FAQ Painting

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!

Finished Bamboo Floor
(Pictured above is my studio. I primed and painted the walls, installed and primed and painted the wood trim, ripped out the old carpet, and laid new bamboo flooring.)

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.

Painting Tools

  • 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.

Choosing Paint

  • 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.

Martha Stewart Paint Colors
(Paint chips from Martha Stewart’s line at The Home Depot.)

Choosing a Paint Color

  • Choosing colors is a bit of an art, but here’s a “rule” that I think you can ignore: Don’t pick a color and then ask for a half-strength or lighter version. Some people swear by this, but I’d suggest choosing a lighter color instead if you feel like the one you’re considering will be too dark.
  • Most people prefer slightly muted (tinted with gray or brown) colors, as opposed to a pure or primary color.
  • Your ceiling does not need to be white! If the wall color is not too dark, I use it for the ceiling too. If you do choose a dark wall color it may be a little much to use everywhere, you can have fun choosing another color for the ceiling that will work with the rest of the room.
  • Most paint companies are offering sample sizes now, so it’s easy to try a few colors out before buying a gallon. If you don’t want to paint the samples directly onto your wall, paint each color on a board of foam-core (paint stores sell them).
  • Choosing a paint color should come at the end of the decorating process.
  • The worst thing that can happen if you hate the color you choose is that you’ll have to repaint. It would be unfortunate, but not catastrophic.

Painting Techniques

  • 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.

(That’s me “cutting in” while painting my library.)

Cleaning Up

  • 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

Getting Started

  • 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!

If you have any questions, I’ll answer them in the comments. And if you have any other tips you’d like to share, please do!

Sources & Paint ColorsNeed design help? Let's work together.

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  • Amber
    March 9, 2010 at 10:09 am

    Thanks for all these great tips! Do you have any advice for painting trim (baseboards) in a room with carpet?

  • Carol Harris
    March 9, 2010 at 10:34 am

    thanks so much for responding so quickly! I love to paint, I know, it’s a sickness… as far as painting trim with carpeting is to tape it off, tape the carpeting as close the wall board as you can get, the bonus here is two fold, one… keeps paint off carpet… two… when you pull tape off it takes with it all the yuck that your vac won’t or can’t get. thanks again!

  • clara
    March 9, 2010 at 10:34 am

    This is going to be my new bible! Thank you so much!

  • Joy_UK
    March 9, 2010 at 10:36 am

    This is such a fantastic and friendly guide! Thank you so much Nicole! Hubby and I have taken the wallpaper down from one of the spare bedrooms and now we need to peel off the rest of the paint left in there and move into the painting. Your step by step is a Godsend!

  • Anja
    March 9, 2010 at 10:50 am

    wow. YOU did all this? incredible. ok- i´m able to paint walls, too. but not in this perfection. brandon must be very proud about his “handygirl” (is it called handywoman??)
    thank you for your tipps.

  • Lauren
    March 9, 2010 at 10:50 am

    I also like Benjamin Moore. Their new Aura line (low VOC) is a bit more expensive but it’s the best paint we’ve tried yet (and we’ve tried a bunch!). Another great brand is Yolo Colorhouse. Their paint is zero VOC and comes in a limited (which is sometimes nice) but beautiful color palette.

  • tamstyles
    March 9, 2010 at 10:54 am

    I have a hard time (as in your photo above) separating the ceiling and the left or right wall..or lets say a middle wall and a left side that may be in another color. I am referencing both issues when the ceiling and walls are different colors. I dont know how to separate them so that the lines are straight and where I start the separation.

  • Jessica Zee
    March 9, 2010 at 11:18 am

    Every time I move, I vow I’m not going to be the one painting again, and yet… It’s so “easy” to do yourself, and it means that you don’t have to have regrets when the color turns funny in the light and you’re *forced* to repaint. (The reason I vow not to do it again is because painting a whole house at once takes forever…) Thanks for these tips!

  • michelle @ blissful musings
    March 9, 2010 at 11:21 am

    Wow this guide is amazing. Saving it for future reference! Thanks!

  • Nataliya
    March 9, 2010 at 11:25 am

    Nicole, thanks for such a thorough guide. We’re gearing up to change homes and this will come in very very handy when we’re renovating the new place. I plan to print this out and have hubby and any helpers study it! :)
    I have a question about your floors. How do you like bamboo?? I have heard so many conflicting opinions that I’m not sure what to think. I really like the eco friendly feature.
    Thanks so much. Love your blog and check it every single day.

    • Making it Lovely
      March 9, 2010 at 11:32 am

      They are softer than traditional hardwood floors. We have a few dings and scratches, but that doesn’t bother me much, and I’ve been happy with the bamboo.

  • Laura
    March 9, 2010 at 11:26 am

    My baseboards have a stained finish. What can I use to fill in the gap before I paint? It was previously wallpapered and wasn’t so noticeable. Thanks.

    • Making it Lovely
      March 9, 2010 at 11:38 am

      You can use clear caulk, just look for a brand that is paintable.

  • Kristin
    March 9, 2010 at 11:27 am

    can you give me a name of a primer for trim that would allow you not to have to sand? thanks for the guide!

