Help me paint like a pro
October 21, 2011 6:58 PM   Subscribe

Help me paint like a pro!

We just bought a house and are getting a bunch of contract work done and had the downstairs professionally painted. In order to save money we decided to paint the upstairs ourselves, which is proving more difficult than expected.

The walls had a lot of marks that needed to be fixed with spackle. I spot primed them, but now you can see the shape of where it was. I know they repaired walls downstairs, how did they avoid having these marks?

Any tips or tricks to making my paint job look more professional and go quickly?
posted by Becko to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
it's generally better to just prime the whole wall, particularly if it's another color (NO paint is 100% opaque...colors underneath WILL show through)... to get the spackle nice and smooth, after sanding, wipe it down lightly with a damp (not will melt) sponge. i like that pink spackle that turns white when it's dry...
posted by sexyrobot at 7:02 PM on October 21, 2011

You also need to sand them down and then sponge it clean. Let it dry, put a base coat on and then your paint.

My back hurts thinking about painting because it take so much time to cut the edges and such. You may also want to paint the corners by hand with a brush before you roller paint the wall.

Have fun! Take before and after pictures si you can remind yourself what suffering you went through!!
posted by Yellow at 7:07 PM on October 21, 2011

Buy the good painters tape and a pro level brush for the edges. Keep your stuff really clean.
posted by fshgrl at 7:54 PM on October 21, 2011

I agree with priming the whole wall. New spackle is incredibly absorbent and sometimes needs a few coats to cover it. Also, make sure the spackle has adequately dried and cured before priming it. After spot priming and letting dry, you can switch to your paint color, but plan on at least 2 coats for an even finish.

Here are my pro tips from the interior painting training I had during a facilities-crew stint years ago. I really learned how to be a good painter, and patience and small habits make all the difference.

Prep is everything in painting. Get plenty of blue tape, sheets or tarps, and rags. Cover the floor and tape the cover down. Cover any fixtures, windows, and trim you don't want to paint. Remove anything that can be removed - switchplates, smoke detectors, curtain hardware. Set up a bucket of hot water (even when it cools, it'll be warm for a while) and several rags that you can wipe up drip spots with.

Before you open the paint can, dust the walls down. A very slightly damp rag is a good way to do this. Just dust them down ceiling to floor to remove the layer of dust and particles and hairs that would mess up your paint. Be sure the walls aren't too wet from this before you start painting.

Stir your paint really well, even if it looks smooth.

Begin by using about a 2" angled brush to "cut in" starting at the border between wall and ceiling. Carefully paint a nice, even stripe across the top of the wall and sweep the brush down at the end of the stripe. There are probably YouTube videos which demonstrate this technique well. It takes a little practice to get the finesse. This, also, is where to spend money on a decent brush. A $2 brush will lose bristles and make a sloppy line. A decent brush ($10-15) will make a smooth, graceful line.

After doing the edge around the entire ceiling, progress to the top of the window sills, around the wall fixtures, and finally the baseboards. Cut in an entire wall before you do any rollering.

Pour your paint carefully into the roller pan. You don't need to tip the can too much. After enough paint (not a ton) has flowed in, keep the can tilted for the last few drips to fall off. Then right the can and let the paint drain back in from the ledge. Use one of your wet rags to wipe the side of the can so it doesn't smear everywhere.

Run your roller through the paint many more times than seems necessary. Get one surface wet, then roll it back and forth on the roller-pan ribs a lot. Then get another surface wet. Take your time at this, it's how you load a roller effectively. You never want the roller to drip when you lift it from the pan. Roll off the excess.

Start in the middle of the wall and use a V motion - left then right. Cover the wall surface with Vs, then drop down or move up and do more overlapping Vs. You should never have to press your roller very hard; it should flow creamily. Once you find yourself forcing the roller against the wall to get paint out, you need to reload. Don't keep squeezing it to get the last drop. That makes for a thin, uneven paint layer which is no good and will need to be covered later anyway.

Roller out to the cut-in marks for an even first coat.

LEt that coat dry *totally* before adding the next coat. Not only dry to the touch but really set - overnight is best. Some wall surfaces are really absorbent, and the paint layer will look different in the morning light than it did at the end of the day when the wall was still slightly damp.

Apply your 2nd coat with the roller.

After that coat is on, take stock. Most likely you will need to touch up where you cut in to saturate that paint layer better. Keep a wet rag over your shoulder to wipe up any stray cutting-in marks. Some areas may demand a 3rd coat with the roller. When you think you're done, replace all the hardware you removed. Look everything over in bright daylight. When you're really, truly done, you'll know.

