The internal doors in your home take quite a battering and can become tired-looking over the years, at which point it’s worth giving them a refresh with a lick of paint. But doing so can be daunting, especially if you’re a novice when it comes to DIY, says artist and signwriter Tony Slade.


The basic principle when glossing is to apply an even coat using a methodical approach. There’s an old saying... “If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well” and preparation is a fundamental principal with any decorating task.

Which paint is best for doors, solvent or water-based?

Many household paints are now water-based as it’s better for both the environment and for our health and safety, but solvent-based paints still remain more robust and will stand up better in heavy use areas such as doors and door frames. Whichever type of paint you use, good preparation is very important in doing a good job that will last.

Tip: As the saying goes... “Oil and water don’t mix” so for your painting project use the same paint system for both undercoating and glossing.

What colour paint shall I choose for my front door?

If you're struggling to think of what shade is best for you and your home, be sure to check out our guide to the best front door colours - it details the meaning of each front door colour and has plenty of decorating ideas to inspire you!

How to prepare a door for painting

Do I need to sand doors before painting?

It’s important to key the surface so that the new paint will adhere and not peel off. Don’t worry, it won’t take long and will produce great long-lasting results.

First, place a dust sheet or piece of cardboard under the door to protect the floor. It’s best to leave this in place until the paint is dry. You may also find it useful to loosen screws on door handles or remove the handle completely to help with cutting in.

Lightly sand all areas to be painted with a fine grade sandpaper, following the direction of the grain as you go. The aim is just to key the surface of the existing paint, not to remove it, so use a similar pressure to the kind you would use to give the door a wipe down. This process should only take 5-10 minutes, but don’t forget to wipe it down afterwards to remove any dust.

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Do I need to to apply an undercoat?

I know it’s tempting, but cutting corners usually creates more work and poor results with patchy looking paintwork. Undercoat is much easier to paint with than gloss paint and is much less likely to run, so it will be good practice before you tackle the glossing. Use the painting method described below.

How to start painting

Mix your paint carefully and pour some into a paint kettle to around 5cm deep. If pouring from a very full tin, don’t tip too slowly otherwise the paint will run down the side of the tin. Always do this over a dust sheet and have a cloth ready in case of spillage. You can use your paintbrush to catch drips and wipe away any potential runs at the rim.

I would use a good quality 35mm or 50mm synthetic long-bristle paintbrush, Your local DIY superstore such as B&Q will probably have a pack of three own brand brushes for around £10, which will be well worth the cost.

When you charge the brush with paint, dip into the paint and tap the tip gently on the insides of the paint kettle a couple of times in a side-to-side motion, this method ensures that you won’t have paint running down over the rim and the outside of the paint pot.

When glossing it’s important to avoid a dry line forming as this may cause runs, you need to work at a pace and application pattern that enables you to stop any areas of paint drying too much before you get back to that area. Adding wet paint to an area where the paint has had time to become tacky can cause a build-up, which usually results in runs appearing.

The aim is to work neatly, methodically and at a good pace.

How to gloss paint a panelled door

Paint door edges first and use the brush to feather any paint build up around corner edges, brushing along the edge, not across it.

If you’re painting a panelled door, treat the panels as sections, working from the top I usually work left to right. Starting with the recessed part surrounding the top left panel, then the panel itself, then repeating with the top right panel, then the vertical bar between the panels, then top horizontal bar then the upper vertical bars on left and right sides.

Then I would paint the lower left and right panels as I did with the upper ones and repeat the same process with middle horizontal bar, vertical mid and side bars, finishing with the bottom horizontal bar. Throughout this process, remember to feather areas where there is any build-up of paint at the edge of the area you’re painting and look back over painted areas for any runs feathering them lightly. Don’t add paint while doing this as this will make the runs worse.

How to gloss paint a flat door

If painting a flat door without panelling, many professional painters use a mini roller, either with a foam sleeve or a short-pile glossing sleeve, before laying it off with a dry paintbrush.

The foam roller will leave bubbles and can only be used for a short time before the foam starts to break up, so have some spares handy. Short-pile gloss roller sleeves are better, but you will need to buy good, professional quality ones from a specialist trade counter, as cheap roller sleeves often leave fluff in the paint, especially with gloss.

With either of the above it is essential to apply an even coat quickly and use a good quality 50mm synthetic paintbrush to lay off the paint in fine vertical strokes (don’t dip the brush in the paint. It’s just a process to give a finer ‘brush’ finish). This process will remove any bubbles or ‘orange peel’ texture, but it has to be done quickly before the paint starts to dry. I recommend roller painting the top third/half of the door, then laying off and repeating as you continue to paint the lower section.

If you don’t want to use a mini roller and are brush painting a flat door, work in a grid pattern working left to right, top to bottom. You will need to lay the paint off as you go. This means that you brush the paint in different directions alternating between vertical and horizontal.

With a door I prefer the finished brush marks to be vertical so I would apply a section vertically then go over it horizontally to spread the paint and then finish that section by feathering lightly in a vertical direction. Move on to the next section and repeat, left to right, down, left to right etc. You have to keep going until the door is finished, so work quite quickly and methodically and you will achieve great results.

How to clean your brushes after painting

Check the clean-up advice on the back of the tin. Generally, it’ll be wash brushes in ‘water’ for water-based paint and wash with an ‘appropriate cleaner’ for solvent based paints – usually white spirit for household solvent-based undercoat and gloss. If you’re unsure, look for any ‘hazardous chemicals’ logos on the tin, as this usually signifies solvent based paints... and always read the information on the back of the tin

Find a more detailed guide on how to clean your paint brushes

Tip: If you’re using solvent-based paint and working over several days you can leave your brush in a jam jar with water up to the top of the bristles overnight to stop it drying out. Just shake the water out of the brush outside or wipe with a cloth before you use the brush the next day. For water-based paints, wash your brush out with water after use each day.


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Tony Slade
Tony SladeArtist, signwriter and carpenter

Tony Slade is an artist and traditional signwriter with over 40 years’ experience. During his career he has developed and honed carpentry, painting, signwriting and artistic skills working on projects producing handmade bespoke signage, pictorial work, shopfront and pub refurbishment, gold leaf application and sub-contract painting. He is now working as an artist producing fine art landscape and seascape paintings.