How to Paint a Room Like a Professional

Pro Painting Tips and Tricks to Get Started

Gray paint covering wall like professional with paint roller

The Spruce / Margot Cavin

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 6 hrs
  • Total Time: 7 hrs
  • Yield: 1 painted room of 150 square feet
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $50 to $200

You can paint a room—or you can paint a room really well. If you want to go beyond the norm and learn how to paint a room like a professional with true perfection, one that is neat, clean, and looks fantastic, you need to think like the masters of the craft. Painting a room like a pro will hinge on the quality of the tools and the quality of preparation.

Invest in Quality Tools

Professional painters paint a room using premium tools, and they maintain them well because these tools are their livelihood. You can paint a room faster like a professional if you duplicate their methods and invest in the proper tools, such as:

  • Premium brushes won't shed bristles.
  • A premium roller frame (9 inches and smaller sizes) will last for several projects.
  • A quality roller cover with a thick nap absorbs and transfers paint to your wall with consistency; pros tend to use a new roller cover for each coat of paint.
  • An extension pole with a locking mechanism helps you paint high places with less mess.
  • A 5-gallon paint bucket eliminates the paint tray and liner method by letting you easily refill your roller. A lid on the bucket lets you store paint for long periods and eliminates pouring paint back into original cans.
  • A roller screen put in the bucket drains paint back into the container eliminating waste and mess.

Don't Skimp on Prepping

There are a few phases necessary to properly prep a room for painting. all of them important. Prepping requires the following steps:

  • Move as many items out of the room to clear the space around the walls for further preparation. Items left in the room only block your work and potentially can be damaged by paint splatter and spills.
  • If you can't move furniture, then move everything to the center of the room. Cover all of the furniture under one large plastic sheet, and tape the sheet down with painter's tape.
  • Take down decorative items from the walls such as artwork, shelves, clocks, and remove the nails, hooks, and picture hangers.
  • Remove the switch plates and outlet covers.
  • Protect uncovered switches and outlets with painter's tape.
  • Cover and protect the floor.
  • Mask or remove wall, door, and window trim.
  • Patch and clean the walls.
  • Prime the walls.

Finally, after all the prepping, you'll be ready to paint the walls. The prepping may take some time, but once that's done, you can typically paint a room in one day, even if you are a beginner.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Flathead screwdriver
  • Paint scraper (with rounded corners)
  • Putty knife
  • Clean bucket
  • Sponges
  • Angled paintbrush or paint edger tool
  • 9-inch roller frame
  • 9-inch roller cover(s)
  • 5-gallon paint bucket
  • Bucket screen
  • Roller extension pole (optional)

Materials

  • Plastic sandwich bags
  • Painter's tape
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Drop cloths
  • Fine-grit sandpaper
  • Wall spackle
  • TSP
  • Primer
  • Interior latex paint

Instructions

How to Paint a Room Like a Professional

Materials and tools to paint rooms like a professional

The Spruce / Margot Cavin

  1. Remove and Prep Switch Plates and Outlet Covers

    Turn off the electrical circuits controlling the outlets and switches in the room you're painting. You do not want to be electrically shocked when removing plates and screws.

    With a small screwdriver, remove all the switch plates and outlet covers. Place each plate and cover, with their screws, in a separate plastic sandwich bag. Put the bags in a safe place away from the paint. Place a strip of blue painter's masking tape over the outlet and switch openings in the walls to avoid painting over them by accident.

    Tip

    If the covers were looking dingy, place them in a solution of warm soapy water to clean them while you are painting. Replace cracked or broken plates and covers.

    Outlet covers removed from wall with screwdriver

    The Spruce / Margot Cavin

  2. Cover Floor and Unmovable Items

    Lay drop cloths, such as plastic tarps or rosin paper on the floor to protect it from paint.

    Tip

    Rosin paper works best on hardwood floors, as plastic sheeting can create a slippery surface. Rosin paper comes in rolls at the hardware store or you can purchase inexpensive builder's paper.

    Floors covered with drop cloth to protect from paint

    The Spruce / Margot Cavin

  3. Mask or Remove the Trim

    Run painter's tape along the edges of door and window trim to protect them from paint (and from any patching materials). Remove baseboards if possible. Otherwise, run painter's tape along the top edge of the baseboards to protect them from paint.

    Tip

    Clean the top edge and surface of baseboards to help the tape stick.

    Wood floor trim removed to protect from paint

    The Spruce / Margot Cavin

  4. Patch the Walls

    Before cleaning, you'll need to examine the walls for any gouges, large holes, scratches, cracks, or peeling. Patching a wall well will create a smooth and professional paint finish.

    Use fine-grit sandpaper to smooth over minor shallow scratches and imperfections. Scrape off any old peeling paint with a paint scraper for walls. Smooth over and feather the edges of scraped paint with sandpaper. Spackle and sand larger blemishes.

