Project Guide

8 Painting Tips for Professional Results

Choose the Best Colors for the Room
Paint chip samples on a display.

Lighting and location impact the way paint appears on a surface. Before you purchase large quantities of paint, pick up sample paint colors in different sheens to test on the surface. Paint sheen, or its finish, refers to how much light the paint reflects. Sheen affects the way paint colors show up on a surface; the more reflective the paint, the shinier it will look. 

  • In general, flat paint hide imperfections well, but can be hard to keep clean.
  • Matte sheens have a low-luster reflective finish, but are easy to clean.
  • Eggshell and satin sheen are perfect for most interior jobs. 
  • Semi-gloss paint and high-gloss paint are more resistant to stains, but are too shiny for wall paint. These sheens are mostly suitable for cabinets, doors and trim.
Clean and Prep
Hand cleaning yellow wall with white cloth.

Dirty surfaces make it hard for paint to adhere and can lead to peeling. Don't skip on the preparation for your interior house painting job. It takes time and effort, but the results of a good prep are worth it. 

  • Clean all surfaces to be painted. Wash and rinse greasy spots.
  • Move furniture and other personal belongings out of the workspace. 
  • Cover and protect light fixtures and ceiling fans.
  • Remove outlet covers and hardware, if necessary. 
  • Patch up holes and scrape and sand cracked or flaky areas.
  • Replace rotten wood or apply wood hardener to the affected area if the damage is small.
  • Measure the walls to be sure you have enough paint for coverage. Calculate the total square footage, including alcoves and dormers. 
  • When working outdoors, cover the ground, patios and decks, outdoor furniture, bushes and other vegetation.

Blend Paints
Someone pouring a can of paint into an orange bucket.

Professional paint jobs are known for their consistent color. Even though paint colors are mixed by computer, slight variations from can to can may sometimes occur. 

  • Blend the same paint color from different cans into a single batch in a larger container to ensure a consistent color mix.
  • Mix part of a can into a new can to even out tone.

Tip: Get extra paint for multiple coats and potential touch-up jobs in the future. 

Use Cloth Dropcloths
Painter standing on cloth dropcloth.

One of the most overlooked painting tips is to use real cloth dropcloths instead of paper or plastic. Cloth drop clothes absorb spills and splashes so you don't track them everywhere. They also prevent paint from seeping through to floors and furniture. 

Start at the Top
Woman painting a room from the top down.

Begin at the top of the wall and roll downward. Each time, start the next row by rolling over the wet edge. This will help you avoid streaks and lap marks. Some other professional painting techniques include:

  • Paint on clear days with low humidity; paint takes longer to dry in cool, damp weather.
  • Fill a paint tray with enough paint to come up to the grate.
  • Dampen the paint roller cover for easier application.
  • Dip the roller cover into the back reservoir and roll it back and forth against the grate to squeeze out excess paint and evenly coat the roller.
  • Use continuous, overlapping M or W motions to coat the surface.
  • Keep the roller within the center of the surface and not along the edge.
  • Start at the top and work down. Reapply paint when the roller makes a peeling sound.
  • Allow the paint to completely dry before doing a second coat.

Tip: If you are painting an outdoor surface, consider adding a little sand to the paint. This will create traction on the painted surface. 

Paint Trim First
Woman painting trim white.

One of the best kept secrets among paint pros is painting the trim before you paint the walls. Doing the detail work makes the entire job go faster and you get a better result because you don't have to worry about getting paint on the walls.

Prime Every Time
Someone priming wall with white paint on roller.

Priming walls seals imperfections, blocks stains and creates a smoother surface to work with. Always prime walls, especially if you intend to make a big change in color or sheen. An all-in-one primer and paint mix enables you to do both in a single coat.

Cleanup Tips
Hand washing green paint brush with water.
  • Pour leftover paint into corresponding containers.
  • Lightly hammer the lids into place to make sure cans seal properly.
  • Remove excess paint from brushes, then clean them; use paint thinner for oil-based coatings, soap and water for latex.
  • Once paint is dry, collect drop cloths and return furnishings and fixtures to their normal places. 

Tip: If you discard leftover paint, keep the lid to record the paint formulation.