How to Paint Like a Pro – Practical Tips from a Professional

September 14, 2019 by Happy DIY Home Staff

What is the best way to freshen up your home? Give it a new coat of paint. But hiring a professional painter can carry a heavy price tag and rightly so. A professional paint job is more than slinging a roller around a few times and calling it done. It takes time and experience to deliver a seamless paint job. Professional painters are worth every penny! But doing your own painting can be a fun and simple way to save big bucks if you spend a little time and effort to do it right yourself! All you need is a few tips to get you started.

Here are some things the pros know, to help you get a professional-looking paint job for a fraction of the cost.

1. Start with the right supplies.
You don’t have to spend a fortune to get quality tools and paint. Moderately priced tools will give you the quality and durability you need to complete one room or the whole house without breaking the bank.

This list will ensure you have everything you need at your fingertips to avoid delays and costly mistakes:

Prepare the Walls
Painter’s tape
Plastic to cover floors and furniture
Screwdriver to remove faceplates
Putty
Putty knife
80 grit sandpaper or sanding sponge
Paint the Room
Short-handled angled brush
Roller Handle
Rollers in a nap appropriate for your wall texture
Roller tray and tray liners
Step ladder
Paint pail with a handle
5-gallon bucket with lid
Paint stirrer
Paint
Some professional tips on the right painting supplies
Short-handled angled brush

This paint brush is perfect for cutting in around the edges of your walls. The shorter handle fits nicely into your hand and gives you more control.

Roller handle

A good quality roller handle that feels nice in your hand is perfect for the job. Purchasing a handle extension is optional. I recommend ditching the extension and using a stepladder to get to the top of the wall instead. I tend to feel less in control with a longer handle. I have even broken the threads off an extension by applying too much pressure on the bottom of the handle. However, my husband and business partner wouldn’t paint a wall without one.

Rollers in a nap appropriate for your wall texture

The thicker your wall texture, the thicker nap you’ll need on your rollers. The paint professionals where you buy paint can help you determine the perfect roller for your paint job.

Roller tray and liners

Often you can buy a roller tray packaged with several other items you will need, like brushes, roller handles, and rollers. This is a good moderately priced option.

Tray liners make clean up a breeze. They also help to avoid dried paint building up in the tray, flaking off, and sticking to your roller so that you end up rolling chunks of dried paint onto your wall.

Step ladder

Choose the best step ladder for you.

Paint pail with a handle

A small paint pail is easier to manage on a stepladder than holding the gallon can of paint or an awkward tray. We’ve always used a red Solo cup because we’re cheap like that, but the best tool for the job is the tool designed for the job.

Paint Cup
This inexpensive little paint cup has a handle for easy grip, and is not as heavy or awkward as a paint can or tray on a ladder.

5-gallon bucket with lid

You’ll only need these if you will be using multiple gallons of paint. Paint tinting has become very accurate over the years, but you can still end up with two gallons of the same color paint that can look vastly different side by side on the wall. Trust me, I’ve been there!

You can avoid potential disaster like a professional by mixing multiple gallons in your 5-gallon bucket for a single uniform color. If you are painting multiple rooms the same color, it may even be more economical to buy a 5-gallon bucket of paint from the store. Think carefully about this option because a full 5-gallon bucket of paint can be a bit unwieldy.

Paint Stirrer

This little flat stick of wood (given freely at some paint stores) can make all the difference in color distribution in your paint. Tint can settle to the bottom of a can of paint that has been sitting for a bit. Always shake the can vigorously before opening and stir thoroughly every single time you open the can again.

Paint

I could write a whole article on selecting paint. Without even touching on selecting your paint color, there are so many paint options in different finishes, with different levels of VOCs (which create those irritating fumes), in different brands and price points.

Ideally, I recommend that you go to a store that specializes in paint. They will have the most expertise and are dedicated to helping you find the right paint for your project. We have had great luck with Sherwin Williams. Find your local Sherwin Williams for help choosing paint and getting additional professional painting tips.

Big box home stores can also have great paint departments, are more conveniently located, and are a good value. That said, trust your instincts in these stores if you think the person at the counter is not really a paint professional. We have had some really great experiences in these stores, and have had some near misses. Once, a chatty cashier helped us avoid a big mistake. A product recommended by the person manning the paint desk at that time was not the right product at all.