    • Making it Lovely
      March 9, 2010 at 11:43 am

      Zinnser will adhere to glossy surfaces. You can also ask at the paint store, or just check the can (they will advertise that on the label).

  • Marie Carter
    March 9, 2010 at 11:28 am

    Nicole, this guide is fantastic. Please let me know if I would follow the same rules for exposed woodwork for my doors.

    • Making it Lovely
      March 9, 2010 at 11:35 am

      Yep. You can sand first or use a primer that will adhere to glossy surfaces, then two coats of paint (semi-gloss is good). If the door has panels, you should paint the inner-most areas first, then finish off with the most raised portions. You don’t have to take the door off its hinges, but laying it flat can help if you tend to have drips when you paint.

  • Erica
    March 9, 2010 at 11:31 am

    Dh and I owned a home improvement business before the economy busted. Your guide points out how easy it really is to DIY painting. Some get scared when the word “paint” and “DIY” appear in the same sentence. You put a lot of thought into this guide and it shows. After a while you will be able to “free hand” your cutting in and its a rush! Thanks for the great post!

    • Making it Lovely
      March 9, 2010 at 11:36 am

      Exactly. Once you’re good at cutting in, it goes pretty quickly and you can skip the taping step!

  • Kalee
    March 9, 2010 at 11:34 am

    This a phenomenal guide! We’re getting ready to pretty much paint our whole house, so this will come in more than handy!

  • Kat
    March 9, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    Thanks for the helpful guide! We’re getting our second bedroom ready for our 1 year old daughter and will be painting it. I’ve never painted before and your guide makes it less daunting. Thanks!

  • Carolyn
    March 9, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    You said when spackling a crack in the wall, you need to widen it. Could you explain how? We have a few cracks in the walls and they really bug me. I would love to be able to patch them and repaint. Thanks.

    • Making it Lovely
      March 10, 2010 at 12:22 pm

      You just need to widen it enough so that the spackle will go inside the crack instead of skimming over the top (so that the cracks don’t reappear). Even just an eighth or a quarter of an inch is enough. You can use the pointy end of a 5-in-1 tool, or you can improvise with a small tool like a flathead screwdriver.

  • Gwen
    March 9, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    I’m addicted to reading your blog. You have lovely taste and have inspired me to upgrade my decor. I’m remodeling my bedroom but it has 10′ high ceilings and is a little over 240 sq ft. so the room appears ginormous. How would you choose a ceiling color to bring down the scale of the room? I’m thinking of a color similar to Chocolate Froth. Thanks.

    • Making it Lovely
      March 10, 2010 at 12:24 pm

      If you want a subtle effect, just go one shade darker on the paint strip (i.e. ‘Wheat Bread’ for ‘Chocolate Froth’). If you want a more pronounced look, feel free to choose a totally different color, though I wouldn’t go too bright/bold/vivid on the ceiling or it will make your whole room glow!

  • Your Mother
    March 9, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    okay, so you always impress me but the fact that you even know the word “ferrule” amazes me. I bet dad doesn’t even know it’s called that.

  • Ashley Brown
    March 9, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    My husband and I are in the process of buying our first house (yay!) and we are definitely going to have to paint EVERY single room in the house – there’s currently a RedSkins football themed room… can we say PRIMER! haha

    Anyway, we are also getting the hardwood floors refinished. So my question is should we paint before or after the floors are refinished? I realize that refinishing is super messy so I’m kind of torn on when to paint. Thanks so much!

    • Making it Lovely
      March 10, 2010 at 12:26 pm

      I would paint after. Refinishing floors is very dusty and messy, and you’ll probably have to wash your walls afterward (use water with very diluted dish soap). Might as well just do so once!

      • Cindy
        September 30, 2010 at 5:58 pm

        Before we moved into our house, we had the floors refinished. The baseboards got stained everywhere, but we never did anything about it. It’s been 3.5 years, and it’s driving me crazy! I may just have to tackle the job myself after reading your super detailed guide. :)

        My walls also got really dusty when the floors were refinished. Do you just use a rag to wipe them down?

  • Sara Moriarty
    March 9, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    This is great Nicole. Definitely something to print for future reference. Thanks.

  • Alice
    March 9, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    This is so timely for me! We just bought a 1940 cottage and are currently debating paint colors and DIY vs. professional painters. I’m just wondering: do you have a favorite “white” for crown moulding, trim, etc.?

  • Emily
    March 9, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    This is one of the best paint guides I’ve ever read. Thank you for sharing! I also like the zero/low VOC paints but didn’t realize I could maybe get them in better colors!

  • Rachael
    March 9, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    Hey Nicole! Thanks for all the advise! I have a few qs…

    -I heard that if you’re keeping paint on your brush in between painting days you’re supposed to cover it up with plastic and stick it in the fridge/freezer. Have you ever done this or heard of this? I’ve never done it myself so I’m curious.

    -When you say “cut in” does that mean you paint the trim and then paint into the open wall space?

    -When you say paint “dry to wet” does that mean if you have previous paint on the wall you start where its dry?

    -You said you’ve painted apartments. Did you always ask your landlord about painting or did you just do it? Did you paint over it before you left or just took the hit out of your deposit?

