Quick summary for me:
- Fill holes in wood with carpenter’s wood filler, in walls use spackle.
- Sand all surfaces
- Prime it with Zinsser etc.
- Caulk edges (ie. between trim and wall/ceiling) with paintable caulk
- PAINT It!
- when using brush, paint from dry to wet. Cut in edges first. use long strokes. Finish with one final long stroke from dry edge to wet edge.
Then it’s easy to change paint color if desired, all the other work has been done.
Here are the best articles I’ve found for tips on painting a room. One is from MakingitLovely.com, the other from a Mr. John Montgomery.
DIY Painting Tips, Tricks, and a Step-by-Step Guide
My dad was a handyman, and I grew up helping him. I’ve painted my home from top to bottom, as well as the houses and apartments of countless other people. I’ve learned a thing or two over the years and I’m happy to share my tips and a step-by-step guide with you! It looks like a lot of information (because it is), but don’t worry or get overwhelmed. Painting a room is an easy, inexpensive DIY project and you can do it!
Prep Work for Painting
- Fill any holes or imperfections with spackle, wait for it to dry, and then lightly sand the patches. If you have a crack, you must first widen it slightly before spackling or the spackle will just sit on top.
- Scape away any peeling, cracked paint, then sand the area smooth.
- Clean the walls if they may be dirty (especially in a kitchen or bathroom), and always take a damp cloth to clean the dust off of trim and the tops of doorways.
- Use paintable caulk to fill any gaps between the walls and trim before painting the trim. Fill any dings and divits in the wood with wood putty, wait for it to dry, then sand smooth.
- When in doubt, prime. Using a primer can hide dark colors, block stains, and help your new paint job last longer. It’s also a must when painting exposed woodwork, and there are many primers that adhere to glossy surfaces (allowing you to skip sanding first).
- Stir your paint before you begin, and don’t paint straight from the can. Obviously you would pour the paint into a roller tray if you were about to use a roller, but consider using a small bowl when painting with a brush. Its easier to hold, and decanting paint will keep the can free of the impurities (dust, wood particles, etc.) that your brush may pick up as you work.
- If you want to use tape, buy painter’s tape (it’s usually blue or green, and marked as such). Apply it in short, overlapping strips, and press down firmly along the edge to ensure a crisp line.
- You will need the following tools to prep for a typical room: Spackle, putty knife, fine grit sandpaper, and a damp lint-free rag. You may also need paintable caulk and wood putty if you’re working on the trim.
- Tools to paint a typical room: Paint, a tool to open the paint can, stir stick, angled paint brush, small bowl (I don’t recommend painting straight from the can), roller, roller cover, roller tray, and a roller extension pole (if you have high ceilings). Painter’s tape is optional, and a drop cloth to protect the floor is a good idea. You don’t need any funny little gadgets to paint edges.
- A 5-in-1 tool is a painter’s best friend. You can use it open the paint can, open cracks in the wall for repair, spread spackle (takes the place of a dedicated putty knife), scrape loose paint, and clean rollers.
- Use a good quality brush. I like a 2.5″ angle brush for most projects (painting trim, doors, cutting in), and a 2″ sash brush for windows.
- Use a good quality roller cover. Cheap ones leave a messy edge and can shed little fuzzies all over. I use a fresh cover for each paint job, but they can be cleaned. A 3/8″ or 1/2″ nap is good for most walls.
- I’ve tried many brands and I’ve been happiest with Benjamin Moore, though Behr impressed me as well. If you find a color you like from another line, a paint store can match it for you in the brand you like.
- Choose a finish that is appropriate for the room and application. I like semi-gloss for trim, eggshell for kitchens and bathrooms, and flat for all other rooms. Glossy finishes are the most durable, but flat finishes help to hide imperfections. Most paint finishes now, even flat, will hold up to a little cleaning. Porch paint is the most durable option for painting wood floors.
- Oil or latex? I always use latex (water-based) paint. It dries quickly, there are less fumes, and it cleans up with water. You can still choose latex if you are painting over oil paint, but you must prime first with an oil-based primer. You can test what kind of paint you have by rubbing it with a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol. If the paint comes off, it’s latex.
