How to Paint a Room
Is your space a little … drab? Changing the color of your wall to a trendy shade is one of the fastest ways to revamp a tired space. And since it’s a project that most homeowners can undertake on their own, it’s also one of the most affordable.
But as simple as the paint sounds, there are a few tricks in the trade. Take prep work, for example. If you skip this important step, you could end up with a real problem on your hands – an undercoat that’s showing through or peeling off the paint. If you paint latex over oil, for example, you might crack, says Rachel Rothman, chief technologist and director of engineering at the Good Housekeeping Institute. These types of mistakes not only take time to correct, but can also cost a lot of money if you need to hire a professional to correct your mistakes.
Don’t worry, though: as long as you’re using the right supplies and mastering the basics, you’ll be painting like a pro in no time. Here, we’ll break it all down for you, covering everything from supplies and prep, to even rolling and even cleaning your brushes so you can move on to the next project on your list. Follow these tips for professional looking results:
1. Make a plan.
Before you pick up a brush, you need a plan of attack. Think of it a bit like cooking: you want to read the recipe all the way before you start to blindly tossing ingredients into the pan, otherwise you might get to halfway and realize you’re missing an important component.
Search: Does the ceiling also need to be refreshed? And the garnish? Also consider your options on the walls. Will you use one color – or do you want to try painting with two colors (an accent wall, maybe)?
2. Select the perfect color.
When it comes to painting shades, the options are endless. That’s a happy problem: While you’ll inevitably find what you’re looking for, landing on the right shade can be quite a process. To guide your research, start by thinking about what you ultimately want. Are you considering a warm or cool shade? Does your space warrant a bold color or would a neutral be more appropriate? Once you have a general idea of which direction you want to go, you can start sifting through the paint chips.
But don’t rely on the small square to make a final decision: once on the wall, the paint may look very different from the swatch card! Colors often appear brighter once on the wall and the light in your room can have a dramatic impact on how the color reads. Pick a few finalists, then purchase sample cans.
3. Paint a swatch.
Once you have sample boxes in hand, paint samples on the wall. To give you a good idea of how color will look in your space, paint two coats of color in a 12 inch by 12 inch square. If your room has both sunny and shady spots, it’s a good idea to put swatches in both areas, as this can affect the final look.
You can also paint two coats on a foam board (available at any craft or office supply store) and glue it to the wall. This is a great option for those who don’t plan on getting started right away, as you won’t have to live with random streaks of color on your walls.
Professional advice: Use an inexpensive foam brush for this type of paint sample. This way you won’t mess up a ton of brushes and waste money.
4. Calculate how much paint you need.
To determine how much paint to buy, many retailers have helpful calculators you can use. Always check the packaging, but in general, a gallon is about good for 250 to 400 square feet, says Rothman. And remember: you’ll need a little extra for touch-ups and mistakes.
5. Gather the right materials.
While the area and size of your painting directly influences the exact list of supplies you need, it’s a good idea to stock your toolbox with a combination of the following:
- Painter’s tape
- Protective cloths
- Brushes (angled and straight)
- Paint roller
- Paint tray
- Mix the stick
- To paint
Other worthwhile investments: an extension so that you can store the ladder after the edge step; a paint can opener; and a spout to reduce the mess.
6. Prepare the room for painting.
- First, dry dust the walls from floor to ceiling and scrub all heavily soiled rooms with a damp sponge or cloth; paint also does not adhere to a dirty surface (think fingerprints, soot, dust, cobwebs). Let dry before painting.
- Protect the floor and any furniture you can’t (or won’t) move, paint splashes and spills. For the floor, choose fabric drop sheets over plastic, as the plastic can be slippery under your feet or, worse yet, up the ladder.
- Remove the socket and light switch plates and tape around the areas you don’t want to paint (such as moldings, baseboards, or window frames) with painter’s masking tape or frog tape. The Good Housekeeping Institute tried the latter on a smooth wall and found that it made a clean line and did not let paint escape.
7. Prime the wall (or not with our handy trick).
A bit annoying when trying to paint a room in a day: painting on a dark wall with a light color (or covering up spots) requires one coat of primer and two coats of paint – and at least six hours of drying time. (If you’re in a room with high humidity or painting the outside in wet weather, it will take a lot longer, Rothman notes.)
That’s why GHI recommends Benjamin Moore Aura, a self-priming paint (this is a cost effective option if you plan to purchase a primer). Go from light to light? You can get by with two coats of good quality regular paint.
8. Mix the paint.
Although the store usually shakes the paint for you, a decent mixture will ensure that your paint is properly mixed. This is especially important if the can has been on a shelf for a while. While this is an optional step, you can filter the paint as well, Rothman explains. “It’s easier to get rid of dirt from the paint bucket, rather than having it on your wall and having to fix it later.”
9. Get started!
You are now ready for the main event. If you’re painting a room two colors – stripes, for example – start with the lighter color, Rothman says. Once it’s dry, run painter’s tape over the divider, then paint the darker color.
If you’re painting a room in one color, here’s how to do it with a roller and brush, according to the pros:
- Use an angled brush or sponge to “cut”, or paint a two-inch swath around the edges of the trim and ceiling. (Remember: these areas must be glued, as explained in step five.)
- Take your paint tray and a roller. use 1/4 “nap for smooth surfaces, 3/8” nap for semi-smooth, or 5/8 “nap for rough surfaces – the wrong tool will apply too much or too little paint. If you’re using latex paint, pre-wet the roller first, Rothman says.
- Fill the paint tray well about ¼ of the way. Then, when loading the paint, roll the roller back and forth in the well until it is evenly coated. Finally, move the roller back and forth across the top to remove any excess.
- Fill in the central unpainted space using the roller. Paint the wall in layered W- or M-shaped strokes for the most even paint distribution possible.
- Let the first coat dry for at least a few hours, then recoat. Between layers, cover the tray and brush with plastic wrap moving paint surface and refrigerate.
Pro tip: Have a damp cloth handy to wipe up fresh spills. Scrape off the dried drops with a credit card or plastic spatula.
10. Finish and clean up.
- Rinse your brush and roller (if you don’t throw it away) under a tap until the water runs clear.
- Decant the leftover paint from the tray into the can; Seal the box well by placing a paper towel over the lid and tapping the edges of the lid with a hammer. Rinse the tray.
- Once the bristles of the brush are completely dry, return the brush to its original paper wrapper to prevent the bristles from unfolding, or try this DIY solution: fold a piece of heavy paper around the bristles; tape to secure.
- Remove the masking tape before calling it a night, pulling it at a 45 degree angle to avoid tearing the finish.
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