    Thanks for all the help!

    • Making it Lovely
      March 10, 2010 at 12:32 pm

      I haven’t heard the fridge/freezer tip, though I have heard of people storing nail polish in there which seems kind of similar.

      “Cutting in” just means painting all of the edges of the room.

      Painting dry to wet… Let’s say you start on the right side of the room, where the wall meets trim or another wall. Once you’ve begun, you want to move slightly to the left (where the wall is dry) with your next paint stroke and then feather into the wet paint. Does that make more sense?

      And yes, I’ve painted apartments. We’ve always asked permission first. Some landlords are fine with it, and some are OK but they want the walls painted back to white afterward.

  • Shoshana
    March 9, 2010 at 8:36 pm

    You’re so awesome! How long does it take to paint one room (say a living room dining room) from beginning to end? I’m asking so I can work out what to do with my kids. Should I break it up into several days and paint while they’re out or try to go for it in one day?

    • Making it Lovely
      March 10, 2010 at 12:34 pm

      These days I’ve been breaking it up into small steps over several days… and it’s taking forever! Of course, I’m doing a million other things too. I can knock out a room from start to finish in one long day if uninterrupted. I think it’s more satisfying and less daunting if you can just devote a day to it!

  • Joanne
    March 9, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    I used to paint walls first and then trim, but often I’d procrastinate doing the trim for weeks and weeks because I dreaded it so much. With my textured walls, taping didn’t work and so I painted the trim freehand and found it very hard to get a nice clean trim line, especially when my wall colors were darker (my trim is always cream).

    Now I paint trim first and walls last, and have found this method is much quicker (less taping and no procrastination!), less painstaking, and it produces a razor sharp trim line every time. I paint the trim first, overlapping onto the wall a little bit. At this time I only need to tape off my tile floor. I wait a week for the trim to cure, then I tape along the top of the trim and create with the tape the exact line I want between trim and wall. Then I cut in the ceiling and windows and wall corners (two coats), roll on both wall coats while getting within an inch or two of the taped-off trim (which still hasn’t been cut in). Then after the walls dry to the touch (an hour or so), I run my finger along the tape to make sure there’s a tight seal, then I use the brush to quickly go around the room painting the inch or two between the wall paint and taped trim, overlapping onto the tape. This step goes very fast. I wait 30 minutes or so (Benjamin Moore Aura dries very fast) and do it a second time, again going around the room very fast. Then 20 or 30 minutes later, I remove the tape. Beautiful results every time.

  • Jennifer
    March 9, 2010 at 9:11 pm

    Thank you so much for the bible on painting!! We will definitely be putting your guide to use soon!

    But, I really have an off topic question about your floors. How do you feel about the color of your floors? We are thinking about putting dark hardwood in our house and I’m concerned about every single speck of dust, lint, cat hair, and fuzz showing. How do you keep them clean? If you had to do it all over again, would you pick the same floors?

    • Making it Lovely
      March 10, 2010 at 12:37 pm

      Um, yes. Every little thing shows. It’s not too bad since the rooms we have dark flooring in are upstairs with less traffic, but they do take more cleaning. I usually just use a vacuum with a bare floor attachment to pick up all of the dust/lint/hair, fuzz. Or I learn to ignore it. ;)

      That said, the dark floors are beautiful, so I’d probably pick them again.

  • Rebecca
    March 9, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    Wow, you’re great for offering so much information! That was a lot of work, Thank you.

    I just bought the greatest little book called Colours For Your Home , 300 designer favorites. (house Beautiful) Most of the paints were Benjamin Moore.
    I think there’s definitely a need for more books like this one. How to pick a colour with samples of real rooms AND the brand and name of the paint.

    • Making it Lovely
      March 10, 2010 at 12:38 pm

      Yes, I love seeing actual rooms with the paint colors listed too. I’ll have to go check out that book!

  • ColleenwithMurals&More
    March 9, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    what wonderful tips, and so comprehensive. You can tell you’ve done a lot of painting! I wish I’d had some of your tips years ago when I first started painting. Would’ve shared lots of aggravation ;)

  • Pencils
    March 9, 2010 at 10:16 pm

    Thanks for this, we’re about to paint our entire new house. I hoped to do it before we moved in, but snowstorms and a delayed closing prevented that. At least the hardwood floors were done. The one good thing is that we have time to use tester pots and decide if we like the color at different times of the day.

    Anyway, my one tip, which I actually haven’t tried yet, is to line the roller tray with a plastic bag before putting in the paint–you can tape it down to get it flat. Then when you’re finished painting, just turn the bag inside out and toss the entire thing, paint and all, no cleanup required.

  • Becky
    March 9, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    thanks for the GREAT guide

  • Chelsea
    March 9, 2010 at 10:35 pm

    I was at Home Depot last week to purchase paint. I was interested in a color in a glidden paint line but wanted it in a behr base. They will NO longer mix and match paint colors outside of their paint lines. I asked them if this is new because I’ve had it done PLENTY of times and they said it’s somewhat recent policy. Who knows, it could have just been the lady/store that helped me (it wasn’t my normal/local store).

