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Paint rollers are designed to soak up a large amount of paint and then apply the paint to the wall or other surface by rolling the tool in even, back-and-forth strokes.
We evaluated paint rollers for durability, ease of use, and versatility. Our top choice is the Stanley Premium Paint Kit, an 8-piece kit that includes everything but the paint.
Here are our favorite paint rollers.
Best Overall: Stanley Premium Paint Kit
Includes two 9-inch roller covers
Few complaints of lint from rollers
If you've never tackled a DIY painting project before, you might not be sure of what you'll need, and you might not want to spend too much. With the Stanley Premium Paint Kit, you get one 9-inch roller frame, two 9-inch roller covers, one 3-inch roller frame with accompanying cover, one 2-inch trim paintbrush, one metal paint tray, and one plastic liner for that tray—all at a remarkably reasonable price. Just add your paint and some drop cloths, and you are ready to tackle your painting project, whether that's to refresh the color in your bedroom, add an accent wall to the living room, add color to the bathroom walls, or decorate your child's room in their favorite color.
All three of the included roller covers are high-capacity polyester with a 3/8-inch nap. That's ideal for just about any interior or exterior painting job, as long as the surface to be painted is fairly smooth or only lightly textured. These aren't the best choice if you are looking to paint brick, stone, or very rough wood, however. The trim paintbrush has polyester bristles for smooth application of any type of paint.
With this handy set, you'll achieve smooth, professional-looking results on your DIY painting project, and best of all, you can tackle an entire room without having to purchase additional rollers.
Frame Size: 9 inch and 3 inch | Cover Material: Polyester | Cover Nap: 3/8-inch | Cover Type: Not specified
“Unless you are purposefully trying to create texture, always opt for a low-nap roller. For walls, use a ¼-inch to a 3/8-inch nap for standard eggshell finishes. If using a semi-gloss paint, applying a varnish with a roller, or painting cabinets, I prefer a 3/16-inch-nap mohair roller or a sponge roller. Look for a roller frame that is sturdy and straight. For smaller furniture or cabinet projects, I prefer to use a 4-inch or 6-inch roller, while a standard 9-inch or 18-inch roller is typically best for walls.” Lisa Rickert, CEO and Creative Director at Jolie Home.
Best Budget: Bates Choice Paint Tray Set
Includes two covers for each frame
Good quality sash brush and foam brush
Some complaints about receiving the kit with a broken paint tray
Some all-in-one paint roller kits skimp on quality in favor of quantity or a budget price. But with the Bates Choice Paint Tray Set, you get all of the above: professional-level tools, everything you need for your painting project other than drop cloths and the paint itself, and a very reasonable price.
The set includes a 9-inch roller frame and two 9-inch synthetic covers with a 1/2-inch nap, a 4-inch roller frame with two 4-inch synthetic covers with 1/2-inch nap, one 2.5-inch angled sash brush for painting trim, one 2-inch high-density foam paint brush for touch-ups or tight spots, a metal paint tray, a paint-can opener, and a wooden paint stirrer. The roller frames rotate smoothly, making it easy to lay down a coat of paint quickly and evenly. The roller covers pick up a lot of paint, and then apply it smoothly, letting you achieve professional looking results in just one or two coats of paint. And the angled brush and foam brush are perfect for those final touch-ups, corners, or tight spots where a roller just can't go.
All of the included components wash up easily so you can use them over and over again.
Frame Size: 9 inch and 4 inch | Cover Material: Synthetic | Cover Nap: ½-inch | Cover Type: Not specified
Best 9-Inch Roller Frame: Wooster Brush Soft-Grip 9-Inch Paint Roller
Very smooth performance
Does not include roller cover
The Wooster Brush Roller Frame R501-9 is a 9-inch high quality roller frame that will get the job done with a fine result, yet it's very reasonably priced. Note that this is just the roller frame—you'll need to purchase 9-inch roller covers separately. Despite the budget price, Wooster has taken extra steps with its design to make painting for long periods of time easier.
