How to Paint an Interior Door Like a DIY Pro
Painting doors can feel intimidating. But after having finished all of our bedrooms doors I feel confident literally anyone with zero skills can paint an interior door.
The Quickest Way to Update Any Room is Paint: This Includes the Doors
When it comes to painting doors, interior will require a different strategy than exterior doors. But it still remains one of the quickest, simplest, and most cost effective ways to make a huge difference in an area.
For example: a front door would require an exterior paint. But for a pantry door, closet doors, a laundry room door, bedroom, or any other interior door follow the recommendations below.
Another great way to update a flat door, panel door, or wooden door is to buy new hardware. (Unless it has antique knobs, in that case send them to me, ha!)
But real quick, let’s discuss the two best ways (and really your only two options) to start this entire project.
Two Options to Paint Interior Doors
There are a couple ways you could do this whole process. Each option has it’s pros and cons.
Keeping the Door Installed
Leave the door installed and simply cover the hardware with painters tape.
- Ease. No hassle of uninstalling or reinstalling.
- No chance of misplaced hardware.
- You don’t have to deal with moving a door back and forth to another location.
- The chance for paint drips is higher.
- When you paint the sides of the door there is always the chance of a door being accidentally closed.
- You also chance getting paint on the door frame itself.
- Painting an entire door (two coats front and back) when it wants to move back and forth doesn’t sound like a fun way to spend an afternoon.
Uninstall the Doors
This is the best option, in my opinion. And it’s the option I chose, for all the cons listed above. I used stools to raise them up while I was painting them which worked out great. You could even use drop cloths and just paint them one side at a time on the floor.
- Quicker Process. The ability to paint while it is in a Horizontal position (on horizontal rails or stools in my case) made it a quicker process.
- Less Chance of a Mess. I don’t have to worry about paint getting on my carpet or my freshly painted door frames.
- Kid friendly. Able to paint the entire front, back, and sides at my leisure without worrying my kid is going to close the door. Or push it open with their hands.
- Extra Time Added. Adds extra time to the project.
- Chance Lost Hardware. Hardware has to be kept track of. Therefore, I put mine in a separate Ziploc bag for each door. I did, however, lose a single screw that fell into the crack between my carpet and door frame.
- Space Taken. I had 3-4 doors standing around loose for 24 hours. Which is less than ideal.
Tools & Supplies to Paint an Interior Door
Having a few good quality paint supplies is necessary to a good solid durable paint finish that will last. So, don’t forget to read all about my favorite paint supplies here 7 Tips to Prep for Paint Like a Pro.
- 1 qt. Your Choice of Latex Paints
- 2″ inch Angled Paint Brush
- Small Roller (2″ Roller and Smooth Surface Foam Roller Pad)
- Paint Cup or Roller Tray
- All Purpose Cleaner, Sponge, and Rag
Optional Tools & Supplies
- Painter’s Tape
- Drop Cloths
- 120 Grit Sandpaper
- Tack Cloth
- Stak Rack
- Wood Filler like Bondo Wood Filler
- Putty Knife
- Lead Paint Test Kit
- Paint Color Test Panel
Watch “How to Paint An Interior Door Like A DIY Pro
01 Choose Your Paint Type & Color
For this step, consider buying a few paint sample wall stickers and live with the colors you pick for a few days. Watch them in different lighting.
The first thing you want to do happens to also be the most fun part of the entire painting project, save for the final installation. Let’s revel in the joy of deciding on a color scheme, paint finishes, & the prospect of new paint!
For a durable paint finish you really want to make good decisions in these four aspects: Color, Brand, Type and Sheen. I go into a lot of detail about those three important things in my post Paint a Dining Room in a Day + 5 Tips.
Picking a Color
It’s really all about personal preference when choosing a paint color. And whether you’re going for a bold color (a bold door can add a nice pop of color), dark color, a neutral color, or simple white paint a coat of paint is going to make them look like new doors. But here are a few things to consider.
Interior Door Paint Colors
My favorite white paint color is White Dove by Benjamin Moore. It is creamy and not as harsh white as some colors can be. But when you’re picking any color you want to consider the paint scheme you already have and compliment it.
In my hallway I have White Dove by Benjamin Moore and a half wall painted Iron Ore by Sherwin Williams. Originally I had thought I would go with a classic white door. But the more I looked at my shabby, stained, and dirty white doors my perspective changed.
Therefore the best option was a dark door, Iron Ore by Sherwin Williams to tie the entire hallway together. And my doors have a less chance of needing frequent cleaning.
If you like the look of black doors, but are unsure of using a black door paint, consider Iron Ore. It’s a great example of a dark gray color, which could be a nice compromise.
Type of Paint
If you choose the right paint you won’t need that “typical” coat of primer. I use Behr’s Paint and Primer in one from my local Home Depot and it has never let me down. This really does come down to the Brand and kind of paint you’re investing in.
The typical paint used to paint an interior door is latex paint. However, if you have a wood door you could consider it like any furniture project and try chalk paint, milk paint, acrylic paint, or any other viable paint options. In this situation, however, you’d also need a top coat like wax or polycrylic.
Paint Finishes or Sheen
Glossy paint has it’s advantages like being the most durable paint finish. And if you like a gloss, then this is a good option. However, keep in mind the more gloss the harder the clean up will be.
Flat Finishes will be the most viscous. Which means better coverage in a single coat. However, it’s also the hardest to clean aka the least kid friendly.