    But, I love the new Martha paint line and I think it’s worth trying out for quality and durability.

    • Making it Lovely
      March 10, 2010 at 12:39 pm

      Huh! I haven’t experienced that, but I always go to a local paint store for Benjamin Moore when I need a color matched. I trust them more. ;)

    • Chloe
      March 16, 2010 at 10:17 am

      My Home Depot has started carrying a low-VOC paint. The low-VOC has powder tints instead of liquid tints that Glidden/Behr have. Trying to match low-VOC colors into Glidden/Behr was causing a lot of oops/mistints, so they made this rule.

      However, I’ve found that if I ask for a department manager (my paint manager is amazing!) and explain the situation he will oblige. I think some paint associates are confused about why the tinting across brands isn’t working.

  • hanh
    March 9, 2010 at 10:46 pm

    ahh… i just finished painting our bathroom today – my first effort ever – and this post would have come in handy prior to starting! thanks for taking the time to share your tips.

  • Jacquie
    March 9, 2010 at 11:15 pm

    One of the best posts I’ve ever read (I mean that too). Thanks to your wonderful advice I think I could do my own painting now. I really love the step by step guide. Next up…wallpapering a room?

  • tamstyles
    March 9, 2010 at 11:57 pm

    Hi….I never saw a response to my question? Are you able to assist?

    • Making it Lovely
      March 10, 2010 at 12:39 pm

      I’ve been going through and answering questions today. Sorry if I missed yours.

  • Franziska
    March 10, 2010 at 2:43 am

    thank you, I learned a lot!

  • Nadine
    March 10, 2010 at 5:38 am

    thank you so much! it’s a great tutorial
    and I’m going to bookmark this when I get my new home ^^

  • Stockton
    March 10, 2010 at 7:58 am

    Oh thanks for this! I’ve been wanting to paint my bathroom but have been intimidated …

  • Valerie
    March 10, 2010 at 8:53 am

    You’re a DIY rockstar! I’ve always been happy to paint my own walls, but this gave me some new tips for a better result.

    Now we just need a tutorial on how to lay flooring like that!

  • Christy
    March 10, 2010 at 9:22 am

    Thanks for the tips! I’d already learned a few of them the hard way. :) We’re in a trailer house for a few years but I insisted on replacing the carpet with faux wood vinyl & painting the walls. Since the walls are covered with a wallpaper-like substance that can’t be removed, we used 2 coats of primer & 2 coats of paint.
    Just FYI, I’ve loved those nailhead curtains from West Elm ever since you featured them – they’re on clearance & the bedding’s 20% off so I just placed a big order! Thanks for pointing those out – I prolly wouldn’t have found them otherwise.

  • PhillyLass
    March 10, 2010 at 9:29 am

    Wow! This is fantastic! I’ve wanted to freshen up my boring bedroom for ages now, and paint is definitely the first step. This guide is so so so so helpful!! Thanks so much!

  • Robyn
    March 10, 2010 at 9:50 am

    Found your fab blog via Chez Larsson, and like hers have
    gone back as far as you allow and read – and loved –
    every post!

    You have really great tips. Keep up the good work!

  • Bridget B.
    March 10, 2010 at 9:55 am

    Hi Nicole,

    Thanks for the tutorial. It was very helpful. One thing I’d like is advice on how to blend a new paint job with an existing one. For example, we recently fixed a a coaster-sized hole in one of our walls and I’m concerned that when we paint over the spot it will be obvious that this section was done separately.


    • Making it Lovely
      March 10, 2010 at 12:41 pm

      Just try to feather the paint out at the edges as best you can. It will be less obvious if the paint is flat, but if there’s a sheen there isn’t much you can do to avoid a slight difference.

  • Janet
    March 10, 2010 at 10:42 am

    An excellent guide! Thank you!

  • Nuit
    March 10, 2010 at 11:29 am

    Awesome tips!!!! maaaan you’re talented!!!!!

  • Brandi H.
    March 10, 2010 at 11:42 am

    Nicole, this is such a great post. Thank you for taking the time to place all this information on your blog. It will be very useful.

    I have one question, if you have time:

    In my condo, there are really high ceilings. I painted these walls once, with a very long extension rod, and some flat thing with roller wheels on it. It was so bad, but some paint did get on the ceiling, which is still there :(

    Any suggestions for really high ceilings going up a staircase?

    Thanks a lot.

    • Making it Lovely
      March 10, 2010 at 12:46 pm

      You need to get up on a ladder. It’s a little scary though – we did it when we painted our stairway. We used an extending convertible ladder that bent and folded into a whole bunch of configurations, including an extra long straight ladder. That was the only way we could have ever maneuvered a ladder like that into the space.

  • Daria
    March 10, 2010 at 11:43 am

    Great, great post!

    I have noticed that you are swarmed by questions, and I have one, too, in case you decide to tackle them. What do you mean by “keep a wet edge and working from dry to wet”? It seems important, but I really have no idea what it means. To overlap coats of paint to make sure you have covered everything? Thank you.

    • Making it Lovely
      March 10, 2010 at 12:53 pm

      I tried to explain it further in another comment above.

