Home & Outdoors

Everything you need to paint a room like a pro

You can check this off your home improvement list.

Woman painting a white wall blue with a paint roller Credit: Getty Images / kitzcorner

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They say that there’s nothing quite as boring as watching paint dry. But with all of this newfound time on your hands, getting around to painting a room in your home might be the next best project to check off your list.

If you’re feeling on the productive side, don’t be afraid to grab your tools, pick out your paint, and take on the project yourself. Here’s what you need to know about painting on your own at home, from the best painting practices to common mistakes to avoid.

What you'll need

Before ordering a ton of new materials online, try to hunt down some key materials in your home—you might have more than you think and can reduce the number of online orders you’ll have to wait on. Here are the basics you’ll need:

How to paint a room

1. Prep the space

prepping
Credit: Getty Images / SDI Productions

Prepping your workspace with a drop cloth or plastic covering is a key part of the process.

When it comes to painting a room, beginning with a clean slate is essential. “It starts with proper prep work,” says Dan DiClerico, home expert at HomeAdvisor. “Unless you’re painting fresh drywall, some level of surface prep will be needed to achieve a pro-grade A+ finish.”

Make sure your walls are completely ready to go by scraping and sanding off any cracked or peeled paint from a previous paint job. Give your walls a good clean (soap and warm water will do) and remove any excess dust or buildup with a vacuum if necessary. Let your walls completely dry overnight.

“A single coat will usually do the job, as long as you go with a top-rated self-priming paint.”

Next, ensure you have a drop cloth to cover the entirety of your floor space to avoid any unwanted paint splatters. Move all of your furniture to the center of the room and wrap them up in plastic or a covering of your choice.

To keep your windows and walls paint-free, there are a few tools you can use. “A handy tool is a paint edger—a pad with guide wheels that make it easy to ‘cut in’ around windows and doors,” says DiClerico. “If you don’t have this tool, you’ll need painter’s tape to protect adjoining surfaces.”

Before jumping into the paint itself, let’s talk primer. You more than likely won’t need a separate primer for the job. “Most of the major paint brands offer paint and primer in one, and they do a very good job, so it’s usually not necessary to apply a primer coat,” says DiClerico.

2. Choose your paint finish, base, and color

choosing a paint color
Credit: Getty Images / AleksandarNakic

Consider what color you'd most enjoy in the space, and feel free to consult paint fan decks, samples, and even apps to help you decide.

Semigloss, matte, satin—you’ve got paint finish options. Choosing the right paint for you can be based on aesthetic preference and size of the room. For most basic jobs, DiClerico recommends an eggshell finish, also known as a satin finish. “It’s in between matte and semigloss, so it’s durable and wears well but isn’t too shiny.”

As for water-based versus oil-based paints, the majority of interior paint projects call for water-based paint, also known as latex paint. Oil-based paints contain toxins, making them a more hazardous choice for room painting. Typically, oil-based is used for smaller projects, like painting pieces of furniture.

For choosing the paint color itself, you can purchase paint color fan decks to browse colors from your home rather than the home improvement store. Another option is downloading a house paint app to test out the colors digitally—major brands like Benjamin Moore and Sherwin-Williams have color apps available to download.

With all of this in mind, don’t be afraid to do your research and play around with paint samples. You can order samples to be sent to your home to get a better feel for what paint is right for your room.

3. Invest in the right paint

pouring paint
Credit: Getty Images / gorodenkoff

High-quality paint can mean better coverage, and cost-savings in the long run.

A common mistake that DIY painters often make is not investing in the appropriate paint for your project. “Economy paints, or those costing $10 to $20 per gallon, will go on thin,” says DiClerico. “You’ll have to apply two or even three costs to get good coverage.”

That isn’t to say you have to break your budget in buying your paint. “There are many high-quality options in the $30- to $40-per-gallon range from brands like Behr, Benjamin Moore, and Valspar.”

4. Order your paint

paint touch up
Credit: Getty Images / Bill Oxford

Make sure to leave enough paint to do touch-ups.

To determine the amount of paint you’ll need for the job, try a paint calculator like this one from Sherwin-Williams, which takes into account doors, windows, and room size. It’s always nice to have extra paint for touch-ups, but there’s no need to have an excess amount of paint left over after the project’s done.

If you haven’t ordered your paint already, orders may be backed up on delivery sites like Amazon during this time. Try ordering directly from places like The Home Depot or Lowe’s for delivery or curbside pick-up.

5. Start painting

paint roller
Credit: Getty Images / ArturNyk

Use long strokes with a roller to get the most even coverage.

Get ready to mix your paint—grab a paint stick and begin stirring to ensure all the ingredients blend smoothly. Make sure you stir regularly throughout your painting project.

When going in for your first coat, be sure to roll out excess paint onto a painting grid or tray to get even coverage. Use long strokes with the roller to cover the majority of the wall, then smaller, more detailed strokes with a brush to get the corners of the wall. Just one coat of the color itself should be good, according to DiClerico. “A single coat will usually do the job, as long as you go with a top-rated self-priming paint.”

This might seem obvious, but patience is the trick to perfecting a paint job. Water-based paints and oil-based paints have different recommended drying times. A general good rule of thumb, however, is to wait a full 24 hours to ensure it’s dry.

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