How to Paint a Door – The Easiest Way With the Best Results!

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Painting doors might seem like a difficult thing to do but it doesn´t have to be. There are some important things that you need to keep in mind when painting a door but I will go over the whole process of painting a door in easy-to-follow steps so that you can´t do anything wrong.

As a whole, to paint a door first sand it with 150 to 220 grit sandpaper to roughen up the surface. Then apply a coat of primer. It is recommended to spray the primer on the surface to get a smooth surface. Finally, apply 2 to 3 coats of paint to the door. Paint the panels of the paint first.

There are a couple of things that you need to pay attention to, as I mentioned before.

In the step-by-step guide below I will tell you exactly what to look out for in each step so that you end up with the best possible result.

How to Paint a Door

Painting a door doesn´t involve a lot of steps and non of those steps are particularly difficult but it takes some time. Painting a door is quite a labor-intensive endeavor but it is well worth it!

And I should also mention that you can´t do anything so wrong that you ruin the door. So don´t worry, almost any mistake can be reversed as long as you don´t break the door.

Now let´s get started!


You can get all of these materials in your local hardware store or on Amazon through the provided links.

  • 150 to 220 grit sandpaper to sand the door.
  • Painters tape to mask areas you don´t want paint on.
  • Plastic covers to protect the floor from paint drops.
  • Paint brush and roller to apply the paint
  • Chalk furniture paint in the color of your choosing
  • Primer to prepare the surface for painting

You might also need a screwdriver to unhinge the door and you can also get a sanding block or a sander to make sanding the door easier.

1. Sanding the Door

The first thing that you always have to do is sand the door. It is not necessary to remove the previous paint you only have to roughen up the surface so that the primer has something to stick to.

When sanding the door you should start out with some medium grit sandpaper. I usually use something like 150 to 220 grit sandpaper.

One important thing to keep in mind is, that each layer of paint will add to the thickness of the door very slightly. So if your door is a tight fit then you should sand the corners and the sides of the door thoroughly until almost all of the previous paint is gone. This is not necessary for the front and the backside of the door.

This is mainly done to ensure that the door will fit in the doorframe without contacting the frame after you are done painting it.

Do You Need to Sand a Door Before Painting it?

Obviously, this is one of the most labor-intensive steps so naturally, a lot of you probably want to avoid sanding at all costs. So can you paint a door without sanding first?

As a whole, it is not needed to sand a door before painting it but it is highly recommended. A well-adhering primer can be applied directly to the unsanded surface of the door to avoid sanding it but there is no guarantee that this will work and in the worst case the paint will peel off again.

The reason why it is recommended to sand the door before priming it is that most doors are sealed with a topcoat that protects the paint from dirt and water.

This topcoat can sometimes keep the primer from adhering to the surface properly and the paint will chip or peel off sooner than later.

Sanding, on the other hand, will ensure that the surface is rough enough for the primer to properly adhere to the surface.

So I always recommend sanding the door first even though it means more work. It is well worth it.

After you are done sanding make sure to clean the surface by removing rough dirt with a dry brush and then clean the surface with a little bit of soap water and a cloth. Make sure that the cloth is only damp and not wet!

2. Priming the Door

Next up we will apply a primer to the door. A primer will prepare the surface for the paint.

Primers adhere better to surfaces than paint and create the perfect conditions for the paint to stick to. So they ensure that our paint doesn´t come off or scratches off later on.

I highly recommend using a spray primer such as Spray Primer from Krylon to ensure that the primer is applied evenly and smoothly.

If you don’t want to spray the primer on then apply the primer with a brush or roller and then sand the primed surface once it has dried to smooth it.

Do You Need to Prime a Door Before Painting it?

Priming isn´t nearly as much work or as annoying as sanding the door but still, it is an extra step in painting a door so if you were able to skip it, it would save a lot of time.

As a whole, it is not necessary to prime a door before painting it but it is highly recommended. A primer will prepare the surface for painting and ensure that the paint adheres properly. Without using a primer the paint can look uneven, have color variations in it or even peel off after a while.

If the door that you want to paint did not have any paint previously applied to it, as in my case, then you don´t have to apply a primer even though it would not hurt. In my example, I have a wooden door that had no wood applied and is still bare, so I didn´t need to apply a primer.

But in my experience applying a primer before painting wood, in general, will make the finished paint job look so much smoother and cleaner than without the use of a primer.