The thicker-than-average handle has recently been redesigned so it is more comfortable to hold. It features a thumb groove to comfortably grip the handle along the non-slip, polypropylene surface. When using an extension rod, the roller will also resist twisting thanks to an additional, solid rim at the very bottom of the grip. Finally, the roller itself has five separate sturdy metal wires to keep the roller cover true and round as you paint.
Frame Size: 9 inch | Cover Material: N/A | Cover Nap: N/A | Cover Type: N/A
Best for Painting Ceilings: Shur-Line 9-Inch Roller & Shield
Cuts down on paint spray
Ideal for painting overhead
Few complaints about roller cover slipping
One of the undeniable annoyances with using a paint roller, especially while painting a ceiling or high wall that’s over your head, is that paint can splatter in a fine spray as you work, leaving you and the surrounding area covered in a mist of paint. If your painting project has you reaching up high, you’ll appreciate the protection from paint spray offered by the Shur-Line Roller & Shield.
This ingenious 9-inch roller has a plastic “shield” that wraps around the back of the roller cover, allowing you to freely load the roller with paint as needed, yet helping to catch any paint spray that flies off the roller while you work. The device comes with a general-purpose cover with a ⅜-inch nap, and the roller handle is threaded for use on an extension rod.
Frame Size: 9 inch | Cover Material: Synthetic | Cover Nap: 3/8-inch | Cover Type: Knit
“When painting a room, start from the top and work your way down. Ceiling first (if you’re painting it), and then down to the walls, baseboards, and finally, doors. Try a technique called “cutting in” by painting along the edge of the ceiling from side to side with a brush, and then do the same along windows, doors, and walls. Then get rolling. You’ll want to keep a “wet edge,” which means rolling on top of wet paint to keep color consistent; in other words, don’t let the previous edge dry before rolling your next stroke over it.” Matt Kunz, President of Five Star Painting.
Best Mini Roller Kit: Quali-Tech Roller Lite/Rollerfoam Combo Kit
Two quality roller covers included
Excellent for a wide variety of small painting tasks
Paint tray is a little flimsy
Not every DIY painting project requires full-size rollers. Maybe you are just touching up scuffs and scratches on the walls, or painting a piece of furniture, or adding a shot of color to the space behind your stove. Whatever the reason, if you need mini paint rollers, you can't go wrong with the Quali-Tech Roller Lite/Rollerfoam Roller Set. For a very reasonable price, you get one sturdy 6-inch roller frame that rolls smoothly and easily, one 6-inch high-density foam roller cover that's perfect for creating perfect finishes on smooth surfaces, and one 6-inch woven-fabric roller cover with a 3/8-inch nap for painting over drywall and similar surfaces. Plus, the kit includes a plastic tray for paint.
While you certainly can wash the roller covers for use in future projects, you might be tempted to treat them as disposables, thanks to the low price.
Frame Size: 6 inch | Cover Material: Woven fabric, foam | Cover Nap: 3/8-inch | Cover Type: Woven
Best for Trim: FoamPRO Finish Coater 2-Inch Roller
Very smooth finish
Small enough to fit in corners
Not suited to textured surfaces
If you've assumed that painting trim has to mean using an angled trim paintbrush, then you'll be happy to know that you've got options. And one of the best options is the FoamPRO Finish Coater 2-Inch Roller, which is made of a high-density foam that lays down a beautifully smooth coat of latex paint without any brush strokes, lint, blotches, or other imperfections.
This tiny roller is perfect for painting trim, moldings, door frames, or any tight stretch of wall. It's also ideal for painting fence posts, furniture, crafts, or other oddly shaped but not too large items. The foam glides very easily over any type of smooth surface, including drywall, wood, and metal.
While it's possible to clean the roller for use on future projects, you might choose to toss it once the job is done, as it's very reasonably priced.
