How To Paint An Interior Door - Home Decorating & Painting Advice

How To Paint An Interior Door

DIY Blogger Diane Henkler of tells Glidden® how to tackle your interior doors to finish the look of your entryway.

Q: What is the best way to paint an interior door?

A: Freshly-painted doors and trim can make a huge difference in bringing your home’s color scheme together. I know this for a fact since I have been living with two different colors of trim and doors in my foyer. Over a year ago, I removed the carpet from my foyer staircase, stained the steps in a wood tone and painted the risers white. This was a huge improvement to the room, but it also added to my painting to-do list.

The doors and baseboard in the room were painted Antique White and needed a coat or two of white paint to match the steps. It took me some time to tackle the task, but I finally got to scratch it off my to-do list this past weekend.

I decided to paint all the doors in one day. Prepping takes the most time, the actual painting goes quickly.

Door Painting Tips

Before painting a door, here are a few tips to help the task go smoothly:
  1. The easiest way to paint a door is while it is in its frame on its hinges. If you remove the door from the frame, the frame may shift and the door may not fit or function properly when replaced.
  2. Another reason to leave it on its hinges is that you can paint both sides at the same time. If you laid it down to paint, you’d have to wait for one side to dry before you could paint the other side.

Door Prep

  1. The first thing to do is to remove the knobs, plates and lock mechanism, and then place them in marked bags so you know where each one goes when it comes time to put them back on.
  2. If you don’t want to remove the hardware, use painter’s tape to mask off each one.
  3. Another way to mask off the hardware is to cover it with two coats of rubber cement. It will peel off easily when you are finished painting.
  4. If your doors are not in good condition, fill in any holes with putty. Then sand and clean them before you start. Use a good primer before you paint, to cover up the fixed areas.
  5. If your door is dirty, use a scrub sponge saturated with TSP (trisodium phosphate)  to clean it. The TSP will dissolve the grease and grime. The roughness from the scrub sponge also acts like wet sanding and will give the new paint something to adhere to.
  6. Even if your door is not too dirty, give it a cleaning with soap and water, and then rinse with clean water to remove any soap residue.
  7. If you are going to be painting over an oil-based paint with latex, you must first sand* it lightly and prime it with a good gripping primer. If you do not prime, the paint will rub right off when it is dry. If you are not sure what the old paint finish is, sand and prime to be on the safe side.

Painting the Door

First Coat:

Generally, you start with the frame/casing, working up from the inside bottom, across the top, and then down the other side. If you are painting the walls in the room as well, paint the main door last as it is an entrance and exit point from the room. This way the newly-painted finish will be allowed to dry and not be disturbed.

Note: Don’t paint the top or bottom of a door (the narrow parts that aren’t visible when the door is closed). Leave them unpainted so the door can expand and contract with changes in humidity.

Tips for plain doors:
  1. If you are going to paint a plain, flat door, use a foam roller to roll on the paint and use an angled brush to paint the sides.
  2. You want to make sure you leave no roller lap marks. To remove any lap marks, roll a lightly-loaded roller over the wet coat of paint to smooth.
Tips for a paneled door:

Sections 1–6: Use a 1 to 2-inch wide angled brush to paint the recessed areas on the panels. Roll the paint on the raised areas.
Sections 5–7: Use a foam roller to roll the paint down the center of the door.
Sections 8–10: Roll the paint across the door.
Sections 11 & 12: Roll the paint down the sides of the door.
Section 13: Roll or use the angled brush to paint the outer edges of the door.

Second Coat:

After the first coat is dry, sand areas, if needed, and then apply the second coat.

As soon as the second coat is on, remove any painter’s tape used to mask the knob and locks.




  1. ​When fully dry, replace the hardware.
  2. Touch up as needed.
My “Before”

It is hard to tell in this photo, but the door and sidelights are Antique White but the baseboards are a much lighter white. If you look at the bottom right where the doorframe meets the baseboard you can see where the two colors meet. There are two other doors in the room in the same color.

My “After”

Now all the doors and trim match the white risers and balusters on the staircase in my foyer. It looks much better, don’t you think?

As always, safety first!  Please refer to the Product Label, Technical Data Sheet (TDS) or Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for safety and detailed application instructions.

*WARNING! If you scrape, sand, or remove old paint, you may release lead dust. LEAD IS TOXIC. EXPOSURE TO LEAD DUST CAN CAUSE SERIOUS ILLNESS, SUCH AS BRAIN DAMAGE, ESPECIALLY IN CHILDREN. PREGNANT WOMEN SHOULD ALSO AVOID EXPOSURE. Wear a NIOSH-approved respirator to control lead exposure. Clean up carefully with a HEPA vacuum and a wet mop. Before you start, find out how to protect yourself and your family by contacting the National Lead Information Hotline at 1-800-424-LEAD or log on to
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