How To Paint

I’ve been a busy little bee doing most of the painting in a 2300+ sq. ft. house! I’ve done plenty of painting before. I AM the decoraholic, after all, and paint is one of the cheapest and most impact-full ways to change a room. I thought I would share my wisdom gained to those of you who may be picking up a roller for the first time or want to ease the process some.

Tools are one of the most important pieces of the puzzle. Invest in a few good tools to save yourself some headaches later on. Picking bristle hairs out of dried up paint, touching up all of your edges, or cleaning up roller splatters are just not chores worthy of the few bucks you’ll save up front! Trust me on this. My husband loves to go the cheap route. I recommend a good quality angled bristle brush, a roller and at least 1 roller cover for each color of paint you’ll use, painter’s tape, a step ladder that allows you comfortable access to the highest spot on your walls, drop cloths, patching compound, a flat spatula tool, set of old clothes, a screwdriver, large ziplock bag, and of course, paint. DO NOT go cheap on your paint, either! Quality paint covers better and has truer color. You don’t have to go top-of-the-line, but don’t ever buy paint where you can also buy groceries. Don’t do it. If you’re going to the job, do it right. See the previous post for tips on choosing paint. Most paint stores will give you stir sticks and the little tool to open your paint cans for free. You’ll need these, too.

Prep work is next. Remove all switch plates and outlet covers. I usually put them in a large Ziplock bag and keep them in or next to the door of the room I’m painting. Next, dust your baseboards and tape. Even with all the experience I have, I tape baseboards. The tape catches paint drips and helps hold your drop cloths in place. Tape makes a difference. If your baseboards have been painted or caulked in the last week or so, look for a tape made for delicate and/or recently painted surfaces. Stronger tapes might pull your new paint off! If not, look for a tape with color-blocking or edge seal compounds to get a good, clean line. To apply your tape, I usually start unrolling about a foot at a time (without tearing) and line it up with the caulk line. Most interior-use caulk is paintable, FYI. Once I have then entire Wally’s baseboards taped, I go back and press along the tape and drag my finger the whole length to make sure it’s sealed well. If you don’t do this, your paint will find the loose spots and seep through. I also used paper and tape to cover things like alarm or thermostat panels.


Also tape along door and window frames, if you wish. If you’re not a pro at cutting-in, tape them. If you are painting a kitchen or bathroom, you’ll have cabinets and other fixtures to tape around, too. If you might change light fixtures in the near future, loosen the existing ones (if attached to the wall) and paint behind them. You will need to disconnect the power in the room to remove them or if you are exposing wires. Some builder-grade lift fixtures for bathrooms are very easy to remove. The “dressing room” light fixtures can be removed by taking out the bulbs, pulling off the bulb housing covers, and then pulling off the cover. The wires are usually connected to a panel on the wall, separate from the cover.



Next, lay out your drop cloths. If there is furniture in the room already, move it all to the center of the room so that you have a 2-3 ft. path. Remove all pictures and decorative shelves. I do go cheap on drop cloths, that is ok. The plastic ones work just fine and stick well to the tape. They also stretch a little, so they won’t tear as easily as paper. The plastic ones will tear when you pull them off your tape, though, so don’t plan to reuse them more than maybe once. You can recycle them just like plastic grocery bags, as long as you don’t have any big spills. I’ve also re-used things like mattress bags and specific special occasion banners that won’t be used again. (Congratulations ‘## graduate, happy #th birthday, etc.) If you want reusable drop cloths, spring for the canvas or thicker plastic tarps. Paper works ok, but is not water-proof and tears more easily than plastic. Lay them all along each wall you’ll paint, and cover any furniture items that are near your path.

After drop cloths are down, I start with the patching compound and fill in any holes or dents. You’ll probably have plenty unless you’re painting a newly constructed or renovated home. You can use a fingertip for small push-pin or nail holes. Use the spatula tool for bigger holes and dents. Smear a big lump on and use the tool to smooth the patched area. For bigger holes, usually 1/2 an inch wide or more, or holes that have space behind them (often created when you’ve removed an anchor screw from drywall) you may need to patch part of the hole, allow it to dry, and then patch the other part. If your walls are textured, try your best to match the texture. Don’t make it perfectly smooth unless your walls are smooth, it will stand out. My walls have an “orange peel” texture. To match this, put some small blobs of compound on the spot and squish into place with your fingertip. Lightly scrape with the spatula tool to partially smooth the lumps. If it is a big hole, you will need an adhesive mesh patch and a texture spray (both sold at home improvement stores, usually located near the paint). Allow some time to dry. Pin hole patches dry quickly, bigger patches will need more time to dry.

Edges are next. If you don’t have patches along the edges, you can start painting them while your patching compound dries. I like to do one wall at a time: top, bottom, sides, and doors or windows. If you are working with another person, this allows them to go along and use the roller to paint the edged wall. You can use a flat brush along taped baseboards. For corners, ceiling edges, and trim, use an angled brush. I never tape ceilings, but if you’re a beginner, you might want to do that or use a flat edge to help you with your lines. Even someone who has painted many rooms will make mistakes. This is a matter of preference, too. I’d personally rather touch up ceilings with a small brush than tape.

Cutting-in is a term you may have heard on TV or other websites. It is an edge painting technique that can help you save time on edges and get cleaner lines. Many paint pros do this instead of taping. It is a great technique to master and will save you time and mess. Practice on a flat wall to get your technique down and then try it out on a taped edge. When you’ve got it down, you can cut-in along edges without taping. You’ll need an angled brush to do this. Start by dipping your brush in your paint and scraping off the excess on the side of the brush that will touch the wall or trim that you don’t want painted. Angle your brush, sort of like a pen, and press the side with the paint onto the wall you’re painting. You should press hard enough to slightly bend your brush’s bristles. Glide the bristles along the edge as if you were writing or drawing, using the tip as if it were the ballpoint in your pen or felt on a marker. The tip should be along the line you are painting and the other bristles should be slightly angled away from the edge. It’s better to start away a little bit and have to move inward. You can always touch up with a small artist brush, too, so don’t fret small mistakes. It should look something like this:




Edge the entire wall and then fill in with a roller. We found a roller with an extension pole that can be filled with paint, too. It was a good tool for reaching the taller walls without needing to climb up and down a ladder. My only complaint was that it painted thinner coat than a hand roller, so extra coats were needed.


Allow to dry for a few hours and take a step back. Do you see roller lines, uneven color, or spots that you missed? Touch them up. You often need 2 coats of paint. I’ve rarely painted a room and needed just one. You can break up the job and do the 2nd coat another day. Just tightly cover all of your tools with Press ‘N Seal wrap to keep them air-tight. This will prevent the paint from drying out. Any more than a day and you should clean up all of your tools as if you’re done.

You know you need another coat if your paint color is uneven or you can see where the roller overlapped. Basically, if it looks anything like this:


Once your color is nice and even, let the paint dry for an hour or two and then start peeling off the tape. If you use latex paint (common house paint) then the paint could start peeling off with your tape if it’s completely dry. You’ll need to put away or recycle your drop cloths and vacuum or sweep the floor underneath- there will be dried paint dots and patching compound.

Wait until your walls have dried at least 24 hours or are no longer sticky to the touch before putting switch plates and outlet covers back on and hanging decorations. Then move furniture into place and admire your hard work!