      Let’s say you start on the right side of the room. After you put the paint on and load more onto your brush or roller, you would move a little over to the left (where the wall is DRY). You would then paint from the dry area towards where you started (where the paint is WET), overlapping and feathering out where the paint meets. Does that help?

  • cassie
    March 10, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    thank you SO MUCH for all of these tips! i saved them and will definetely refrence them the next time i paint a room :)

  • Daria
    March 10, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    I get it now. I kind of did this when I painted my bedroom, without really knowing why. Thank you so much for taking the time to respond.

  • Jane
    March 10, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    This is so helpful. I hope you consider doing more tutorials- this is very well thought out. I am wondering how you manage to paint with your daughter being so young. Do you stretch it out over time or try to tackle a room in a concentrated day or two?

    Also, have you ever painted IKEA furniture? I want to buy the IKEA Kura bed for my two young sons to share but I can’t live with the pine. Would love to hear your thoughts.

    Thanks for such a great blog!

    • Making it Lovely
      July 8, 2010 at 8:26 pm

      Somehow we still find time to tackle home improvement projects! And yes, IKEA furniture can be painted, especially the untreated pine. Just use a good primer first, and count on using at least two coats of paint.

  • Jochen
    March 10, 2010 at 6:48 pm

    Hi Nicole,

    thanks for this wonderful blog. I enjoy looking at the way you made your house into something really stylish. We just bought an appartement in a 1903 house in Stuttgart/Germany and renovated it. Hard work, but every hour we spent was worth it. We also have a little baby, now 15 months old named Tom- I really liked your idea of taking photos of your daughter in the eames-rocker. We are also fond of design classics- I love to sit in our eames lounge-chair, my wife prefers the barcelona chair by mies van der rohe.
    Anyway: You can also rest your brushes, no matter what paint you used, in a glas of water. When you want to use them again the next day, just hit the brushes against a wall or the floor, whatever gets the water off, and then use them again. Also a very good tip from our painter: cracks in old woodwork can be fiiled with epoxy-based putty (normally used for car bodywork). This kind of putty doesn’t sink in and you only need one layer, then sand, and then paint it. And what I also learned is: always use a primer with the same color of your paint scratches (that will definitly occur with a 15-month-old) won’t be so bad, when it only hits the paint, and not the primer.
    Thanks again for your blog and all the best for you and your family.
    Greetings from Germany

  • Candice
    March 10, 2010 at 7:17 pm

    Nicole, this is a great guide! Thank you for being so thorough. Like some other readers, I’ve been painting for years and have learned a lot of these tips the hard way. I’ve also found some great new info which is wonderful.

    I want to add my voice to the folks who recommend placing plastic-wrapped brushes and paint trays in the freezer or fridge if you need to stop for awhile. It seems really weird but has always worked well for me. I usually employ the freezer but will try the fridge next time.

    One more tip: if you’re painting a ceiling, take care not to overload your roller and then stand directly under it when you start painting. The result can be…unpleasant. I learned that one on my first big painting job, and it is a mistake I have not repeated!

    • Making it Lovely
      July 8, 2010 at 8:28 pm

      Yes, painting ceilings can definitely be… unpleasant… if you’re not careful!

  • trish
    March 10, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    awesome. Thanks for these tips. I’ll be doing a lot of painting just as soon as I get the walls cleaned up and decide on colors. Any tips on stripping wallpaper?

    • Making it Lovely
      July 8, 2010 at 8:38 pm

      Get a big sponge (the kind for washing cars) and a bucket of hot water (as hot as you can stand). Dip the sponge and wring out most of the water so that it’s wet, but won’t drip water down the wall. Hold the sponge against the wall for 30-60 seconds at a time (see what works for you), and the hot water should loosen up the paper, allowing you to scrape it off. If you have vinyl paper you’ll have to score it first with a tool designed specifically to do so.

  • HollyP
    March 10, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    I’ve done that too Candice, first time right before my wedding. This is why I now have a dedicated hat I wear when painting.

    I have found that when fixing small holes/imperfections, a barely-damp sponge works well at smoothing the dried spackle. It does add time since you have to wait for the spackle to dry again, but it beats having dust everywhere.

  • Vicki K.
    March 10, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    You are so kind to give such a detailed and careful painting guide!! Thank you much!

    I have bedroom walls with wallpaper that was adhered directly to the sheetrock. Even using DIF and a paper tiger I cannot get it to budge. Should I paint over it? Someone suggested that I might have to re-sheetrock?? Arghhh. What would you do in a situation like this?

    Thanks for your additional answers too.

    • Making it Lovely
      July 8, 2010 at 8:41 pm

      If you can’t get it off, I would try painting over it before I would redo the walls entirely. What do you have to lose, right? You’ll be able to see the seams, but you may find that it doesn’t bother you. Make sure you prime first.

