How to Paint a Door the Right Way!

I have painted hundreds of doors in my lifetime . . . starting with painting chicken house doors when I was a child over 50 years ago — Yikes! Hence, in this post, I will show you how to paint a door the right way!Suzanne as Child

You gotta love the sunglasses and scarf.   My Dad paid my sister and me $1  for every door we painted. There were so many doors, we thought we were rich!

Thankfully because of so many house renovation projects, my technique has improved!

Recently, most of the doors I have painted have been new doors. We replaced the exterior doors when we renovated Mom’s house and painted our new storage shed door.


    • Paint
    • Primer (or get paint with primer) if a new or rough door
    • High-quality paintbrush (our go-to paintbrush is always a Wooster 2 inch)
    • Optional: Roller and roller handle (You can paint a door with just a paintbrush; if you have a few doors to paint, I suggest using a roller on the large, flat parts of the door. It will make it go a little faster. If I am just painting one door, I just use a brush.)
    • Paint can opener and hammer to tap the can close (however, some cans/jars come with twist tops).
    • Sandpaper – TBD depending on the condition of your door.
    • dropcloth or plastic (to protect the floor, deck, porch, concrete, etc.)
    • Painter’s tape
    • Standard razor blade
    • Rags (we use old t-shirts cut into rags) and household cleaner or dish soap and water in a bowl or bucket
    • Stool or ladder if you are short like me.
    • A can-do attitude because you got this!

Selecting paint for an exterior door:

Selecting paint is essential in how to paint a door properly. Use high-quality paint such as Sherwin Williams or Behr Premium Plus. Don’t skimp on the quality of paint because your door paint will need to withstand the elements (rain, snow, harsh sun, etc.). The higher the quality of paint, the less often you will have to repaint the door. And then you will thank me for my advice!

We use a satin finish. It has a little sheen, but not too shiny.

If the door is new wood, you will either need paint and primer in one or a separate primer.

All of our exterior doors are steel doors. They are so much better at withstanding the elements than wood doors. We have had beautiful mahogany front doors that could not withstand the elements over the years. The older we get, the more we think about durability.

Selecting Paint for an interior door:

Again, use high-quality paint. If you are painting several doors (as we did when renovating the interior of my Mom’s house), you might want to consider removing all the doors and spraying all of them in a well-ventilated area.

Sanding and Cleaning:

If the door is an existing door that has previously been painted, sand the door to remove any burrs or loose paint. I have learned the hard way that a good quality paint job is all about the prep work.

Also, clean the door with a rag and soap and water or some type of household cleaner. (If it is an exterior door and there is a lot of dust from sanding, you can use a blower to remove the dust and wipe it down with a damp rag.)

If it is a new door and you do not have to sand, still wipe it down with a damp rag.

Remove all door hardware:

This typically includes the doorknob and the lock of an exterior door. No matter how good of a painter you are, it is my pet peeve when people paint around the hardware. It just cannot be done without looking messy. So, PLEASE remove the hardware. You will thank me later!

Tape as Needed:

I typically tape the edge of the door where the paint will transition to the paint on the other side of the door.

The steel doors we have purchased recently have the perfect groove that the tape fits in perfectly – – yeah for me!

You can tape or carefully paint around hinges. When painting an exterior door, the hinges are on the inside and won’t need to be painted around.

I do not tape any glass panes. Instead, I carefully paint around each pane (more on this later).


As I mentioned, if you are painting a new wooden door, be sure to prime the wood. In many cases, you can have the primer tinted the same color as the door. This will save you time. Many paints now come as paint and primer in one, which is typically what we purchase.

Paint the first coat:

Note: Don’t paint exterior doors if it is unusually cold or rainy (or chance of rain). Check the paint manufacturer’s recommendations on the can.

Use a high-quality paintbrush. We like pouring paint into a small cup and not painting from the can when possible (I have been known to spill the can of paint ?), but that is not required. It is just easier for me to handle a cup as compared to a large paint can. Here is an example of one of our paint cups with a screw top. This is a Talenti ice cream jar, which just means we need to eat more ice cream!  (Notice that we also label these jars. This is great for touch-up later.)

So, this is what you have been waiting for . . . drum roll ? . . .


The objective is to paint with the grain of the wood. If the door is steel (i.e. no grain), the paint is as if it did have a wood grain (same process). Note: steel doors are a little tricky to paint at first because they are so smooth. Don’t worry, you will get the feel of this soon – – paint on with confidence!

Below is the order in which I suggest:

    • Paint around any glass panes. Take your time so that you don’t get paint all over the glass. I am a pretty good painter, but I still get paint on the glass.
    • Start from the top and work your way down painting the “frame” or ridges around each raised panel and then paint that corresponding raised panel (Don’t let all the numbers in the pictures freak you out ?; it is really not as complicated as it looks.)
    • Paint all horizontal pieces, but don’t paint all the way across the door (to the door edges); you can use a paintbrush or roller for this part.
    • And lastly, paint all the vertical pieces (typically the far left and far right sides of the door from top to bottom); you can use a paintbrush or roller for this part.

