A room can be vastly improved with a fresh coat of paint. But if you have a love-hate relationship with painting, you'll want to read our tips on how to paint efficiently and ensure a beautiful end result. You might even enjoy the project as much as the finished product!
Start out Right
You'll enjoy the job more if you get everything together at the start. Organize a tool station in the middle of the area you'll be working in. Gather together your paint, brushes, rollers, hammers, screwdrivers, plastic bags, plastic wrap, rags, paint can opener, and drop cloths.
Plan a Day for Prep
Don't try to get everything done in one day. Use the day before painting day to gather furniture in the center of the room, patch cracks and holes, put blue painter's tape around doors and windows, and cover wall and ceiling light fixtures (light bulbs removed, of course!) with large plastic bags.
Clear the Decks
If you can, clear out all the furniture and accessories. Take everything off the walls. If you can't move everything out, place the furniture and lamps in the middle of the room and cover them with a good drop cloth. Be sure that you tape the cloth around the furniture. Then put the second cover of plastic or old sheet over everything.
Remove All Hardware
It may seem easier to paint around doorknobs or cabinet hinges, but unless you're an experienced professional painter, you're bound to get drips around. So carry around some zip-top bags and remove all cabinet knobs and hinges, door knobs, light switch plates and outlet covers, and light fixtures. Place the pieces together in separate bags and clearly mark the contents and location (top left cabinet, bathroom door, etc) you took them from. This is a great time to clean the hardware! Put them back when you're done painting.
Get Yourself Ready
No matter how hard you try, you're bound to get drips (or more) of paint on whatever you're wearing. So take off all jewelry. Reserve some old, but comfortable, clothes for your painting jobs. Slip-on shoes are easy to take off if you need to leave the room. You won't have to worry about tracking drops of paint into other rooms. When you paint the ceiling, put a scarf, shower cap, or old baseball hat over your hair and some plastic over your eyeglasses.
Don't Paint Over Problem Walls
If your walls have holes or cracks, fix them before you start with the paint. Any home center or paint store has knowledgeable personnel to guide you to the best products for the job. Wide cracks and large holes can be "bridged" with fiberglass tape, spackle will fill small holes and cracks, and texturizing products are available to match your existing wall finish.
Essential Painting Products
Every year, new products come on the market to help make painting more enjoyable. You'll want to select the best ones for your job.
Natural or Synthetic Brushes
Paint brushes with natural bristles are meant for oil-based paints. Natural bristles will soak up the water and go limp in water-based paints. The newer synthetic bristles were designed for water-based or latex paints, but can be used for anything. Densely packed bristles that taper to a chisel edge help with painting a straight edge, cutting in, or tipping. Split ends or "flags" hold more paint and spread it more evenly and smoothly. Choose the right paint brush for your job.
Foam Brushes and Rollers
Foam brushes come in many widths, are inexpensive, and are great for small jobs or touch-ups. Foam paint rollers work well, don't spatter the paint, and are easy to use when you want a really smooth wall. Don't try them on rough surfaces, though, as they will not hold up.
Smooth pad painters offer simple and neat paint application and easy clean ups. Don't apply too much paint to the pad, as it will drip. You'll have to take it apart, clean it, dry it thoroughly, and start over.
A paint roller with a plastic core will last longer than one with a cardboard core. Select a roller "nap" (fullness of the covering) according to the texture on your walls. Use a flat, smooth roller for flat, smooth walls and a thicker, more plush roller for rough-textured walls.
Water-Based or Latex Paint
Latex paints are formulated to be environmentally-friendly. Drying time is short (usually about 1 hour) and cleanups are easy with water. Apply water-based paints with rollers, pads, or synthetic bristle brushes. Latex paints tend to get a "skin" of paint in the can when they begin to dry out, so keep the can covered as much as possible. Pour paint into another container to work from and close the can.
