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How To Save Money On Do It Yourself Painting

Updated on August 16, 2012


If you want to paint and also save money, there are many ways that you can do this.  Consider this fact.  Someone painting a room for you can charge anywhere between $200 and $500, depending on what paints you want to use, contrast walls, coordinating trim colors, etc.  That’s an enormous amount of money to spend per room! 

By painting a room yourself, you can probably pay at maximum $50 per room.....that’s with picking premium paint (which you do not have to do) and buying equipment to boot! 

If you paint a room and then paint another room that's coordinated with some or all of the same color, you save even more. 

Painting is the cheapest way to decorate your house .  You can transform any room in the house by going from boring to glorious. 

Let’s look at some great tips to help you save on that paint job (or jobs) you have lined up in your future! 



  • Drop cloths. You can invest in canvas drop cloths if you’d like. Buy them online and save big bucks if you want to go this route. They won’t slip and slide around on you and they are washable.

    You don’t have to have ‘official’ drop cloths to do the same job. You can buy plastic drop cloths (watch your footing on these as they are very slick). You can use old tarps, or you can use old sheets and blankets of your own.

  • Go to Goodwill and buy old sheets, tarps and drop cloths for pennies. Just dry by hanging outside on a fence and put away after each use.
  • Paint. There are innumerable brands of paints and finishes to choose from. Decide what finish you want and then go from there. If you’re not picky about a finish and you just want to save money, check out your hazardous waste recycling center. You can purchase paint there at extremely reduced prices and sometimes get FREE paint. You may even be lucky enough to get large quantities of paint if you plan on redoing an entire house.

    Also inquire at paint stores and hardware stores if they have any paint that has been returned because it was the wrong color or finish. They sometimes have mistinted paints as well. You can save a bundle this way as well. You just obviously have less colors to choose from.

    If you like the colors of designer paints but don’t like the high price tag that goes along with them, ask your hardware store or paint store to match the color in a cheaper paint. It’s simple to do and you’ll get the same exact color for way less money.
  • Brushes and supplies. While more economical brushes are fine, don’t buy the cheapest brushes. Sometimes it can cost you just as much as buying better because they wear out or the bristles fall out midway through the paint job.

    Buy something middle of the road for most jobs. If working with stain, you'll want to buy a more high-end brush. It will help you avoid brush marks and bristle problems while painting.

    Never dip your brush more than halfway up the bristles into the paint and your brushes will last longer. You’ll have less loose bristles on the brush.

    Price compare and get the best brush for the best price. If you do buy a cheap brush, resign yourself to the fact that it’ll probably be a 1-time use and then throw it away. Cheap brushes don’t stand up to multiple cleanings and reusings.


  • Roller sleeves and pans.  Sometimes buying in quantity will save you a lot in the end.  If you plan on painting many rooms, go ahead and invest in a larger pack of roller covers and roller pans. 

    Line your roller pan with an inside-out plastic grocery bag and use the pan as usual. 

    When you’re done, you throw the bag away and the roller pan is clean! 
  • To prime or not to prime.  Consider the cost and then decide.  Usually primers are used when painting over a darker color with a lighter color, or if the walls you are painting have never had paint on them before, as in new construction.  It keeps paints from bleeding through or from being sucked into the wall covering. 

    If primer costs $20 per gallon and your paint is only $15 per gallon, just paint your wall twice using the $15 per gallon paint and save! 
  • Always buy on sale.  If you can possibly do it, always buy on sale.  Shop the bargains and even purchase online if you know that you’re going to be painting. 

    It makes sense to get the best possible price for everything and since you’re doing the work for free, aim for savings in the supplies as well! 


There are 6 different types of finishes to choose from on indoor paints.  Choose the right one for the right room and you’ll be happier in the long run and save money by not having to repaint! 

