Best Paint for a Steel Door

Imagine coming home from a long tiring day at work, and the first thing you notice is a worn-out, dull front door! Everything deteriorates tenfold. If you have a sturdy metal door, all you need to do is add some glitz and glam to brighten up the entrance.

Painting a steel door, especially your front door, can give your home’s exterior a much-needed facelift. On the other hand, applying metal door paint necessitates extra caution because the color is not soaked up into the material like wood. If you do not stick to the proper steps, you may end up with a rough-looking texture in your paint finish. As with most DIY projects, success is dependent on planning and having the right products and tools.

Painting your front door can significantly improve your home’s curb appeal, but if it’s steel, you will want to approach it differently than if it’s wood or laminate. Metal front doors are weatherproof, insect and rot-resistant, and a significant deterrent to intruders. Even the most durable metal front door will lose some of its lusters over time. Painting your metal front door restores its shine and charm, giving it a significant boost in curb appeal. The good news is that the best paint for a steel door is similar to what you would use for most other home painting projects, though you will want to keep some very specific things in mind as you look at different options.


What is the best steel door paint?

With the proper application technique, most paints work well on metal. You should get good results with most high-quality varieties, including water-based acrylic paints (also known as latex paints) and oil-based paints (solvent-based paints). Look for rust- and fade-resistant color appropriate for an exterior door. Professionals commonly use Oil-based paints for metal surfaces because they are the most durable. However, these paints are more toxic than their water-based counterparts and necessitate a longer drying time and a more difficult clean-up process.

See also: How to Choose Exterior Paint Colors for House

How to Paint a Metal Door?

Step 1: Remove the door and all of its hardware

Remove the door from its frame for the best results. This is optional, but it will make it easier to achieve the best possible finish. Then remove all door hardware, including the letterbox, door handles, hinges (if the door has been removed from the frame), knockers, and so on. Awkwardly painting around these items will slow you down if you can’t remove the hardware from your door tape over anything you do not want painted to ensure a clean finish.

Step 2: Degrease the door

Clean the surface of your door thoroughly with a degreaser and a rag to remove any dirt, oil, grease, or grime. Ensure the surface is clean before putting the paint on for a smooth finish. After cleaning the door, wipe it down with a dry cloth and set it aside for an hour or two before proceeding to the next step.

Step 3: Get rid of any leftover paint

This step will depend on the current state of your door. If it has flakey paint, you will need to strip it off using a paint stripper or heat gun. When removing old paint, avoid using abrasive materials as this can damage the metal. If you have removed the door from the frame, make sure you work in a well-ventilated area because the paint stripper emits fumes. If the door is still attached, ventilate the room as much as possible while wearing lung and eye protection.

Step 4: Sand the door frame

After removing any old paint or if your door is already paint-free, sand it down to let the primer and paint adhere to the surface. Sand the door slowly and lightly using the fine sandpaper. 400-grit sandpaper is ideal while wearing a dust mask and safety glasses. Make sure to give the surface a quick wipe down with a damp cloth to remove any sanding dust.

Step 5: Prime

Using a high-quality primer will protect your door and create a long-lasting barrier. The primer you select will be determined by the paint you intend to use on your door. This multi-surface primer will suffice if you plan to use latex or oil-based paint. Use the paint roller for the main sections of your door and an angular sash brush to apply the primer for the panels and corners. Depending on the primer you use, it will take some time to dry, ranging from one to three hours. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and, if necessary, apply a second coat. Before moving to the next step, ensure that your primer is completely dry.

Step 6: Put on your paint

Use exterior paint, such as exterior satin or semi-gloss paint. Use one coat of exterior paint to the flat areas of the door with a paint roller, and then use an angular sash brush on any paneled areas or corners. It is most useful to use at least two coats to ensure a consistent and long-lasting finish. Before adding another coat, make sure the previous one is completely dry. The manufacturer’s instructions will most likely tell you how many coats you’ll need, as well as how long each coat should dry.

Work on one side of the door at a time if you’re painting both sides, as wet paint can get damaged if it comes into contact with another surface quickly. After you’ve finished painting, allow your door to dry completely — at least 12 hours.

Step 7: Replace the hardware and rehang the door

When the paint has completely dried, carefully peel away any tape and reattach the hardware to your door. If you removed your door, the last step is to reinstall it.