Most professional painters prefer oil-based paints, especially for cabinets, furniture, and trim. New formulations do not harm the environment and are not toxic. Because they dry more slowly, oil-based paints allow for better coverage and work well in warm, dry climates where water-based paints would dry too fast. Apply oil-based paints with pads, rollers, or natural bristle brushes. Clean up with paint thinner or another solvent.
The best material for a drop cloth is a heavy canvas cloth. It's not as slippery as plastic and covers better than newspaper. Fold the cloth to fit any size room and tape down the corners to prevent paint from oozing over the edge. To prevent scratching, be sure to vacuum hardwood floors before you put the drop cloth down.
Most paint jobs work better when you use a primer or base coat. Have the primer or base paint tinted to match your surface paint color. You may be able to avoid a second coat of finish paint. For ceilings, try paint that is specially formulated for ceilings. Some brands go on light blue and change to white when dry. This makes it easier to see where you've already painted.
Painter's Blue Tape
If you've never used painter's blue tape, why not? It has a waxy coating to keep paint from seeping through, is available in several widths, and provides a perfectly straight edge for painting. It will not pull up the paint on the surface it's stuck to, and the seal is activated when you put it down on a smooth surface. Its special properties don't last forever, so don't leave it on the wall more than a couple of days.
Wrapping up Your Paint Project
Even if you've done a great job, some cleanup will be required. You'll have to do some touch ups and put things away. Read some simple tips to wrap up your painting project in style.
Keep Your Brush Ready
You won't want to clean your paint brush or roller every time you need to take a break. Wrap them in plastic wrap and seal them in a plastic bag. They'll be ready and flexible when you return from your break. For longer storage (as much as a week), put the plastic bag with brushes in the freezer—yes, the freezer! Thaw out the brushes for an hour before you use them again.
Have Plenty of Rags for Wipe-Ups
No painter would be without a supply of rags. You'll undoubtedly need to wipe off excess paint, catch drips, clean up spills, or wipe off your hands.
Scrape excess paint or drips from windows, tile, or glass with straight razor blades. The drips won't smear, and the surface will be perfectly clean.
Simple Clean Up for Latex Paint
When you're done painting, take the time to soak your brushes or rollers with latex paint in a solution of water and laundry fabric softener for about 10 minutes. Swish them around in the water, remove them, and rinse well with clear water. Wipe or roll off excess moisture, then air dry the brushes and rollers before putting away.
No need to save a big can of paint to store just the little that's left over. Use a glass jar or pint size paint can store excess paint. Remove the paint can label or mark the new, smaller container with important information. Include the date the paint was used, the color name and number, where it was purchased, the room where it was used, and where (wall, trim, etc.) If you have it, attach the paint swatch from the paint store.
Be Ready for Touch Ups
Use small baby food jars or food storage containers to store small amounts of paint for touching up scratches or dents. Fill them with leftover paint, label where the paint was used (kitchen cabinets, primary bedroom ceiling, etc.) and what type of paint it is (latex flat, oil eggshell, etc.), and place the containers in sealed plastic bags. When you need to make a small repair, shake the container well and dab on a spot of paint with a small foam brush or Q-tip.
About This Term: Primary Bedroom
Many real estate associations, including the National Association of Home Builders, have classified the term "Master Bedroom" as discriminatory. "Primary Bedroom" is the name now widely used among the real estate community and better reflects the purpose of the room.
Read more about our Diversity and Inclusion Pledge to make The Spruce a site where all feel welcome.
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Bristle Basics: Which Brush Should You Use? Popular Mechanics, 2012.
Paints and Finishes. North American Hardware and Paint Association.
Healthy Indoor Painting Practices. United States Environmental Protection Agency.
Basir, Ahmed et al. Formulation of Heat Resistant Paint from Palm Oil Based Resin by Using Nano-Silica Particles. Conf. Ser.: Earth Environ. Sci, IOP 442 012004, 2020. doi:10.1088/1755-1315/442/1/012004
Master Bedroom and Bathroom Terminology: RESO Discussion. Real Estate Standards Organization.