For this type of application I chose Eggshell as it has great coverage and is still fairly kid friendly.
5 Types of Paint Sheens
- High Gloss
- Semi-Gloss Finish
- Flat Finish
How Much Paint Should I Buy Per Door?
You may be wondering how much paint you actually need for a door. According to Google, you will need 1 qt. of paint per door. But I was able to paint 6 doors for half a gallon. (Two coats front and back). This may also be the difference in that Paint Type, Paint Sheen, and Brand Quality makes.
02 Remove Your Door Hardware
For this step, you’ll need a Philips Screw Driver or Drill and Philips bit, and a Ziploc Bag (quart size).
If your door is fresh from the hardware store you can skip this step.
However, if you’re giving an old door a fresh coat of paint (or even a second coat of paint) keep reading.
You may choose to keep your door installed, so you would keep the hinges on and simply use painter’s tape to cover them. Use a utility knife to cut around the tape-covered hinges.
However, for a professional look you will want to remove your door knobs vs just covering them in tape. Place all hardware in the quart size Ziploc bag including knobs, screws, etc.
03 Prepare Your Door For Paint
For this step, you’ll need cleaning supplies like all-purpose cleaner, sponge, and a rag to dry it off, 120 Grit Sandpaper. You may also need wood filler and a putty knife to repair any small (or large) damages.
Painting Over Existing Paint
If you are painting over existing paint you will want to use 120-grit sandpaper to do a thorough scuff sanding. For older doors consider if you may need to use a lead kit to test for lead paint before you even move forward.
Clean The Door Thoroughly
Before you go to paint an interior door you’re going to want to make sure your surface is prepared for paint. If it’s the first coat it’s as easy as giving it a really thorough scrub down.
For this part I used a mop bucket with warm water, a scrubby sponge, dawn dish soap, and my homemade all-purpose cleaner (vinegar + lemons).
- Scrub everything very thoroughly, ensuring you’re getting into any recessed areas.
- Then dry with a clean dry rag.
- Let it sit and dry thoroughly for 10-15 minutes before applying paint.
04 Choose Your Painting Methods
For this step, you’ll need either a Paint Sprayer, a 2″ Angled Paint Brush, or a 2″ roller with smooth surface roller pad.
Three Painting Methods to Consider
Old Reliable – Hand Painting with a Brush
I started out with my 2″ angled brush thinking I’d just brush it all out. And that worked fairly well and honestly I didn’t have any of the dreaded brush marks. But it will take you a long time if you have 6 doors to paint as I did.
The Best Overall Option – 2″ Roller with Smooth Surface Pad
After a quick trip to Harbor Freight I picked up a $2 roller and $3.50 pack of Smooth Surface Roller Pads I decided to give rolling a go.
I’m angry at myself for painting 2 whole doors before I invested the $6 in this tool.
Initially I also thought I had to brush the recessed parts of my panel door, but then quickly realized I could use a roller for the entire thing. And it was an easy way to finish a single side in less than 5 minutes.
For Best Results – Paint Sprayer
Professional painters obviously will use this method as it is the way to get the best paint job for these 3 reasons.
- The fastest option once you get it going.
- Consistently gets better results.
- Less work.
However, they aren’t necessarily inexpensive. And if you do happen to own one you will need a proper set up to make it worth your while. As well as taking into consideration how many doors you will need to paint.
05 – How to Paint an Interior Door Efficiently
The most efficient process will be to take this project and use steps similar to those of an assembly line.
10 Steps to Paint an Interior Door
- Uninstall all doors. You can leave them in their current locations, however.
- Remove all hardware. Keep the Ziploc with the original door, just in case it matters.
- Take one door to your set up area. I put my door on top of two stools to keep them off the floors.
- Clean the side you’re currently working on. Then wipe it down with a clean rag and allow it to dry for 10-15 minutes.
- Pour your paint in your cup or tray.
- Paint with your brush or roller in the direction of the grain. My door is hollow core, but still has faux-wood grain and I was careful to roll or paint in the direction. This will help you avoid any brush strokes being noticeable once dry. Also, don’t skimp on the paint.
- Paint the Recesses. Use your brush or roller to get into the recesses and smooth any paint that goes beyond. Then paint the flat inner panel.
- Paint the door in one sweeping direction. So, whether you choose to go top to bottom or bottom to top keep going in that direction. This way you won’t be brushing over drying spots which may cause the drying paint to come off.
- Don’t forget to paint the edge of the doors. But avoid getting paint in hinge recesses.
- Watch for any dripping. This isn’t as much of an issue if your door is being painted while it is horizontal (laying down).
- Let it dry for 10 – 15 minutes. Then move it to a standing position elsewhere to dry completely.
- Repeat. If you have any additional doors to paint repeat steps 3-10.
I hope I have given you a thorough understanding about this very simple process and the tools to help you feel less intimidated by it all. I guarantee you can do this.
Thanks for stopping by!
Meet the Author
Hi, I’m Julie! Mother to five beautiful kids, Homeschool Educator, Writer, Handicraft & DIY Enthusiast, Photographer, Thrifter, and Furniture Restorer. Follow along for fun DIY projects creating a handmade home on a budget! Read more about me here→
I didn’t realize you could use a roller to paint the recessed bit! That info is going to come in handy!
Yes! I am so glad I figured that out after only two doors. lol It made the entire job way quicker and much more doable.
Great tutorial, I love the color you chose!
Thank you so much on both counts! I really love it, too. It will hide a lot of normal everyday mess!