A guide to painting doors – how to refresh front doors, uPVC, composite and more

Painting doors is easy with our expert advice. This is how to get professional results on your front door, internal uPVC, wooden or composite door type.

Learn how to paint a door and it's a DIY skill you'll use for life
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Painting a door may seem daunting, whether you're copying the latest front door ideas, upgrading an internal uPVC or composite door. But, learn this key DIY skill and you'll be able to use it for life. 

When you know how to paint a door, you'll see that the technique is basically the same for each type. You just need the right paint for the job, as well as a little time and space but otherwise, it's not a complicated job and you certainly don’t need to pay a professional to do it for you...

There's no better way to inject color and vibrancy, not to mention curb appeal into your home than with this simple home improvement job. From prepping and priming the door for painting, to leaving the paint to dry and cure, you can guarantee a professional finish throughout your home with our guidance.

What kind of paint do you use on doors?

If you're painting a front door, as we do in the how-to video, you should choose an exterior paint like from Valspar (opens in new tab)’s Exterior Wood & Metal Trim range.

Generally speaking, all doors, see a lot of traffic, so you should choose a gloss or satin finish for durability as these are easier to clean. If your internal door is made from solid wood, pick up one of the best paints for wood.

Dominic Myland, CEO of Mylands (opens in new tab) says, 'It’s best to choose a wood and metal paint for doors and window frames. These are specially formulated to be particularly durable and can also be applied to walls for a consistent finish. If you’re not too confident with colour, we always recommend painting a smaller area first such as a single door or window frame in a bold colour and leaving the rest of the room off-white – it’s really easy to live with but is a fun way to introduce colour. You can increase your areas as your confidence grows.'

Painting uPVC doors: If you're painting composite materials like fibreglass doors or upgrading a uPVC door, you'll find lots of specialist paints on the market for the job. Some are available without the need from primer – although we'd always recommend using a primer when painting around the house – and others are water-based which will need priming always. If your uPVC door is external, look for UV and weather protection also to prolong its life.

Painting composite doors: Although composite doors won't be 100% plastic, you should still use the same method below and paint as you would for uPVC to protect their outer layer from flaking.

Green painted front door in blue grey hallway with house plant

(Image credit: Mylands)

Before painting a front door

If you are painting a front door, the process is exactly the same as for an interior door, but you have the added complication of the weather and security to contend with.

If you have a new door to paint, leave the old one in position until the new one is ready to hang. This may mean removing the old door temporarily while you size up and cut the new one.

If you are re-painting your existing front door, remove it from the hinges and remove any door furniture. Masking tape windows to protect them from paint. If you do not have anything to temporarily block the doorway, work in a place where you can keep an eye on the door for security.

Myland adds, 'Always use masking tape where possible before you start painting to protect door frames, ironmongery, windows, walls and skirting from smudges and blurred lines.' 

Finally, in an ideal situation, the paint needs a day to cure but this isn't always possible when the door needs removing. If this is the case, start first thing and invest in good quality primer and paint that will dry in good time.

blue pastel door with white windows and bricks

(Image credit: Darren Chung)

What you’ll need for painting a door:

1. Pick the right day

When painting a front door, try to work under cover if possible, but always choose a day with no forecast of rain, strong wind or any other adverse conditions that could affect your work.

Temperature is most relevant if you're using water-based paints, but try to pick a dry day again where the temperature isn't too hot but above 10°C/50F as this will help the paint dry properly, not too quickly, or not at all.

2. Take the door off its hinges

Before starting to paint your door, take it off its hinges and lay it flat on a paste table. Remove any handles, door knobs and hinges.

3. Clean and prep the door 

Much of knowing how to paint a door is in the prep and you want to make sure the surface is clean, dry and is free from dust and grease. Scrape off any loose paint, remove any mildew with a solution of one-part bleach and three-parts water, and sand thoroughly.

'As ever, preparation is key to a good finish. Start with a good sand of the window frame or door to even out the surface and help the paint to fix, followed by a clean with a damp cloth to make sure you’ve got rid of any dust.' Adds Myland.

Pouring paint into a small tray

4. Prime the door properly

When painting doors yourself, you should apply a coat of primer using a brush and small roller to help achieve a professional-looking finish.

Zoe Warren, interior expert at PriceYourJob.co.uk (opens in new tab)  says 'If you are painting an existing door that has paint blemishes, it is vital that you prime the door, as this will help the new paint adhere better and block stains.

Priming will also help you discover any flaws, which should be covered with spackling compound to create a smooth surface. You should then sand and prime the door before painting.'

5. Paint the door

When painting doors you want to begin by brushing inset or trim details by hand with a paintbrush so that you can lay an even base coat. Use the brush to feather out the edges of the paint so that there are no drips. Then, use a small foam roller to apply a smooth, consistent paint application across all of the flat surfaces, including the outside edges of the door.

'Paint one coat at a time, following the direction of the wood grain, making sure the first coat has time to dry before you start the next one.' Recommends Myland.

Painting doors using a roller

6. Leave the door out to dry

Allow to dry for two to four hours, lightly sand in-between coats to encourage good adhesion and add a second coat.

Myland adds 'Make sure you remove the masking tape before it’s completely dry to prevent any cracks or chips.'

Once one side is completely dry, turn it over and do the other side. 

Leave the door for a full day to allow the paint to cure. 

Painted door top

7. Reattach all parts

Once fully cured, you can reattach the handles, hinges and knobs and reattach the door to the frame. 

There's a new door on the block!

Laura is Brand Development Director for Real Homes, focusing on digital content. She has written about homes and interiors for the last 12 years and was Deputy Editor and Editor of Real Homes before taking on her current position. She's currently renovating a 1960s house in Worcestershire, doing as much as possible on a DIY basis.