      • Jennifer
        May 27, 2013 at 6:49 pm

        Be sure it’s an oil-based primer or the wallpaper could bubble in spots. Also, Sherwin-Williams is a great paint. They tend to be on the high-dollar end, but the quality and customer service go a long way. Besides, they have perpetual sales and at times (usually about every 4 months) it’s 40 percent off. As for trim, if you do use latex, use a latex enamel. It dries harder than regular latex paint, but I prefer oil. It has a prettier finish. It is also great if you paint inside the door frame of cabinets because latex paint will usually make a sticking noise when you open the door. Proclassic is the best trim/door paint out there and it’s self-leveling, which helps eliminate brush marks. Be careful when you cut in a room and let it dry before rolling the walls. Some paints will leave a hat-line around the room. It’s always best to cut in, use a “weenie roller” which is a 4 or 6 inch mini roller, and pull the cut line down, then use your 9in roller frame to finish the wall always keeping a wet edge. Also you don’t have to cut in the entire room. It’s best to cut in one wall at a time, paint it, then move on.

      • Jennifer
        May 27, 2013 at 8:21 pm

        Oh, I forgot to add before you prime, take a razor on either sides of the seam of the wallpaper, about a quarter of an inch and try not to gouge the wall, but use the razor to get under your cut and pull those two strips off. Prime with oil-based primer, then use a lightweight, shrink-free spackle to mud over where the seams used to be and don’t forget after sanding smooth where you used the spackle, to prime those areas or your coat of paint will not look uniform. That’s the best way to avoid the unsightly wallpaper seams. :)

  • Tamsin
    March 11, 2010 at 8:40 am

    wow that room looks amazing… did you install the floors yourself? if so where can i find the instructions for that? great job…. you go girl!!!!!

  • Sarah
    March 11, 2010 at 10:11 pm

    This is all great advice. Some of it seems really simple but I guess most people assume it’s obvious and don’t bother to tell you, like keeping a wet edge and painting from dry to wet, starting away from the trim and curving in to meet it, and cleaning the brush occasionally while you work – all great tips that no-one’s ever told me. This (almost) makes me want to get on with the painting we’re planning (ALMOST!).

  • Kelly
    March 11, 2010 at 11:23 pm

    Thank you, this is a great and thorough guide!
    Here is another tip for painting baseboards in a carpeted room: I saved cereal boxes for a couple months, flattened them out, tore them open and then just slide them under the baseboard. You can paint the trim so easily and not worry about being neat (as long as you tape off the wall). When baseboards are all dry, just run an exacto knife along the bottom and slide the cardboard out. Any imperfections will usually be hidden by the carpet!

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  • tamstyles
    March 12, 2010 at 10:31 pm

    hmmmmm….still no answer….thanks anyway.

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  • Tracy Elaine
    March 16, 2010 at 6:05 pm

    A good tip I learned from a Benjamin Moore rep is that when you are testing a color in a room, be more mindful of the time of day that the room is used most- i.e. I really only spend time in my kitchen in the morning when it gets direct sunlight and at night when the lights are on. I would then choose the color that looks best based on how it looks under those two specific conditions vs. how it looks at any given point during the day when I’m not typically using it.

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  • Amanda
    March 19, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    I have always cut in and rolled the paint on at the same time, alternating as I go along the wall. I have always been afraid to cut everything in first and then paint because I am afraid it will not blend. Do you ever find that when you cut everything in first and then roll the paint on that the line from cutting in and the rolled on paint don’t blend well? Can you see a distinction between the two on the wall once you are finished?

    • Making it Lovely
      July 8, 2010 at 8:45 pm

      I’ve never had a problem, but as I mentioned, I tend to use flat/matte finishes. Even with eggshell I haven’t had a problem. Many people prefer to do it your way though, so if that works for you there’s no need to change.

  • Ang
    March 21, 2010 at 8:12 pm

    Thanks M.I.L. for all the great tips. I have grown up painting as well. One quick question. I don’t know what you mean by…”paint dry to wet.”


    • Making it Lovely
      July 8, 2010 at 8:45 pm

      I tried to explain it further in another comment above.

      Let’s say you start on the right side of the room. After you put the paint on and load more onto your brush or roller, you would move a little over to the left (where the wall is DRY). You would then paint from the dry area towards where you started (where the paint is WET), overlapping and feathering out where the paint meets.

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  • Lenetta @ Nettacow
    March 23, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    Wow, what great tips! I’ve only painted in our current house, and I’m guessing we’ll be painting at least once more, so I’ll file this away. I linked on my weekly roundup – the post is under my name. Thanks for sharing!

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  • Natalie
    April 1, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    Hi Nicole,

    You may not see this question, but I thought I would post it. What are your thoughts on using ceiling paint versus just using the same paint for the walls on the ceiling? Hope that makes sense. I’m trying to figure out if it is worth buying the different kinds.


    • Making it Lovely
      July 8, 2010 at 8:47 pm

      I always use the same kind of paint I use for the walls. There may be some difference (less likely to splatter?), but to me it seems like a gimmick to sell more paint, albeit it in a very limited “ceiling white”.

  • Annie
    April 6, 2010 at 10:07 pm

    Hi there! I love your paint choices. I am going to paint my bedroom the same colour! Chocolate froth. Mind if I repost your bedroom photo on my blog?