- Get a low-VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) paint if you’re concerned about paint fumes (in a nursery, for example). Many brands offer a low or no VOC option, including Mythic, Benjamin Moore, and Behr. Consumer Reports ratings are available to CR subscribers.
- Keep a wet edge, and always paint from dry to wet. This will minimize brush strokes and roller marks.
- Don’t stretch your paint. You don’t want to glop the paint on, but scrimping will leave you with a patchy, blotchy paint job.
- Taping is optional, especially if you have a reasonably steady hand. Using an angle brush, start slightly away from the edge and then curve in to meet it. This will help you avoid leaving a big blob of paint where you begin.
- Holding the brush the narrow way (not the way you would naturally hold it) makes it easier to get a crisp line when painting trim.
- Painting a room is best accomplished by first cutting in (painting along the trim, ceiling, and corners) with a brush. After that has dried, you can go in with a roller for the walls.
- I find that it doesn’t matter whether you paint the walls or the trim first. My preference is to paint the trim first because I find that I can get a cleaner line when I cut in to paint the walls. If you like to tape off your edges, you may find it easier to paint the trim last.
- Wet your brush and then blot out most of the water before you begin. This will help to keep paint from creeping up into the ferrule (the metal part where the bristles are attached) and save your brush.
- Only dip your brush about a half or quarter of an inch into the paint, then wipe off one side on the edge of the paint container. This will help you avoid paint runs (from using too much) and keep your brush in good condition.
- Paint in long, continuous strokes. Not doing so is one of the most common mistakes.
- When painting with a roller, aim for covering a three foot wide section at a time. I typically go from the ceiling to a midway point, load more paint, and then go from the midway point down to the floor. Then I move left or right to the next section, always remembering to keep a wet edge and working from dry to wet.
- When painting with a brush, don’t dab the paint on or move in a short back and forth motion. You can paint with the brush left and right (or up and down) to get the paint on, but then take one long finishing stroke from the dry side and tapering off into the wet edge.
- Put on a second coat. Your paint job may look OK after just one, but it will look better after two. If you’re using a dark or vivid color, you may even need three (or more) coats.
- Let your paint fully dry between coats. The paint can should tell you how long to wait.
- You can keep your brush or roller wet between coats by covering it tightly in plastic wrap or using a plastic bag. And don’t forget to put the lid back on the paint can right away.
- I use a fresh roller for each paint job, but you can clean them with water and a 5-in-1 tool.
- Remove painter’s tape as soon as the paint is dry.
- If you taped off your room’s edges with painter’s tape and the paint is peeling as you remove it, score the edge lightly with a razor for a clean line.
- If you notice a paint drip while it’s still wet, you can wipe it away with a damp cloth. If it has already dried, you will have to take more drastic measures.
- Stop to clean your brush if you’ve been painting for more than an hour or so. Otherwise, the paint will start to dry towards the top, gumming up your paint job and ruining your brush.
- Clean your brush with a little dish soap (assuming you’re using latex paint) and a brush comb until the water runs completely clear. A quality brush can hold a lot of paint, so give the bristles a little squeeze to wring out the excess water when you’re done and make sure there is no more paint in the brush. Smooth the brush into shape and then let it sit to dry completely.
Step-By-Step Guide to Painting a Room
- Clear the room, gather all of your supplies, and lay out your drop cloth.
- Scrape off any loose paint, if needed.
- Remove any nails from the wall and spackle any holes or imperfections. Sand smooth.
- Clean the walls and trim, if needed. Dust along the baseboards, windows, and doorways with a damp cloth.
- Caulk along the trim, if needed.
- Tape off the room if you like to use painter’s tape.
Painting the Room
- Prime. Pour your primer into a small bowl and cut in (paint the corners and edges of the room) with a brush first. If you’ll be painting the trim, you can prime it now too. Clean your brush when you’re done.
- Grab your roller and a roller cover, and pour your primer into a paint tray. Prime the walls.
- Paint. If you are painting the walls and the trim, decide which you will do first. Here, I’ll assume you’re doing the walls first. Again, cut in first with a brush and then paint the walls with a roller. Wrap your roller and paint tray in plastic and clean your brush and paint bowl while you wait for the room to dry, then do a second coat.
