Decorating Screen Doors


Wire mesh screening was first commercially available in the 1830's and quickly became the standard accessory for doors and windows in urban areas. Soon, people began to decorate their new screens with elaborately painted scenes, adding unique character to their row homes and providing privacy by obstructing the view into, but not out of, their homes. Painted screens, now considered a folk art form unique to Baltimore, can be simple or elaborate, and offer the same cosmetic and practical advantages today. Or if privacy is not a concern, use stenciled designs for a decorative touch, which can help keep people and pets from walking into your sliding screen doors. For just a touch of whimsy, choose decorative screen door magnets to add seasonal accents--and hide small holes and imperfections in your screen at the same time.

Things You'll Need

  • Mesh door screen and frame
  • Acrylic paints
  • Drop cloth
  • Colored paper
  • Bristle or foam paint brushes
  • Stippling stencil brush
  • Acrylic paint pen
  • Chalk-marking pencil
  • Paper towels
  • Toothpicks
  • Clear matte spray varnish
  • Polyurethane
  • Stencils
  • Thumbtacks and cardboard
  • Post earrings and backs
  • Photos
  • Stickers
  • Printed designs
  • Lightweight wooden or foam figures
  • Adhesive-backed magnetic sheeting
  • Utility knife or sharp scissors

Painted Screen Doors

  • Remove the framed screen from the door and place it on a flat surface covered with paper or
    drop cloth in a color that contrasts with your primary design. This will allow you to see areas
    that the paint may not have covered and to reapply it for uniform coverage.

  • Apply a thin base coat of acrylic paint to the outer screen surface with a flat brush.
    Choose a color that complements your design. Be careful not to clog the screen
    holes with paint. Allow paint to dry.

  • Sketch or select the design you wish to use. Using an acrylic paint pen or chalk pencil, transfer your design free-hand or place a picture under the screen and trace the general outlines directly onto the screen surface.

  • Apply paint in thin layers, beginning with larger objects in your design. Allow paint to dry before adding overlapping layers and finishing details. Only a small amount of paint is needed--wipe excess paint from your brush on paper toweling.

  • Apply a very thin layer of clear, matte spray varnish or polyurethane to each side of the
    finished screen (in a well-ventilated area), allowing one side to dry thoroughly before
    spraying the other side of the screen.

Stenciled Screen Doors

  • Apply a small amount of acrylic paint to a stippling brush or flat-bristled brush. Work
    paint into the paintbrush by dabbing or "pouncing" the brush onto layers of paper towel.
    Apply paint through the cut-out areas of the stencil and onto the screen using the same dabbing motion. Continue adding paint until the desired coverage is achieved.

  • Carefully remove the stencil and allow the paint to dry thoroughly before repositioning or
    adding the next stenciled design.

  • Seal the design by spraying with a very thin layer of clear, matte spray varnish or polyurethane.

Screen Door Magnets

  • Select your design. Photos, stickers, printed designs or lightweight wooden or foam
    figures are workable choices. Two images are required for each pair of magnets--identical images for symmetric designs or mirror images for nonsymmetric designs (see Step 2).

  • Peel off the paper backing of the adhesive-backed magnetic sheeting and place your
    photo or design on the magnet. Cut carefully around your image, using a utility knife or
    sharp scissors.

  • Place magnets, back-to-back, on each side of your screening material.

Tips & Warnings

  • For painted designs, excess paint or polyurethane spray can be removed from screen holes with a toothpick or by blowing lightly on clogged areas.
  • When choosing screen magnet designs, remember that two non-symmetrical images, when placed back-to-back on your screen, will not align with each other. They must be traced or printed as mirror-images of each other. Examine your design carefully--if in doubt, trace paper templates to determine how images must appear before transferring to your magnetic material.
  • If you have an ink jet printer, try using Ink Jet 8-1/2''X11'' Printable Magnet Sheets to
  • create your screen door magnetic designs. Simply scan any image onto your computer or select one online to be printed onto magnetic sheets. Follow the directions provided with your printable magnetic sheets and print. Use image-editing software to modify your design and reverse the direction of your picture to create perfect mirror image prints.

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  • Photo Credit Butterflies image by A.Rowley from lizard on screen image by Pix by Marti from
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