    Wall holes patched up with spackle

    The Spruce / Margot Cavin

  5. Clean the Walls

    Any mistakes visible before painting walls will be visible after painting. Now is the time for cleaning the walls and making stains disappear. Your best bet is to wash the walls with trisodium phosphate (TSP), an inexpensive but extremely strong painter's detergent effective at removing surface oils and dirt.

    Fill the clean bucket with cool water. Pour in the manufacturer-specified amount of TSP and stir. Soak a sponge in the TSP solution then sponge clean the walls.

    Refill the bucket with clean water and sponge rinse the walls. Let the walls air-dry.

    Warning

    TSP is a very strong chemical and may cause skin and eye irritation without proper safety precautions. Always wear the following:

    • Rubber gloves
    • Safety eye goggles
    • Long sleeves

    If TSP gets on your skin, wash the area with soap and water. If it gets in your eyes, flush with clean water for 15 minutes. Then seek emergency medical care.

    Tri-sodium phosphate poured into bucket for cleaning walls

    The Spruce / Margot Cavin

  6. Prime the Walls

    Priming walls covers tough stains and adds a subtle texture, or teeth, so the paint can better adhere to the walls. Oil-based primers are ideal to use for most interior walls. If your walls are in pristine and stain-free condition, consider self-priming paint to eliminate the step of priming.

    Primers are formulated for various uses. For example, if the TSP did not remove some stains, take the next step with an oil-based masking primer. Look for primers that indicate that they will block or mask stains from seeping through the paint; keep priming these areas until the stain disappears.

    Tip

    Use a tinted primer if you are painting a light color on a dark wall. You can use a tinted primer if you are painting over a wall with a similar color, as well. Tinted primer lets you see missed spots before painting your finishing coat.

    Paint roller applying white primer to walls

    The Spruce / Margot Cavin

  7. Cut-in the Edges

    Cutting-in is a term that refers to painting right up to the edge of surfaces that will not be painted and it fills in areas where paint rollers can't go. Professional painters prefer cutting-in, sometimes instead of painter's tape, because it is expedient, inexpensive, less wasteful, and cleaner than using tape.

    Lightly dip an angled brush or paint edger tool into the top of the paint. Gently draw the brush along the wall and up close to the surface that will not be painted (such as door trim). Go slowly when using an angled brush or paint edger tool. Have a cloth rag handy to quickly clean up errant paint marks.

    Tip

    If you have masked the trim with tape, use the tape as a guide. Even the best painter's tapes may allow some paint to sneak around the edge and onto your trim. Avoid relying on the tape for complete protection. Instead, use the brush to paint up to the tape. Try not to paint the tape itself.

    White paint cutting in under wood trim edges

    The Spruce / Margot Cavin

  8. Prepare Roller With Paint

    Dip the roller into your paint bucket. Don't immerse it for too long; overloaded rollers cause major drips that are tough to roll out.

    Pull the roller back up the screen several times until the roller is coated all around. Keep rolling up and down until you hear a sticky sound. Do this several times until you are confident that the roller cover is coated in paint.

    Roller dipped into bucket to prepare for paint

    The Spruce / Margot Cavin

  9. Roll in a W Shape

    Start in one corner of the wall and make a 3-foot downward pass, then up again, down, and finally up to create a "W." Fill and overlap other W shapes across the wall. Work quickly enough so the paint edges you are rolling over are still wet.

    Tip

    Flat and matte interior paints are forgiving when it comes to painting over drier edges. However, if you are using glossy paint, pay close attention and always roll or brush from wet edges to ensure a smooth finish.

    Paint roller applying gray paint in a W shape

    The Spruce / Margot Cavin

  10. Fill in and Complete

    Continue rolling out blocks of paint using the W method. Occasionally step back to view your work. Work in a strong light to catch any missing spots.

    At any edges where you previously used the cutting-in technique, finish by turning the roller vertically or horizontally to fill in the space with paint and smooth it out.

    Tip

    While painting, stay as far away as possible from areas you don't want to be painted. Even better, cover them with tarps or drop cloths. Rollers can accidentally splatter and spray paint off the roller and onto the surface.

    Paint roller filling in wall gaps with gray paint

    The Spruce / Margot Cavin

FAQ
  • Do professional painters wash walls before painting?

    Professional painters may or may not wash walls before painting and it also depends on the condition of your walls. If the walls are in bad shape, a professional painter may wash the walls for better results. If the walls are in decent shape, they may not take the time to do a thorough cleaning. If hiring pros, ask what type of cleaning is included in the contract.

  • What should be painted first in a room?

    The correct order to paint a room is to tackle the ceiling first and then paint the walls. Painting the ceiling first lets you adequately cover this without worrying that you'll mess up the paint job on the walls. You can touch up the ceiling at the end when you're done with the walls.

  • How many coats of paint do you put on a wall?

    You will typically want to apply two coats of paint on a wall for full and even coverage, even if you are using high-quality paint. There may be exceptions. If you are painting the walls the same color as the existing paint, or using special "one-coat" paint, one coat might be enough. Some other colors, however, may even require three coats (such as bright reds, oranges, and yellows) to even out the coverage.