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Painting Tips from a DIYer

Updated on May 7, 2013
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Ready, Set, Go ... But Wait ... What About...?

Before long spring will be here and those spruce up and fix-up innovative juices will be flowing. If you’re one of those do it yourself kind of people but don’t have lots of experience yet with painting, hopefully you’ll find this article a little helpful. These tips and suggestions are for painting interiors. Much of the same info can cross over to exteriors but I've not had much experience in that area so if your project takes you outdoors please check with the appropriate pros.

I’m one of those kind of gals whose rolled many a gallon of paint on my own walls, on friends and family’s walls and also on several client’s walls over my many years. Along the way I’ve learned a few important lessons. Those lessons, aka known now as … experience … have been fine tuned through the “school of hands on”. Another valuable skill I have acquired is where to go to get answers. The best place for that is to hang out at paint supply stores. Develop a relationship with the guys who work there. Getting there early will put you in the middle of the hustle and bustle of many skilled trades people with years of experience. Don’t be afraid to ask questions for most of them are willing to share what they know. And, never, ever trust a painter who doesn't have paint stains on their clothes. Those colorful stains mean hands on experience.

So, you've got a goal in mind. You've decided on the look you’re going for. What to do next? OR are you one of those who have attempted painting before but ended up with results that just weren't what you were hoping for. It didn't turn out quite right. You’re a crafty and resourceful person so what happened? Be patient with yourself, enlist a helper and get prepared. You can make that room or project look like a picture in a magazine.

Any paint project, whether it’s freshening up a room, an involved faux treatment or a piece of furniture must start first with the right tools for the job. And, of course, don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty!

ALL THE PARAPHERNALIA

Paints, Tools, Supplies
It takes some stuff to get the job done and it takes good stuff, to do the best job you can. I’m always ready for a bargain but, sometimes it just doesn’t’ pay in the end results, to cut too many corners, with the stuff you must have to get the results you want. Your time invested in the project is the most valuable … don’t make it a waste of time by not using good stuff. The good stuff can often be procured through sales and closeouts and mis-mixed paints to save some dollars.

THE PAINT

One of the most expensive components of the job is the paint.There are many types of paints and sheens achievable. Latex, acrylic, and oil based paints refer to the main ingredient in the paint and what gives it its wear ability. The sheen refers to the amount of light that paint reflects from the surface. Choosing the right sheen for the room depends on its use and how you want it to look. They each have specific applications.

Flat paint is just that, flat in appearance. It does not have much depth to it. Has less latex and will wash off easily so it’s not a good choice for most walls. I only use flat for ceilings. Don’t usually have to worry about fingerprints up there.
Eggshell or Matt finish is my favorite finish for walls.If you want a paint that wears well & looks good I believe eggshell finish is the best way to go. It’s tough and has much less sheen to it than semi-gloss or high-gloss. The light will play of it and it has a richer depth to it.
Semi-gloss or High-gloss is a good choice for kitchens and bathrooms and trims too as well as furniture. It is tougher for it has the most elasticity than any other finish. Because of the sheen and the light reflection the color can look very different in brighter and subdued lighting.

The most commonly used for walls is Latex paint. It’s a water based product and gets excellent coverage. They dry quickly and are easy to clean up. Latex is not a good choice for trims or surfaces that will get heavy usage.
There are some good Acrylics that have good applications too. It’s tougher than latex and is still a water base product so cleanup is easy. It’s often used on trims and furniture. I have used both of these types on furniture or cabinet projects, but make sure to give it a top coat of polyurethane.
Oil based paints are very tough and dry hard. Using oil based paint is not as easy as latex or acrylic and does require a little practice to achieve good results. It’s the best for trim and furniture. Wears well and is easy to clean. Since it is an oil base product clean up has to be with paint thinner solvent. It takes much longer to dry and harden too. It’s best not to apply if the weather is rainy. The moisture in the air can sometimes present problems. It’s best to lay on thinner coats of oil based paint so plan on at least 2 coats and depending on the project even 3 coats. .

