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Let's Get Painting

Updated on April 29, 2019

Getting Started

Now that you’ve picked your color, it’s time to get painting, but first, you need to gather your painting tools. As with any DIY project, the key to success is preparation. Professional painters offer these “must-haves”:

If you haven't done so, you may wish to read up on my earlier article on paint color ideas by clicking here.

Paint Professionals Must-haves

  • All-purpose caulk: Reinforce joints to prevent cracking by using a water-based, paintable, mildew-resistant, all-purpose caulk.
  • Five-in-one tool: This is a multipurpose tool that allows you to open paint cans, clean rollers, scrape peeling paint, remove the old caulk, open cracks, and apply putty. I have also seen seven-in-one and even twelve-in-one tools. They are all very handy.
  • Patching products: To repair holes, chipped paint, or other wall defects, use a paintable, fast-drying, shrink-free patching compound—also called mud or spackle.
  • Sandpaper or sanding blocks: Sanding is important to create a smooth surface to which paint can adhere. A durable aluminum oxide, A-weight paper with 100- to 150-grit is suitable for most general-purpose sanding applications. Finer grits will be needed for varnished wood projects.
  • Blue painter’s tape or masking tape: To keep paint only on the surfaces you want to paint, use blue painter’s tape or masking tape to cover woodwork or hardware. The blue tape does not leave a residue as old-style masking tape can. Look for low-tack adhesives for use on delicate surfaces such as wallpaper and drywall for easy removal without damaging the surface.
  • Drop cloths: Protect your floors from grit, sawdust, caulk, and paint spills. Plastic drop cloths are inexpensive enough that you can throw them away when you’re done and not feel too guilty about it. Cloth drops are more expensive, but they also work the best, especially over carpets. There are also drop cloths that feature a pre-taped edge, making it easier to adhere to them around baseboards and other flat surfaces.
  • Paintbrushes and rollers: A quality brush makes it easier to apply the paint evenly and accurately. I recommend selecting a 1- to 2-inch, high-quality, nylon/polyester angled brush because it can be used with all coatings, holds paint well, and provides better brush control where detail is necessary. I also keep a few disposable foams or poly brushes on hand for quick touch-ups. Choose rollers based on the type of paint you are applying and the desired texture. The roller label should indicate what it’s meant for. The shorter the nap, the less stipple will appear in the finished paint job.
  • Rags or disposable cloths: There will be spills, drips, and “oops, didn’t mean to paint there” moments when you’ll want to wipe up the paint immediately. Baby wipes work great for small accidents.
  • Primer (or sealer): This is a specially formulated paint designed for use on bare metal, wood, and other surfaces. Using a primer can smooth uneven surfaces and make the finish coat beautiful and long-lasting. Primers are often recommended to ensure the true paint color is achieved; increase paint adhesion; get better paint coverage and penetration, particularly on wood surfaces; increase corrosion resistance on metal surfaces; hide stains and surface imperfections; seal porous surfaces, and make the finish coat smooth and uniform. Consider having your primer tinted to match your finish coat. Most paint suppliers can do this for you. (Resource: Krylon)
  • Good-quality paint: It pays to spend a little more for quality paint. The Rohm and Haas Paint Quality Institute recommends buying top-quality paints that glide on easier, provide superior adhesion and coverage, offer better stain resistance, and resist yellowing for a professional, longer-lasting finish.

Let the painting begins

Now it’s time to paint. Get ready to divide and conquer. Take it one step at a time for great results.

  1. CLEAR THE ROOM. Move your furniture out of the room if possible. If you can’t move it, make sure it is completely covered.
  2. PREP THE ROOM. Remove all pictures, switch plates, nails, etc. and do any necessary patching. Caulk all corners and cracks. Cover or tape off any areas you don’t want to be painted: window frames, baseboards, etc. Spread drop cloths and overlap them. You may want to tape down the edges to prevent accidental tripping.
  3. PROTECT YOUR CLOTHES. Wear old clothes or inexpensive painting coveralls, gloves, and a kerchief or hat for your hair. Shoe protectors that easily slip on and off are also a good idea. Be sure to remove the shoe protectors when you leave the painting area so that you don’t track paint throughout the house.
  4. WORK IN SECTIONS. If priming is needed, now’s the time to do it. If not, just use your normal paint as a primer. Once everything is primed, apply either one or two coats, depending on the paint manufacturer’s recommendations. You may also find that some colors simply require two coats, especially darker tints. Many professionals paint the trim first and then the walls, but this is a common area for debate. You can do whatever makes you comfortable. I prefer to paint my walls first and then trim them in afterward. In any case, when working on the walls, paint all the corners and the areas around windows and doors with a brush, then come back with a roller to fill in the large areas.
  5. When painting, work in 3-foot squares, roughly the area of one paint- loaded roller. Make the first roller stroke away from you. On walls, roll an M pattern, and on ceilings, roll a W pattern, distributing the thickest part of the paint evenly over the 3-foot square. Roll with smooth back-and-forth strokes in the M or W pattern and fill in the unpainted areas. To avoid roller marks, don’t lift the roller off the surface.
  6. FINISH UP. Remove all tape as soon as you are done painting, using caution not to damage the painted edge. Allow the room to dry naturally, without drafts, which can cause dust to enter the room.

Quick Tips

Taping Techniques

Applying masking tape before painting a room seems simple enough. But anyone who has painted before knows that working with masking tape can be tricky. Here are a few tips.

  • Select blue or green painter’s tape rather than standard masking tape. It allows you more time to finish the project without leaving a sticky residue.
  • Press the tape firmly to the surface, using your fingernail to adhere it to edges and corners. Watch out for folds and bubbles.
  • Paint as though the tape is not there. Even the best masking job cannot stop every dribble of paint. So do your best not to get any paint on the tape and you will be ensured of a clean edge.
  • Now comes the tricky part— removing the tape. It’s tricky because sometimes the paint grabs the edge of the tape and peels off right along with it. My friend the Painter Chick, a professional painter, recommend cutting the joint between the tape and the painted surface with a utility knife before peeling.
  • I have had some success with this technique also. In any case, wait until the paint is dry to remove the tape, but not more than 24 hours if you can help it. Then you may still need to touch up any “holidays,” or areas where the paint has bled through the tape.

Be Ready with Touch-ups

A number of companies offer touch-up kits to make small paint repairs quick and easy. It’s a good idea to invest in these or create your own touch-up kits (a plastic or glass jar with a sealing lid, a label, and small foam brushes) for fast fixes. Be sure to save some of the paint and mark it well with the room and date for future reference. For example, “Living Room, March 2006, West wall, bought at Sherwin- Williams #227.”

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