Most minimalist paint job
March 11, 2021 12:30 PM   Subscribe

A Command strip failed me for once, not only coming off the wall with very little weight on it, but also taking off a bit of the paint (standard apartment white). It's right where I'll see it every day walking in the door, so I want to fix it.

I have been a renter my whole life and have literally never painted a wall. Is there some kind of minimal kit for these kinds of small touch-up jobs? Literally three small chips of paint are gone. The thought of having to get a whole can of paint, primer, etc. is daunting. (Also, if there is a visual guide to doing this kind of work that you can recommend, that would be helpful.)
posted by praemunire to Home & Garden (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Get a tester pot of a matching paint in the same sheen. You can either take another chip of paint off the wall and get that matched, or get some strips of white paints chips from the store and do a visual match. Buy a small brush. It may take more than one coat and you might need to blend in the edges.

If it's really, really tiny, get a tester pot of basic white paint.
posted by plonkee at 12:36 PM on March 11, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Some apartment companies publish what specific paint colors they use, so that when you move out you can fix all the holes without guessing. Alternately there may be a can around somewhere (or you can ask them).

If there’s no hole, probably just get a little sampler jar and a small brush and paint. In then future, if there is a hole that’s too big for the paint to cover you get a little tub of spackle and a putty knife, apply, and paint over.

It’s easy—if you have the right color paint.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 1:01 PM on March 11, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: The important thing, as said, is that you need the right color paint. Pre-Covid I would just take a chip to the paint/hardware store and ask the paint department person to find you the right color -- I'm not sure how you would do that now. But if you know what color you need, you just need to get a paintbrush and a sample can of the right paint (what a "testing pot" is called in my area), these are usually 8 oz and cost under $5. There is no special technique to this, you open the can, stir it, put your paintbrush in and apply a few swipes. Let them dry, then apply a few more until it looks right. It is not too complicated, I think you're overthinking it. You'll be fine!
posted by epanalepsis at 1:14 PM on March 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have also seen apartments with the names of the paint colors written on the inside of the breaker box - worth a shot to check.
posted by mosst at 1:14 PM on March 11, 2021

Best answer: I got this soto Paint Touch Up for a similar situation. They have a range of generic white tones that you should be able to find a pretty good match
posted by bangles at 1:18 PM on March 11, 2021

Response by poster: OK, I have a pretty good relationship with my building's super, and the building is recent construction, so I'll ask him about the paint color (no holes)--he probably knows. Thanks for the reassurance, everybody!
posted by praemunire at 1:23 PM on March 11, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Or you could just put up another command strip and delay needing to fix the problem until the second one fails! :D
posted by cgg at 2:01 PM on March 11, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: A couple finer points:

1. Try to match glossiness too. If your walls are glossy and your touch-up paint is not, or vice versa, it'll be noticeable.
2. It's amazing how much paint fails to cover up tiny bits of relief. Even a couple coats will not hide the little depression. The solution is a can of spackle and a putty knife.
posted by zompist at 2:23 PM on March 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Or you could just put up another command strip and delay needing to fix the problem until the second one fails!

Noooooo comment as to whether that idea occurred to me.
posted by praemunire at 2:44 PM on March 11, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: The solution is a can of spackle and a putty knife.

This is the correct solution. Alternatively you can take your little test pot of paint and mix a couple spoonfuls with flour until it's a nice thickish consistency and then apply it with your choice of flatish tool, for example a credit card.
posted by teremala at 3:09 PM on March 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I presume if I go to the hardware store for paint, I can also acquire some spackle, if necessary, yes? But I don't see depressions. I'll look again.
posted by praemunire at 3:12 PM on March 11, 2021

If it took off paint, there is a depression. Close your eyes, run fingers over the spot. Can you feel where it is? If so you need spackle. Just wallboard compound will work. Spread, let dry, sand smooth.
posted by beagle at 4:15 PM on March 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Most hardware stores will have small patch repair kits with a tiny tub or tube of spackle and a putty knife. They'll run you $10-20 and some have mesh patches you can use should you ever put a larger hole in the wall. Be sure to seal up the tube / tub tight so it doesn't dry out; one of those tiny tubs will last a few years if sealed well for future needs. I like the ones that are pink when applied but turn white when dry so you know when it's ready for painting.

If they use a consistent color for their apartments I'd be willing to bet that your super is more than willing to stop by with their paint the next time they go to touch up a vacant apartment and either brush it up themselves or let you dip a small brush in their bucket.
posted by SquidLips at 5:35 PM on March 11, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Two quick addendums to the advice here: compound and spackle are not the same thing, and it can be very hard to apply spackle on a wall and ensure it doesn't come out bumpy. You're painting such a small area, though, you likely don't need either.

Second: No one paints a wall with a brush: They nearly always use a rollar (and very occasionally spray it).

Buy a tiny roller, run it over your paint pan a few times and then roll it sideways and up and down to blur (feather) the new paint into the old. It will look great!
posted by Violet Blue at 10:25 PM on March 11, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Unless the wall has lots and lots of coats of paint, just lightly sanding the edges where the chip came off to smooth it should be fine, no putty needed. You'll really only need to worry about putty if there's a visually obvious indent or lip around the edge. In either case, clean all dust (eg. from sanding) and grime off (with a non-greasy cleaner: plain water, T.S.P., or ammonia solution for example) and let the wall and any putty dry before painting.
posted by eviemath at 5:00 AM on March 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Also, you may already know this but in case not: multiple light coats of paint are better than one thick coat. Much easier to get an even-looking final product. Generally, if you've never painted a wall before, you need less paint on the roller than you think you do - just enough that it leave a solid layer of paint rather than one with some gaps. The annoying part about multiple coats is letting it dry in between, but with a small patch that shouldn't take too long.
posted by eviemath at 5:06 AM on March 12, 2021

Best answer: The other thing to bear in mind is that it wasn't the Command strip that failed here, it was the bond between the paint and the drywall. That makes it quite likely that the surface preparation for painting on that bit of the wall was never done properly in the first place.

So I'd start with a fairly aggressive grade of sandpaper, say a 180 grit, and put my thumb behind it and grind it onto the missing paint chip until I'd given the deepest part a good scuffing up and turned the sides of the crater from little microscopic cliffs into little microscopic slopes. Then I'd wipe the sanding job with a just-damp rag to get rid of dust, apply a coat of touch up paint with a small flat artist's brush, then let that dry. Then I'd gently sand the whole area flat with finer sandpaper, say 300 grit, backed with a flat sanding block, then again wipe over with a just-damp rag.

If there was still a depression I could feel with a fingertip I'd repeat the touchup coat, drying and sand flat and wipe steps until there wasn't. I'd then put on a very thin final coat with a brush loaded very sparingly, then overbrush it crossways to flatten out the brushstrokes. If the colour matching was good I wouldn't expect to be able to see the repair from more than a couple of feet away.

I wouldn't bother with spackle unless the flake that had come out in the first place was thicker than a coat of paint.
posted by flabdablet at 5:49 AM on March 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

I have banned Command Strips from our walls. I have repeatedly had them rip the paint and dry wall paper off the walls requiring patching and painting the wall.
posted by tman99 at 6:05 AM on March 12, 2021

Your super will probably give you a small bit of paint if you show up with your own jar.
posted by cyndigo at 9:43 PM on March 12, 2021

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