Project Guide

How to Paint a Room

How to Prep Walls for Painting
A person applying spackling compound to a wall.

Properly painting a room starts with prep work. Start by removing everything possible, including all HVAC registers or outlet covers.  Here’s how to prepare the walls for interior house painting.

  • Carefully inspect walls for cracks, holes, dents or other imperfections. 
  • Use caulk or a lightweight spackling compound and putty knife to fill and repair any holes or imperfections. 
  • Remove excess spackling with the putty knife. Let dry completely. 
  • 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.

Tip: Whenever you start an interior house painting project, make sure you are working in a properly ventilated space. If the paint fumes are strong, wear a respirator mask.

Apply Painter’s Tape
A person applying painter's tape around a door frame.

The next step in how to paint walls is to use painter's tape to mask off your moldings, windows, doors and ceiling. Always press the painter's tape down flat and even to prevent bleed-through. 

  • For non-textured surfaces, mask it off where it meets the edge of the wall. Apply your painter’s tape in short, overlapping strips, pressing down firmly along the edge. 
  • If you’re painting walls with a textured ceiling, 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're planning on having an accent wall, mask off the inside edge of that wall from the rest of the room.

Tip: Choose the right painter's or masking tape adhesion level for the job. Some are perfect for textured surfaces, while others are intended for more delicate areas like a freshly painted wall, finished hardwood or wallpaper.

Spread Drop Cloths
A man and a woman holding paint supplies.

Cover the floors with drop cloths to protect them from paint drips and splatters. Move furniture from smaller rooms or cover furniture with more drop cloths in larger rooms. Minimize your cleanup after painting a room with the right drop cloth. 

  • Canvas drop cloths are extremely durable and absorbent, so they can be reused. 
  • Plastic is durable and less expensive but isn’t absorbent, so spills can be tracked if stepped on. 
  • Paper is the most economical but can tear easily on floors, so it is better for covering light fixtures, cabinets and furniture. 

Cut In with Primer
A person cutting in paint around a door frame.

A key step in knowing how to paint a room is mastering the “cut in” painting process. Cutting in is basically outlining the room. 

  • Use a paint brush to create 2- to 3-inch bands around the edges, corners and frames of a room. 
  • When cutting in, you can try to do the entire room at one time. However, your border areas will probably dry before you overlap them. This may result in a slight difference in sheen because the two coats won’t blend. 

Tip: Make sure to wear plastic safety glasses or goggles to protect your eyes from flying particles and paint droplets. 

Prime Your Walls
Two men painting a wall in a room.

Anytime you paint the interior of a house, it's a good idea to prime your walls. Primers are designed to help seal the wall and prevent mold. A primer is essential if you want to go from dark walls to light or white walls. Most brands offer paint and primer in one. 

  • Fit a roller cover onto your a paint roller
  • Pour the primer paint into a paint tray.
  • Dip your roller into the paint, making sure it’s completely covered. Pass the paint roller over the ridged area of the paint tray a few times to remove excess paint. 
  • Start painting the primer in 3- x 3-foot sections. With a fully loaded paint roller, work top to bottom, rolling back and forth across the wall in a series of V- or W-shaped strokes until the section is covered. 
  • Roll in one section at a time, moving from top to bottom and from one side of the wall to the other. 
  • 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.

Tip: Primers can be tinted at your local Home Depot store to closely match the color of your paint. Since primer is less expensive than paint, a tinted primer may lower your cost to paint.

Sand Primer
A man sanding a wall.
  • After the primer dries, lightly sand away bumps and ridges using very fine grit sandpaper folded into quarters.
  • When the grit of one section becomes covered with dust, switch to an unused section and continue.
  • Wipe the wall clean with a damp towel or sponge and allow it to dry. 
  • Gather your tools and wall paint.

Tip: Re-mix your paint often 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.

Cut In and Paint Walls
A person painting a wall.

Paint walls one at a time. 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. This is one of the best painting techniques for walls and is called “working to a wet edge."

  • Working top to bottom, rolling back and forth across the wall in a series of V- or W-shape strokes until the section is covered. 
  • 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. These smoothing strokes even the coat and help to cover up lines and tracks.
  • Overlap areas already painted, lightly lift the roller off the wall to avoid leaving end marks and to seamlessly blend different areas.
  • Wait for 2 to 4 hours for the first coat to dry before applying a second coat. Follow the exact same process and techniques used when priming your walls. Blend your sections as you go. 

Tip: Keep your color uniform. Once you’ve used half a gallon of paint, refill that can with paint from a different can and mix together. If you’re doing a large job, mix several gallons into one 5-gallon bucket. 

Wrap Up and Clean Up
A person removing the tape from a baseboard.

Remove your painter’s tape right before or right after the paint dries completely. If left on too long, small pieces of the tape can tear and get left behind when being removed. Tightly seal remaining paint in cans, thoroughly clean paintbrushes and rollers with warm soapy water, and dispose of used painter’s tape. 

Tip: Use a utility knife to slice through any dried-on painter’s tape while pulling it up at a 45-degree angle.

Now that you know the proper steps on how to paint a room, get the supplies you need such as paint roller covers, paint trays and more. Shop online for all your home painting needs. The Home Depot offers free delivery on over one million eligible items.