8 Essential House Painting Supplies

Essential painting supplies

The Spruce / Margot Cavin

When rushing an interior paint job without doing the sometimes tedious prep work, it tends to look sloppy and gloppy. But carefully prepared surfaces and a thoughtful technique results in a room that looks like a team of professional painters just left your home and at the fraction of the price. It all comes down to a few essential tools that make or break the quality of a DIY interior paint job.

Here's a list of eight basic supplies—including a couple of surprising ones—to make your next interior house painting job look like an expert one.

  • 01 of 08

    Paint Color Samples

    Often overlooked, using paint color samples is an important way to help you chose your eventual paint color. Samples come as paint chips, color cards, online visualizers, or small containers of sample paints that you purchase at the store. For best results, tack up or paint your sample directly on the wall and not on a separate board or piece of paper.

    Using Real Paint Samples

    If using real paint samples, paint a patch of about 12 inches by 12 inches on different walls in your room. Go for a more accurate reading of two coats to see the texture and light reflectivity of the paint.

  • 02 of 08

    TSP (Trisodium Phosphate)

    With its chemical name, it sounds complicated, but TSP, known as trisodium phosphate, is a powerful all-purpose cleaning agent that professional painters may use for degreasing and cleaning a wall or other surface that needs painting. If you're encountering surfaces with grease and hard-to-remove grime, TSP is indispensable. It also is used to clean and soften paintbrushes that are hardened with paint. It's an inexpensive powder (but can be found premixed, as well) found at most hardware stores and even grocery stores.

    Handling TSP Safely

    TSP is a very strong chemical and can cause skin and eye irritation without proper precautions. Always wear rubber gloves, safety eye goggles, and long sleeves and pants when working with TSP. If it gets on your skin, immediately wash the area with soap and water; if it gets in your eye, flush with clean water for 15 minutes and seek emergency medical care.

  • 03 of 08

    Masking Film

    It's critical to your project to properly prepare the surfaces that you are not painting. That's why professional painters use a product called masking film to drape off windows, doors, cabinets, walls, and just about anything else that should not be touched by paint or dust from sanding. Masking film differs from a drop cloth; it's a thin, clear plastic sheet that clings (self-adheres) to surfaces via static electricity. A slightly more expensive version of masking film comes pre-taped with a strip of painter's tape already applied to one edge.

  • 04 of 08

    Canvas Drop Cloth

    Using a drop cloth, also called a tarp, is another crucial way to keep surfaces paint-free. They come in a few different materials, but the two most popular types—canvas and plastic—have pros and cons.

    A canvas drop cloth is more of an investment for future painting projects; prepare to spend at least $20 for quality canvas drop. They come in various weights and are represented in ounces per square yard. The heavier the weight, the better, but more costly the product. Some canvas cloths have a rubberized backing for extra sturdiness and durability. Since they're woven, a canvas drop cloth won't easily tear. You'll also need a place to safely store the drop cloth for future use.

    A plastic drop cloth is inexpensive and is typically disposable after one use. They are lightweight and easier to throw on top of furniture. The least expensive plastic drop cloth, for example, will have roughly the thickness of an economy garbage bag. Thicker plastic drop cloths won't tear easily and can be reused if it hasn't been trampled on throughout the project. However, they can pose a slip hazard when wet, and even when dry, they present a safety risk. To minimize slipping, it's best to tape down the edges if using plastic on the floor.

    Storing a Drop Cloth

    Before storing a canvas or plastic drop cloth, wait for paint drips and splotches to completely dry. If necessary, canvas cloths can be machine washed in cold water and then air dried before storing.

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  • 05 of 08

    Blue Painter's Tape

    Though not an economy tool, blue painter's tape is indispensable when it comes to blocking off areas that should not be painted and that drop cloths cannot cover, such as the edges of windows, wall trim, or tops of baseboard heaters. Blue painter's tape functions like normal masking tape but it has a different degree of stickiness more appropriate for painting jobs. The tape sticks well when applying it but comes off easily when you need to remove it without leaving residue or slivers of tape on surfaces.

    Blue painter's tape is rated by how many days you can leave it in place before its adhesive begins to harden and becomes difficult to remove.

  • 06 of 08

    Paint Sprayer

    Make an interior painting project easier with an airless paint sprayer. A sprayer can save you loads of painting time and offer a more consistent, even finish unlike brushing or rolling a wall or ceiling by hand. After you get the hang of the process and learn how far or close to the wall or ceiling you need to stand while spraying, you won't experience drips or bare spots.

    Some sprayers are fairly anemic while others are more powerful, and it depends on your comfort level. Some units are designed as a sprayer-roller that draws paint straight from the can which means you don't have to continually pour your paint. Just keep a damp cloth handy to wipe the nozzle tip as paint begins to accumulate as you spray.

    Mask Usage

    When using a paint sprayer indoors (and even outdoors), wear a mask to keep the mist and the fine particles of paint out of your lungs.

  • 07 of 08

    Sash Brush

    Painting the interior of wood windows means covering all the trim, mullions, and framing. There's one crucial tool that helps with this detailing job—a sash brush.

    A sash brush, also called a tapered brush, is a small tool designed for the highly exacting process of painting windows. The tapered end of the sash brush allows you to get into tight and narrow corners to make the process of painting your windows cleaner and smoother.

  • 08 of 08

    Paint Comb

    A paintbrush comb is one of the most overlooked inexpensive devices that can save you money in the long run. It's an essential tool to help you properly clean your paintbrushes.

    Cleaning a ​paintbrush well extends the life of the brush. A poorly cleaned brush will gunk up with paint after just a few uses, sending your brushes straight into the trash. A paintbrush comb helps you open up the bristles as you run water or solvent over them, further loosening and removing paint.