July 17, 2020  

How To Paint Doors (The Complete Guide)


Painting doors is a great way to update old honey oak doors, show your personality through a front door color, and improve the overall look of your home. This is a project that can make a huge difference in your home!

blue front door interior with dark modern hardware

A huge thanks to Clare Paint for sponsoring this project. All content and opinions are 100% my own! This post may contain affiliate links. See my disclosure policy for details.

Our home feels like it lost 30 pounds and got 20 years younger after my latest home improvement project – painting our interior doors! If you’re considering painting the doors in your home (you totally should), today I’m going to show you exactly how to do it.

I recently painted the 5 doors on the main floor of our house. Three of them were boring, dated honey oak doors. I also painted the interior sides of our front door and the door to our attached garage. It’s too humid to paint the exterior sides of my doors right now…but if you want to paint the exterior of your doors, I’ll make sure to include tips for that in this blog post as well!

I partnered with Clare Paint on this project and their curated paint colors really helped me choose colors that look AMAZING! Ready for some incredible before and after pictures? Those are up next along with paint color info and a detailed door painting tutorial.

Related Posts:

<<PIN THE IMAGE BELOW FOR LATER!>>

before and after photos of painted doors with text overlay

The Before & Afters Of My Painted Doors (including painted honey oak doors!!)

Let’s dive right into the before and afters, shall we? I dug up the original photos from when we bought our house in the fall of 2017. Crazy how much I’ve been able to do to it in less than 3 years!!

white interior front door and yellow wals
interior front door with blue paint, dark modern hardware, and black and white rug

Paint Colors & Sources:

empty entryway
stylish entryway with blue and gray accents

When I installed our new flooring last year, I pulled out all the old baseboards and door trim and replaced them. But they’ve been sitting there primed since then so it feels good to see them with a fresh coat of white trim paint plus new door colors!

two honey oak interior doors
gray interior doors with white trim and dark hardware

In addition to all the painting I did, I also switched out the handles and hinges for a modern black style. This is such a simple update but makes a huge impact!

honey oak door
painted interior door and child's trike
empty front living room
stylish decorated front room

I used Clare Paint for this entire project. I love how they’ve simplified paint shopping by curating tried-and-true colors and shipping the paint and supplies you need directly to your door. They take out all of the guesswork involved with choosing a great paint color and save you a trip (or several) to the store!

front door interior with box of new Clare paint
open can of blue paint with a used paintbrush

I used Clare’s subtle semi-gloss trim paint for both the doors and trim. It’s durable and easy to clean and just looks beautiful.

You can use this link to get $10 off your first $150+ paint order from Clare.

choosing door paint colors

What style or vibe are you going for?

I wanted to give my doors a modern update that would complement the rest of the décor in our home. I originally considered black doors like I painted in our last home (they’re such a classy look). But with a much more open floor plan in this house, I felt like black doors would be a bit too “in your face” and instead wanted them to play a supporting role.

I started paying a lot of attention to door colors on Instagram and scrolled through the feeds of many of my favorite interior designers to see what door colors they were using. This gave me an idea of what’s on trend and helped me see what I liked and didn’t like. I always recommend saving inspiration images to a collection on Instagram or a board on Pinterest so you can gather all of your ideas in one place.

I really gravitated toward light, soft door colors and decided a light gray, greige, or blue was what I was after. With that in mind, I started looking at paint colors.

Stick to a uniform color

In general, my recommendation is to stick with one door color throughout your home. Your doors should be uniform so you want to choose a color and style that will work with your whole home color palette. I only painted our main floor doors for now but fully intend to continue the same paint color and hardware upstairs eventually.

Now there are always instances when you can break the mold in design, and painting your front door a fun color like I did is definitely one of them. Don’t be afraid to paint a door or two an accent color, but don’t paint every single door a different color either.

Narrowing down paint colors for your door

I turned to Clare Paint for this project because not only do they have high quality paint, but they also have an amazing collection of curated paint colors. None of this sifting through thousands of light grays in the paint aisle–Clare’s founder, Nicole Gibbons, used her interior designer expertise to curate the perfect colors that look great everywhere.

