It happens: Your niece draws a crayon masterpiece on your living room wall, or you scratch the molding while moving furniture . . . and now you’re searching the basement for touch-up paint. Before you pick up that paintbrush, check out our top ten touch-up tips to follow—and the five biggest mistakes to steer clear of!—if you want to avoid repainting the entire room.
- Decide if painting is really necessary. First, try removing marks by wiping the wall with a damp, sudsy sponge. You can also gently rubbing the spot with a paste made of baking soda and water—but be careful, because this mixture is mildly abrasive. No luck? Follow these tips for a flawless touch-up.
- Prep the surface: Wipe it with a damp, soapy sponge, then rinse it with a fresh damp sponge and dry it with a clean towel.
- Open the windows to get some ventilation going before you start painting.
- Prime the part of the wall you intend to paint. Use high-quality latex primer, and don’t go beyond the area you’d like to touch up.
- Match your touch-up paint to the wall color. It's always a good idea to store excess paint from the original can specifically for repairs, but if you don't have any left, visit a store with color-matching technology and ask them to mix an identical color in the same finish.
- Maintain the surface texture by using the same applicator as the first time you painted the wall. If the wall was painted with a brush, use a similar brush; if the wall was painted with a roller, use a small, handheld roller.
- Dilute the paint slightly (about 10 to 15%) with a thinner recommended by the paint manufacturer. A thin layer of fresh paint will be much less noticeable than a thick patch of paint.
- Stir the paint thoroughly, especially if it's been sitting in your basement for a while.
- "Feather" out the paint to create a smooth transition between the patch-up spot and the rest of the wall. If using a brush, extend your strokes slightly beyond the touch-up area. If using a roller, sweep out from the center of the area with a clean, dry roller, slowly lifting away from the wall as you go.
- Be patient and wait until the paint has dried completely before evaluating. A touch-up that’s very noticeable when wet may dry into an exact match.
- Forget to match the finish. To achieve a seamless look, knowing your satin from your semi-gloss is as important as picking the right color.
- Overload your brush with paint. Start with a small amount and reapply as needed so you don't wind up with a thick, unruly touch-up blob.
- Store leftover paint in a hot or sunny spot. Keep extra paint in a cool, dry place, like a basement. Make the paint can as airtight as possible by cleaning the rim before closing the lid.
- Shake the paint can before opening it. If this is a can that's been hanging out in your basement for a couple of years, it likely has a thick film on top. Open the lid and remove this layer before stirring the paint.
- Pour paint down your sink or throw it in the garbage—it can clog your sink and is bad for the environment. Take liquid paint to your local recycling center (find one by searching Earth 911’s database). Dry paint can generally be tossed in the trash. To dry it out, mix it with kitty litter and let it harden.