35 + Painting Tips for Painting like a Pro!
If you have been following my blog for a while or are a new reader you probably noticed that I paint A LOT. I think I wear paint clothes more often than non-paint clothes and I can’t tell you how many times I have gone out to the store with paint in my hair or on my face. What this means for you is that I know my way around all things paint and have many invaluable painting tips to share with you. Painting tips that will help you not only get the job or project done faster, but better, too. These tips range from prep to clean up, to small projects all the way to painting large pieces of furniture.
Scroll through the painting tips below to become the expert home decorating painter you have always dreamed of!
Painting Tips For Every Painting Project Big or Small:
- Don’t rush. Remember to take your time to get it right the first time so you will have a lasting finish.
- Don’t paint in the dark or with uneven room lighting. You will miss sections and not see drips.
- More light coats are better than one heavy coat for the best adhesion.
- Apply the paint and topcoat when the temperature in the room is around 72 – 78 degrees. This will ensure good adhesion and smoothness while allowing the paint to dry in optimal time.
- Going over any surface with 100 – 220 grit sandpaper before painting is always a good thing. It only takes 5 minutes and will ensure proper adhesion.
- Stir, stir, stir, and stir some more. There’s a reason that you are given a stirrer every time you buy a can of paint. The ingredients can and do separate—make sure to stir when you start to paint, and again every so often while painting. This ensures that the color and consistency of the finish will look great.
- Read the can. Every type of paint and primer has need-to-know information about the particular formula on the can, along with the timing of coats and the right temperature to ensure proper coverage, adhesion, and drying time. For instance, did you know that joint compound on walls needs to dry for two days before applying primer over it? Save time and frustration in the long run –read the can first.
- Don’t use a latex paint over a surface that was previously painted with oil paint. Oil paint on trim and doors is quite common in older homes. If you suspect the surface you want to paint is oil based, make sure to use a good primer over it first. It can be a latex primer, but it has to be a product that is made to prepare the surface and help with adhesion. When the primer coats are dry, then you can apply latex paint over it
- When painting something that is flawed and not perfectly level, use paint in a flat finish. Flat paint does not reflect light, so you don’t see the imperfections and any un-eveness on the surface. I did this under where the light hangs above my kitchen sink since we Spackled the area and it wasn’t completely flat. *See the full post here.
- When painting over another bold color you need to prime the wall first using a primer. Use white if painting over with a light color, use grey primer if the new color will be dark.
- Rule of thumb when you need a very durable finish for tabletops and items that will get a lot of wear. The harder the finish the better. Look for enamel and/or acrylic on the paint label.
- Spring for high quality paint and primer. You won’t regret it when you don’t have to repaint every few years.
For a glossy painted finish: You have two options:
- Oil-based Gloss creates the most glass-like shine with zero brush strokes. When painting large flat surfaces in oil gloss this is a good thing since many strokes of a paint brush are needed to cover the area. Tabletops, counters, doors will be as smooth and shiny as glass with no brush marks in the finish. Cons – Smells bad, long drying time, may yellow with age.
- Latex Gloss is not quite as shiny as oils, but are easier to work with, have little smell and dry fast, plus easy to clean up. It also does not yellow over time like oil-based paints can. Look for “Gloss” on the label as well as “Enamel” to get the highest sheen.
The Best Painting Tools
These inexpensive paper cones with a strainer at the tip are not on most DIY painters’ radar, but they should be! They cost about 29 cents a piece. I buy a few at a time so I always have one when needed.
When to use a paint strainer
After stirring the paint well in the paint can, you should pour the amount of paint you think you’re going to need for your project into a separate container and use it to dip your brush or roller in. If you have extra paint when the project is completed that you want to pour back into the can, place the strainer over the can and then pour the paint back in. This will keep your paint dirt free so you can use it again. I usually tape the strainer to the can to make it easier to pour the paint back into the can.
