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Do It Yourself Painting Tips

Surface Preparation

Proper surface preparation will determine the successful outcome of a painting project.

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Painting Tools

Using the right tools can make your paint project so much easier and lead to a better result.

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Time to Paint!

After doing the surface prep and gathering the paint and tools needed – it’s time to paint!

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Surface Preparation

Proper surface preparation will determine the successful outcome of a painting job. The surface must be free of grease, dust, dirt and any flaking paint. Cracks and holes should be patched and sanded smooth. Without a properly prepared surface, the paint may bond poorly. This will ultimately lessen the results over a period of time. 

Survey the condition of the surfaces to be painted. If the surfaces are in good condition they may only need cleaning. 

Cracks and holes in plaster walls and ceilings are common. Repair those using commercially available fillers and patching compound. When dry, sand the areas, running your fingers over the repairs to ensure they are perfectly smooth and flush with the wall.

Patching Cracks and Holes

Cracks need to be scratched and raked out to remove all loose debris and crumbled plaster. You may need to undercut wider cracks (create a lip on the underside) to help anchor your filler. Wet the interior of the crack using clean water on a clean paintbrush to help the filler bond to the plaster. A wide, deep crack in a wall corner may be plugged with a wad of newspaper pushed into the gap with a screwdriver, creating a base for the filler to sit on. Use a putty or broad knife to push the filler into the gap and create a smooth surface. Allow the recommended time for the filler to dry (this can be found on the packaging) and check to see if any shrinkage in the filler has occurred. If so, fill once more and allow drying. When completely dry, sand until flush.

Fixing a bulge or lump in the plaster may necessitate breaking it with a hammer and turning it into a hole. The hole may need to be enlarged with your scraper to ensure you have a solid plaster edge. Rake out any loose debris and undercut the edges. Undercutting gives the filler an anchor along the edges. Dampen the area with a spray or sponge and apply the filler compound. On larger holes, apply the compound to a depth of about 50% the thickness of the plaster. Next, score the wet surface of the compound with a nail and allow it to dry.

This rough surface will give the final coat of the compound something to grip to. After applying the final coat, use a broad knife to trowel off the excess compound, working across the edges to ensure a smooth finish between existing plaster and the filler. When dry sand smooth, feathering around the edges.

Surface Prep Materials
  • Primer/sealer – for priming and sealing surfaces to be painted
  • Timber sealer – for sealing resin in knots
  • Fillers – to fill up cracks and holes
  • Filler tools – broad knives and putty knives for applying fillers
  • Sanding equipment – sandpaper and sandpaper block or electric sander
  • Fungicide – to prevent mold from reappearing
  • Paint stripper – for removing paint from timber
  • Cleaning agent – for washing surfaces free of grease and grime

Once repairs are made to the soon-to-be-painted areas, they will need to be sanded. You should always wear a face-mask when sanding. Timber surfaces should be sanded along the grain so as not to leave excessive scratching.

For a large area using an orbital sander will save time, otherwise use a wood or cork block wrapped in sandpaper. Do not use a disc sanding attachment on an electric drill, as this will create circular scratches that may be visible through the paint.

Existing gloss-painted surfaces also need to be sanded with wet and dry paper to give the new coat of paint a rougher surface to properly adhere to. Once sanding is finished, vacuum up as much of the remaining dust as possible.

Tools of the trade

High-quality application tools are essential for an even paint finish. The tools you choose will help make your painting experience a success and the tools needed will depend on the size and type of job you are planning.

Rollers and Covers

Today rollers, rather than brushes, are the preferred tool for painting, and are used wherever possible although using a combination of both tools will likely yield the best results. 

There are are number of different parts to a roller setup – the frame, the handle, the cover and a tray.

  • Roller frame – the framework that holds the sleeve.
  • Roller covers – the sleeves that fit onto the roller frame.
  • Roller extension handle – used for ceilings and walls.
  • Roller tray- the tray to hold the paint.

Roller covers or sleeves are available in different length naps and finishes with each giving different performances.
Wool and lambskin are popular for oil paints, while nylon is used for water-based latex paints.

The nap, which is the fluffy coating on the outside of the sleeve that holds the paint, varies in length. The longer the nap, the more paint it holds and the more of a stippled texture is left on the wall. Long naps (1/2″ – 3/4″) are best used on porous surfaces such as textured walls, masonry or stucco. The shortest nap, around 1/4″ in length, is suited for very smooth walls and glossy paint.

