The Ultimate Guide to Painting a Steel Door

Metal doors offer several benefits to homeowners, including enhanced security, excellent insulation, and a sleek, contemporary appearance. Upkeep is essential for maintaining these assets at their tops, protecting the door's appeal, and ensuring its durability. If you feel confident about painting a steel door yourself, ensure you have the appropriate materials and employ the correct technique. This comprehensive guide will help you select the most suitable paint for your metal door and provide a step-by-step approach for a seamless paint application.

Benefits of Painting Steel Doors

  • Enhanced appearance: A fresh coat of paint can transform a plain front door into an eye-catching focal point. It can also seamlessly blend with your home's architectural style and color scheme.
  • Durability: Quality paint extends the life of your metal front door by creating a lasting barrier against the elements, minimizing the potential for wear and tear.
  • Protection: The right paint safeguards against rust and corrosion, protecting your investment and keeping it looking great for years.

Steel Door Characteristics and Paint Application Overview

At PINKYS, we know metal doors are incredibly durable and require little maintenance. In addition, they can be painted any color you desire, allowing you to match them to your home's exterior or create a unique look.

Painting a metal door is a simple process that can be done in a few hours. However, you will need to properly prep and sand the door before painting it to ensure that the paint will adhere properly.

Use a high-quality primer designed for metal door application before painting it with your desired color. If you want a high-gloss finish, apply adequate polyurethane paint. For a more matte finish, however, opt for acrylic or latex, again explicitly designed for use on metal.

Expect that you will have to apply several coats of paint to your front door, allowing each coat to dry completely before applying the next. Once the final coat of paint is dry, it will require a clear sealer for protection that will keep it looking fresh for years.

Metal front doors are typically constructed with multiple layers and subtle textures, which require specific paint types and application techniques to produce a smooth, consistent finish. Some key factors to consider when choosing paint for your metal door include the following:

Paint Type

Look for a paint specifically designed for use on a metal door, such as acrylic-latex or oil-based enamels. These provide excellent adhesion, durability, and resistance to rust and corrosion.


A satin or semi-gloss finish makes the most user-friendly choice. These sheens are more durable, less prone to show fingerprints, and easier to clean than flat or matte finishes.


Before you paint a metal door, use a high-quality metal door paint primer. That will ensure proper adhesion and long-term performance.


From a purely aesthetical point of view, color choice is subjective and depends on your home's style. However, lighter shades like white or neutral tones can make your metal door more resistant to heat accumulation. While darker colors can create a bold, dramatic statement, if you look to enhance your home's energy efficiency, this might be a thing to consider. 

Types of Metal Door Paint

Whether residential or commercial property, refreshing your doors can upgrade the curb appeal and create a positive first impression for visitors. However, if you are painting a metal door, keep in mind that they require a slightly different approach compared to wooden or laminate models. The exterior paint itself is not drastically different from what you'd use for other projects, but a few factors could affect the desired outcome. Let's overview the options and their pros and cons.

Oil-Based Paint

The oil-based exterior paint, such as PINKYS oil-rubbed bronze finish, is made with either alkyd or linseed oil. It is durable and provides a smooth, elegant surface. 

Latex Paint

Latex metal door paint contains synthetic resins and water. It is less durable than oil-based paint, but can be easier to clean up and does not change over time.

Epoxy Paint

Epoxy paint is a two-part system that includes a resin and a hardener. It is exceptionally durable and provides a smooth finish. On the downside, it can be difficult to apply evenly; hence it might not be the most suitable choice for first-time DIY-ers.

Urethane Paint

Urethane paint is based on either polyurethane or acrylic resins. Similar to epoxy paint, it's very durable and provides a smooth finish, but the two-coats application can be challenging.

Enamel Paint

Enamel paint comprises oil-based or latex-based resins. It dries to a hard, glossy finish and is resistant to chipping and fading. Again, it can be difficult to apply evenly.

Lacquer Paint

Lacquer spray paint is made with nitrocellulose or cellulose acetate resins. It dries quickly and provides a high gloss finish. It requires the right equipment and a dedicated area to spray paint around.

Chalkboard Paint

Chalkboard paint contains either latex or oil-based resins mixed with chalk powder. It can be applied to any surface to create a chalkboard. This paint type requires periodic sealing to prevent the chalk from smudging.

Metallic Paint

Metallic exterior paint is made with either latex or oil-based resins mixed with metallic powder. It can create an elegant, metallic sheen on flat areas but requires a careful and patient application. 

Fluorescent Paint

Fluorescent paint can be latex- or oil-based, with the addition of fluorescent pigments. As the name indicates, it glows in the dark when exposed to ultraviolet light. However, it can fade over time if exposed to direct sunlight.

Differences Between Painting Interior and Exterior Metal Door

Painting a metal front door requires attention to detail and at least a basic skill. In addition, you need to consider what kind of door you'll be working on. 

If you want to paint an exterior steel door, there are some key points to be aware of. Consider the type of finish you use and if it's weather-resistant and can withstand harsh conditions. Additionally, you will need to apply more than one coat of paint and use a primer to ensure proper adhesion. 