The paint strainer also makes it easy to reuse old paint instead of having to toss it. Just stir the old paint well and then pour it through the strainer to take out any lumps that may have developed. This is a great trick to rescue old paint, especially if it’s been sitting in the garage or basement where the air goes through seasonal temperature changes.
- When adding a wax finish to milk or chalk paint, use a brush or a cut piece of a worn t-shirt to apply the wax in a circular motion. After you apply the wax with a brush or old worn t-shirt, buff it with a soft lint-free cloth or another section of a worn t-shirt to create a nice subtle sheen over the painted surface.
- Don’t skimp on cheap rollers and brushes to save money. Your painted finish will thank you for using quality brushes and rollers. Purdy are my go-to, but Wooster makes great products also. I always use flocked foam or mohair roller covers with rounded ends and angled paint brushes to get the perfect finish on everything I paint.
- Don’t just grab any roller cover. For most walls, you want a smooth finish—use a thinner ¼”–½” nap roller. If you want your wall to have the texture of an orange peel when dried, then use a roller with a thick nap. Higher quality brushes and rollers may cost more, but will not only give you a better finish, you’ll also have them for years if you take care of them properly, saving you money in the long run.
- When you have a rough surface on the edge of plywood or a piece of furniture that lost it’s veneer, you can easily fix this before painting. Use the Band-It Edge Trimmer with Band-It Veneer Edging. It will create a seamless finish. *See the full post here. It is so easy to use…you iron it on!
This Paint Edging tool is ingenious. It makes painting around doors, windows, ceilings and baseboards quick and easy. It creates a perfectly crisp edge every time.
How to use it
Use with a roller tray. Attach paint pad to the grooves on one side of the edger and dip the pad into the shallow end of the tray. You only want to get paint on the pad, not the plastic parts or wheels. Make sure no paint is on the wheels, place the wheel side right up against the trim and then move it up or down to create a clean line. Re-dip the pad as needed until you’re finished. Using this tool is the only way I ever paint along a ceiling line.
Painting Prep Tips
- Always fill holes from old drawers pulls or blemishes in the surface with wood filler before painting. Once the filler is dry, sand with 100 grit sandpaper, followed by 220 grit to smooth. Clean off grit and then paint.
- When painting laminate furniture or cabinets: Use 100-grit sandpaper on a hand sanding block to rough up the laminate surface. You just need to scratch the surface to provide some “tooth” for the paint to grab onto. A 5 minute going-over is all that is needed.
- It is important to clean what you are about to paint. I use a bucket of hot water, dish detergent and a scrub brush. I use an SOS pad to scrub around the molding or any detail on an item to make sure no dirt or grease is still on the surface. I dry the item with a big towel immediately after I rinse off all the soap.
- For walls use a dust mop or Swiffer dust mop on the wall to remove dust before painting. If you roll paint on a dusty wall, your paint color may look grey and the dust clumps will show up as texture in your painted surface.
- Before priming and painting, go over your entire item with a tack cloth. Tack cloths are sold in the paint aisle at the home improvement store. They are sticky cloths that you wipe over the surface before painting to pick up dust, dirt and sanding grit before painting. They come folded. To use, unfold and cut a section off with scissors, place the rest back in the bag to use for another project. Throw away the used cloth when it loses its stickiness or gets dirty.
- When painting furniture with doors that you don’t want to remove. I always paint the outside of the doors, but sometimes don’t paint the inside of the doors. To make the doors look seamless with the base, I tape around the lip on the back of the door and then paint the front and around the perimeter edges on the back of the door. When the painter’s tape is removed, the insides of the doors look nice and neat with the outer edges painted only.
Spray Painting Tips
- For spray painting metal fixtures: Lay fixture on work surface in a well-ventilated area when the temp is around 78 degrees. Apply light coats about 8-inches away from surface. Repeat coats every 5 minutes up to an hour until you get the coverage you need.
If you need to re-coat after an hour you need to wait at least 48 hours before adding another coat. The initial coats of paint have to fully cure. If you re-coat too early you risk wrinkling the paint finish.