    • Making it Lovely
      July 8, 2010 at 8:47 pm

      Thanks! I don’t mind at all. Just link back and give credit. :)

  • Mary
    April 21, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this guide. I’m re-posting it on my facebook page – giving you full credit of course! I hope that’s ok?
    My main issue is with front doors. What is the best way to paint them so they are super smooth (no bristle marks/streaks?
    Thanks again…

    • Making it Lovely
      July 8, 2010 at 8:50 pm

      Oil-based paint will leave a smoother finish because it takes time to dry and will self-level to some extent. You can still get a great finish with latex too though. Ideally, you should take the door off the hinges and paint it while it is laying flat. Other than that, it’s all about perfecting your technique, which is all about practice.

    • Jennifer
      May 27, 2013 at 8:34 pm

      For super smooth finish you should roll the paint with either a velour roller or mohair. I used a 4 inch 3/16 size nap because my doors were not flat and I brushed in the other areas. There is also a product you can add to paint to help with leveling called flo-trol or penetrol depending on whether you are using latex or oil.

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    June 3, 2010 at 11:32 am

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  • Laurie
    June 3, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    I’m curious what you do afterwards
    -keep a book with swatches and finish notes?
    -keep the 1/4 full can?
    -have a touch up cup for each room or color?

    I have a basement full of mostly empty cans right now I’m looking at and trying to form a plan.

    Also, major interest in that giveaway, I can’t even access the page or comments now…

    • Making it Lovely
      July 8, 2010 at 8:52 pm

      I keep the mostly empty paint cans, but I’ve seen other people use baby food jars (or similar) and always thought that was a good idea.

  • bathroom tiles
    July 6, 2010 at 10:39 am

    You’re a DIY rockstar! I’ve always been happy to paint my own walls, but this gave me some new tips for a better result.

  • amanda
    July 23, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    Planning to paint a bedroom and remembered you had a guide. I’m very excited to try it with all these tips and see how it turns out. Thanks so much for taking the time to put together a guide for those of us who are clueless.

  • Pam
    August 10, 2010 at 1:55 pm

    Hi there! Love the blog!
    I’m preparing to paint my daughter’s bedroom. Your Painting Guide will be a big help!

    She has picked out two colors: a soft blue and a soft green. She wants both incorporated into the room, with white trim and pink as an accent color.
    My problem is figuring out how to use both colors creatively, without resorting to stripes which is too labor intensive for me.

    Any ideas? Thanks so much!

    • Making it Lovely
      March 11, 2012 at 9:32 pm

      Paint the ceiling soft blue, like the sky!

  • camille
    August 16, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    Thank you for all this info!

    I am a complete beginner at this, and my question is: do you think it is feasible (though, I understand, not ideal) to paint a room without clearing it completely, but rather gathering everything in the middle of the room away from the walls?

    I’m asking because I’m considering repainting my living room, but my apartment is not very big, and there is little room elsewhere to store stuff while the painting job is going on.

    If you think it’s possible, how much protection does the stuff in the middle of the room need? Does the sanding emit a lot of dust? Thank you!

    • Making it Lovely
      March 11, 2012 at 9:34 pm

      Totally feasible. There shouldn’t be a lot of dust from just spot sanding a few little areas, but you may want to cover the furniture with a drop cloth to be safe, especially if you’re not an experienced painter. Better safe than sorry.

  • M
    August 26, 2010 at 7:12 pm

    Great guide! Am hoping you have a few tips for problem walls??? We just filled in a doorway size hole in a wall… long story. The wall itself isn’t really straight. We plan on painting w/ a flat very light colored paint in hopes it will minimize flaws. Aside from re- stuccoing the entire wall, is there any tips you can pass on? Thanks!

    • Making it Lovely
      March 11, 2012 at 9:35 pm

      Stripes may not be the best choice for a wall that isn’t straight. They’ll highlight any flaws (just like some people avoid wearing horizontal stripes).

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  • Christy
    January 7, 2011 at 8:19 am

    What a great guide! I tend to mess up a lot, and I recently found that baby wipes clean up latex drips much better than a damp cloth. I was desperate and grabbed my kids’ wipes one day. It’s amazing! Like the difference between changing a diaper with a wet paper towel versus wipes.

  • gus shelgosh
    July 12, 2011 at 7:05 pm

    we been in this house four years now , since i am not working wife told me i could do some painting , well we decided on two colors , one color on two walls ,back of sofa an going up steps ,but i have alot of work before i start painting , the ceiling has cracks ,so i started scraping them i spray hot water on them ,it helps but if you have any ideas please reply, i read some of those replies, got a few that will help with painting .

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  • gorbs
    November 2, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    I used to buy a new roller for each job and hated cleaning them between colours. On the last room, I noticed a product (it might only be availably in Australia – I think it’s an Aussie invention) called the Rota-Cota. It’s a plastic cylinder that fits over your roller and has a concave scraper built in. You simply use the scraper to get the excess paint off the roller, then push the roller into the Rota-Cota and attach a garden hose to the other end. It forces the water through the pile and in 5 minutes your roller has come out beautifully clean.

    *Disclaimer – I’m not affiliated with the company in any way, just an avid DIYer :)

  • Sak
    November 20, 2011 at 7:49 am

    I have just finished painting my landing with dulux one-coat white paint and it has come out all patchy. What can i do to get rid of these patches?