- Clean your brush, bowl, tray, roller, and roller cover (if you plan to reuse it).
- If you used painter’s tape, remove it as soon as the paint is dry to the touch.
- Wait for your paint to be completely dry before taping off again for the trim. You may want to wait a day to be sure.
- Apply two coats of paint to the trim, letting the paint dry in between. You can wrap your brush in plastic or clean it while you wait for the first coat to dry, then clean everything up when you’re done.
- Again, if you used painter’s tape, remove it as soon as the paint is dry to the touch. If the paint begins to peel, score the edge lightly with a razor.
- Clean up, put the room back together, and pat yourself on the back. You’re finished!
How to Paint a Room: What Your Mother Never Told You
29 Nov 2004 6:13 PM
Someone today asked me how to paint a room. About once a month, someone asks me how to paint a room because they think I’m “handy.” I’m not a professional painter. I don’t even like painting much. But I have gotten pretty fast at it over the years. I’ve ignored lots of rules and found lots of others that work. And I’ve made a huge number of mistakes. Even after 12 years of painting things, I still can’t make my paint jobs look as good as the ones that pros do, but I can do it for less. That said, when the work requires more than 5 days of effort on my part, I look to hire it out — pros can generally do that sort of thing in a lot less time and do it better.
A couple of rules of thumb before I start on my tips and tricks. I generally figure that a gallon of paint will cover about 200 square feet twice (two coats). I count on doing two coats of everything because I can always see through the first coat (even when the pros do it). I generally figure that I can do a 15 x 15 room in a day by myself. I use a dehumidifier to speed the paint drying. I don’t paint when it’s below 50 degrees, above 80 degrees, or above 60% humidity unless I have a dehumidifier, a heater, and/or an air conditioner. I listen to what the people at the paint store tell me. I don’t listen to what random people at Home Depot tell me; I do listen to the ones who work in the paint department because several of them are also professional painters.
- Pick your paint. This is about choosing material, quality, and finish. Material: oil or latex. 99% of the time I use latex. Oil is harder to work with and doesn’t paint well over latex paint, but it looks great and dries hard on wood trim. Latex is easy to work with, easy to clean up, and goes over everything. Quality: choose the best quality paint you can afford; the difference between a low-end paint and a high-end paint can be $5/gallon (not much) and the difference in final product can be stunning. Here in Seattle, I use Rodda because the quality is great and the price is reasonable — I pay under $20/gallon for the paint and the quality beats most $30/gallon paints easily. As for choosing a finish, understand that one vendor’s eggshell may be more like another vendor’s semigloss. In general for my work, I use only two finishes: flat (walls, ceilings, floors) and semigloss (trim and other woodwork). I’ve used full gloss paint once; I’m still recovering. 😉
- Buy primer. I prime before I paint just about everything unless I was the last person to paint it and know it doesn’t need primer. A good primer (Kilz, Zinsser, or here in Seattle, Rodda) will solve a huge number of problems. If you’re painting over something you didn’t paint or applying oil over latex or have water spots or mold (assuming you’ve solved the source of those) or are just questioning the quality of the last paint job, a good primer will save you years of frustration. And remember that you can tint primer — your paint seller should be able to tell you what color to tint it to help along your paint.
- Expensive brushes, cheap roller covers. Unless you want your finish to look like crap, choose good brushes (I use Purdy) but use cheap roller covers. My experience is that good brushes a) don’t shed b) hold their shape c) hold the paint better and d) clean up better. But I’ve used the most expensive Purdy roller covers and the least expensive Home Depot rollers and have seen little difference; however, I have a few tricks. First, before using a roller I wrap it in blue tape, then peel the blue tape away; this process tears off all the loose roller fluff that otherwise winds on the wall and in the paint. Second, I throw out the roller covers instead of cleaning them.
- Buy blue tape, lightweight Spackle (like OneTime), painter’s acrylic caulk, Flotrol/Penetrol, painter’s plastic, and something like Gojo or Goop. As long as you’re at the store picking up your paint, your primer, your brushes, and your roller covers (assuming you have a roller and a roller tray), buy these items. You’ll be happy you have them later. Especially the Goop, which is basically lanolin and cleans up paint and moisturizes your hands. You might as well pick up some latex gloves while you’re at it.
