How to Paint an Interior Door

Painting an interior door can completely transform the look and feel of a room. With some preparation and the right techniques, you can easily paint an interior door yourself. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know to paint an interior door like a pro.


Painting an interior door allows you to update the color and style without the cost of buying a new door. It can also help freshen up a room by coordinating with your wall color or decor. Painting a door is an affordable weekend project that makes a big visual impact.

Before starting, assess the current condition of your door. Is the existing paint chipped or peeling? Does it have a glossy finish that requires sanding for the new paint to adhere properly? Understanding the door’s current state and what kind of preparation is needed will help ensure your new paint job lasts.

Proper preparation and using the right tools and materials goes a long way toward a successful paint job. By following some simple steps, you can achieve a smooth, professional-looking finish. From cleaning to priming to choosing the right paint and technique, this guide breaks down everything you need to know. Let’s get started!

Steps to Paint an Interior Door

Follow these key steps for a smooth painting process and professional results:

Gather Your Supplies

You’ll need the following supplies:

  • Paint: Interior latex paint is best for doors. Choose satin, eggshell, or semi-gloss sheen.
  • Primer: Use water-based primer for interior latex paint.
  • Sandpaper: 180 and 220 grit.
  • Paint roller: 4-inch mini roller with a 1/4 or 3/8 nap.
  • Paintbrush: Angled sash brush, 2-3 inches wide.
  • Paint tray: Plastic tray with reservoir.
  • Rags: Lint-free cloths for wiping away dust.
  • Painters tape: For covering door hardware and trim.
  • Drop cloth: To protect floors.
  • Safety equipment: Gloves, eye protection, ventilator mask.
  • ** cleaning supplies:** Mild soap and water.

Gather all supplies before starting to paint so you have what you need on hand.

Prepare the Door Surface

Proper prep ensures that the new paint adheres well:

  • Remove the door knobs and any hardware. Fill the screw holes with wood filler; let dry completely.
  • Wipe the door with a lint-free rag and mild soap and water to remove any dirt and grease.
  • Lightly sand the entire door with 180 grit sandpaper to scuff the surface. This helps the paint adhere.
  • Use 220 grit sandpaper on any areas with glossy paint or varnish. Matte the surface.
  • Wipe clean with a tack cloth. Let dry completely before priming and painting.

Prepping provides the smoothed, clean surface that paint needs to properly adhere.

Apply the Primer

Priming ensures better paint coverage and protection:

  • Use a high-quality water-based primer made for interior latex paint.
  • Pour primer into a paint tray. Dip a 2-3 inch wide angled sash brush into the reservoir to load it up with primer.
  • Apply a thin, even coat of primer to the entire door, including the edges. Work in the direction of the wood grain.
  • Let the primer dry completely, at least 1-2 hours. Lightly sand any drips or rough spots with 220 grit paper.
  • Apply a second coat of primer, if needed, for optimal coverage on stained or dark doors.

The right primer provides a surface the paint can grab onto.

Paint the Door

You’re ready to apply the paint using proper technique:

  • Allow primer to dry completely before painting, at least 24 hours. Lightly sand if needed.
  • Use a high-quality interior latex paint in your desired sheen: satin, eggshell, or semi-gloss.
  • Shake the paint container vigorously to mix it. Pour some paint into a tray.
  • Load the angled sash brush with paint and carefully paint the panel frames and edges of the door.
  • Next, use a 4-inch mini paint roller to apply the paint to the center door panels. Roll vertically first, then horizontally.
  • Work methodically and maintain a wet edge to prevent lap marks and uneven coverage.
  • Apply two thin, even coats of paint for best coverage and an even sheen. Lightly sand and wipe clean between coats.
  • Allow the paint to dry completely between coats, at least 4-6 hours.

Applying two smooth, thin coats creates a professional painted finish.

Finish Door Hardware and Trim

Complete the paint job with these finishing touches:

  • Once the paint has fully cured in 1-2 days, flip the door over and paint the top and bottom edges for a finished look.
  • Reinstall the door knobs and hardware once the paint is fully dry. Fill holes with latex caulk to smooth gaps if needed.
  • Carefully remove painters tape from door trim and hardware. Touch up paint if needed.
  • Consider adding a coat of clear polyurethane for extra durability on high-traffic doors.
  • Allow 1-2 weeks for the paint to fully cure before cleaning or closing the door.

These final steps polish off your freshly painted door.

Tips for the Best Results Painting Interior Doors

Follow these tips from the pros for a smooth, lasting paint job:

Prep the Space

  • Clear the room and cover or remove furniture, flooring, and other surfaces.
  • drape drop cloths and secure with painters tape. Completely cover floors and windows.
  • Cover door knobs, hinges, and hardware with painters tape. Tape off baseboards and trim.

Proper prep prevents paint drips and splatters in the surrounding space.

Choose the Right Paint

  • For doors, select an interior latex paint with satin, eggshell, or semi-gloss sheen. Avoid flat paints.
  • Opt for paint and primer in one to skip priming for quick, simple jobs.
  • Buy quality paint from reputable brands. Cheap paint often requires more coats.
  • Make sure you have enough paint. One gallon should cover one standard sized door with 2-3 coats.

The right paint formulation ensures long-lasting, professional results.