Frame Size: 2 inch | Cover Material: Foam | Cover Nap: N/A | Cover Type: N/A
Best Oversize Roller Frame: Wooster Brush Sherlock 14-Inch Roller Frame
Very smooth performance
Wide range of covers sold separately
Doesn't include roller cover
This isn't the tool for painting trim, tight spaces, corners, or oddly shaped surfaces, but if you just want to cover a wall or ceiling as quickly and easily as possible, then you'll appreciate the extra-large Wooster Brush Sherlock 14-Inch Roller Frame. Note that this is just the frame, but Wooster makes a wide assortment of covers to fit, with various naps and materials. You'll typically find the covers stocked near the frame.
The roller frame is made from heavy-duty metal and fiberglass to resist twisting and distorting as you work, and has internal bearings to make the rotation of the frame smooth and consistent. A threaded lock on the bottom of the frame lets you attach an extension pole for tackling ceilings or high walls.
Overall, this is a high quality roller that will last you for many years if cared for properly.
Frame Size: 14 inch | Cover Material: N/A | Cover Nap: N/A | Cover Type: N/A
“On projects that require a roll-on application, many painters rely on the ole’ faithful 9-inch roller. Several manufacturers have larger rollers that will apply paint to more surface area. If it takes two hours to paint a room with a 9-inch roller, it’s possible it could take half as long with a 14-inch or 18-inch roller. You can accomplish a lot with that regained hour.” Matt Kunz, President of Five Star Painting
Best Power Roller: Wagner Smart SideKick Powered Roller
Draws paint right from can
Paint flow control button
Makes painting much faster
What do you get when you combine a paint sprayer and a paint roller? The Wagner Smart SideKick Power Roller, which lets you draw paint right out of your 1-gallon or 5-gallon paint can for continuous even coverage while you work. Without need to stop and reload your roller, you'll get your job done much faster, and the results will make you proud, as well.
The device comes with one 9-inch roller cover with a 3/8-inch nap that's suited to both latex and oil-based paints. The auto-feed control—you control the speed with a button on the handle—keeps paint flowing to the roller without drips, and the roller lays down paint smoothly and evenly on smooth to lightly textured surfaces. The included 16-foot hose lets you maneuver easily around a 32-foot work area, but if you need even more reach, the roller is threaded to accept a standard extension pole.
Once the job is done, cleanup is quick and easy, as well.
Frame Size: 9 inch | Cover Material: Synthetic | Cover Nap: 3/8-inch | Cover Type: Not specified
Whether you are a new or experienced DIY painter, you’ll appreciate the quality and completeness of the Bates Choice Paint Tray Set, (view at Amazon) which includes both 9-inch and 4-inch roller frames and covers, along with other painting supplies. But if are looking to get the job done as quickly as possible, or are covering a large stretch of wall, you’ll love the speed and ease of the Wagner Smart SideKick Power Roller, (view at Amazon) which lets you draw paint directly from the can and control its flow to the roller while you work.
What to Look for in a Paint Roller
Don't choose a paint roller without first having some idea of the project. If you are just painting one or more average-sized walls, then a standard roller—these measure 9 inches in length—is suitable, but if the project is more involved, with large walls, tight spaces, lots of trim, textured or rough surfaces, or ceilings, it may be beneficial to consider investing in more than one size of roller so you can match the tool to the job.
For more detailed painting without sacrificing the smooth finish of a roller, you can get mini paint rollers in a variety of lengths, including 2-inch, 3-inch, 4-inch, and 6-inch. These smaller rollers are a good choice for painting trim, doors, doorframes, and narrow walls.
Alternatively, you could use an oversize roller—you'll find sizes ranging from 12 inches to 18 inches—to quickly and effectively paint very large walls and ceilings, though you will likely have some issues with tight corners and trim due to the size of the roller.
The fabric cover that slides onto a paint roller can be referred to as a paint-roller cover or sleeve. When selecting a paint roller for a painting project, it's necessary to also take the roller sleeve into consideration in order to choose the right fabric for the paint. Roller covers can either be made of woven or knit synthetic material, lambswool, or foam.
The woven or knit synthetic materials are typically used for interior painting because they produce a smooth coat on walls and ceilings, and they don't shed as much as natural materials like lambswool. While you can use either woven or knit covers for most jobs, as a general rule, knit covers are best for flat or eggshell paint finishes, while woven covers are best for glossier finishes.
