How To Paint An Interior Door

Lorri Elder Dyner of Return to Home Interiors walks us through the simple secrets of painting the perfect interior door.

When my friend Alexa painted her upstairs doors black, I couldn’t believe how pretty they were—what a dramatic change!

I couldn’t wait to do the same in my own house, and I was happy to find out that painting an interior door is a relatively easy project that can be completed in a weekend, no problem.

Here are two doors that lead into our family room:

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Okay, this actually took me two days, but the total work time was only a few hours: I squeezed in painting during naptime and after the kids’ bedtime. And I had to pause between coats to let everything dry. I learned a few lessons from the process, and I’d love to share. Ready? Here’s part one of my step-by-step tutorial (keep an eye out for part two coming soon).

The Prep

1) Remove grime

Make sure your doors are free of grime and fingerprints. I just wiped mine down with a damp cloth, but I read that you should use something more serious if you have gunk on your doors. Let the doors dry for a minute after wiping.

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2) Remove the hardware

3) To sand or not to sand?

I didn’t sand my doors. But as an official tutorial giver, I guess I should say you probably should sand. Ugh. So annoying; let’s just paint already!

But, just in case you are more meticulous than I am, my opinion is that the best sandpaper for sanding a standard painted wood door is 151 grade. The sandpaper is fine and not coarse. Just purchase a few sheets at the hardware store and use them with your hand; don’t worry about an electric sander or a sanding block. You can lightly go over any old paint drips or imperfections to make everything uniform and smooth.

But seriously, if your door is in good shape and you’re not overly concerned about perfection, then don’t bother. After sanding you’ll want to do the damp cloth thing again to get rid of all the dusty stuff.

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4) Keep those doors on their hinges

Makes life so easy.

5) Put a drop cloth or an old beach towel under those doors.

I really am such a lazy DIYer that I didn’t even bother to do this at first. Big mistake. Paint drips, people!

The Brush

I wanted something that was relatively precise (angled, didn’t leave behind huge brush strokes), but I didn’t want to pay that much. I was very happy with this one. It’s just a standard brush from my local hardware store that cost a few dollars. I recommend looking for an angled brush that is a blend of polyester and nylon, and about two inches wide. If your door is perfectly flat, then you should probably go with a wide, flat brush or a roller (the angled brush is good for raised panels and detailing).

The Paint

1) A word on primer

Only bother with primer if the door you will be painting is a color other than white. Have a dark wood stained door? A bright yellow or red door? Okay, yes, get some primer and slap one or two coats on there. My door was white, so I felt really good about skipping this step. If you are going to prime your door, my favorite is Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 White Water-Based Primer. It’s great because it’s indoor/outdoor, and it’s made for any surface, so you can always use it again for some other project.

2) Now for the fun part: what color paint?

I chose Old Navy from Benjamin Moore.

3) But what kind of paint?

You’ll see my doors are very shiny. To achieve this look, I thought I would have to cover the doors with a clear coat of lacquer after painting, but the local paint store guy encouraged me to just go with Benjamin Moore’s ADVANCE line.

I’m so glad I listened to him. The paint is water-based, and it’s pretty forgiving, so it’s easy for a novice painter like myself to use. It’s also got great coverage, and it has this tremendous high-gloss finish and a hard lacquer shell when it dries. Perfecto! I recommend it.

What About Hardware?

I went with these wonderful knobs from Anthropologie—stone dipped in a gold paint. I love Anthropologie’s knobs—can’t recommend them highly enough for their character and style.

Watch this video for another fantastic idea for sprucing up a door with color:

Lorri Elder Dyner is an interior designer and blogger who believes in the power of “decorating for the rest of us.” Using clever, accessible, and affordable ideas, she brings us insider tips and tricks that make our living spaces feel pulled together. Lorri resides in Westchester with her husband and two small children. Visit her at

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Westchester Magazine editorial staff.

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