Painting Tools
  • Dropsheets (cloth is better).
  • A putty knife, broad knife, and scraper for scraping away old paint and patching walls.
  • A wire brush to remove loose paint from metal surfaces.
  • A window scraper to help remove dried paint from glass.
  • A caulking dispenser for caulking and sealant tubes.
  • Masking tape and a paint guard for masking over areas not to be painted.
  • Protective clothing – including face mask and gloves.
  • Step ladders and extension ladders – to help you reach elevated areas.
Paint Brushes

The price of brushes is often related to the quality of the results you will end up with. A cheap, poor quality brush can create poorly applied finishes even with premium quality paint. Superior brushes perform a better job in distributing the paint, which in turn allows you to paint faster. A heavy, wide paintbrush is used for painting larger surfaces while a narrow brush with a bevelled edge is used for edging, along mouldings and for cutting in on roller-work.

Time to Paint

Color changes everything and painting is one of the least expensive ways to make over a room.  A simple coat of paint can make all the difference and even change your reality. This is why painting is the most often-tackled DIY home-improvement project.

When to use a Primer

Primers are not always necessary – although priming a surface to be painted is usually best. Priming ensures better adhesion of paint to the surface, increases paint durability, and provides additional protection for the material being painted.

To know whether a primer is needed, let’s take a look at what types of primers are available and what they’re intended to be used for.


New/bare drywall soaks up paint like a sponge and causes it to cover better in some areas than others – especially when you’re comparing drywall mud joints to the surrounding areas.

To help achieve a consistent appearance with your final coat it is always a good idea to first use a primer – and besides, using a quality drywall primer is typically much less expensive per gallon than using multiple coats of a quality interior latex paint.

Stain-Blocking Primer

There are different types of stain-blocking primers for specific uses, but some of the more common situations where their use is necessary are:  keeping water and smoke stains/damage from bleeding through the finish coat; painting over top of crayon, marker, or grease; and making a dramatic color change – especially when painting a lighter color over a much darker color.

Bonding Primer

Some surfaces are especially “slick” and pose a unique challenge for even the best primers when trying to get a coating to stick to them.  Some examples would be ceramic tile, glazed block, some plastics and vinyls, and surfaces with a high gloss finish.

Wrapping this up, most projects where you’re going over a previously-painted surface do not require the use of a primer. In many cases all you’ll need to do is spot-prime any bare areas that need to be addressed before applying your finish.

Brushing and Rolling

Cutting In. While rolling is the preferred method for painting large areas, it usually requires the corners or edges to be painted with a brush where the roller will not reach. This technique is called “Cutting In” and it consists of a straight strip, usually about 3-4 inches wide.

Keep a wet edge. Keeping a wet edge is crucial to all top-quality paint jobs.The idea is to plan the sequence of work and work fast enough so that you’re always lapping newly applied paint onto paint that’s still wet. If you stop for a break in the middle of a wall, for example, and then start painting after this section has dried, you’ll likely see a lap mark where the two areas join. A proper rolling technique helps avoid this problem and allows you to quickly cover a large area with paint and then return to smooth it out.

Apply the paint, smooth it off. The biggest mistake most beginning painters make, whether they’re brushing or rolling, is taking too long to apply the paint. That’s why it’s important to use a good-quality roller cover that holds a lot of paint. Until you’re comfortable with this process and you have a good idea of how quickly the paint is drying, cover only about 3 or 4 ft. of wall before smoothing the whole area off. If you find the paint is drying slowly, you can cover an larger portion of the wall before smoothing it off.

Pick out the lumps before they dry. It’s inevitable that you’ll end up with an occasional lump in your paint. Keep the roller cover away from the floor where it might pick up bits of debris that are later spread against the wall. Drying bits of paint from the edge of the bucket or bucket screen can also cause this problem. Cover the bucket with a damp cloth when you’re not using it. If partially dried paint on the bucket grid is an issue, take it out and clean it. Keep a wet rag in your pocket and pick any lumps off the wall as you go. Strain used paint through a mesh paint strainer to remove lumps.

Avoiding Roller Marks
  • Don’t submerge the roller in the paint to load it. Paint can seep inside the roller cover and leak out while you’re rolling.
  • Try to dip only the nap. Then spin it against the screen and dip again until it’s loaded with paint.
  • Don’t press too hard when you’re smoothing out the paint.
  • Never start against an edge, like a corner or molding, with a full roller of paint. You’ll leave a heavy buildup of paint that can’t be spread out. 
  • Unload excess paint from the open end of the roller before you roll back over the wall to smooth it out. Do this by tilting the roller and applying a little extra pressure to the open side of the roller while rolling it up and down in the area you’ve just painted.