9 Time-Saving Tricks Only Pro Painters Know (Until Now)

published Jan 27, 2020
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

There’s something so rewarding about painting. Perhaps it’s because just a few hours and a few relatively inexpensive supplies can yield such an impressive transformation. But if we’re being completely honest, there are also a few things about painting that are a real drag—like getting drips on your hardwood floors, the delicate hand it takes to cut in, and cleaning brushes. 

Thankfully, the pros who do this every day have some tricks that can help make your next DIY project a lot easier. Here’s what they want you to know.

Prep your walls to save time on redos

Wall prep is an often-skipped step that can lead to a number of failures, such as lack of adhesion, poor hiding, poor sheen uniformity, or an uneven surface appearance, says Amy Kovach, associate brand manager for Sherwin-Williams. “Before painting, thoroughly clean the surface and allow to dry. Remove wallpaper and loose, peeling paint. Sand glossy surfaces dull, and wipe clean. Patch cracks, and spot prime.”

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Choose a stiff angled brush to make painting crisp lines easier

Cutting in, or painting areas that are too tight for rolling (molding, baseboard, ceiling line, etc.), is one of the most time-consuming parts of any paint project. It generally takes immense precision or a lot of patience with tape, but using an angled brush with stiffer bristles (like this one) will provide the sharpest cut-in lines, without the need for tape, says Kovach.

For big walls, reach for a wider roller

On projects that require a roll-on application, many painters rely on a standard nine-inch roller, but several manufacturers have larger rollers that will apply paint to more surface area, says Mark Lambert, co-owner of Five Star Painting, a Neighborly Company. “If it takes two hours to paint a room with a nine-inch roller, it’s possible it could take half as long with an 18-inch roller.”

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Use a knitted roller cover

When selecting a roller, choose one with a knitted cover. Knitted covers provide better coverage, because they pick up and release more paint onto the surface—something that’s particularly important when painting with dark colors, says Kovach.

To avoid sloppy results, don’t overload your brush

Dip consciously—too much paint will result in drips. To minimize messes, only dip the brush about one-third to halfway up the bristles, says Kovach.

Stick to one color at a time

If your project requires multiple paint colors, make every attempt to stick with one color at a time, says Lambert. Once done, wrap the roller in plastic (more on that below!) in case you need to dip into that color again later. Move on to the next color with a fresh roller.

Wrap rollers and brushes in plastic if you need to take a break

If you’re working on a multi-day project or simply need to step away for a few hours, wrap your rollers and brushes in plastic wrap to keep them from drying out, says Lambert. When you’re ready to get back to painting, simply unwrap and discard the plastic.

Keep a short brush on hand for hard-to-reach spots

Bigger isn’t always better. Shorter handles and mini rollers make it easier to maneuver in tight spaces, says Kovach.

Don’t forget about clean-up

Brushes are expensive, but with proper care, they can see you through many projects. “Depending on your household and local sewage treatment process, latex paints can usually be washed off your paint brushes and tools at home,” says Kovach. For the best clean, wash brushes and rollers immediately. “For latex or water based coatings, wash with warm water and soap; for oil-based coatings, use mineral spirits first.” Never soak brushes, and for best results, use a brush comb to straighten bristles before hanging to dry.