Here is how I approach paint buying – don’t overthink it.
Look at the paint prices on the upper end and lower end. Select something in the middle.
If you’re worried about fumes, choose a low VOC option. Most major national brands now offer this option.
When selecting a sheen, satin is typically a good choice for walls, especially in high traffic areas as it is easy to clean. With two little boys, we use satin everywhere! Check out this comprehensive ‘how to’ video on selecting a paint sheen.
Latex is perfect for walls. It goes on and cleans up easy.
A gallon of paint covers approximately 400 square feet – be sure you get enough for your project. Measure all the wall surfaces that will be painted and multiply the length by the width to get the square footage you’ll need to cover.
Expect to need two coats.
2. Prepare. Prepare. Prepare
Any professional worth her salt will tell you that proper prep is worth every minute you’ll spend wiping, puttying, sanding, and covering.

Remove all face plates
When you remove the faceplates put the screws back into the outlet or light switch so they don’t get lost. There is nothing worse than putting all the faceplates back on and realizing you are missing one screw. That little black screw hole will glare at you and taunt you into eternity!

Cover everything
Move furniture to the middle of the room and cover with plastic. Leave plenty of room to move you and your ladder easily around furniture. Cover the floor completely. You can even tape the floor covering to the base to ensure it doesn’t shift and leave flooring exposed.

You will not need to tape off everything if you have a good brush for cutting in. If you’re more comfortable using tape, take your time and tape around edges of all trim.

For information on getting paint out of your clothes, see this article. The same cannot be said for getting paint out of carpet or furniture, so just cover it and avoid the hassle.

Wipe down all the walls with a damp rag, removing all dust and cobwebs
It is always tempting to skip this step, but don’t! The last thing you want is to see painted over cobwebs glaring at you from your freshly painted walls.

Repair any damage with putty and sand smooth.
Remember to wipe the dust each time you sand. If you have large areas of damage, or need to replace a whole section of drywall or repair a large hole, you may choose a drywall sander over elbow grease with a sanding sponge, but typically hand sanding will be just fine.

Painting Holes Putty Painting
This 10X9 inch spot on the wall needed to be completely covered with putty. Push the putty into those holes. Don’t be afraid to use as much putty as needed. You’ll likely need to let putty dry, sand, and putty the holes again to get a smooth finish.

Painting Repair Holes

On this same wall, there were two spots where previous painters had repaired similar holes without sanding and the result was a disaster!

3. Paint like a Professional
Work top to bottom, one wall at a time.
Start at the top. Cut in along the ceiling (‘cutting in’ is the term used for painting along the edges where the roller will not cover). If you have a steady hand, you won’t need tape.

If you’re not confident in your ability to create smooth lines, tape along the ceiling. Remember that your end-result is only as good as your tape job. You must have complete adhesion along the edge over which you will be painting. One option is to run the edge of your putty knife over the edge pressing firmly as you go. Another option is to get a barely damp rag and press along the edge. This may be the better option for the DIY painter as you won’t run the risk of gouging your ceiling with the putty knife.

Painting How To Use Rag

In order to get complete adhesion so that no paint bleeds through, get a barely damp rag and press it along the edge of the tape where you’ll be painting.

Repeat along the base and around any door or window frames. Remember to go ahead and use your brush to cut in the corners of the room and around any wall plugs or switch plates.

Now you are ready to roll the wall you have prepared.

Roll in multiple directions
Rolling your walls is not like cutting your grass. You most certainly do not want to end up with visible straight lines on your walls the width of your roller. Paint will also tend to pool at the edges of your roller, making small lines and drips on your wall. Avoid these unsightly imperfections by alternating rolling up and down with rolling diagonally, in a ‘W’ motion to smooth everything out.

Painting Hold Roller

Be sure to move your roller in multiple directions – up and down as well as diagonally over the same spots to ensure full coverage and no lines.

Always, before you move on to the next step, stand back and look at your wall to see if you need to smooth any drips or roll over any visible lines. Once the wall dries, you will be sanding out these mistakes. Avoid them now by taking a good look at your paint job.

Smooth the transitions
Finally, you don’t want to put so much hard work into preparation and painting to end up with harsh lines between the rolled texture of the wall and the brush strokes where you cut in the edges. Avoid this disaster with a tip passed onto me from a professional painter friend. Go back with your paintbrush and gently drag the brush across the transition in multiple directions, lightening your touch before lifting the brush, ‘feathering’ the different strokes into a smooth transition.

Smooth Transitions

Smooth your transitions so that your finished product looks seamless and professional.

Tackling your own painting projects can take a little time, but can save you a significant amount of money. Taking your time and doing it the right way will give you professional results you’ll love!

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Peter Janisch specializes in short sales in Short Sale Realtor. I am your Short Sale Realtor Short Sale Specialist Realtor and Short Sale Realtor loan modification and distressed property expert. This article and content is for general informational purposes and may not be accurate. This should not be taken as legal advice, technical or tax advice under any circumstance. Seek legal advise and representation in all legal matters.