I ordered one of Clare’s peel-and-stick Swatches in every color I thought might work for my doors and stuck them all on my door in a big grid. I left them there for a few days and looked at them in different lighting, slowly removing the colors as I eliminated them.

female sitting in entryway considering paint color options for front door

When it got down to the final few colors, I peeled them up and stuck them on different doors so I could see how they would look in different lighting and next to other décor and wall colors. This helped me narrow things down to two color choices: Summer Friday for my front door and Seize The Gray for the other doors.

front door interior painted blue

Isn’t that blue color dreamy? It’s the absolute perfect breezy blue, not too dark and not too baby blue. I’ll admit at first I was worried it was too much blue for this room (something I never thought I’d say!). I loved the color immediately but I think it just felt so different from the boring white doors we had before.

I’m so glad I went with this light Seize The Gray color for the rest of the doors! It fits right in with the rest of our home and feels so fresh and crisp against the white trim and walls. I’m really happy with this color choice.

door open to clean bathroom

How TO Paint Doors

How Long Does It take to paint a door? Here’s a timeline for ya!

Curious how much time is involved in painting interior doors? It will vary quite a bit depending on how you apply the paint, how many coats are needed, and if you will use a primer first. The time investment is also more if you plan to paint all of the door trim.

If you are only painting one door, it can be done in a day if you start early enough to account for all the dry time between coats.

Here’s my quick estimate for the time involved in each step of painting doors. The short end of the time ranges should be enough if you are only painting one door, no trim. If you are painting your door plus the door frame and trim around it, look at the high end of my time ranges below.

  1. Select your paint color – varies
  2. Gather your supplies – varies
  3. Clean door & trim – 5 min
  4. Fill holes & caulk trim – 10 min
  5. Prep for painting – 10 min
  6. Apply primer, if needed – 10-20 min + 1-2 hrs dry time
  7. Paint door & trim – 10-30 min + 2-4 hrs dry time
  8. Apply a second coat of paint – 10-20 min + 2-4 hrs dry time
  9. Clean up – 10 min
  10. Replace hardware – 5 min

Total Active Time To Paint 1 Door: approx 1 hr

Total Active Time To Paint 1 Door + Trim: approx 1 hr 30 min

Plus Dry Time: 4-10 hrs

Step 1 – Gather Your Supplies

Materials:

  • Paint (I used Clare Trim Paint)
  • Primer
  • Stir Stick
  • Disposable Paint Tray Liner
  • 9” Roller With 3/8” Nap
  • Painter’s Tape
  • Sanding Block
  • Wood Filler
  • Paintable Caulk
  • Rags (will throw away when done)
  • Degreaser/Deglosser (like Liquid Sandpaper)
  • New Door Handle (if desired)
  • New Door Hinges (if desired)

Tools & Materials:

  • 2″ Angled Paint Brush
  • Drop Cloth
  • Metal Paint Tray
  • Step Stool
  • Caulk Gun
  • Microfiber Cloths
open can of paint with brush pan ready to paint

Step 2 – Clean Doors & Trim

Approximate Time: 5 Minutes

Before painting, it’s important you clean your doors thoroughly. I recommend using a degreaser & deglosser product to ensure your door is free of grime, fingerprints, and dust.

I used Liquid Sandpaper which you apply by pouring a bit onto a rag and buffing it into the door in circles. It’s quick to apply and not only degreases, but also deglosses which helps remove some of that really glossy surface on many doors (like my honey oak doors). I used this on all the honey oak surfaces of my doors and door frames. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and safety recommendations.

If you’re also painting trim around the door, a dry microfiber cloth will quickly pick up dirt. Follow that up with a damp microfiber cloth and your trim should be good to go.

Step 3 – Fill Holes & Caulk Trim

Approximate Time: 10 Minutes

Use wood filler to fill in any nail holes, scratches, or damage in wood doors. Dab the wood filler onto the hole, using a little more than needed to fill the hole. Once it’s dry (check your product instructions for dry time), use a sanding block to sand it smooth. Once you paint over it, you’ll never know that damage was there!

If you are also painting the trim around your door, you’ll want to caulk any gaps between trim pieces and along the edge of the trim where it meets the wall. Be sure to use paintable caulk meant for trim so you can paint right over it.