- When painting small items like knobs and drawer pulls, use a piece of recycled styrofoam to allow you to get full coverage without smudging the paint with your fingers. For more details on how to do this, check out my post here.
- You can also recycle styrofoam from boxes and packaging to lift large items off the ground when painting.
- If you do a lot of spray painting, consider purchasing a spray shelter tent. It is stored in a small bag and goes up easily.
- To help keep spray paint overspray from getting on everything, use large cardboard boxes to make your own spray booth. I flatten and save large boxes. They can be reused many times and stored flat against the wall in your garage or workspace.
Professional Painting Tips
- Don’t forget to use caulk: Add a bead/line of caulk after applying the first coat of primer/paint. I find when I paint around door jams, windows and other trim the new color of paint shows where the joints/seam don’t meet. You can see any gaps that need to be filled after the first coat of paint. I fill these gaps with caulk and then smooth the caulk with an ice cube or a wet finger. Once dry, I can paint right over it. Now the wood will look seamless.
- My favorite Caulk is DAP Alex Plus Easy Caulk. To see more details on caulking, click here.
- Cardboard boxes also make wonderful DROP CLOTHS. They are sturdy, recyclable and you can drag your painting project around easily on them.
- When you remove painter’s tape, pull up a 12″ – 18″ section of the tape at a time. As you are pulling the tape, ball up the used tape in your hand. Removing it this way keeps the tape away from the wet paint and makes it easy to toss in the trash.
- When using latex paint, if you use painter’s tape to mask walls, glass, etc, remove it before the paint dries. If you don’t, you may end up pulling off some of the paint when you remove the tape. I usually wait about 15 – 30 minutes after painting to remove the tape.
- If you don’t get the painter’s tape removed before the paint dries, run the sharp blade of a craft knife right where the tape meets the wall or molding, then gently remove the tape.
- After putting down painter’s tape to mask off an area you are going to paint, run the edge of a credit card over the edge of the tape to seal the tape to ensure no paint bleed.
- Try painting pipes, wrought iron balustrades, and other contoured surfaces with a paint mitt.
Paint Clean Up Tips
- Use a pointy-tipped cotton swab. The pointy tips make it easy to swipe right into the crevice along the ceiling line, floor, or trim and clean up the smudge without affecting the wet paint on the wall. Without the pointy tip you would end up wiping some of the wet wall paint off while you’re trying to take care of the smudge. I keep them in my pocket when I paint, as I seem to always get paint where it doesn’t belong.
- Easy Window Painting Clean Up Before painting window sashes, I spread a bit of lip balm right along the edge of the glass with a cotton swab. After painting, any paint that got on the glass is easily wiped away—no razor blade scraping needed. I first read about using petroleum jelly, but I found that was too greasy.
- Spilled Paint Imagine you just spilled bright orange paint on your rug or the roller slipped from your hand onto a section of the floor that wasn’t covered with a drop cloth. Thinking quickly instead of panicking will lessen the disaster. Stop painting and deal with the spill ASAP. You don’t want the paint to dry. Do not wipe it at first. Instead, have two pieces of foam board or heavy cardboard (approx. 12 x 12) ready to go when you set up your painting supplies. Use them to scoop the paint spill up, working from the outside of the spill to the inside. Wipe the paint off the cardboard and go back to scooping up the paint with the cardboard until you have most of it picked up. Once the excess paint is removed, you need to work with an absorbent white towel and rug cleaner or a mixture of detergent and water. Pour the cleaner and water mixture over the spill and begin to blot the towel over the spill. Keep doing this, using a different section of the towel to absorb and remove the paint as you go. If the paint is still visible, use a water suction rug-cleaning machine with a cleaning agent over the spill and then blot with a towel until the spill is no longer visible.
- Möstsenböcker’s removes fresh and old dried paint. It is a good product to have on hand so when paint splatters you will be able to clean it up easily. It also removes old paint that is on any hard surface around your house.