A big question too is, how much paint will you need? You usually get about 350-400 square feet per gallon of paint. So if you're doing more than that get 2 gallons. Pour/mix them together in a big bucket. That way you're sure it's all the same color. Often it’s recommended to use a primer. This is essential if the surface is badly stained, has had lots of repairs, or never been painted. Keep in mind; it’s just as difficult to cover a light with a dark as it is dark with a light color. Always allow the paint to dry well before the next coat.

Paint storage tips: Label the can with date, room it was used and where it was bought with a permanent marker. Clean the rim of excess paint so you can get a good tight seal. It’s best to store leftover paint in an airtight container. Be sure and don’t cover up the color formula. If you have less than a quart leftover then store it in a quart size can. You can get empty cans at paint stores. Store inside the house or in garage. Paint should never be stored in exterior buildings. The changes in weather will cause the paint to go bad quicker. I like to store the can in a closet or cabinet in the room it was used in.

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A FEW GOOD TOOLS

Invest in good tools! It’s easy to be tempted by those bargain brushes, rollers and covers or those … heaven forbid … “all in one” kits. Many years ago, when I was a novice DIYer I went the route of the “all in one” kit. Take my advice, please, don’t do it! Good, quality tools will always get better results! A big plus too is, the tools will last longer! BUT, you have to make sure they are cleaned well and stored properly. Also, I learned many years ago, to not loan my tools to anyone unless I’m going to be involved in the project. This was a costly lesson for me. The borrowers just don’t realize the investment you’ve made. It’s sometimes hard to say no but, after doing it a few times, it does get easier.

BRUSHES: Make sure the brush fits the job. A 2.5" or 3" angle brush is best for cutting in and can actually be used anywhere else too. Some prefer a smaller width. The angled edge allows for a crisper, cleaner line. The wider the brush the more paint it will hold. I prefer the brand Purdy or Sherwin Williams. The quality is good and the selection will meet any need you might have. If you're using latex or acrylic paint be sure the brush is for water soluble paint. A good choice is a synthetic all purpose brush. A good "China Bristle" brush is a must when applying oil based paints. Clean up is little more challenging. Let the brush soak a few minutes in paint thinner. Remove all the paint you can and then use a clean batch of thinner for a final cleaning. Keep it away from water or water based paints. Because it's a natural fiber the bristles will swell and spread when in water based paints and cleaning in water. When the bristles swell it will be impossible to get that glass like finish desired from an oil base paint.

Then of course there are a wide range of specialty brushes available too. These are used for faux treatments like glazing, leathering, etc. I’ll have to do another article on that sometime.

ROLLERS & COVERS A good heavy duty roller will last you years and roll gallons of paint. It’s worth the investment for a couple of reasons. The heavier, sturdy roller will not bend and flex when in use. The ball bearings in it will keep it rolling with ease. So you don’t have to use as much pressure. I am still using rollers that I got about fifteen years ago. There's a wide range of covers available in different materials, thickness and lengths. Lambswool is the best and it is very pricey. However, it will hold up under heavy usage for a long time when cleaned properly. There are good covers available that are less expensive. Feel of the cover and make sure it's nice and thick. The thicker cover will hold more paint and there'll be less splatter too and the coverage will be more complete. The length of the nap is important too. Longer naps are for more textured surfaces, like ceilings or brick. Just stay away from those super cheap rollers for they will be thin and harder to use. If the cover is thin it can’t hold much paint, so you are constantly loading it with paint.

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OTHER STUFF

Something to put the paint in. There are options here too. You may think you have to use a roller pan when rolling paint, but that’s not the case or the best choice, unless you’re doing a small project. But for larger surfaces like walls, a 5 gallon bucket with a grid that fits it will make your room painting project go so much better. Once you get used to working from a 5 gallon bucket you’ll never use one of those pans again. Put the lid on the bucket when storing until the job is finished. If you do opt for the flat pan at least get one that is heavy with the larger well that holds more paint. Otherwise you’re constantly filling the pan. Whenever I've spilled paint while doing a job it was almost always from one of those flat pans and they are easy to step into also. That can make a huge mess, however it is a way to leave an impression!

