Painting Prep, Step-by-Step: How To Ready Your Room for a Fresh Coat of Color

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Painting itself goes rather quickly — it's the prep that takes a while, but it's also what lays the foundation for a professional-looking job well done. Follow these guidelines and tips for getting your room up to snuff before the paint can even gets opened.

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1. If you can, clear everything out that you care about and don't want to risk splattering with paint. This will probably include picking up a bunch of clutter and stowing it away safely. If your room is big enough, push all large objects and furniture to the center of the room and cover with plastic or a drop cloth.

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2. Loosen any light fixtures and wrap them securely in plastic bags. Remove outlet covers, switch plates, or anything else that is screwed into the wall. Tape screws to their hardware and/or put all loose bits in one place so you don't lose them.

Tip: If the light or outlet covers are stuck to the wall, cut the edges with an X-acto knife or box cutter. Prying them off increases the chance you'll have to patch the area afterwards.

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3. Sand off any loose paint or rough patches. Then, using a putty knife, fill all nail holes, wall blemishes and crevices with spackle. Once dry, sand down until smooth. Two coats of putty is the gold standard, so repeat the process if you can.

Tip: For larger problem areas, see our earlier post on patching drywall.

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4. No one wants to see lint and dirt embedded in paint. This is the time to thoroughly clean your room — most importantly the walls, baseboards, and trim. Use a soft cloth while cleaning and rinse with clean water. This is especially important in the kitchen, where walls are likely covered in grease and other gross things.

Tip: Use a natural solution of two parts vinegar, one part baking soda, and three parts warm water as your cleaner.

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5. If you haven't mastered how to cut in with a paint brush, tape off the room. Use short pieces of painters tape that overlap each other, then use your finger or the bottom of a spoon to press the tape down. Peel off the tape before the end of the day and/or the paint is completely dry.

Tip: When painting stripes (or any place where two colors meet) first paint the base coat and make sure to cover the edge of the painters tape in the process. Or, if you are only using one paint color, apply a very thin bead of paintable caulk to the edge of the tape and rub it in with your finger. Both methods "seals" the edge of the tape and prevents subsequent paint from getting underneath.

Have any other great tips? Share them in the comments!

(Images: 1. Apartment Therapy; 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Shutterstock)