In between painting stints, wrap your roller completely in Saran wrap. This will keep you from having to thoroughly clean it each time. Most cheap rollers will come apart if you try to wash them in water too much, so don't. Just don't allow them to dry out. The Saran will prevent that.

Do wash out your roller tray, because dried-out latex mixed with new liquid latex is a terrible thing. You get these pudding-skin thingies that are just hellacious. So at the end of a painting day, leave time to wrap your rollers, rinse your brushes and paint trays, and cover your paint cans securely. Never leave paint cans sitting open - you WILL trip over them and spill paint, sooner or later. Don't let it happen!

Finally, replace all the hardware you removed, sand down any drippy spots, and take up your tape and tarps. You're done! It's beautiful!
posted by Miko at 8:03 PM on October 21, 2011 [298 favorites]

PS, if your walls are at all dirty - by which I mean maybe they've accumulated grease, as in a kitchen or a room over a kitchen, or perhaps a smoker lived there - then before the dusting step you might want to wash the walls down with TSP, a great detergent/stripper.
posted by Miko at 8:06 PM on October 21, 2011 [6 favorites]

Everything that Miko said, plus a couple more tips:

if you tape stuff off, remove the tape immediately after painting, while the paint is still wet. Yes, this means you'll have to retape for the second coat, but it is worth it, because you will get a nice clean line along the tape edge instead of cracking or peeling paint.

if you don't tape stuff off, keep a clean damp cloth nearby at all times and the minute you notice a drip on the floor, trim, or hardware, wipe it. It is SO MUCH harder to scrape paint off later when it is dried on.

You might find you prefer to use fresh paint trays, roller sleeves, etc, each time, rather than washing them off. Brushes aren't so hard to wash, but getting all the little flakes off roller sleeves and paint trays is really difficult, and they aren't that expensive to just replace.

Go really super slowly, especially when cutting in. I watched professional painters recently, and they went about three times slower than I did - maybe they were being paid by the hour, but their lines were SO exact.

Watch out for fluff from new rollers getting caught in the paint during the first bit of the wall.

If you are finding that one wall STILL doesn't look like it got even coverage even after three or four coats and you just can't understand it... wait until a different time of day. It might be a shadow or just the way the light hits the wall that makes it look different.
posted by lollusc at 11:26 PM on October 21, 2011 [7 favorites]

Here are some more tips, similar to those Miko described.
posted by neushoorn at 1:35 AM on October 22, 2011

It's not clear what you meant by "the shape of where it was." Is it a topographical difference in the surface -- the sort of thing that you could feel when running your fingers over the wall, that wouldn't be covered by even several coats of paint? Or, is it just a difference in sheen, where the repaired area is duller or shinier? If the former, then this is not a painting problem; you need to improve your patching and sanding technique. If the latter, then the above tips re:wall prep, priming, etc. will take care of it.
posted by jon1270 at 4:07 AM on October 22, 2011

Here's a good video with tips for cutting in the walls. It's worth learning, as this is the telltale difference between a good, professional paint job and an amateur, sloppy one. This guy is really good, if anything he's going too fast for a beginner, but I love his technique of painting in a line below your cut-in line. That is a fantastic tip I didn't know before.
posted by Miko at 4:28 AM on October 22, 2011 [4 favorites]

A couple of other things to consider: if the walls have any texture on them, sanding the repairs smooth can make them stand out. Sometimes taking some sheet rock mud thinned with water and rolling it lightly over the repair can help blend in the texture; so can several coats of paint and primer (unless they are plaster walls with a more unusual texture, but that is uncommon and typically saved for ceilings). Also, the gloss of the paint can make a difference, a couple of contractors I know call eggshell paint "egg-hell" because any touch-ups they do will stand out unless they are done carefully.
posted by TedW at 9:20 AM on October 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm a big fan of primer when it comes to walls that haven't been painted in some time, or are dirty or whatever. Primer is cheaper than paint, and your color coat will come out so much better with a primed surface since the absorption is going to be even on primed walls. Otherwise, do what Miko said. Preparation is definitely the key to a good paint job. Well, that and primer...
posted by Eekacat at 1:15 PM on October 22, 2011

Also, if you want a smooth even coat, avoid the cheaper available paints. Paint is bits of pigment mixed in a medium. Inexpensive paints tend to make a smooth even application difficult, and if you want to try to make them look nice, then you have to spend more time working them, which is why professional painters dislike them. So if you care, resist the Behr.

(I could also say that not every room is a glossy showroom. If you're not fussy about achieving a perfect mirror-flat surface, then those cheap paints is just fine/adequate for casual and working spaces. Life is short. Just slap it on.).
posted by ovvl at 8:58 PM on October 22, 2011

When you wrap a brush or roller in foil or Saran wrap, it will stay usable much longer if you put it in the refrigerator.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:48 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

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