The paint will also look more vibrant and the primer will ensure that the paint won´t come off even if the surface is scratched.

So even though it might be annoying to do, applying a primer before painting the door is the best choice in almost all cases. This is especially true if the door is being repainted.

You might need to apply two coats of primer until it covers fully. Let the primer dry for at least 12 hours before applying another layer of primer and let it dry for at least 24 hours before you apply any paint to the surface.

There are primers that dry faster or slower so make sure to check the packaging for instructions.

3. Painting the Door

And we are already at the final step. It´s finally time to paint the door.

What Kind of Paint to Use for Painting Doors?

The Choice of paint will vary slightly depending on if you want to paint an interior door or an exterior door. You don´t want to use just any paint because doors, just like most furniture, have to survive quite some abuse to you want a type of paint that will survive that.

As a whole, the best kind of paint for an interior door is chalk paint. It covers nicely and is available in lots of different colors. It will adhere very well and is easy to clean once dry. For exterior doors, a latex-based or acrylic resin paint is needed as the paint has to resist the elements.

You can get chalk paint at your local hardware store or right here on Amazon. Or, if you want to paint an exterior paint, then you can get latex paint right here on Amazon as well.

Chalk paint is one of my favorite paints to use for furniture. It covers really well and I tend to use it for most of my indoor projects.

It will dry fairly quickly, doesn´t have a particularly bad odor, and the surface is very smooth once it is dry.

For exterior doors chalk paint is not the best choice as it won´t survive the elements outside for long. So for exterior doors, the best paint is a latex-based paint which will survive because it is oil-based and therefore repels water.

Now let´s take a look at how to actually apply the paint to the door.

Is it Better to Paint with a Brush or a Roller?

I think we all want our new paint to be smooth but that is actually not as easily done as you might think. So let´s have a look at how we can ensure that our new paint job is smooth and even.

As a whole, it is better for beginners to use a roller to paint a door. The roller will make it easy to spread the paint evenly and without leaving any brush marks. A brush will still be needed to paint the sites and the corners of the panels as the roller won´t reach into every nook.

Don´t use the cheapest brush and roller that you can find to paint your door. Trust me, you will only make it harder for yourself.

Cheap brushes tend to lose hairs while you paint which will then be stuck on the door and if you don´t plug them off then you can say goodbye to your smoothly painted surface.

Try to get brushes like these here. They are of higher quality and don´t lose hair as easily as the cheap ones while still being fairly priced.

How to Apply the Paint to the Door

Most tutorials will tell you to paint the door in a specific order but they never really tell you why. So I will tell you how to paint your door and why so that you also know what to look out for when painting a door.

You should paint the panels of your door first. Use a brush to paint the edges of the panels and make sure to paint over the edges of the panel. Then use the paint roller to paint the center of the panels. Once all the panels were painted simply paint the rest of the door with the roller.

Here you can see how to paint a door. First, paint the edges of a panel with a paint brush.

Then use a roller to paint the panel itself and the surrounding area. Try to apply the paint in the direction of the wood grain.

Don´t wait for the paint to dry before moving on to the next panel or the door itself. You want to remove the brush marks with the roller before the paint dries.

Paint the sides of the door with a brush and spread any paint that got on the front or the back of the door with the paint roller to ensure that the paint on the front and the back of the door remains smooth.

The reason why you want to paint the door in that order is because you can´t cleanly paint the sides of the panels with a roller so you use a brush to properly paint these.

But you also don´t want any brush marks on the panel or the door so you want to paint those parts with the paint roller.

Can You Paint a Door Without Unhinging it?

You should remove the door before painting it but do you really have to in order to properly paint it?

As a whole, it is possible to paint a door without unhinging it but it is recommended to unhinge it for optimal results. The hinges should be masked off with some masking tape and the door frame needs to be protected from the paint as well. Sanding, priming, and painting can be done without unhinging the door.

I still highly recommend unhinging the door before painting it but if you really don´t want to unhinge it then don´t worry you can still paint the door just fine it’s just a bit more annoying.

First off, you need to mask all the parts of the door that you don´t want to paint. Use some masking tape to protect all the parts of the door that should not be painted, like the hinges, the door nob, and the frame of the door.

Then carefully sand the door and apply a primer as described before. It will be a little tricky to sand and prime the bottom side of the door.

and then simply paint the door while it is hinged but make sure to cover the floor with some plastic or paper to protect it from any paint that might drip down.

And don´t close the door while the primer or the paint is drying!

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