Follow our simple how-to steps for painting a door. You'll love what a fresh coat of paint can do!

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Although it's a small change, a freshly painted interior door can make your home look entirely different. You can choose to refresh a discolored or damaged finish with a fresh coat or paint the door an accent color to amp up the personality of a space. Because doors are the entrance and exit points of your home, plan to paint them last, so the paint finishes remain undisturbed and can properly dry when completed. Looking around your home, you might notice the surfaces of doors vary quite a bit: some are completely flat, others are paneled, while others have intricate molding. Similarly, the approach to painting these door styles varies slightly. (Painting an exterior door also requires unique considerations.) Follow these expert tips on how to paint an interior door, whether it's paneled or flat.

The painting steps below work best for solid wood and hollow-core doors. For vinyl-covered or plastic doors, you'll need to apply at least one coat of primer after sanding and before you begin painting. Choose a durable paint finish in a semi-gloss or glossy sheen, which will stand up well to everyday use and frequent cleaning.

  • Working time 2 hrs
  • Start to finish 1 day
  • Difficulty Easy
  • Involves Sanding, Painting

What you need


How to do it

Part 1

hand sanding the surface of a door for painting
Step 1

How to Paint a Flat Door: Sand the Door Surface

After removing the door's hardware, begin by sanding the surface of the door. You want a smooth, even surface to paint over for the cleanest result. Sanding will also remove any paint or coating already on the door, making it a better surface to hold the paint. You may choose to use an electric sander, but we kept it simple and used a sanding block. Once the surface is smooth, wipe off dust with a tack cloth.

using paintbrush to cover edge of door with paint
Step 2

Paint the Door's Edge

To paint a flat door, start by painting the inside hinge edge, working around the door in one direction. Work up from the inside bottom, across the header, and down the striker side. Use a brush for this narrow space for better control. Also, be careful to not load too much paint on your brush at one time. Excess paint causes visible drips. 

rolling pale blue paint onto door face
Step 3

Paint the Flat Door

Next, paint the door's surface. Apply the paint with a 4-inch closed-end foam roller. Run two or three roller widths the full height and across the door face. To remove any lines, lay off the finish by brushing from bottom to top with a lightly loaded brush or lightly coated small roller if desired. This technique allows the roller to deliver the paint quickly and evenly to the surface while keeping a wet edge and leaving a smooth finish. Let dry. 

using sanding block to smooth blue paint on door
Step 4

How to Paint a Paneled Door: Sand the Door

The process is similar to paint a paneled door. Remove all hardware, including the doorknob. Sand the surface of the door just as you would a flat door. We recommend using a sanding block for this so you can have better control near the detailed edges and corners of the paneled door. Once smooth, wipe the surface with a tack cloth to remove dust. 

using paintbrush to paint panels on beveled door front
Credit: Jacob Fox
rolling paint onto beveled panels on door face
Step 5

Paint the Door

Paint each panel, starting with the upper left-hand panel and working down the door face in sequences. For each panel, first paint the edges of the panel with a paintbrush. It's fine to paint a little outside the lines here since it will all be painted over anyway. Once the edges are lined, use a 4-inch roller to fill in the center of the panels. 

rolling paint in stiles between beveled panels on door
Credit: Jacob Fox
using roller to apply paint to beveled door face
Step 6

Paint the Stiles

When all the panels are painted, paint the stiles in between the panels. Start with the center vertical stiles, then paint the horizontal panels. Finish the surface of your door by painting two remaining outermost vertical stretches. 

rolling gray paint on edge of door with beveled panels
Step 7

Paint Edges and Finish

Finally, paint the edge of the door. Lay off any runs or sags as you paint. Allow the paint to dry, lightly sand, and apply the second coat. Once dry, attach new hardware and install the door. 

Editor's Tip: If you choose to paint a door with it still on the hinges, keep paint off the floor by sliding a piece of cardboard underneath the door. Brace the door with wood shims to hold it steady. Before painting, cover the hinges with painters tape, score around the edges with a precision knife, and peel away the excess around the hinges. Once the paint is dry, remove the tape and replace the door hardware.

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    January 14, 2019

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