With an interior steel door, you can typically use any type of paint as you don't have to worry about the harsh elements outside affecting it. Of course, it's best to avoid lead paint.

In general, a latex-based or oil-based paint can work well in the interior, but for an exterior metal door, oil-based paint is a way to go. It is better suited to withstand the elements and provide a durable, long-lasting finish. 

Never forget that proper preparation is key to achieving a smooth, professional finish regardless of the door type.

Tools and Equipment Required for Painting a Metal Door

Apart from techniques and products, you will need the proper equipment to ensure a long-lasting, professional-looking result. 

  • All-purpose cleaner, degreaser, or TSP solution
  • Paint stripper, if you need to remove layers of existing paint
  • Suitable paint for steel doors
  • Paint primer for use on metal, or multisurface
  • Paintbrushes or foam rollers (high-quality, designed for smooth finishes)
  • Paint tray
  • Paint stirrer or mixing stick
  • Sandpaper (medium and fine-grit)
  • Fine-grit sanding sponge
  • Putty knife
  • Clean cloth or rag
  • Painter's tape
  • Drop cloth or plastic sheeting
  • Stirring stick
  • Ladder or step stool (if necessary)
  • Optional: dust mask and goggles

Surface Preparation and Application Techniques

Contrary to wooden doors, metal surfaces do not absorb paint. That makes the proper preparation and application method crucial to successfully paint a metal door. Otherwise, you will likely end up with a rough, bumpy surface and overall appeal below satisfying. 

Find a well-ventilated, dust-free area to work in, preferably with a stable, moderate temperature and humidity level. 

Step 1: Prepping the Door

A clean surface is crucial for proper paint adhesion. Start by removing any door hardware (latches, a door knob, hinge pins) to make the painting process more manageable. Next, thoroughly cleanse the surface with an all-purpose cleaner, degreaser, or TSP solution to remove dirt and oil residue. After cleaning, dry the door with a clean cloth or rag.

Laying the door across sawhorses will make the process easier. However, you can continue any way you like as long as the board is raised from the ground.

Lightly sand the door in a circular motion with medium-grit sandpaper to remove any loose paint or rough spots. Ensure that all areas are covered. Then, switch to finer grit sandpaper, and give it another once-over. This will create smooth, ideally flat surfaces and remove any remaining imperfections. 

Finally, clean off the sanding dust with a damp cloth and let the door dry.

Step 2: Priming  

Tape off any areas you do not want to paint (hardware, windows, etc.) using painter's tape. Next, apply a metal-specific primer direct to metal using a quality paintbrush or foam roller for even coverage. This is crucial for adhesion, longevity, and avoiding rough-looking texture. 

A classic foam roller will do well on a flat door's surface. On paneling, you'll probably also need a small, angled paint brush to ensure complete coverage within the recessed areas.

Allow the primer to dry according to the manufacturer's instructions. You might need more than one coating, depending on the result. 

Step 3: Painting the Door

Stir your chosen paint thoroughly using a stirring stick and pour it into a paint tray. Apply the paint using a paint brush or roller designed for smooth finishes. Be sure to use long, even strokes and avoid applying too much paint at once to prevent drips and streaks. 

Allow the first coat to dry according to the manufacturer's instructions before applying a second coat for optimal coverage. Two coats are a minimum. 

Step 4: Finish & Reinstall

After the paint has fully dried, carefully remove the masking tape and reattach the hardware. Finally, rehang door in its proper location.

Post-Painting Maintenance

Proper post-painting maintenance will not only keep your metal door looking great but also extend its service life.

Keep the Door Clean

Keeping your metal exterior door clean will help prevent rust spots. You can do this by washing it down with a mild soap and water solution. 

Wipe the door with a damp cloth occasionally to remove dust, grease, and fingerprints. It's best to help it dry immediately, using a dry cloth, for example.

Avoid using abrasive cleaning agents or steel wool, as they may damage the painted surface.

Inspect the Surface and Edges Regularly

You should inspect your metal door regularly to ensure it is in good condition.

If you discover any signs of corrosion, dents, or scratches, address them immediately to prevent further damage. Also, look for any loose or worn-out hardware and replace them as needed to prevent the door from sagging or failing. 

If you notice any unusual problems, contact a professional to have the door repaired or replaced. 

Wax the Door

Another way to protect your steel door from corrosion is to wax it regularly. A wax barrier will help to repel water and other substances that can cause rusting. You can purchase special waxes designed for use on metal doors at most hardware stores.

Install Weather Stripping

If you live in an area with extreme climate conditions, you may want to install weather stripping around your metal door. It will help to seal out drafts and moisture, which can cause the door to rust over time. Weather stripping can be purchased at most hardware stores or online retailers.

When Is the Time for Painting a Metal Front Door Again?

To touch up the paint job in the future, simply sand down any tiny areas starting to chip or flake and reapply paint as needed. You can find a convenient, high-quality touch-up pain at PINKYS.

If your steel door is starting to look dull, you may want to consider applying another fresh coat of paint. This will help protect the door from corrosion and give it a new lease on life.

