How To Paint Interior Walls

 
 

Painting interior walls can dramatically change the look and feel of your home. Paint is an inexpensive way to transform an ordinary room into something extraordinary. But first you must start with the basics. Should you have wall damage, learn how make repairs with our How to Repair Drywall project guide before you paint.

 

Preparing your walls with primer before you paint is the best way to ensure a lasting finish. Priming not only adds to the durability of the paint job it also saves you time, especially if you have the primer tinted the same color as the finish coat. There are also several new interior paint options that now include paint and primer in one, saving you time by hiding and sealing previously painted and uncoated surfaces without the use of a separate primer.

 

Tinting primer improves the color of your paint and reduces the number of coats needed to achieve the truest color or hue. Primer is formulated to adhere to a variety of surfaces and seals them to prevent stains and discoloration from bleeding through the final coat. The finish coat sticks more effectively to a primed surface than it does to plaster, wood or an earlier coat of paint.

 

Preparation

 

• Remove everything possible from the walls, including all HVAC registers or grilles and electrical faceplates.

• Cover the floor with plastic sheeting or a canvas dropcloth.

• Careful masking at each stage will allow you to work quickly and freely, saving time in the long run.
       

 Safety

 

• Wear plastic safety glasses or goggles to protect your eyes from flying particles and paint droplets.

• Wear appropriate gloves when using solvents, sanding or scraping.

• Be sure the space you are painting is adequately ventilated. If the paint fumes are strong you should
  consider wearing a respirator.
 

Savings

 

 • Although priming is vital to a lasting finish and a great-looking room, there are also sound economic reasons 
   for a good priming job. If you spend $30 for a gallon of designer paint, you don't want to see stains or 
   discoloration bleeding through because you didn't take time to prime.


WHAT YOU NEED FOR THIS JOB:

TOOLS:

MATERIALS:


Step 1: Prep your walls

Taking time to perform a thorough surface prep and painting in an orderly, systematic way are the keys to getting professional-looking results when doing any paint project. Skimping on the prep work is probably the biggest mistake people make when painting. Take the time and do it right. It really does effect the end result.

 

First, carefully inspect walls for cracks, holes, dents or other surface imperfections before priming or painting. Use a lightweight spackling compound and putty knife to fill and repair any holes or imperfections, then remove any excess spackling with the putty knife and allow the area to dry completely.

 

Once dry, use a small piece of very fine 220-grit sandpaper or a sanding sponge to smooth the repaired areas flush with the surface. Wipe the walls clean with a damp towel or sponge and allow them to dry before priming or painting.

 

You should also make sure the walls are clean and free from dust. You’d be surprised how much dust actually builds up on walls over time. Out-of-the-way corners and areas behind furniture can also have lots of cobwebs. Use a floor duster to wipe the walls clean to ensure paint applies evenly.

  

Step 2: Mask the room with painter’s tape

Painter’s tape is used to help you achieve clean, professional-looking results. Its primary purpose is to protect areas you don’t intend to paint. It’s perfect for door and window trim, moulding and baseboards. It helps you create sharp clean lines, paint stripes or patterns, and create two-toned wall effects.

 

There are different adhesion levels for painter’s tape. All are meant to be easily removed but some stick a little more firmly than others. While some are perfect for textured surfaces, others are intended for more delicate areas like a freshly painted wall, finished hardwood or wallpaper. Be sure to check which adhesion level is right for the job you’re doing. Many brands also include technology along the edge of the tape to help prevent paint from bleeding through or seeping behind it.

 

If your ceiling is non-textured, you’ll want to mask off the ceiling where it meets the edge of the wall. Apply your tape in short, overlapping strips, pressing down firmly along the edge.

 

If you’re painting a room with a textured ceiling, painter’s tape may not be the answer. Simply run a screwdriver along the edge of the ceiling to create a small, unnoticeable texture-free surface. This will make creating a straight paint edge much easier.

 

If you don’t take the time to apply painter’s tape properly, you can experience bleed-through. Paint can seep under the tape barrier and get on the protected surface. Make sure your tape is flat and evenly pressed down. You can use your fingers or a putty knife. Paint will seep through at any point where the tape is not in full contact with the surface.

  

Step 3: Spread drop cloths and move furniture

Before doing any priming or painting, you’ll want to protect your floors with a drop cloth. There are three basic kinds: canvas, plastic and paper.

 

Canvas drop cloths are extremely durable and absorbent so they can be used over and over again. Plastic is less expensive and durable but isn’t absorbent, so spills won’t dry as quickly and can be tracked through the room if stepped on. Paper is the most economical but can tear easily on floors. But they’re perfect for covering other things like cabinets and furniture.

 

If you’re working in an average- or small-sized room, you really should remove all the furniture. Any time or effort you think you’re saving by not doing this will be wasted because you’ll constantly be adjusting and relocating things to give yourself room.

  

Step 4: ‘Cut in’ the room

The final step of your paint prep is cutting in the room. Cutting in is basically outlining the room. It involves using a paintbrush to create 2- to 3-inch bands around the edges of the walls where they meet ceilings, baseboards, other walls, door and window frames, and hinges.

 

Those 2- to 3-inch areas around the room allow you to roll the rest of the wall quickly without having to try and roll paint in those confined spaces. It’s impossible to use a roller that close to areas you’re trying not to paint without making mistakes.

