How to Paint Doors Like a Professional (without taking them off the hinges)


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April 30, 2019
Zoe Hunt

Want to knock out some interior house projects? Painted interior doors are a great one to try! But be warned: once you paint one, you’re going to want to paint them all. You’ll be amazed at the difference some paint can make. It’ll take your home from feeling blah to feeling refreshed and custom in a little over an hour. 

Alright, let’s start DIYing!

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What You’ll Need

Note: your quantity for each item will vary based on the size of your room. The amount we used is in parenthesis after the item.

  • Paint – (We used Sherwin Williams Emerald in Caviar with a Satin Finish – see our FAQ for more details about paint)
  • 120 grit sandpaper or sanding block

How to paint your doors 

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black painted door with window film in farmhouse style dining room

Step 1: prep

Put down a drop cloth. You’ll want to tape it to your floor or baseboards to make sure it doesn’t move when you open and close the door.

Remove hardware with a screwdriver. If you’re having trouble getting the screw out with the screwdriver at the end (the doorknob gets in the way), use your fingers to twist out the screw.

Tape any hardware you don’t remove. We kept our doors hanging, so I quickly taped the front side of the door hinges. Don’t worry about taping the part of the door hinge that is on the side edge of the door.

Prep your doors by lightly sanding using 120-grit. You’ll want to sand whether your doors are just primed or if they’ve been painted previously. Sanding will activate the surface to be ready to paint. Once you spend a few minutes sanding, wipe down your doors to remove any dust or dirt. We sprayed ours with a mixture of Dawn soap and water. 

Step 2: paint

  • First, start by painting the top and two edges of the door. For the edge that has the hinge hardware, start by painting around the hardware with a paintbrush. If you get paint on the hinge, quickly wipe the paint towards the edge of the hinge using your finger or a paper towel. If you catch it before the paint dries, it will come off very easily. Once you paint around the hinge, grab your roller and paint the areas between the hinges.
  • Next, paint the remainder of the door in the order shown in the picture below. This technique allows you to efficiently paint your door and minimize awkward streaks. In the second picture, you can see that the order also allows you to paint somewhat sloppy. This order allows you to cover up the places that you go outside of the lines so to speak.
how to paint a door step by step

Check for paint globs and drips along the way. The most common areas for paint drips are along the corners of the door, so pay extra attention when painting the top and edges of the door.

Add 1-3 more coats to your door. How many coats of paint you need will depend on what type of paint you use. We generally like to paint one additional coat than what it looks like we need for adding durability and to prevent any paint streaks from showing. 

Side note: always invest in the nicer single coat paint. It will save you so much time and it goes significantly farther. Every time we purchase cheap paint, we end up having to go back for more, making it the same price (or more) as it would have been to just buy the nice stuff.

Overall, painting your doors is pretty easy. The key is to be hyper-aware of drips and uneven spots so that you can fix them before they dry. If you catch them early, your doors will have a smooth finish that will make you proud. 

black painted door in black and white bathroom with painted tile

tips for an even better finish

To install your beadboard, place the paneling on top of your baseboards. It should line up

  • Follow the instructions on your paint can regarding dry times. You can see how long we wait between coats in our FAQ section below. 
  • Sand with 220-grit sandpaper between each coat. 
  • Use an enamel-based paint. Sherwin Williams has an enamel paint in the Emerald line that we’ve heard great things about. We personally don’t use enamel-based because we like the option to use the same paint on walls if we want to. 
  • You could also remove the door entirely and use a paint sprayer to get a nice, even coat. 

So now that you know how to paint your doors like a professional, what color are you going to paint your doors? Not every door in your house has to be the same color! We have a light blue pantry, a bright blue front door, and then countless black interior doors.

Free download wood sizing cheatsheet

Frequently asked questions about painting doors 

Sherwin Williams Moody Blue front door

What type of paint do you use?

We use Sherwin Williams Emerald paint in satin for our interior doors. We used HGTV Showcase paint for a few of our doors and here’s our verdict. The Showcase paint is a lot thicker, so you only need 2 coats of paint (vs. 3 for Emerald), but it doesn’t have as smooth of a finish as the Emerald line. The Emerald line does a better job of self-leveling and it ends of having a very soft, velvety finish. 

We like to use a satin finish because it’s durable and easy to clean, but isn’t too shiny. Rather than looking shiny, it has a soft glow. 

Choosing the right paint sheen for doors is important because it can drastically change the look of your doors, even if the color stays the same. Be sure to check out this post for details on the differences between paint sheens.

I want to paint my front door? What type of paint should I use outdoors?

We’d recommend Sherwin Williams Resilience paint in a gloss finish. A higher gloss finish is better for exterior doors so that dust and pollen from outside is less likely to stick to your door. 

Do I need to seal my painted doors?

Nope! The paint is good enough. We’d recommend painting an additional coat beyond what you think you need for added durability, but no need to seal them. 

How much paint do I need?

We painted 16 doors using about 2 gallons of paint. 

How long do you wait between coats?

Technically, you should follow the instructions on your paint can, but here’s what we do. We like to work on 2-3 doors at a time. We paint the front and back of door 1, then the front and back of door 2, then we move back to the first door.

The more time you wait, the better, but the key is if your paint is peeling off as you go to paint the second coat, it needs to dry for longer. We’ve even painted a single door at a time and just alternate between the front and back.

Do black doors show a lot of handprints and dust?

The black doors show more dust than white doors, but I still only wipe them every 3-6 months. We haven’t noticed any issues with handprints, but if you are worried about it, go with a higher sheen (satin or higher) so that you can easily wipe them down. 

If you do have a spot that needs to clean up, you can use soap and water to wipe down your doors.

When do you paint the surrounding trim?

It’s really up to your personal preference. Personally, I’m not planning on painting the trim around the doors. I think a space flows better when the trim around the doors is the same color as the baseboards and I’m not going to open that can of worms and have to paint all of the trim in our house. 

Plus, I love the contrast of the white trim against the black door. 

Do you ever only paint one side of the door and leave the other side white?

Yes! We’ve done this once or twice and we just don’t paint the sides. You can usually get a pretty clean line if you roll your roller over the edge of the door with light pressure. No tape required!

For more FAQs about painted doors, check out our Instagram stories.

How to paint a door
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  1. Tanya says:


    Great post,

    I’m about to paint senintwroor doors and was wondering do you use a roller or brush or both. And if both which do you use for what parts of the door for the best finish.

    I know you mention both bit not quite clear on which is used for what?


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