Take the Pain out of Painting: 5 Must-Follow Rules for Professional Looking Results

updated May 4, 2019
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(Image credit: Jessica Isaac)

Painting is one of those things that’s easy to do, but hard to do really well. If you plan on giving your pad a little infusion of color soon, then listen up: we tell you how to get DIY results that are as good as the pros.

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1. Use good tools.

Professional painters know that no good paint job can be had with bad rollers and brushes. They may all look the same, but a cheap, linty roller and a locking, plush roller are miles apart quality-wise, but only a few dollars in price difference.

2. Prep, prep, prep.

By the time you’re ready to actually apply your paint, you’re half done with your work load—that’s how important it is to properly prepare your wall. It needs to be sparkling clean and all cracks and imperfections filled and sanded before you even think about picking up a brush. If you’re painting over a bright or dark color, seriously consider a primer. Not using one won’t save you ANY time or money; you’ll just wind up needing many more coats of color in the long run.

3. Paint the trim first.

If you’re an amateur painter, the easiest strategy is to tackle your trim before your wall. Make sure the surface is prepped (see above) and use a brush to evenly apply your color. Try to create a smooth edge but don’t stress out about it too much as you’ll be worrying about that crisp line later. Once the trim is completely dry (don’t rush this or you’ll ruin all your work) tape over the entire width of trim, making sure to apply it tightly along the wall edge. This will not only help your color/trim line stay crisp, it will keep the rest of your freshly painted trim from getting paint splatters as you continue on to your wall.

4. Apply paint in shoulder-width sections.

The advice you may have heard about using a W or V shape is all about getting you to work in small, manageable sections. You want to have time to really cover an entire area before the paint dries, or it won’t go on smoothly. You can use an angled brush to “cut in” along the edge of your trim (which is securely taped up, right?) and your roller to cover a vertical section. Once you think you’re done, roll over the entire section again to smooth everything out and make sure there aren’t any lines.

5. Always keep a wet edge.

Because you’re working in sections, it’s really important that you don’t let the paint dry before starting your next area. A wet edge will prevent those streaky, vertical lines that sometimes appear when the paint dries. You want it to be one seamless motion as you move across the wall.

Remember, especially bright or dark colors are trickier to apply correctly so if you’re a true painting novice, don’t go too crazy at the store.