Consider Preparation Steps When Painting a Room
Learning how to paint a room properly is essential for beginners, diy'er, new homeowners, and veteran home improvement experts alike. After all, it’s pretty painless, relatively inexpensive, and util something go horribly wrong and not easy to fix. However, before you grab your roller and get started with your first coat, it’s essential to have a plan of attack. So we asked a handful of experts for their best painting tips and tricks to get you started. Read on to learn how to paint a room and see step-by-step what you’ll need to do to make sure your project is a success.
1. Plan your approach
Start by thinking about how you want the finished project to look and remember that you’re not limited to four walls or an entire room in the same color. Consider painting an accent wall in a bold hue or highlighting moldings in a contrasting shade or finish. And don’t forget to look up and see whether the ceiling could use a refresh as well.
2. Choose your color
Browsing through fan decks and paint chips can be overwhelming. Start by figuring out the general color characteristics:
- Do you want a warm or cool shade?
- Neutral or saturated?
- If you have existing furniture or art, you’ll also want to consider how the shade will complement them.
Once you have a sense of what you’re looking for, pick a few shades and get samples lots of direct-to-consumer brands color swatches you can slap on the wall for a better sense of shade and it’ll save you a trip to the store.
- Test the colors to see how they look in the room at different times of day.
Many paint companies also have tools on their websites that will let you upload a photo of your space and preview different colors on the walls. But colors can look different in real-world conditions, so you’ll still need to try it out in the space.
Every project is unique and you may need different tools depending on the paint you choose and the condition of your walls, but there are a few must-haves:
- Paint roller
- Paint roller extension pole
- Drop cloths
- Paint tray
- Painter’s tape
- Putty knife
Click here for a shopping list to order all the paint supplies you’ll need to get started—from sanding and priming to your very last touch-ups.
4. Determine how much paint you’ll need
Whether you’re painting a powder room or the exterior of your house, the general rule of thumb is one gallon of paint cover approximately 400 square feet. However, that’s just a rough guideline:
- to get a more precise number, which you’ll definitely want for large projects, use a paint calculator
- take into account window and door measurements.
- and both assume two coats of paint per project
Planning on whitewashing a charcoal gray wall? You’ll likely need additional paint when going from dark to light. On the other end of the spectrum, a deep color base tends to require more coats of paint than a lighter color, sometimes it's recommended applying a gray-tinted primer to the surface before you paint your walls a saturated color to help reduce the number of applications. When it comes to finish, you may have heard that the glossier it is, the higher the coverage rate, but it’s not enough of a difference to change the number of gallons you need to buy.
If you’re painting a highly textured surface rather than a smooth one, buy a little extra. Cabinets with complicated millwork require more paint, it's suggested purchasing about 10% more than calculated.
5. Prep the walls and the room
You don’t want to damage your favorite sofa or that heirloom grandma gave you, so empty the room of all the furniture. If you don’t have enough space to relocate everything you own, push it all to the center of the room. Cover the pieces with a drop cloth or lightweight plastic sheeting and do the same with the floor, as well as any cabinetry or countertops that might be in danger of excess splatter. “Don’t skip the drop cloth, paint will splatter and spray off the roller.
Grab a roll of painter’s tape and firmly apply it to the edges of the room’s corners, base and crown moldings, and door and window casings, using a putty knife to seal if needed. Getting a good seal so paint doesn’t get under the tape is everything, plus it will pull away clean after everything is dry. If you dare or have an artist’s steady hand, you can skip taping entirely. Remove light switch and outlet covers and apply painter’s tape to protect outlets and switches from paint drips. Before you get started, make sure you know how to repair drywall so you can clean up any nicks in the walls.
6. Mix your paint
Use a wooden paint stick to stir the paint, and re-stir often throughout the project. Paint that isn’t stirred consistently can lead to the ingredients separating and you’ll risk compromising the true color you’re going for. If you’re using more than one gallon of paint, combine the cans in a large bucket in case there is a slight variation in color.
Tackle one wall at a time. Take a brush and “cut in”—paint along the molding and the corners from top to bottom—while your painting companion uses a roller to cover the main expanse of the wall, staying away from those more precise spots. When applying paint with the roller, use long strokes in a W pattern for ample coverage (and to avoid those pesky roller marks). Once the wall is dry to the touch, it’s ready for a second coat. If you are painting the trim, remove the painter’s tape and wait for the walls to dry before applying tape to the walls. Start with the trim closest to the ceiling, move on to door and window frames, and, finally, the baseboards.
Start by cutting in near moldings and corners with a brush.
7. Pick your painting techniques
Your paint is mixed and your roller is at the ready, but make sure to plan a strategy before you get started. Work from the top of the room down, starting with the ceilings.
Planning a bold focal wall?
Paint the adjoining light-colored walls first. Don’t worry if you get paint on what will be your accent wall the dark paint will cover up whatever lighter paint found its way there. After the lighter wall dries, tape off that edge so the dark color doesn’t bleed onto your new paint. If you’re covering up dark walls with a brighter hue, plan on three coats: your primer, plus two coats of the new color to ensure nothing shows through.
Tackle one wall at a time. Take a brush and cut in paint along the molding and the corners from top to bottom while your painting companion uses a roller to cover the main expanse of the wall, staying away from those more precise spots. When applying paint with the roller, use long strokes in a "W" pattern for ample coverage (and to avoid those pesky roller marks. Once the wall is dry to the touch, it’s ready for a second coat. If you are painting the trim, remove the painter’s tape and wait for the walls to dry before applying tape to the walls. Start with the trim closest to the ceiling, move on to door and window frames, and, finally, the baseboards.
8. Don’t forget ventilation
Watching paint dry is no fun. Make sure your space is well ventilated throughout the project by opening windows and using fans. Keeping the room warm and a fan blowing definitely helps speed up the drying process. If it’s a damp day, it will take much longer for the paint to dry.
9. Clean up
You’ve done multiple coats, but it’s not time to relax just yet. Remove all the painter’s tape and gather drop cloths, making sure any spills or splatters are dry before you move them. For latex- and water-based paints, clean brushes with soapy water, though oil-based paints will require mineral spirits. You can use a painter’s brush to clean and reshape bristles. If you want to reuse roller covers, use the curved edge of a 5-in-1 tool to remove the excess paint under running water they’re also useful for opening a paint can, removing nails, and scraping.
10. Give yourself enough time
The amount of time your project will take depends on the size of your room, how you’re painting, and your skill level. For instance, using a dark shade on the walls and painting the ceiling and trim will take longer than just doing the walls in a neutral color. While some spaces can be done in a few hours, others may take several days. Be sure to budget more time than you think the job will need and don’t forget to take prep and cleanup into account.