- If you pour paint out of the can into a smaller container or roller tray, use an awl and hammer to punch holes in the rim of the can. (I punch about 5 holes all around.) If any paint gets in the rim when you pour, it will drip right back into the can and allow you to easily place the lid back on.
- Note: If you do this, you cannot take the can back to a paint store to have it shakened to mix.
- To learn more about why you shouldn’t dip a paint brush back in the original paint can, read my post here. But if you do, using a rubber band is one way to keep your paint can rim clean when painting.
- Instead of washing your brush out in between coats or overnight, simply place it in a zip top bag and then in the refrigerator. When it is time to paint the next coat, allow the brush to return to room temperature and you will be ready to go again.
- When you paint as much as I do, buying paint tray liners can get costly. Instead of buying them, I buy one paint tray and one liner and line it with foil. When I am done, I simply crumble the foil and throw it away.
- I accidentally used moisturizing hand wash to clean my paint brushes one day and loved how they cleaned. They were clean and soft and my hands preferred it as well!
- When you have a very paint encrusted brush and need to let it soak for a while, glue a magnet inside the rim of a tin can. The metal ferrule on the paint brush will stick right to it keeping the tips of the bristles away from the bottom of the can where they would get damaged.
- Here is another trick to use when you need to soak a paint brush. Clip a large binder clip to the handle of the brush and spread the arms of the clip out to each side. Place in a container with solvent so the bristles of the paint brush don’t touch the bottom.
- When it is time to clean out your paint brush, run it under warm soapy water and then use a brush comb to remove any dried or caked paint inside the bristles and along the bottom of the metal ferrule. Using the comb will not only prevent excessive paint build up, but will also extend the life of your paint brush.
- Clean a roller cover by running the curved blade of a 5-in-1 tool down the cover to remove all the excess paint. Pull the cover half way off the frame and then run it under hot water, using your hand to push the rest of the paint out of the fibers.
- When your paint project is complete, this is the best soap I have found to clean hard to remove primer and paint off your hands completely. It is harsh on paint, but not your skin.
- Good paintbrushes have a hole in the handle. Do you know why? It’s not just so it can hang nicely on a display wall in the store. It’s so you can hang your brush after washing it with brush cleaner or hot soap and water. A just-washed paintbrush holds lots of water in the bristles and also in the metal band that holds the bristles together. When water sits in the brush, it can damage and loosen the bristles. Hanging a brush to dry allows all the excess water to drip out and will keep the bristles nice and straight for the next time you use it.
How to Clean Up Painting Tools For Homes with Septic Systems
- All you need is a bucket of sand! Read more details in my post here.
Make Your Own Painting Tools
- Elevate what you want to paint. To keep newspaper or your drop cloth from sticking to the bottom of table and chair legs when you paint, drive drywall screws in about 1/2-inch into the bottom of each leg. The slight elevation will allow you to more easily paint the bottom of each leg, ensuring complete coverage.
- For quick touch ups, pour a small amount of paint into a clean, empty shoe polish or craft paint bottle. Label the bottle with the room and paint color, snap on the lid, and store in a handy place.
- If your paint roller gets ragged edges over time, trim the edge of the roller with a pair of scissors. This will keep the roller from leaving edge tracks in your paint job. When trimming, leave the edges slightly tapered.
- Make your own drop cloths by repurposing cardboard boxes. Read more in this post: The Best Dropcloth
- Keep a package of baby wipes nearby for quick and easy paint splatter cleanup.
- Save your hand from blisters and cramping by creating a soft grip for your paint brush or roller. Cut 2-inch diameter pipe insulation to the length of the handle. Thread the cut piece over the handle for a softer, improved grip.
- Toothpicks can make it easy to remount curtain hardware, picture hooks, and towel bars in a room. Put the toothpick snugly into each hole you want to reuse, and patch the rest. The toothpicks make the holes easy to find when it’s time to reattach the hardware.
- To save doorknobs from paint splatters, simply wrap them with foil or cling wrap.
Looking for even more painting tips and tricks?
Check out these posts for more tips and answers to your painting questions.