14 Common Mistakes When Painting a Steel Door (& How to Fix Them)

Not Protecting the Flooring and Surroundings 

Protecting your flooring when painting the entire door is a task easy to overlook but crucial nevertheless. Otherwise, you'll have to deal with paint drips, splatters, and spills, which can be costly and time-consuming to clean up. Or worse, impossible. 

You can avoid these mishaps by taking a few simple steps. Lay down a drop cloth or plastic sheeting over the area surrounding the door, securing the edges so it doesn't shift during the painting process. Additionally, place cardboard or old newspapers directly under the door to catch any drips.

Not Removing Old Paint Before Painting

If there's already paint on your door, you need to remove it before adding the new one. Otherwise, you'll just end up with a messy door, which will also be increasingly tricky to repaint in the future. 

The compatibility of paints is another serious matter that ought to be approached professionally if you wish to avoid mishaps. For instance, using water-based paint over an old, oil-based one will likely make the new coats bubble and peel. 

A power washer or sandblast is the best way to remove old paint from a metal door. You might also need a heat gun.

Disregarding the Door's Age

Before painting a steel door, it's important to consider its age. Doors installed before 1978, for example, are likely to contain lead-based paint, which requires special environmental consideration when stripping or sanding. 

If you're unsure whether your door paint contains lead, ask professionals how to test it before starting your project.

Painting a Metal Door in Direct Sunlight or Extreme Conditions

When you paint a metal door in the hot sun or extreme temperatures, it can significantly impact the quality of the finished product. Not only can quick drying result in a less smooth and even finish, but it can also cause the door paint to flake off or not adhere properly. 

Also, don't paint a metal door on extremely cold or humid days. These factors can negatively impact the paint's adherence and drying time.

In addition, work in a well-ventilated area to prevent fumes buildup.

Not Properly Cleaning the Surface

Skipping the cleaning step can lead to poor adhesion and paint peeling. If you have already painted, you will need to sand down the affected areas, clean the door again, and then reapply primer and paint.

Not Sanding the Door First

One of the most common mistakes people make when painting a metal door is not sanding it first. Steel doors are notoriously difficult to paint, and one of the main reasons is that they must be very smooth. If you don't sand the door first, the paint will have a hard time adhering to the surface and will likely peel off soon after you've applied it.

That means: in order to fix this mistake, you'll have to repeat the entire process from scratch. 

Skipping the Primer or Using the Wrong Type

Another common mistake is not using a primer. A primer helps to prepare the surface for the coats of paint. It provides a barrier between the door and the topcoat and helps improve the adhesion of the pigments to the door. Without a primer, your paint job is likely to be short-lived.

This can also lead to poor adhesion, uneven paint coverage, and a less durable finish. To fix the mistake, sand the door, reapply the correct primer, and repaint.

Using a Product Unsuitable for Painting a Metal Door

Using paint not specifically designed for metal surfaces can cause the color to chip or peel. 

If you find yourself in such a situation, remove the paint, apply a metal-specific primer, and repaint using the correct product.

Not Using Painters' Tape

If you're not using painter's tape, you'll likely end up coloring unwanted areas, such as a door frame, trim, or windows. Painters' tape is designed to create a clean distinction line between the area you're painting and other surfaces.

Not Removing Weather Stripping

This is one of the crucial mistakes that can lead to ruining your freshly-painted exterior doors. Remove the weather stripping before closing the door for the first time. Even if the surface appears completely dry, the weather stripping can stick to the paint and peel it off when pressed against the whole night. 

Keeping the weather stripping off for 24-36 hours after painting a metal door is strongly recommended. Although you might have a small gap in the meantime, it's worth the hassle to avoid redoing your door or having to replace the protection. 

Working Too Slow

Inexperienced DIY-ers sometimes disregard the obvious fact that going slowly means the paint will start drying. Keeping a wet paint edge is crucial for achieving a flawless finish. In addition, if the paint dries on the roller, it might pull and peel off the coating from the surface. 

In order to avoid the problems, start painting from the top and work your way down at a consistent speed, moving horizontally and only covering 4-6 inches at a time. Continuously overlap brush strokes to maintain that wet edge. Follow this technique, and you'll be well on your way to attaining that professional-looking finish.

Applying Paint Too Thickly or Too Many Coats

Another typical mistake people make when they paint a metal door is adding too much paint. Applying enough coats to get good coverage is important, but you don't want to go overboard. Thick coating can result in drips, runs, paint chips, and an uneven appearance. 

In that case, sand the area, and apply second coat of primer if necessary. Then repaint using thin, even layers.

The general rule of thumb is: two or three coats and a paint finish should be sufficient.

Not Allowing the Paint to Get Completely Dry

Let the coat dry before adding a second one, as this mistake can render all your previous efforts useless. 

Color needs time to set and harden, so if you add another coat before the first one has had a chance to dry completely, you'll likely end up with a messy door.

Or, skip the hassle altogether and browse PINKYS collection of metal doors

Panting a metal door can be an exciting (but not always successful) experience. At PINKYS, we offer a top-of-the-line collection of finished, new doors crafted with the highest quality materials and built to withstand even the toughest conditions. Skip the hassle and browse our extensive selection today!

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