Below are some examples to help this make sense:

    1. glass frame
    2. horizontal top
    3. horizontal bottom
    4. vertical left (side of the door)
    5. vertical right (side of the door)

1 – glass frame

2&3 -frame around each raised panel and each corresponding raised panel

4-6 – horizontal pieces (from top to bottom)

7 – the middle vertical piece

8 & 9 – vertical left (side of the door) and vertical right (side of the door)

1 – glass frame

2&3 -frame around each raised panel and each corresponding raised panel

4-6 – horizontal pieces (from top to bottom)

7 – the middle vertical piece

8 & 9 – vertical left (side of the door) and vertical right (side of the door)

1 -frame around each raised panel and each corresponding raised panel

2-5 – horizontal pieces (from top to bottom)

6-8 – vertical left (side of the door), middle vertical piece, and vertical right (side of the door)

Last but not least . . .

1 & 2 -frame around each raised panel and each corresponding raised panel

3-8 – horizontal pieces (from top to bottom)

9 & 10 – vertical left (side of the door) and vertical right (side of the door)

Wash out your paintbrush (and roller if you used one). You will know the brush is clean when the water runs clear.


Here is a nifty way to keep your paintbrush and roller “wet” in between coats. We wrap in plastic wrap (be sure to get out any air bubbles). It works like a charm.

Allow adequate time for the paint to completely dry and then follow the same steps to paint the second coat.

Remove Tape:

Carefully remove the painter’s tape. There is sort of an art to this so go slow. You don’t want to pull paint off of the door.

Scrap glass panes:

This is a little tricky.

Use a standard razor blade to score the edges of the glass. In other words, carefully score/cut the edge where the window grid/frame and glass meet. Paint forms a seal and if you just start scraping paint off the glass without scoring/cutting, it will sometimes remove the paint from the window grid/frame.

Now use the razor blade to scrape the paint off the glass. Take your time, so you don’t scrape paint from the actual window grid/frame and thus don’t have to repaint the grid.  I have learned this the hard way. ? However, if some of the paint comes off on the grid/frame, just touch it up with your brush (or even with a small artist’s brush).

Notice Daisy’s reflection in the door. She woke up from her nap to be my guard dog when I took this picture!

Reinstall Hardware:

After the door has completely dried (I like to wait 24-48 hours if possible for the paint to cure), install the hardware (knob and lock). Below is a picture of the door I recently painted on our storage building.

Note: The paint is Sherwin Williams Peppercorn (sort of a blackish/gray). It matches the front door of our house.

Celebrate your accomplishment and enjoy your freshly painted door!

Don’t forget to Pin this for future reference.

Pinterest pin how to paint a door

Let us know if you have any questions or what are you tips and tricks when painting a door.

Happy Painting!


  1. Holly on 04/23/2020 at 9:09 PM

    Thank you for the detail. Do you buy the paint so only paint one coat? Does it work?

    • Suzanne on 04/24/2020 at 8:34 PM

      Hey Holly,
      We buy the highest quality paint – – either Sherwin Williams or Behr which is supposed to be one coat. We have had a good experience with this paint only taking one coat if the surface is a similar shade. When we painted a light gray over beige in our basement, it only took one coat. However, when painting a light color over a dark color, we have had to do two coats.

      I still believe investing in high-quality paint is worth the money.

      I hope that helps.


  2. Melissa on 04/24/2020 at 7:25 AM

    Where in Maryland was your farm? I live in Delaware. The Eastern shore is a beautiful area.

    • Suzanne on 04/24/2020 at 8:36 PM

      We lived in Denton, Maryland (Caroline County). It really is a beautiful area. I moved away in 7th grade. I can remember doing back to school and Christmas shopping in Dover, Delaware.
      Thanks for reading our blog!

  3. Debra Haynes on 04/24/2020 at 12:54 PM

    Cute light fixture too!

    • Suzanne on 04/24/2020 at 8:37 PM

      Thanks! We purchased it at Home Depot.

  4. Erica on 04/24/2020 at 8:27 PM

    You guys are work hard and have much talent.

    • Suzanne on 04/24/2020 at 8:38 PM

      Thanks for your affirming words. We do work hard. Neal is the one with all the knowlege. I am the helper! I am thankful for his skill and knowledge.
      Thanks for reading our blog.

  5. Our Storage Shed Makeover on 06/02/2020 at 2:16 AM

    […] painted the door to match our house. We used Sherwin Williams Pepper Corn. Click HERE to learn how to properly paint a door. (You can see Daisy’s reflection in the door; she got […]

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