- Clear the room. Get everything out you can get out, including overhead lights, electrical plug and switch covers. If you can’t get it out, move it to the center of the room.
- Cover everything. Use cheap painter’s plastic to cover the stuff left in the center of the room, and bring the painter’s plastic to the edges of the floor (assuming you’re not painting the floor), and tape it down to the floor. Painter’s plastic is so cheap and so easy to work with that it’s worth the time to cover things you’re not painting. Five minutes setup saves hours cleanup in this case.
- Fill and sand. Prep is key — if the wall has holes, fill them. I use lightweight Spackle (OneTime) or joint compound. Once it’s dry, sand it. Actually, don’t just sand it, sand the whole wall. If you’re really ambitious, you could apply a top coat of joint compound and sand it to make the wall really flat. Now go around with the painter’s caulk and fill joins between woodwork (e.g. baseboard to wall, baseboard to baseboard) to get a nice even look. Push the caulk in with your finger and wipe it off on a cloth — it’s latex caulk, so it cleans up easily.
- Brush off the sanding dust. How many times have I forgotten that?
- Use blue tape, but use it wisely. Blue tape is worth its weight in gold, but I’ve seen people who overuse it drastically. So here are my guidelines. First, focus on taping horizontal surfaces. Remember that gravity generally pulls things down, so roller splatter will wind up on top of just about everything. I tape things like the tops of the baseboards, though I generally don’t bother taping the vertical sides. I tape around window frames, but I don’t do the incredibly boring job of taping windowpanes (it takes far longer to tape and remove the tape than it does to either paint correctly or to scrape off the paint from the glass). I also tape around door handles (how many times have I reached for a doorknob with a paint-covered hand) and put tape over the electrical switches and outlets (it’s a real pain to clean paint out of an electrical outlet).
- Mix your paint and add Flotrol. If you’re more than 24 hours from the paint store, open your paint and mix it. You should also add Flotrol (latex) or Penetrol (oil) to it — these paint conditioners don’t thin the paint or change its color, but they do affect how smoothly it goes on and limit brush and roller stroke evidence.
- Ceiling-wall, ceiling-wall, trim-trim. When I’m painting a room, this is the order I do it in. Trim last.
- Mind the cut-in. The first thing I do is cut in about 2″. This makes rolling on a snap. I don’t like walls covered with paintbrush strokes, so I cut in first.
- Roll with the punches. After cut-in, you’re ready to roll the walls. I use 4″, 9″, and 18″ rollers. Most folks shouldn’t try to use an 18″ roller — they’re heavy and hard to handle and when you mess up, you really really mess up. But once you’re ready to roll, get the roller good and wet for the first roll. If you’re holding the roller in your right hand, reach up high on the left, pull down to the right diagonally, then proceed vertically right to left filling in the unpainted space outlined by your diagonal swipe. Then roll the heck out of this space to get the paint really worked into the roller cover. Remember that rollers splatter on each pull — from top to bottom the splatter is a little less. After that, I generally do a 9″ cut-in around the edge of the room, then just roll on paint as quickly as I can.
- Plastic Wrap. If I have to stop between coats, I don’t clean up. Even overnight. I wrap the paintbrush, roller, and paint tray in plastic wrap and leave them. Works every time.
- Hold your paintbrush correctly. I’ve seen so many people hold their paintbrushes like a tennis racket. Some people get it basically right and hold it by the thin part of the handle like a pencil. But that will tire your hand out fast. A paintbrush should be held like a pencil, but down near the metal part by the bristles. The part of the brush that gets suddenly narrower should fit in around where the meaty part of your forefinger and thumb come together.
- Bathtub cleanup. If you use latex paint and don’t have a good laundry sink that you can mess up with paint, do all your cleanup in the bathtub. Just fill it with 2″ of warm water, let everything sit for a few minutes, and clean your heart out. When you’re done, turn the shower on to flush it out.
I’m sure I’ve forgotten something, but it seems that there’s always someone out there painting a room for the first time and they all seem to have the same problems.