Drop cloths: the really thin plastic is ok for draping over furniture and such, but not for floors. I really like a 4 x 12 (or longer). And canvas for sure, not plastic. They are an investment though, but will last for years. You can just pull it around the room as you progress if you only have one. If you do go with plastic make sure it's a good heavy weight. Years ago I came across a bunch of old insulated drapery panels at a yard sale, really cheap. I stitched a few of them together end to end and they made a great drop cloth. So think creatively when you go yard sale shopping. You never know what you might come across.

A step ladder is an essential tool and there are many to choose from. My favorite is the wide step kind. It’s much easier on the legs and feet and safer too. Whatever kind you choose, wooden, aluminum, metal or fiberglass make sure it has a tray area for setting things on.

A FEW MORE TIPS

1. Get all the prep done first! It's tedious, boring and can be time consuming but it is best in the long run. Move furniture to center of room and cover. Remove switch and outlet covers and put a piece of tape over the them for easier rolling. Of course in some places they are painted over. If that's the case just go ahead and paint with the new paint. Clean the walls if very dirty. Fill and repair any holes and sand smooth. Unless you’re really good at cutting in it best to tape off the trim, etc. if it's not being painted the same as walls. Vacuum around the edges if painting the trim. You can also tape off the floor if you need to. Use removable painters tape and not plan regular masking tape.

2. Do the cut in around ceiling and trim first. At the ceiling brush down at least 2-3 inches. Make sure bottom edge of paint is not too thick though because you want to be able to roll the paint into it without a visible line. An angle brush is best for cutting in around ceiling. Just take your time and go slow and easy to keep it off ceiling. It's best to brush the areas above doors/ windows. Sometimes using the roller in those areas can result in too thick paint. Watch for runs. Roll or brush them out while still wet. If runs are found after paint is dry they can sometimes be smoothed by taking a very wet rag and rubbing over the area. That thins the paint some and will remove it usually until the paint has had the chance to set up good. And then repaint the area.

3. When rolling walls be sure and keep the roller wet with the paint. Be sure and overlap each roll and watch for thin areas. Roll the paint and allow to dry at least couple of hours before doing a second coat. If using gloss it is often better to wait overnight.

4. If your project takes more than a day or you need to pause for a few hours and you’re using latex or acrylic paint, an easy way to store the roller covers and brushes, to keep from having to clean and dry them thoroughly, is to give them a mist with a little water and wrap it in a plastic bag and stash in the refrigerator. Just make sure the family knows the contents of the bag are not something to eat. A plastic grocery bag is perfect for grabbing hold of a roller cover and keep the hands clean.

5. If your project takes more than a day and you’re using an oil based paint then place a little paint thinner in a heavy duty gallon zip lock bag and stash your brush when not in use. Close the zip bag and lay it on an angle surface. If you lay completely flat the handle will be in the thinner. Only the bristles need to be in the solvent.

6. Don’t waste your money by buying rags. Old tee shirts make the best painting rags of all. Free of lint and not too thick. Always keep a moist rag handy to wipe up any paint. Place a rag with paint thinner on it in a ziplock bag when you’re using oil based paint when you’re not using it and then use that same bag to dispose of the rag when the jobs done.

7. One of the MOST IMPORTANT things to always, always do is to keep your tools clean and store them properly when not in use. To keep paint from making the brush stiff, which can happen during extended usage, it might be necessary to clean it once in awhile during the project. Brushes should be stored with the cover on them and upright. Roller covers should be dry before being stored.

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    • PaisleeGal profile image
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      Pat Materna 4 years ago from Memphis, Tennessee, USA

      Rtalloni -- thanks for checking out my hub!! Nothing beats hands on to learn tips and short cuts.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

      Your tips are good, practical ones to consider before beginning a project and to keep in mind throughout a paint job.