Maintain Proper Ventilation

  • Paint when indoor temperatures are between 50-90°F. Avoid high humidity.
  • Open windows and use fans to circulate fresh air and ventilate the space.

Proper ventilation keeps fumes from overwhelming you and drying out paint.

Work Methodically

  • Allow proper drying time between coats. Rushing can cause drips, uneven coverage, and other errors.
  • Work in a smooth, steady motion and maintain a wet edge as you paint.
  • Work top to bottom and do overlapping strokes to prevent lap marks.

Careful technique prevents obvious brush strokes and errors.

Let Paint Fully Cure

  • Allow at least 1-2 weeks for paint to fully cure before cleaning or closing painted doors.
  • Don’t scrub or wipe painted surfaces until they have fully cured.
  • Use painter’s tape instead of masking tape to protect freshly painted surfaces.
  • Wait until fully cured to reinstall door knobs so the paint doesn’t scratch or stick.

Patience prevents damage and marring of fresh paint.

Painting Different Types of Interior Doors

You’ll need to adjust your process when painting specialty interior doors:

Painting Interior Wood Doors

For standard wood doors:

  • Lightly sand to scuff the surface and remove any existing coating or finish.
  • Use wood filler to patch small holes; allow to dry completely.
  • Prime with 1-2 coats to seal the wood surface.
  • Paint with 2-3 thin coats for full, even coverage.

Painting Fiberglass Doors

With fiberglass doors:

  • Clean well to remove any dirt and oils that can prevent adhesion.
  • Scuff sand gently; fiberglass is delicate. Wipe clean.
  • Apply bonding primer to help the paint grip.
  • Paint with thin coats, allowing proper dry time between coats.

Painting Metal Doors

For metal interior doors:

  • Remove any rust with sandpaper or steel wool. Wipe clean.
  • Apply 1-2 coats of metal primer to prevent future rust and deterioration.
  • Paint with thin coats. Allow full drying time between coats.
  • Use heat-resistant paint formulated for metal on fire-rated doors.

The right prep and paint helps any door material look its best.

Paint Problem-Solving Tips

Follow these troubleshooting tips if you encounter issues:

Problem: Brush Strokes Showing

Solution: Allow paint to dry fully between coats. Use a high-quality mini roller instead of a brush. Roll in different directions to fill and smooth out brush marks.

Problem: Paint Not Adhering

Solution: Ensure surface is clean before priming and painting. Scuff sand glossy finishes. Apply bonding primer to slick surfaces like metal. Allow proper dry times between coats.

Problem: Drips and Splatters

Solution: Apply paint in thin coats using smooth strokes. Use drop cloths and tape off surfaces. Check that paint isn’t too thin. Maintain wet edge and don’t overload roller.

Problem: Uneven Sheen

Solution: Allow sufficient dry time between coats. Apply two final thin, even coats. Ensure enough ventilation for proper drying. Use same brand paint for all coats.


Whether you want to update the color or just need a fresh look, painting an interior door is an easy, affordable way to make a big impact. With the right preparation, high-quality materials, and proper painting technique, you can achieve professional results. Carefully follow the steps for cleaning, prepping, priming, painting, and finishing. Ask questions at your local paint store if you need advice. With some time and effort, you can refresh the look of any room with a smooth, new paint job on your interior doors.

FAQs About Painting Interior Doors

Painting interior doors is an easy DIY project. But you may have some questions before you get started. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

Should interior doors be removed before painting?

  • It’s not necessary to remove interior doors for painting. Leaving doors hung in place is often easier. Just tape off hinges and hardware to protect them from paint.

What type of paint should be used on interior doors?

  • Interior latex paints are best for painting interior doors. Avoid using oil-based paints. Choose a satin, eggshell, or semi-gloss sheen for easy cleaning.

Do you have to primer before painting interior doors?

  • Priming first is highly recommended. Priming creates a smooth, sealed surface that helps paint adhere better. Use water-based primer made for interior latex paint.

How long does it take for painted interior doors to dry?

  • Allow at least 24 hours of dry time between coats. Let paint cure for 1-2 weeks before cleaning or closing doors to prevent sticking and damage.

What is the best way to apply interior door paint?

  • Use an angled sash brush for the door panels. Then smooth and even out paint with a 4-inch mini roller. Roll in different directions to fill brush marks.

How do you paint interior doors without brush marks?

  • Use a mini paint roller instead of a brush. Dip roller in paint and roll in different directions to fill marks. Maintain a wet edge and use smooth strokes. Let paint dry fully between coats.

Can you paint over stained interior doors?

  • Yes, you can paint previously stained or varnished interior doors. Lightly sand, then apply 1-2 coats of primer before painting to block stains and seal the wood.

How do you soften painted interior doors that are sticky?

  • If freshly painted interior doors become sticky, the paint hasn’t fully cured. Allow several weeks for paint to cure before closing sticky doors.

Can you paint interior door hinges?

  • Yes, you can paint door hinges to match the door color. Use spray paint formulated for metal surfaces. Tape off areas around each hinge. Apply thin coats.

How do you fix paint drips on interior doors?

  • For minor drips, wait until paint dries fully then lightly sand the drip smooth. Touch up with paint if needed. For larger drips, strip paint and reapply smoothly.

Careful prep work, proper materials, and good painting technique will allow you to paint interior doors with beautiful, professional-looking results. Follow the tips in this guide to refresh the look of any room.