    The patches are all over and I have applied 2 coats on two walls. The paint tub says to touch up rather than put another coat on, but paint strokes can be seen! I really am loosing my rag with this task.

    • Making it Lovely
      March 11, 2012 at 9:36 pm

      I think it would be best to wait until the paint is dry, and then do another full coat.

  • Brooke
    January 24, 2012 at 8:22 am

    These are awesome instructions. Now if I could just make myself WANT to paint. I’m not a big fan of painting b/c of how long it takes. I repainted my entire house a few years back because I wanted a change but towards the end I started to get sloppy b/c I was so sick of doing it. :(

  • Interior Painting
    February 20, 2012 at 9:21 am

    Only a couple of years ago we did a whole house repaint and boy did it stink, literally. We were luckily able to air the house out because it was late spring but still it was quite a powerful smell. Last week my husband and I repainted our daughters nursery to reflect more of her grown up style. I didn’t hardly notice a sent at all and we hadn’t purchased a special paint. Being that it is winter here and a high of 22 degrees I guess we lucked out. Funny how in such a short time products can change so much.

  • Amy
    March 11, 2012 at 9:00 pm

    I love the color of the pink paint in your first photo of your studio. Would you please share the name/brand?


    • Making it Lovely
      March 11, 2012 at 9:29 pm

      It’s Benjamin Moore’s Wild Aster.

  • painting contractors Denver CO
    March 26, 2012 at 4:43 am

    Preparation is one of the most important things to consider if you want to have a good paint job. One should take time in preparing the walls for painting with the most careful attention to detail. The time spent for preparation is the key factor to ensure a top quality job.

  • Lyn
    June 10, 2012 at 1:27 am

    Thanks for your painting tips. I’ve been wanting to paint my wood trims white for a while but never gained enough courage to do it. I faced the same dilemmas you did and all the painters I’ve spoken to pretty much tell me I’m crazy because it’s a B.I.G job, so just learn to live with it! Your blog has given me all the courage I need to start painting my trims (swallows lump in the throat…)

    My question is this, I want to paint the whole room (ceiling, window trims, wall, floor trim). I know I should paint the ceiling first. What’s next, the wall or the floor trim first?

  • aliosh
    October 15, 2012 at 9:29 am

    I paint paneled doors using latex paint and a small 4″ ROUNDED END FOAM roller. Don’t use the flat end foam roller because they leave roller marks.

    The foam roller prevents drips and brush marks. Plus, you can roll in into the corners in the panels for a really well covered drip less result.

    It covers better than a brush and is so much faster too. It the only way I will paint doors.

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  • Matthew
    October 21, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    Hi there. I seem to have a repeated problem with painting a wall beige. I am new to painting and have already learned some lessons from the mistakes of my first coat, but now, no matter how even I try to be with the roller, my painting dries patchy and the cutting in seems to stand out from the rest. I’m pretty sure it’s the way I’m applying it (too tick, too light?) but it’s really frustrating! Any advice appreciated.

    • HarriDec
      February 2, 2013 at 4:18 am

      This is sometimes called flashing or picture framing. It may be where the cutting in has dried before you roll up to it. You could try cutting and then rolling one wall at a time, if you are still not quick enough to roll before the cutting in has dried then try using a latex extender like Zamix or Floetrol, this gives the paint a longer ‘open time’ and as a result the paint it much more forgiving. It will also help in reducing brush marks in the finish.

      Be sure to use good quality tools as well, this is really important!

    • Jennifer
      May 27, 2013 at 9:01 pm

      Sounds like you are dry rolling for starters. Also when you roll, you shouldn’t be putting hardly any pressure on it. The cut in being noticeable after rolling is called hat-lining. It happens when the paint dries before you roll. After cutting in, you should take a mini roller and roll down from as close to the ceiling as possible without touching, then take your 9 in roller and finish the wall. Reload your nap often. Don’t put too much paint on either or you will leave lap marks. Work in 3×3 sections and go from top to bottom, then roll lightly (don’t reload with paint for this though) from top to bottom over that area before moving on.

  • marla
    November 29, 2012 at 8:51 am

    I stripped wallpaper off my bathroom walls with a steamer and i thought i wiped down the walls thoroughly. I bought sherwin williams best wall paint – satin finish. I used a 3/4 ” nap roller – and the walls are all bubbly – little bubbles but certainly not the smooth finish that i had hoped for. I even PRIMED the wall. It took 2 coats to cover. I sanded some of the bubbles off and reapplied the paint but the finish is still not smooth. What did i do wrong? all latex paint.

    • Jennifer
      May 27, 2013 at 6:57 pm

      Your roller nap size was wrong or you used the wrong kind. For smooth walls you should have used a soft-woven nap no bigger than 3/8in. Purdy dove naps are great and shed resistant. Or Sherwin-Williams sells their own contractor series that is usually more inexpensive. A bigger nap size will leave stippling on a wall or in some cases, unwelcome bubbles.

  • HarriDec
    February 2, 2013 at 4:21 am

    Hey, useful article here. I’d like to try using Benjamin Moore paints myself. Unfortunately they’re not available in the UK :(

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