  1. Matte – Sometimes called flat finish.  This finish doesn’t reflect light so makes any imperfections in walls less obvious.  These are advertised as washable but they do not usually wash well.  You can end up having to touch up spots that have been scrubbed, bumped, scratched, etc. 
  2. Flat Enamel – This is a more durable flat or matte finish.  It’s considered a good choice for hallways or bathrooms and does clean up better than a standard matte finish. 
  3. Eggshell – This is called eggshell because it has about the glossiness of an eggshell.  There is just a hint of shiny and is much better for durability in terms of cleaning or even light scrubbing. 
  4. Satin – This finish is smooth and almost velvet-like, mostly used for trim, windows and doors.  It can also be used for ceilings and is sometimes used for painting walls.  This is a great finish for kids’ rooms, bathrooms, or kitchens where there is a lot of heavy use because it can withstand light scrubbing and cleaning multiple times. 
  5. Semi-Gloss - This is used mostly on cabinets in bathrooms or kitchens where there is a lot of traffic or on doors and trim.  It has a shine to it but is not overwhelming.  It is recommended that you prep your surfaces well with this paint as it will show flaws in the paint job. 
  6. Glossy -  This finish will give you a look like plastic or even enamel.  It isn’t usually used in painting the interior of homes except for furniture, cabinets and trim and usually in more modern decors.  Every flaw in a surface will show when you use this finish so beware and prep and sanding are highly recommended before using this finish. 

Matte or flat finish
Imperfections less obvious
Does not wash well
Flat enamal
Better than flat or matte for durability
Does not wash well
Somewhat glossy but highly cleanable
It is somewhat shiny
Withstands light scrubbing and multiple cleanings
Easy to see brush marks
Great for cabinets in moist rooms
Shows flaws in paint jobs easily
Gives a look like plastic
Shows surface flaws easily


TIP: The shinier the paint finish, the better it will withstand cleaning and light scrubbing.

  • Ceilings – Usually these are painted with a matte finish paint.

    Some use eggshell finish if the ceiling itself is free of flaws and imperfections.

    Glossier finishes will reflect more light but again, you want no imperfections or they will show when painted.

    You can also buy specially made for ceiling paints. These are not cleanable paints though because there is rarely a need for cleaning the ceiling. They are more of a matte finish and are usually white.

    If doing a colored ceiling, you would just use a colored (tinted) matte finish wall paint.
  • Kids Rooms or High Traffic Areas – Eggshell or satin finishes are the painters’ pick for these rooms.

    Use semi-gloss on the doors and moldings for a great look and durability. These are areas where there will be repeated cleanings most likely and these finishes are the best for that.
  • Contrast – Mix high gloss paints in a room such as on window sills or on doors. Just always make sure you’ve prepped the surface before using high gloss or shiny paints because all imperfections show.

    If you want a more worn or rustic look, use a matte finish on furniture or walls or an eggshell finish on walls. Then use an enamel finish for the trim.
  • Bathrooms and Kitchens – These rooms need paints that will stand up to steam, water splashes and even food and grease splatters.

    Use a semi-gloss paint for heavy traffic areas of these rooms for easy cleanup and durability to withstand multiple washings.

    If you’re painting a guest bath or a half bath that gets little to no use, you can use a lower gloss paint such as eggshell or even a satin finish.

TIP:  Please see Will Starr's excellent tips below as well!  Thanks, Will for the read and for the extra tips.  I never thought of those!


  • Use the ‘bottom of the can’ paint to do trim and touch ups.  Even after using most of the paint in the can, there is always paint left inside.  Don’t waste it! 
  • Puncture about 4 or 5 holes using a nail or ice pick in the groove around the top of the paint can before you begin painting.  That way, any extra paint that collects around the rim will ooze back into the paint can causing less waste and less mess when you put the lid on! 
  • Painters tape.  Some folks say to use a small brush such as a 1-inch angled brush and to work slowly around the edges.  It takes less time and you save on not using the tape of course.  Keep a damp cloth in your belt to wipe off mistakes.  It can be done if you are an ‘expert’ or are becoming one! 
  • Buy an all-in-one tool.  There are tools such as 9-in-1 or 8-in-1 or 6-in-1, etc.  These tools come in handy for scraping off flaking paint, opening paint cans, scraping the excess paint from the rollers, and things like that.  Some even remove nails and screws.  Keep it on your belt and have it handy for all the miscellaneous situations you might encounter while painting inside or outside. 
  • Use a plastic can spout pourer which also reduces groove buildup so your paint can lid seals easier and more securely. 
  • For leftover paint, seal the lid securely and store the can upside down.  Doing this creates a vacuum and air can’t get in or the solvent evaporate out. 
  • It’s best to store water-based or latex paints in the house or in a heated garage or shed.  These paints can freeze and will be ruined.  You can store them in the basement as well but make sure not to store them on a concrete floor because the concrete will conduct cold through the floor to the can.  Store them on carpet or in a cupboard to prolong their life. 
  • Look on line for tips like how to paint corners and how to do accent walls, etc.  See the videos I made myself. 

The more you know, the better you’ll be and who could get a part-time job painting for other people! 


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