DIY Door Hack: How to Upgrade an Interior Door with Just Paint

U-G-L-Y! I can’t believe I lived with this for so long.

I’ve been meaning to paint the pocket door to the guest bathroom for years, and I FINALLY got myself motivated enough to do it. The door was originally a ho-hum off-white, and the previous owner must have accidentally opened it before the paint dried completely, judging by the huge streak marks across it. In short, the door was a complete EYESORE and this project was long overdue.

I’ve seen other DIY bloggers post about interior door hacks, and Domino even curated a list of 35 ways to hack an ugly interior door. Here’s how I pimped out and upgraded the pocket door by using materials I already had around the house and simply painting it.

Design: Dorothy Draper


I was inspired by Hollywood Regency-style paneled doors and did a quick Google image search for “black and white doors.”  The resulting stock images provided an inspiration for a pattern. 

I then decided to use a trompe l’oeil technique (literally French for “deceive the eye,” yes, we are FANCY) to create the illusion of two molded panels.


It ranks a 3.5, on a scale of 1 (hanging a framed art piece) to 10 (building a dresser). The hardest part is the arithmetic (having to divide in half) to trace out the molding.


High gloss door paint
1.5” angled brush
6” FOAM roller brush
Ruler, preferably one with a level
FrogTape or other painter’s tape
Small craft brushes

The pattern! Ignore the curved pencil marks at the top, I thought I wanted to do a curved molding, but changed my mind.


Tracing the pattern
First, wipe the door clean of any dust or debris. Then using a pencil and ruler, draw a line straight down the middle of the door and use that as the focal point for where the rest of the pattern is traced. Continue to measure out your lines from this focal point and from the edges of the door to ensure the pattern is centered.

I decided to do a 2” thick “molding,” but in hindsight, I probably would have preferred a 1.5” molding for the 24” wide door. I started the “panels” both 2” from the top and bottom of the door.

Stick on the FrogTape
I carefully lined up the FrogTape inside the pattern for the “moldings.” I only had 1” FrogTape at home so I had to do this twice, but obviously I would have preferred the 2” tape to align best for the 2” “moldings.”

Stand back and ta-da, you can see the trompe l’oeil effect already!

Paint the door
Now for the fun part! I used an angled brush to paint the outer part of the “panels,” followed by a foam roller to paint the inside of the “panels.” The foam roller helps to mitigate visible brush strokes after the paint has dried. For this reason, avoid layering on too many coats of paint at once (especially when the paint is tacky) and wait for the paint to dry between coats.

Use an angled brush to paint the outside of the panels, and a foam roller to paint the insides.

Why did I choose high gloss paint? Ideally, I would have LOVED lacquered doors, but lacquer is super challenging to work with. High gloss (a step above semi-gloss and a step below lacquer) typically only comes in black and white from major paint suppliers. Note: high gloss paint takes the longest to dry than other finishes. 

Peel off the FrogTape at a 45 degree angle BEFORE the paint dries completely.

Remove the FrogTape
Now for the REALLY fun part! This may sound counter intuitive, but BEFORE THE PAINT DRIES, remove the FrogTape by peeling it off slowly at a 45 degree angle. (Waiting too long might cause the fresh paint to tear off with the tape.)

Paint the “moldings”
I used a tiny craft brush to clean up the edges of the “molding” from where the paint did tear off with the FrogTape (argh), then used a slightly larger craft brush to paint the insides of the “molding” in white semi-gloss paint. (I had this paint already from my baseboards.) 

The high gloss paint is supposed to be really durable, and I’m hoping it holds up to scratches and dings. All in all, I’m happy with the results, especially for the cost. Have you created a trompe l’oeil in your home?

Ta da! What an improvement!

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