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Top 10 Painting Tips and Tricks

Painting Tips Everyone Should Know Before Getting Started

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sxc.hu/Barry Kidd

You've decided to paint a room in your home and you're ready to get started. Or are you? Before you start slapping paint on the walls, check out these painting tips that will make your job easier and make it look like it was done by a pro.

1. Choose a Color

Choosing a color is the hardest part. What's most important is to find one that will create a desired mood and make you happy.

  • If you really don't have any idea about what color to paint try pulling a color out a piece of art or area rug that's in the room. It's a guaranteed way to find a complimentary color.
  • Take home several paint chips and see how they look in the room. Hold them up to the furniture, floors, artwork, cabinets, and anything else that's already in the room. Try to narrow it down to three or four choices.
  • Get a small sample pot of each color and paint a large square on the wall.
  • Watch how the color changes as the sun moves across the sky and the amount of light in the room changes.

2. Using More Than One Color

If you're using more than one color in the room remember these paint tips.

  • If you have a chair rail or wainscoting and you want to paint the top and bottom of the walls different colors it's best to use the darker color on the bottom portion and the lighter on top. The light color will dominate and the dark color will have a grounding effect.
  • To accentuate trim paint it a shade lighter or a shade darker than the walls. The same goes for the ceiling. Painting it a shade darker will make the room feel cozier, painting it a lighter shade will create an airier feeling.

3. Paint Effects

Don't be afraid to think outside the box and try some different paint effects. There's a lot you can do with paint so there's no need to do the walls all in the same color. Some fun techniques include color blocking, stenciling, and color washing. You can use different colors on the same wall, or for a subtle effect you can use different finishes. For example, try painting a wall in a flat finish and then stenciling a design (such as damask) overtop with a glossy paint. The effect is subtle yet elegant.

4. Choose a Finish

Once you've chosen a paint color and design you'll need to decide on a finish (or finishes).

 

  • Flat: Offers a matte finish, which is perfect for covering walls with a little wear and tear because it doesn't reflect light. Use flat finishes anywhere you want to cover imperfections.
  • Satin and Eggshell: Popular for walls because they have a very slight shine and are fairly easy to clean.
  • Semi Gloss and Glossy: Both are quite shiny which is why they're popular for trim. They also hold up very well to cleaning.

5. Determine the Amount of Paint Needed

Add the width of all the walls in the room together and multiply the number by the height of one wall (from floor to ceiling). Take the total and subtract the total area of all the doors, windows, archways, etc. This will get you the exact area of wall space you'll need to paint. A general rule of thumb is that a flat surface usually requires one gallon for every 400 square feet. Take into account how many coats you think you'll need to do.

6. Prepare to Paint

Proper preparation is one of the most important painting tips and is key in getting a professional looking paint job.
  • Move anything out of the room that might get in the way and remove all necessary hardware and fixtures.
  • Wipe down the walls with a solution of water and a little bit of dish soap. This will remove dirt, dust and grease.
  • Fill any cracks with plaster filler and sand down any surfaces that will be painted. Wipe off any excess dust from the sanding with a damp cloth.
  • Make sure you have all the brushes, rollers, and paint trays you will need before starting. Having to take a break in the middle of painting to run to the hardware store will be frustrating and slow you down.

7. Tape Off Areas to be Painted

It's time consuming but it's worth it. Use painter's tape to tape off the trim, ceilings, windows, doors, and any other necessary areas. It will ensure you get a nice straight line and you don't cross over onto an area you don't want painted.

8. Paint From the Top Down

Always start painting from the highest area to the lowest. Start with the ceiling or top of the walls and work your way down. This way you can catch any drips and it won't ruin a freshly painted wall.

9. Thin Coats Are Better Than Thick

One of the biggest mistakes people make is to put too much paint on the brush. It's far more effective to put a small amount on the brush or roller and use long, even strokes to apply thin coats. It's tempting to slather on a lot of paint in the hopes of not having to do another coat, but the end result won't look as good. Several thin coats will do a better job of covering the walls than one thick coat.

10. Paint the Trim Last

There's some debate on this topic, but quite often the trim can catch some of the spray that comes off of paint rollers. For this reason it's best to paint the trim last since it will be done with a brush and excess paint won't get on the walls.

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