy
If you've never used epoxy...like me...you may want to watch some initial youtube videos because there is a little bit of a learning curve. I will hopefully save you some of the mistakes I made initially. DON'T ADD A LOT OF PAINT TO YOUR EPOXY! I can't stress that enough. I used an epoxy called Art Resin, but you can really use any epoxy that has a part A and part B that mixes equally. You need to have your colors picked for the abstract art, I used 5 different colors and some acrylic paint I had on hand, along with the initial country white I had used to paint the base coat. Since I had never worked with epoxy before, I added pretty much a 1:1 concentration of paint to epoxy. Needless to say it turned into string cheese on my cabinet door and I had to sand it away once it dried completely. Gather your plastic cups, popsicle sticks, paint and epoxy, and mix your epoxy up. In order to know how much you need, there is a nifty little calculator on the Art Resin site that will tell you how much you need based on the area and depth of the piece you want filled. Get some gloves (a must if you don't want to have resin on your hands for life) and start mixing the amount of resin in a big disposable container. Don't use your mom's tupperware or this big glass measureing bowls as this step will completely ruin them. Now divy the resin amongst the plastic cups for the different colors depending on how much of each color you want to add to the piece. I wanted a nice base of the country white so I made sure I had more of the epoxy reserved for the white paint. Add a small amount of paint color to each container of epoxy. SMALL amounts. I doesn't take a lot to color the epoxy. I pretty much dipped my popsicle stick into the paint and then added it to the epoxy and that was enough. Mix everything well. Once you have them all mixed, pour your design over your cabinet. Since this was meant to be abstract, you can do what you like with pouring.
Step 4: Play!
Epoxy is minimally forgiving, mostly self-leveling, and hardens to a nice shiny finish within 24 hours. But you do need to work at it. You will need a torch or heat gun to help it out. Because of the mixing process, micro-bubbles can form in the epoxy so you need to use the torch or heat gun to help pop those bubbles. You can also use the heat to move the epoxy around the cabinet surface. I used a popsicle stick and some fine tweezers to make squiggles in the paint and then used the heat to level it. Once you are satisfied place the cabinet on a level surface away from dust and falling particles of anything because the resin is sticky at this point and will catch anything. If you have dogs, cats or dust, think about putting it in a room you don't normally go in and shut the door, turn off the fan, and leave it alone for at least 10 hours.
Step 5: Remove the Tape.
If your cabinets turned out like mine, removing the tape is one of the hardest processes. You'll have paint and epoxy covering everything. You may want to sneak into the room and check your epoxy from time to time. If it is relatively set but still pliable (not brittle), you can remove the tape at this point. Get another utility blade to cut the thick areas so you don't remove the epoxy inside the taped section. Once all that tape is removed, let it cure for a full 24 hours at least. You want to be able to run your hand over the epoxy with no sticky spots. It should feel smooth like glass.
Step 6: Jazz It Up!
I have gold in my kitchen and I was trying to tie some of the gold in the hardware into the paint, so I wanted to add a line of gold paint to my edging. I also wanted to have a layer of epoxy over the gold paint to keep it clean. Once the epoxy is fully cured, add more tape all the way around the edges. Add another layer of tape to block off where the gold paint should go. Add a thick layer of gold and let it sit for a few hours. If you have a few cabinets to do like I had, you can just put them in rows and once you are done with the last one, the first will be dry enough to handle. Remove only the inner layer of tape once the paint is dry.
Step 7: Epoxy Again.
Once you remove the inner layer of tape make a small amount of epoxy, enough to just coat the piece, and pour it over the already epoxied section. Don't add paint to it, it is just a clear layer. Use the torch or heat gun to pop the bubbles and level it all the way across your cabinet.
Step 8: Remove the Tape Again and Touch Up Paint.
Once the epoxy has hardened again to the point of pliability, you can remove the tape. Use the utility knife to keep the epoxy from cracking in the wrong spots, but at this point it should be easy to remove the tape. Touch up the cabinet with base coat paint if your tape removed some of it.
Step 9: Enjoy Your New Cabinets!
There are so many variations you can do with this project. Paint on flowers or add decoupage and add clear epoxy to make it sparkle. I can't wait to see what you can do with it! Hopefully I was clear with the steps but just let me know if anything was confusing.