Step 4 – Prep For Painting

Approximate Time: 10 Minutes

I find it easiest to remove the door knob prior to painting, though you can also use painter’s tape to protect any hardware you choose not to remove. Since I left the doors in place, I taped around the hinges rather than removing them.

This is also a good time to tape around the edges of any door trim you are painting. I taped the outside of my white trim to protect my walls.

Always firmly press down the edges of your painter’s tape to create a seal so paint won’t bleed through.

Also be sure to protect the floor around your door from paint drips with a drop cloth. Secure the drop cloth edges with painter’s tape.

open door and stepladder

Step 5 – Apply Primer (if needed)

Approximate Time: 10-20 Minutes | Dry Time: 1-2 Hours

Now that you’re all prepped, it’s time for primer! I recommend using primer on anything that is darker than your new paint color or has a higher gloss finish (like my honey oak doors). I did not prime my white front door or garage door, but I did prime all of the honey oak doors and trim.

Apply a light coat of primer with a brush and roller. The first coat on my honey oak trim looked pretty streaky and didn’t have great coverage, so I brushed on a second coat to be safe. I used a roller to prime the honey oak doors and that got enough coverage to only need one coat.

Follow the dry time specified by your paint manufacturer (Clare’s Primer is 1-2 hours).

paintbrush priming doorway trim

Step 6 – Paint Door & Trim

Approximate Time: 10-30 Minutes | Dry Time: 2-4 Hours

I painted the trim and the doors all at once, starting with the trim and then finishing with the doors. I found it easiest to start with the tedious trim so I didn’t brush up against a wet door while I worked. Rolling paint on the doors themselves goes pretty quickly so I did that after the trim was done.

Use a small angled brush to paint trim and hard-to-reach areas first, including around any parts of your door that the roller can’t reach. Follow that up with a paint roller on all the flat surfaces. I used a large roller on my flat doors and a smaller roller on my paneled front door and trim.

Follow the dry time specified by your paint manufacturer (Clare’s Trim Paint is 2-4 hours).

Step 7 – Apply A Second Coat of paint

Approximate Time: 10-20 Minutes| Dry Time: 2-4 Hours

Plan to paint two coats on everything. You’ll get better results if you paint two light coats instead of one heavy coats.

After your first coat is dry, follow the same order of using a paint brush on detailed areas first followed by a roller last.

Allow your second coat to fully dry per the manufacturer’s specifications (Clare’s Trim Paint is 2-4 hours).

happy woman holding an open can of paint

Step 8 – Clean Up

Approximate Time: 10 Minutes

Remove painter’s tape approximately one hour after painting your final coat, when paint is just dry to the touch. Gently pull it up at a 45-degree angle.

Give everything a once over and use a paint brush to touch up anything you need to.

Clean brushes and roller covers using warm water and soap. Once the water runs clear, let dry fully.

Pour leftover paint back into the can, tightly close the lid with a rubber mallet, and store in a cool, dry place (I keep paint in our basement).

Remove drop cloths and clean up any paint splatters that may have landed on the floor. Most splatters will pull up easily once dry. I had a few spots where my toddler lightly brushed paint into the grooves of our textured laminate flooring, and it worked well to lay a warm, damp towel over the floor for a few minutes and then wipe the paint up with the towel.

Step 9 – Replace Hardware

Approximate Time: 5 Minutes

Install all door handles and hardware again and you are all set! I chose to replace our original silver handles with modern black handles. What do you think of these beauties?

How To Paint Doors

How To Paint Doors

Active Time For Door Only: : 1 hour
Active Time For Door + Trim: : 1 hour 30 minutes
Dry Time (will vary): 3 hours
Total Time: 5 hours 30 minutes
Difficulty: Beginner
Estimated Cost: $20-$50

Painting doors is a great way to update old honey oak doors, show your personality with a fun front door color, and update your doors to match the style of your home. Painting doors is more affordable than replacing them and is something even a beginner can do!

