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How to Paint Walls Like a Pro

December 18th, 2017 - 3:43 PM

Painting walls? Use these DIY painting tips

Whether you’re about to move into a new place or just want a new color on the walls, painting is something you can definitely do on your own. While there are professionals who can do the work, the cost savings of doing it yourself is often worth the time and effort. It doesn’t take much to do a professional-quality job — the secret is in the preparation and the supplies.


how to paint walls


How to pick professional paint

A great DIY experience begins with choosing the right paint. While you can buy cheaper varieties at a home improvement store, using high-quality paint will give you a better result. Visit a specialty store and get the best paint that fits your budget. There are several types available, so check that you’re getting the best one for each room:

  • High gloss — The shiny, light-reflecting finish of this option makes it very easy to clean. It’s ideal for surfaces that may attract grime and grease, like trim, doors and high traffic areas (such as a hallway near kids’ rooms).
  • Semi-gloss — The lighter sheen on this choice is very durable and works well in rooms with lots of moisture, such as bathrooms or kitchens.
  • Satin — A smoother texture, but also easy to clean, this paint works well in family rooms and other high-traffic areas. Beware though, it can easily show flaws in the wall, so patch and repair any issues beforehand.
  • Eggshell — The next lightest finish offers low shine, but covers wall imperfections well.
  • Flat/Matte — While this option provides the most coverage, it can be difficult to clean. It should be used in areas that won’t be easily damaged.

After choosing which finish to use, pick a few colors to bring home and sample. Apply samples to each wall in a room to try it in different lighting. Don’t judge the color until it’s dry, and look at it several times throughout the day as it may look different as the lighting changes. Gray tones are especially sensitive to light!  

When you purchase paint, you need to know the square footage of the room and then account for two coats. One gallon will typically work for one coat on up to 400 square feet of surface. If you’re on the fence about how much you need, get a little extra. It’s better to have too much than not enough.

To prime or not to prime?

Primer is an undercoat that helps paint look even and last longer, and it can even reduce the amount of paint that soaks into the wall. For the most professional results, we recommend applying a coat on all drywall, especially if:

  • The current wall color is bold
  • There are issues with the walls (such as uneven texture)
  • It’s been longer than 5 years since the wall has been painted

When covering particularly dark walls, try mixing a little bit of the new paint with the primer to tint it.

Gathering supplies

Along with paint and primer, you’ll need supplies such as:

  • Plastic sheeting
  • Microfiber dusting cloths
  • Putty knife
  • Razor knife
  • Deep-well trays
  • Brush and/or roller extender
  • Any items needed for wall repairs (caulk, putty, mesh, etc.)

Take note when choosing these supplies, as the type you choose will make a difference:

  • Drop cloths — Protect floors from drips and spills with drop cloths. Canvas ones are a little more expensive than plastic coverings or sheets, but they absorb spills so you won’t track paint if you step in it, and they are thick enough that the paint won’t seep through to the floor.
  • Painter’s tape — There are many widths available, but 1.5” will fit most applications. Choose the right adhesive level — lighter for more delicate surfaces and extra sticky for textured walls.
  • Brushes — Buy high quality brushes in a variety of sizes. Synthetic brushes are great for water-based paint while natural or blended brushes are best for oil-based.
  • Rollers — Pay attention to the thickness of the nap on the roller, thicker naps (like ¾”) are best for rougher surfaces, but when used on a smooth wall will create an orange peel finish. Thinner naps (1/4”) are best for smooth walls, and will likely rip on rough textured walls.
  • Sandpaper — A coarser grit can remove imperfections in the walls, while a very fine grit can smooth surfaces and walls.

Preparing before painting

Whether it’s a new construction or a lived-in home, there are some steps to take before the brush hits the wall. Take time to fill in dents, holes and imperfections, and sand uneven areas to make the surface as smooth as possible.

Once they’re repaired, dust and clean them. If there is any grime, use soapy water, but allow it to fully dry before painting.

Once the walls are prepped, tape around windows and other areas to protect them, making sure to press tape down well (the putty knife works well for this). Use the razor knife to make clean cuts in corners. Remove sconces, light fixtures, light switches and outlet covers.

The last step is to cover floors with drop cloths and furniture with plastic, then prepare yourself — wear clothing that is OK to get dirty, cover your hair if painting ceilings or tall walls, and wear protective eyewear. Now get ready to start painting!

How to paint interior walls

It can take several days to prep, prime and paint a room (allowing for overnight drying and multiple coats), so give yourself adequate time. If you can, paint on days with low humidity. If it’s rainy or muggy, allow for ample drying time, and don’t overwork the paint.

Before you start, professionals recommend you “box” the paint, which means opening all of the gallons and combining them in a larger container. This mixes all of the paint and creates a consistent color. Begin by cutting in the corners and edges, then paint the walls from top to bottom. Use a W motion, instead of straight up and down or side to side. Don’t put too much on the roller or brush — paint can get gloppy and thick, taking longer to dry. Allow it to dry at least overnight before applying a second coat.

Cleaning up

At the end of each day, clean your brushes. Use warm water and comb the paint brushes with a wire brush. Store brushes in their original covers to keep them in good condition.

Once you’re all finished, remove the tape when the wall is in a half-dried state. Use the putty knife and score lightly along the edge of the tape and the wall to create a clean edge. Remove the tape at a 45-degree angle. Use care when picking up drop cloths and plastic sheeting, as there could be damp paint on them.

Share your DIY painting tips with us!

Do you have any professional painting tips? Share them in the comments!