Tips for Choosing Metal Door Paint

Use only door paint

The best color for a steel door isn’t your standard interior or exterior paint because you want a formula that has been designed to resist rust and fading. Don’t skimp on quality.

This is your front door

So anyone driving by your house will see it. Because this is such an important part of your home’s overall appeal, it’s worth splurging a little on quality. Fortunately, it is a small surface area, and a couple of coats of paint should be enough, so you’ll probably only need a quart.

Consider your environment

The more prominent the wear and tear on your steel front door, the more durability you require in your paint. Consider whether your door faces a strong eastern sun or if you have a tendency to have high levels of humidity when selecting the right color for your project.

Don’t forget about the finish 

The finish is just as vital as the type and color of your paint. Satin and semi-gloss finishes are both good choices for a steel front door because, in addition to having a nice sheen, they would not show nicks or scratches as easily as a flat or eggshell finish.

What will you need to paint a steel door?

Picking the best paint for a steel door is one step, but it’s not the only thing you’ll want to make sure you get at the store. These are the additional items you’ll require.


While it is not necessary to remove your door from its frame before painting it, it is one of the important steps to achieve the best results. Bring a basic toolkit with you to remove the hinges and hardware, and keep all pieces you pull together in a bag or box so you can find them later.


This is used to prepare your steel door for painting by first removing any grease or oil stains.

Paint stripper/ heat gun

If your metal door is already painted, you should remove it before adding new layers. Work slowly and delicately with whichever method you choose to avoid accidentally scratching or otherwise damaging the steel surface underneath.


Sanding is essential, even if you’re painting a steel door that hasn’t previously been painted. Use fine sandpaper with a grit of 400 or higher and a light touch to gently buff the outer surface.

Multi-surface primer

Even the best metal door paint will only go so far if you don’t prime first. A multi-surface primer can work with both water-based and oil-based paints and will provide a good base to work from; follow the directions on the can and apply enough coats (and let your primer fully dry in between).

Also Read: How to Paint a Deck? | How to Pick a Front Door


It’s time to put on some luster. Painting your metal doors is necessary whether you are selling your home or renovating to freshen up the look. It is now your decision to select the one that best meets your requirements.


Frequently Asked Questions 

Is it okay to use interior paint on a steel door?

Technically, it will adhere, but it will not provide you with the best long-term results. Choose an exterior paint, or even better, a paint specially formulated for painting metal surfaces, such as doors.

How can you paint a steel door without taking it apart?

If you prefer to keep your front door in place while painting it, that’s fine, but you’ll need to be extra cautious, especially when it comes to ventilation. You can use painter’s tape to carefully section off any hardware and keep windows open to allow air to circulate, as well as a box fan or two. Also, keep children and pets away from the painting area both while it is being painted and while each coat is drying.

How long should I wait between two paint coats?

Using another coat of paint before the previous one has completely dried will likely result in streaks or other undesirable textures. Read the directions on both the color and primer you choose carefully to determine the drying times and allow plenty of air circulation to ensure that each coat dries efficiently.

What causes the paint to flake after the door has been painted?

Poor surface preparation will result in flaky paint. To ensure that your paint adheres well to the surface of the door, make sure it bonds well. This is accomplished by removing any grease, oil, or dirt from the door, sanding it down, and priming it properly before painting. 

Should you use a roller or a paintbrush when painting a metal door?

When applying exterior metal door paint, use a roller. When painting on metal, paintbrushes tend to leave brush marks. On the other hand, brushes are ideal for cutting in difficult-to-reach areas such as recessed panels and corners.

Can I Paint My Metal Door with Water-Based Paint?

While it is possible to use water-based or latex paint on metal, they are not as durable as oil-based paints. Oil-based paints adhere to metal much better, especially when applied over primer.

Related: Tips for Painting Concrete Floor | How to Paint Textured Walls | How to Paint Upholstery

Written by

Rostislav Shetman is the founder of 9Kilo Moving. He has been in the moving and relocation industry for more than 25 years, making him an expert in his field. Rostislav started as a helper, dispatcher and driver and has worked his way up to owning his own company. He takes great pride in his work and enjoys helping people relocate across the United States of America. When he's not working, Rostislav enjoys spending time with his family and friends. They are the light of his life and bring him happiness every day.