Materials

Tools

  • 2" Angled Paint Brush
  • Paint Roller Frame
  • Drop Cloth
  • Metal Paint Tray
  • Step Stool
  • Caulk Gun
  • Microfiber Cloths

Instructions

  1. Gather your supplies.
  2. Clean door and trim with a degreaser/deglosser product like Liquid Sandpaper.
  3. Use wood filler to fill in any nail holes, scratches, or imperfections in the door. Caulk as needed along the door frame and trim.
  4. Prep for painting by placing a drop cloth on the floor, removing door hardware, and adding painter's tape where needed.
  5. Apply primer, if needed. Use a small angled paintbrush for hard-to-reach areas and detailed door panels/trim. Follow that with a paint roller to get smooth, even paint coverage. Allow to fully dry.
  6. Paint door and trim. Use a small angled paintbrush and paint roller, following the same process at step 6. Allow to fully dry.
  7. Apply a 2nd coat of paint and allow to fully dry.
  8. Clean up your painting supplies, do any necessary paint touch-ups, and clean up any paint spills.
  9. Replace any door hardware you removed.

Notes

Tips:

  • Cover your paint trays and rollers with plastic wrap and store in the fridge between coats. This keeps the paint from drying out.
  • Wash paintbrushes with warm, soapy water after you're done painting for the day. Lay flat to dry so the bristles don't lose their shape.
  • Keep paper towels or a rag handy for cleaning up the inevitable paint splatter.

Paint Sprayers: If you prefer to remove the doors and use a paint sprayer, you can follow these same steps. Paint sprayers will cut down on the active time spent painting but will increase your prep time (to set up a painting area) and will likely require more coats of paint (sprayers apply thinner coats than you get with a roller).

Painting Doors Frequently asked questions

Can I paint wood & honey oak doors?

Yes, you can paint wood doors. For best results, use Liquid Sandpaper to degloss the surface and primer prior to painting. See detailed instructions here.

Does the wood grain show through the paint?

Yes, the wood grain will likely show through the paint. There are hacks for covering or filling in the grain, but it would be better to invest in a new door rather than try to completely hide the grain.

What kind of paint is best for painting doors?

Choose high-quality, durable paint for your doors. A semi-gloss sheen is durable and easy to clean without being too glossy. Always use exterior paint for exterior doors.

Can I paint exterior doors?

Yes. Use exterior paint and check the forecast (you don’t want to paint when it’s humid or too hot or cold). Follow the detailed steps described here.

Should I use a paint sprayer or roller for doors?

Doors can be painted using either method. Use a roller & brush if painting 1-2 doors and a paint sprayer for 3+ doors. A paint sprayer requires more prep work and more coats of paint. A roller & brush require more active painting time but less prep work and coats.

Should I prime my door before painting?

Use primer if your door is darker than your new paint color or if it has a glossy surface. This will give you the best results, help your paint go further, and ensure no undertones peek through your final paint job.

Should I sand my door before painting?

If your door has wood splinters or peeling paint, sand smooth with a sander. If your door is in good condition, save time by using Liquid Sandpaper instead of a power sander.

Should I paint my door or trim first?

Start by painting trim and work from top to bottom. Paint the door afterward.

Should I remove the door handle before painting?

For best results, remove your door handle and hardware. Use painter’s tape to protect any hardware you choose not to remove.

How long does it take to paint a door?

Expect one door to take you about an hour of active time between prep, painting, and clean-up. By the time you factor in dry time in between coats, this is essentially a day-long project. Check out this detailed timeline for painting doors.

I’ll leave you with one more before and after. I cannot believe this view!!

interior of main floor of house
interior of a modern home
entryway with modern decor, letterboard, and blue front door

Phew, that was a lot of info about painting doors! This is an update a lot of people don’t consider, but it’s an awesome way to improve your home using paint.

Be sure to check out Clare Paint when it’s time to order paint and supplies for your next project. You can use this link to get $10 off your first $150+ paint order from Clare. They also have an awesome painting guide that goes into great detail on every step involved in painting that’s a great resource for beginners.

Looking for more painting tips? Take a look at these blog posts:

Have a fantastic day!

You May Also Like...

12 ways to automate your to-do list

(that won't cost a dime)

Discover practical, easy-to-implement ideas for automating some of the recurring tasks on your to-do list. Subscribe to have the free guide sent straight to your inbox.


{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}
Skip to Instructions

FREE CHEAT SHEET: 12 WAYS TO AUTOMATE YOUR TO-DO LIST