How to Paint Oak Cabinets as Faux Mahogany

Mahogany is a deep, reddish-brown wood, whereas oak has a light, medium-blond color. Giving oak cabinets a dark, mahogany surface isn’t easy, but it can be done. One method to paint oak cabinets as faux mahogany is to strip the finish of the cabinet and stain the wood a dark reddish-brown, then apply polyurethane over the stain.

Another method is to paint a faux mahogany finish on the oak cabinets. Some people find the second method to be preferable to painting oak cabinets as faux mahogany. It is less labor-intensive and doesn’t involve the use of harsh stripping chemicals.

Things Needed

  • Screwdriver
  • Sandpaper
  • Latex paint
  • Wide flat paintbrush
  • Angled sash brush
  • Sample of mahogany wood
  • Tintable glaze
  • Fan brush
  • Graining comb
  • Soft bristle brush

Step 1

Remove the cabinet doors from the cabinets. Use a screwdriver. Remove all hardware (knobs and hinges) from the cabinet doors. Set the hardware and screws to the side.

Step 2

Sand the cabinets – all surfaces that you plan to paint in a faux mahogany woodgrain – with fine sandpaper. Don’t try to strip the finish; use sandpaper to rough it up so the paint will adhere more easily.

Step 3

Find a sample of mahogany wood to use as a guide while you’re painting the grain on the cabinet.

Step 4

Paint the base coat on the cabinet using latex paint and a wide flat paintbrush, and an angled sash brush. Choose a color that reflects the lightest color in the mahogany wood – either a dark tan or a light red, whichever you prefer. Oak is very light, so it should cover easily. You don’t have to prime the cabinet before applying the base coat. Allow the base coat to dry overnight.

Step 5

Paint a wood grain pattern over the base coat using a water-based tintable glaze. Use a fan brush to create the pattern. The glaze should be a dark reddish-brown. Mahogany wood grain can be straight or can meet in the middle in a point. Straight grains usually are found around the exterior of the door, while the panel in the middle will feature grain lines that meet the middle. Often the wood grain is smooth and straight; sometimes, it is a little “wiggly.” The fan brush will help you to mimic the wood grain on your sample. Then drag over the grains (in the same direction) with a steel graining comb. Soften the pattern by smoothing it with a dry, soft bristle paintbrush, moving in the direction of the grains. Don’t smooth out the grain too much, or it will begin to disappear.

Step 6

Allow the glaze to dry, then reattach the doors to the cabinets and reattach the hardware to the doors using a screwdriver.

Mas Broto

Written by: Mas Broto

Mas Broto is a small business owner with 30 years experience in the real estate industry. He is the founder and editor of, the most comprehensive free home improvement website on the planet!