How to Paint Interior Walls Like a Pro

Man painting wall
Ronnie Comeau / Stocksy United
Project Overview
  • Working Time: 6 hrs
  • Total Time: 2 days
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $60 to $120

Painting your walls might seem like the most elemental home remodeling task, a project that amateurs can perform just as easily as professionals. Even if you're a bit daunted by the idea of painting your own walls, the cost savings you might realize by doing it yourself could easily push you into trying out your skills.

While interior painting does not rise to the level of skill-heavy jobs like electrical work or plumbing, not everything about painting is abundantly obvious. That's a key point to remember for this project: Take your time. You might not create a perfectly smooth painted wall on the first go. Be realistic about that, but also know that with careful consideration and practice, you can turn out professional quality work in your own home.

Over the years, professional painters develop certain procedures that make their jobs go faster, look better, and finish cleaner. By adopting professional painters' methods and insider tricks, you too can turn out a fantastic wall paint project. Let's get started.


To prepare the room for painting, first remove any obstructions. This includes everything from furniture to light switch covers. The more you can remove, the more space you'll have to move around and create a better paint job, and the less opportunity for accidental paint splatters on things you'd rather not paint, such as the sofa or bookcase.

Move out the big obstructions. If there are things you can't move out, move them to the center of the room and cover them well with plastic sheets.

Then look to the little things. With the correct screwdriver, remove light switch plates, outlet plates, pictures, hanging hooks or nails, and hooks for towels or clothes. After the plates have been removed, place tape over the remaining switches and outlets to avoid slopping paint on them.

Some wall obstructions, such as trim, require too much time and effort to remove and later replace. Besides that, you may cause damage to the walls by removing them. Unless you are making extensive whole-room remodels, you may find it easier to mask off baseboards, crown molding, or trim around windows and doors.

Few professional painters will be found without a set of work lights. By shining white light on the wall you are painting, you get a true and clear visual representation of how well the paint is going on. Ceiling lights just don't do the job. Find two inexpensive LED work lights, each rated at 4,000 lumens, at your local home center.

Run long, uninterrupted strips of painter's tape along the juncture between the wall and ceiling, wall, and adjacent walls, and along the top of the baseboards. If the wall has a door or window, run the tape around the door or window trim to protect them from spattering paint.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Extension pole for roller
  • Metal spiral power mixer (optional)
  • Cordless drill (optional)
  • 6-foot ladder
  • Work lights
  • Paint comb (optional for clean up)
  • Screwdrivers (to remove light switch plates)


  • Primer, preferably tinted
  • Acrylic-latex interior paint
  • Roller frame in desired size
  • Roller cover in desired size
  • Paint can pour spout
  • Drop cloth, canvas or fabric
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Paint trays and liners
  • Painter's tape
  • 2 inch Angled paintbrush or paint edging tool
  • Wood paint stirring stick
  • Latex or nitrile gloves


  1. Apply the Primer

    You do not always have to use a primer when painting a wall. This is particularly true when you are repainting a wall the same color and the existing paint quality is good.

    Always use a drywall primer when the surface is bare drywall paper. Professional painters often request the paint store pre-tint the primer to bring it closer to the intended wall color, rather than leaving it the usual stark white. This reduces the number of colored paint coats needed.

  2. Mix the Paint

    Unless the paint was mixed at the store a couple of hours before you start painting, it will need to be mixed again. Either use a wooden paint stirring stick or chuck a metal spiral power mixer attachment into your electric drill.

  3. Paint the Edges

    Paint a 4-inch wide swath along the edges with a 2-inch trim brush by dipping the brush lightly into the paint can, wiping off the excess, then painting alongside and slightly on the painter's tape.

    Or, if using the cutting-in technique, paint the edges about 4 inches inward as well. With either method, paint at least two coats.

  4. Roll the Paint

    Now you will roll paint on the inner part of the wall. Dip the roller in the paint tray and thoroughly squeeze it out by rolling it on the tray. Place the roller on the wall and paint in a "W" shape. Then "fill in" the "W" in order to cover small sections of about 4 feet high by 4 feet wide.

    Finish a section before moving onto an adjacent section. Work quickly so that you maintain a wet edge. Make sure that you are always working off of a wet edge, as this will help avoid streaking.

  5. Let the Paint Dry and Paint a Second Coat

    After the wall is finished, wait at least a couple of hours for it to dry. The glossier the paint, the longer the dry time. Flat paint can be ready for repainting in as little as an hour in dry, warm conditions. Paint a second time.

  6. Clean the Work Area

    Clean up your brush with warm water and a paint comb, provided you are using acrylic-latex interior paint. Remove drop cloths and let them air-dry over a fence outside. Wad up plastic sheeting and throw away. Wait until the next day to remove the painter's tape. Pull the tape straight back to cut the paint and create a sharp line.

Tips For Painting Interior Walls

If you need work done quickly and flawlessly, you can always opt to use a professional painter. But if you have time and you want to learn to paint like a pro, follow these tips.

Use Top-Quality Paint

Purchasing low-quality paint seems like a money-saving idea on paper, but not so much when it's on the wall. Poor paint requires multiple coats and it might still end up peeling and chipping. Because interior walls are so visible, many homeowners find it worthwhile to buy top-quality paint, even when the price is higher.

Use Wider Roller Covers

Speed up your paint time by using wider roller frames and covers. The most popular width on the consumer market is 9 inches because it is easier to handle. Many painters even use a 12-inch wide roller frame and cover. But if you are strong enough, using an 18-inch roller will considerably speed up your painting.

If you are painting many walls, it will be worth it to use a larger roller. But for just one or two walls, a conventional 9-inch or 12-inch roller will work just fine.

Use Masking Film

Professional painters often use plastic masking film to cover adjacent walls, ceilings, and windows. Static electricity holds this ultra-thin plastic to the surface. Some masking film comes with an attached edge of painter's tape.

Use a Canvas or Fabric Drop Cloth

Plastic sheeting is fine for covering furniture and other areas where you will not be walking. But for underfoot, a canvas drop cloth provides a more solid place to stand. In addition, a canvas or fabric drop cloth can be reused.

Learn the Cut-In Technique

While taping the edges with painter's tape is effective, professional painters tend to use the freehand cutting-in method. This tape-free procedure requires a steady hand and a trim brush to draw a smooth band of paint.