 

When cutting in, many people choose to do the entire room at one time. This is a good option if you want to finish in a hurry. However, your border areas will probably dry before you overlap them when painting the wall. You may see a slight difference in sheen because the two coats won’t be able to blend.

 

If that’s a concern, you should cut in and paint one wall at a time before moving on to others. You’ll achieve a smoother, more seamless look because you’ll be able to blend the wet paint you’ve brushed on with wet paint you’re rolling on.

  

Step 5: Prime your walls

Priming your walls before painting is an important part of any painting project. Primers are specially designed to adhere to different types of surfaces and receive your top coat of paint.

 

You also have the option of using a paint and primer in one. This will eliminate the need for separate coats of each and will save you time and money.

 

When painting new drywall, priming helps seal the wall and can help prevent mold. Primers also help when you’re painting walls that are stained or if you’re making a dramatic color change.

 

Primers can also be tinted at your local Home Depot store to closely match the color of your paint. Since primer is less expensive than paint, using a tinted primer can help you cut down on the number of paint coats needed and save you money.

 

If you’ve made wall repairs, spackle and drywall compound will suck the moisture out of paint, giving the area a dull look different from the rest of the wall. Priming will prevent this problem since you’ll be painting directly over the primer and not the repair material.

 

When applying your primer, start by painting in 3 foot by 3 foot sections. Roll in one section at a time, moving from top to bottom and from one side of the wall to the other.

 

With a fully loaded roller, work top to bottom, rolling back and forth across the wall in a series of V- or W-shape strokes until the section is covered.

 

Reload your roller and paint the next section, covering only as much as you can finish while the primer is still wet. Always overlap areas of wet primer. This is a painting technique the pro’s call “working to a wet edge.” The technique helps prevent streaking and the need for extra coats.

  

Step 6: Sand and clean to prepare for painting

After the primer is completely dry, lightly sand away bumps, ridges and other surface imperfections using very fine-grit sandpaper folded into quarters. When the grit of one section becomes covered with paint dust, switch to an unused section and continue.

 

Wipe the wall clean with a damp towel or sponge and allow it to dry.

  

Step 7: Paint the walls

Before starting any paint job, it’s always a good idea to remix your paint using a mixing stick or a paint mixing tool. You should do this any time you leave your paint sitting for an extended period of time.

 

The first step in painting your walls is to use a good-quality paintbrush and cut in the room again, this time with your paint. If you left your painter’s tape on after priming, you can just paint over it again. If you removed your painter’s tape, you’ll need to reapply it before starting.

 

A foolproof way of achieving clean and even paint edges is to avoid loading the brush with too much paint. The excess has to go somewhere and will probably end up where it doesn’t belong.

 

Begin painting by brushing onto the wall first and not the tape. Brush back and forth until most of the paint has been applied. Then when there’s just a bit of paint left on the brush, paint the area next to the tape and overlap your strokes onto the tape. That way, there will only be enough paint left on the brush to cover the remaining unpainted wall surface and there won’t be enough to seep under the tape.

 

To apply your topcoat of paint, follow the exact same process and techniques used when priming your walls. Roll in small, manageable 3 foot by 3 foot areas from the ceiling to floor, and from one side of the wall to the other. Blend your sections as you go.

 

With a fully loaded roller, work top to bottom, rolling back and forth across the wall in a series of V- or W-shape strokes until the section is covered. You want your roller fully covered with paint, but not to the point that it’s dripping. Before reloading your roller and moving to the next section, roll over the area you’ve just painted in a smooth, continuous stroke from top to bottom without picking up the roller. These smoothing strokes even the coat and help to cover up lines and paint roller tracks. As you overlap areas already painted, lightly lift the roller off the wall to avoid leaving end marks and to help blend different areas into one seamless surface.

 

Avoid the common mistake of painting straight up and down in rows from top to bottom. When you do this, it’s harder to blend your paint evenly and you may end up with a slight striped appearance that you won’t be happy with.

  

Step 8: Remove painter’s tape

Your final step is to remove your painter’s tape. You have two options. You can do this just before the paint dries completely if you’re concerned about your tape getting stuck in the paint. Or you can wait until the paint is dry.

 

If left on too long, sometimes small pieces of the tape can tear and get left behind when being removed. If you run into this, use a utility knife to slice through the dried paint while pulling up the tape at a 45 degree angle.

 

Now, tightly seal remaining paint in cans, thoroughly and completely clean paintbrushes and rollers, and dispose of used painter’s tape.

 

Step 9: Helpful painting tips

Noticeable color variations in separate gallons of paint are rare now that mixtures are created by computers. But to be safe, once you’ve used half a gallon of paint, refill that can with paint from a different can and remix. If you’re doing a large job, you can mix several gallons into one 5 gallon bucket. That way, you’ll be guaranteed color uniformity.

 

You also have options for how you reload your paint roller. You can use a traditional and reliable paint tray. Or to avoid the possibility of stepping in your paint or having a pet wander through it causing a mess, you can roll from a bucket using a paint grid.

 

For optimum results in color quality and finish, a second coat may be needed. Just be sure and allow the first coat to dry completely, usually between two to four hours.

 

For more painting ideas and inspiration, see our All About Paint Pinterest board