However, when you are working with oil-based paints or glossy coating, it's beneficial to use a lambswool roller cover to get the most even results. Consider using foam rollers to apply varnishes and polyurethane solutions to woodworking projects, although foam is also good for applying very smooth coats of paint to equally smooth surfaces.
The nap of a paint roller can also be referred to as the pile height, and it's a term that indicates the thickness of the roller sleeve material. This may not seem important, but the thicker the nap, the more effective the paint roller is at applying paint to rough or uneven surfaces, and the more paint it can hold.
Most paint roller sleeves for interior use have a nap or pile height of 3/8-inch to 1/2-inch. These rollers are best suited for painting interior walls, ceilings, and trim with smooth to lightly textured surfaces.
If you need to paint the exterior of the home, want to apply a new coat of stain to the deck or fence, or are tackling a painting job on brick, stone, or other heavily textured surfaces, then you'll want a paint roller sleeve with a thicker nap. A 3/4-inch to 1-inch nap is good for stucco, while 1-1/4-inch to 1-1/2-inch naps are ideal for brick, cinder blocks, stone, and similar surfaces.
Keep in mind that thicker naps are best suited to rough surfaces, as they will create an uneven finish on a smooth surface.
How do you use a paint roller?
Paint rollers are simple tools that consist of a fixed handle, a fixed metal arm, and a roller that can rotate freely on the arm of the tool. Slide a paint roller cover or sleeve over the roller. This cover or sleeve is made of soft fabric that soaks up paint from the roller tray. Once it has an adequate amount of paint on every side, use the tool to roll a patch of paint onto the wall. More detailed instructions are available if you still aren't quite sure how to properly use a paint roller.
How do you clean a paint roller?
Start to clean paint off of a paint roller by using a scraper or putty knife to remove any excess paint from the roller. After removing this paint, roll the roller on newspaper or an old towel until it no longer releases paint. Take the roller sleeve off the roller and use water, soap, and a scrub brush to clean the paint roller.
Clean the roller sleeve by putting it into a bucket of warm, soapy water and gently massaging the fibers with your hands. After washing the roller, rinse it to remove any remaining soap or paint from the fibers, then make sure to dry the roller sleeve to prevent the fibers from clumping together. If you are still uncertain, there are more detailed instructions available for how to clean a paint roller.
How do you keep a paint roller from drying out?
To keep a paint roller from drying out in between uses, wrap the roller in plastic wrap or a plastic bag and put it into the fridge to help ensure that it remains moist until you are ready to resume painting. Note that this is only for a short break of a few hours to overnight, not for lengthy periods of time.
How do you remove a paint roller?
To quickly remove the paint roller sleeve or cover from the tool, turn the paint roller so that the open end of the sleeve is pointed up and the wire arm is towards the ground. The handle should be horizontal and perpendicular to the sleeve. Grip the handle tightly with one hand and use the other hand to hit the base of the roller handle. This impact typically causes the roller sleeve to slide up the roller. Repeat this process to fully loosen and remove the roller sleeve.
Alternatively, grip the roller in one hand and wrap your other hand in a plastic bag. Use the hand that is protected by the plastic to grab the roller sleeve and simply pull it off the roller. Just make sure that most of the paint has been removed from the roller sleeve before attempting to pull it off the roller, otherwise excess paint could drip or splatter.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article is edited and updated by Michelle Ullman, the tool expert for The Spruce. She has extensive experience not only in writing about all things related to the home, but also in carrying out various DIY projects, including landscaping, painting, flooring, wallpapering, furniture makeovers, and simple repairs. For this roundup, she considered dozens of paint rollers, evaluating each for effectiveness, ease of use, and feedback from customers. She also received advice and recommendations from Matt Kunz, President of Five Star Painting and Lisa Rickert, CEO and Creative Director at Jolie Home.
Timothy Dale, a home improvement expert specializing in a number of topics, including plumbing, construction, and product recommendations, provided additional research for this article.