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How to Paint a Room Like a Professional

How to Paint a Room Like a Pro

Get pro-tips on preparing walls, choosing the best paint and using a roller. If you want to know about either an airless paint sprayer, or a HVLP spray gun, click on the links.

Plan Ahead

Updating a room with paint is an effective DIY job that isn’t hard work, but can take time. Thoroughly preparing the surfaces is the key to a professional finish. That’s why we usually recommend never painting over wallpaper. Rather it needs to be stripped off as well if you want a professional looking paint job.

Preparing a standard room with baseboards, door frames and window in fairly good condition can take a day for cleaning, repairing and sanding.

Painting an average-sized 14-ft. x 18-ft. room takes at least four hours for one coat. Factor in up to two days for a full job, including drying time.

Know How Much Paint to Buy

Consider which surfaces are to be painted and how much wear they’ll get, which determines the type of paint you need to buy.

For volume, measure each wall, multiplying the height by the width for a total in square meters. A quart of paint covers up to 180 square feet for one coat. You’ll need about two 1-gallon cans for the walls of an average room.

Choose the Sheen

Modern paints tend to be formulated for specific areas, with five levels of sheen that affect the finish.

  • Gloss is the most light reflective, with a hard-wearing finish. It can be tricky to apply and can trap dust and dirt.
  • Semi Gloss tends to suit wet areas such as bathrooms, kitchens and laundries as the medium sheen prevent moisture absorption. Choose acrylics with mold control additives.
  • Satin has a subtle sheen and good stain resistance that suits high-use living areas and kids’ rooms.
  • Low sheen doesn’t reflect a lot of light, making it a good choice for bedrooms and hallways.
  • Flat is best for masking imperfections and is usually used on ceilings.

Choose a Brush

Choose the best brush for the best result to save time and effort. Quality synthetic brushes are good all-rounders, but choose natural bristles for solvent-based paint, especially enamel.

  • Wall brushes for doors, walls and large surfaces.
  • Sash brushes for moldings and baseboards.
  • Trim cutter for the tops of baseboards or base caps and around narrow edges.
  • Edge cutter for wood window frames, doors and corners.

Hold the Brush Correctly

Hold the handle between the thumb and first finger, resting the fingertips at the top of the handle.

Dip the brush in the paint so it reaches halfway up the bristles; then, wipe it on the side of the can to remove the excess. Use short, even strokes to apply the paint using both sides of the bristles.

Choose a Roller

Use a 9-in. roller on walls and ceilings.

The nap or pile refers to the length of the fibers covering the roller. Use a 1/4-in. to 3/8-in. short nap for smooth surfaces and gloss painting, a 3/8-in. to 1/2-in. medium nap for ceilings, walls, low-sheen and flat paints, and 1/2-in. to 3/4-in. nap for rough and exterior surfaces.

Most rollers fit onto a standard metal-arm frame with a handle. Here are common types of rollers:

  • Microfiber: Use for any type of paint.
  • Semi-Smooth: Use for flat or low-sheen paints and stains.
  • Smooth: Use for oil-based and glass paints.
  • Textured: Use for granular finishes and decorative effect.
  • Short Nap: Use for oil-based glass and polyurethanes.
  • Polyester: Use for flat and low-sheen acrylic paint.
  • Lambswool: Use for flat and low-sheen paint.

How to Use a Roller Correctly

  1. Start near the floor. Cut in by applying paint around the edges of the wall. Load a roller with paint and start 12-in. from the floor and 6-in. from the side, rolling upwards at a slight angle with light pressure. Stop short of the ceiling and roll down, working quickly and overlapping the starting edge.
  2. Continue in stages. Reload the roller and repeat from a starting point further across the wall, working back towards the painted area. Turn the roller on its side to get close to the cut-in areas, wiping away excess from the end of the roller first. With good technique, two walls can be covered in an hour.
  3. Overlap the strokes. Roll back over the painted area with light pressure to smooth and blend, moving across so the roller slightly overlaps the previous stroke and continue across the wall. Without reloading, smooth the paint along the ceiling and skirting edges using long, horizontal strokes.

Prepare Surfaces

Regardless of the type of surface, it must be clean for the paint to adhere. Scrub walls and skirting with sugar soap and wipe dry.

Make any minor surface repairs using interior filler, slightly overfilling holes and cracks then sanding with 180-grit sandpaper.

Baseboards, architraves, window frames and trims are usually painted in gloss that can be ruined by dirt and dust. Use a vacuum nozzle to get them spotless before painting.

Paint the Room

Choose the best type of paint for the surface and the space.

  • Ceilings can be difficult to prep for painting so use a special ceiling paint or flat acrylic with a non-drip formulation. Apply with a medium nap roller, starting at the point furthest from the window and working towards the light.
  • Walls need to have a solid, even coverage and it’s here where good prep will pay off. Choose from specialty paints for interior walls, or add extra luster with a satin finish paint. Cut in with an edger or trim cutter then use a roller. Try never to paint over wallpaper.
  • Contrast can have a dramatic effect. To paint stripes, divide the wall into even increments and draw panels in pencil. Run painter’s tape over the lines and a use a semi gloss to cover alternate panels.
  • Baseboards and trims tend to get knocked and scuffed over the years, so gloss and semi gloss are best, and these types also give a polished finish. Use a sash brush for a neat job.

5-Step Paint Plan

  1. Mask up by covering floors and furniture with taped-down drop sheets or old bed linen. Avoid plastic as it can get slippery.
  2. Paint the trim starting with the skirting then the architrave, door and window frames.
  3. Cover the ceiling using a medium nap roller. Use a brush and edger on cornices.
  4. Cut in around windows, doors, baseboards, cornices and architraves using a paint edger pad. For hard-to-reach places use a screw-in extension handle.
  5. Paint walls starting at the edges and corners using a brush then with a medium nap roller.

Painting a room like a professional isn’t as hard or difficult as it may see. It just takes a little time and effort to have great looking results. And you can check out our other article on DIY painting tips here as a prelude to this article. After all, one small tip can be the difference between a great paint job and a really bad one.

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