How to Paint an Exterior Door as in, Shut the Front Door!

Probably the least expensive yet most impactful ways you can update the look of your exterior front entry is to paint the front door.

DIY Paint Front Door - Turquoise shadeView in gallery

Such a huge chunk of color, front-and-center, is certainly one of the most visual aspects of your front entry space. That’s why picking the perfect front door color and painting it correctly is vital if you want to give off the best possible first impression. It’s a simple and straightforward process. (Just be sure that you’re prepared to leave your door open the entire day.)

DIY Paint Front Door - a new paintView in gallery

DIY Paint Front Door-before painting processView in gallery

How to paint the front door: Step by Step Guide

Step 1: Choosing the colors

How to choose the color for front doorView in gallery

Look at the color(s) on your house. You’ll want to choose something that goes with the rest of the house, first and foremost. This example shows a house with a brown-tan-orangey rock face.

These are not among the homeowner’s favorite hues, but they had to be taken into consideration before selecting a door color. Because orange and blue are complementary colors, and the previous door was quite dark, it was determined that a lighter/softer shade of warm blue would be nice.

Many paint chips were collected that hovered around this idea, then they were taped to the door and analyzed. (The color selected is called “Watery” by Home Decorators Collection, a lovely bluey-greeny-grey.)

DIY Paint Front Door-sandpaper processView in gallery

Step 2: Sandpaper process

Take a bit of 220-grit sandpaper and start sanding your door face. Start by gently sanding the grooves, if your door has any. Tip: You want to sand away major imperfections, but you don’t need to spend forever sanding.

Flat surface sand paper front doorView in gallery

Then move on to the flat surfaces. Looks like the color before ebony was a shade of cobalt blue.

Light sanding processView in gallery

When performing a quick, light sanding, it’s helpful to keep in mind that you’re not necessarily out to achieve a uniform color in the sanding. Some sections are bound to need a bit more sanding; others, significantly less. If you find yourself looking at an area that seems to need more sanding, go by feel instead of by look – stop sanding every few seconds and run your fingers over the area. If it feels smooth, no matter what it looks like, you can move on.

Wipe down the doorView in gallery

Step 3: Wipe cleaning

Wipe down the door with a cleaning cloth. Or a baby wipe.

When your wipe-down has dried completelyView in gallery

Step 4: Taping proces

When your wipe-down has dried completely, it’s time to tape off everything you don’t want painted. Note: It’s a good idea to simply remove all hardware before painting. That way, you can get an even sanding done, and you don’t run the risk of paint dripping on your doorknob or keyhole.

Remove or put tape on door knobView in gallery

This example avoids removing the door’s knob and lock because those pieces had to be rather trickily installed by a locksmith due to some weird issues on our old door, so in place they will remain, covered securely with tape.

Tape the other side of the doorView in gallery

Also, because you will be painting the inside lip of your door (the face that touches the doorjamb), it’s a good idea to run a piece of painter’s tape down the edge.

Grab your exterior paintView in gallery

Step 5: Choosing the primer

Grab your exterior paint. I recommend (along with many painting pros) a combination paint + primer to save yourself a step while achieving a uniform paint coat. Otherwise, use two coats of primer and then exterior paint on top of that.

Double check the color you choose for door paintView in gallery

Admire your chosen color. Oh, yes. I think you’re gonna like it here, Watery.

method to painting a doorView in gallery

There’s a method to painting a door that makes it look great at the end, and I’m going to share it with you now. Begin by painting the angled perimeter of a top panel (one of the six rectangular panels on this door) with a brush. This first coat should be a light one; don’t worry if some of the old paint color shows through in parts. You’ll get it covered soon enough with the second/third coats.

Paint entire door panelView in gallery

Step 6: Add the color

Paint the entire panel, then move on to the neighboring panel, still with a brush. Stop there for a minute. Make sure, as you’re painting these, that the edges of any new paint brush strokes are smoothed out immediately. If you leave them, even for 30 seconds, they can start to set up a bit, which makes for a very un-smooth end result. Be constantly watching for drips and drops and paint running, and swipe them away immediately.

use foam roller on flat surface around sectionsView in gallery

Next, for the first coat, you can take a high density foam roller and paint the flat parts around the two panels you’ve just detailed. Again, watch the edges of your new paint swipes; if there is even a small bit of excess paint that is left to sit there, it will start to set up and make an ugly bump or line when you paint over it later.

Paint inside door panelView in gallery

Don’t forget about the inside of the panels, if applicable. Continue this order – brush grooves, check paint edges, roll perimeter, check for paint drips, roll interior, watch out for weird paint globs – for every panel on your door.

Paint inside lip of doorView in gallery

Don’t forget about the doorjamb lip(s) – paint the knob one for sure, and the hinge one if you want.

Let the paint dry around 4 hoursView in gallery

Let everything dry (typically for about four hours, if you did as you were supposed to and kept the first coat of paint a light one).

Again use the sandpaperView in gallery

Step 7: Sand the new fresh paint

Grab your 220-grit sandpaper, and do a very light sanding all across the door. You’re not trying to sand through this paint coat, you simply are sanding away any slight paint bumps if they came up because you forgot once or twice to smooth out the edges of your new paint swipes. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. Just sand ‘em down.

Brush along an impregnatorView in gallery

Step 8: The second coat of paint

For the second coat (and third, if you want…this tutorial did three coats), continue in the same method of painting the angles around each panel. Paint as though you’re following a wood grain, even if there isn’t one on your door, or if it’s buried under 28 other coats of paint.

The only exception to this is the horizontal lines created by the top and bottom angled edges of each panel; paint those sideways. (Or, really, however you prefer.) Because I like the quaint look and feel of a brush-painted door, I used only the brush for the second and third coats; no foam roller for me here. That’s a preference call, though. It’s certainly faster with the foam roller.

Remove any tape from door carefullyView in gallery

Step 9: Removing the protective tape

Carefully remove any tape after your last coat, whether that’s the second or third, while it’s still wet.

Closer picture with painted doorView in gallery

Let it dry.

Admire your new painted doorView in gallery

Stand back, and close your door so you can see it with the rest of the house. Are you pleased?

Beautiful front door designView in gallery

Was the color choice a good one for your space?

Modern painted front doorView in gallery

The color always looks a bit different when actually painted on. We love this one, though, because it adds a cool, contemporary element to the surrounding (dated) rock face.

Beautiful front door paintedView in gallery


You just finished the single most effective thing you can do to pack a powerful punch with your front door/exterior entry. We hope you love it.