5 Tips for Painting a Room to a Perfect Finish
Have you ever gone all enthusiastic about renovating your home? Keen to change colours and look, you made a flying visit to Bauhaus. Then, after getting down to business and repainted your living room, you only realise afterwards that your DIY efforts did not bring quite the expected result. But you need not despair!
Today, you will learn all that there is to know about professional interior painting. Below are the most important decorating tips and tricks.
1. Be wise and choose the right colours.
Our homes often reflect our personalities and outlooks.
And so, you are this free-spirited, gregarious individual who loves wearing garish clothes, right? But this doesn’t mean that you should feed your guests in a fluorescent green dining room.
Consider what lighting you do or you want to use at home.
Most environmentally conscious folks use LED light bulbs to save energy. Consider opting for the warm quality of yellow incandescent LED light to bring the cosy feel of pastels and subtle tones. Sunlight also has a similar effect, so you cannot go wrong there.
Tip: Bright, strong colours will lighten up a north-facing room if applied on one wall only. It will also act as a focal point of the place.
Test each and every product before you buy!
It is impossible to picture how your room would look like by gazing at the colour card in the hardware store. Buy some tester pots of different shades of your preferred hue and experiment back at home. You can tape several A4 sheets of paper and paint over each in a different tone.
Tip: When dry, check how the nuances sit against items, artwork, and furniture by briefly attaching the samples on different walls.
Think about the type of room you’re about to paint.
If you still feel undecided about picking between two or more colours, consider the purpose of the room. Young children should not be exposed to bold and euphoric colours. Their daily smart screen usage gives them enough overstimulation as it is, whereas you can be adventurous with your bathroom, for instance. With the right lighting, a playful orange colour will greet you every morning and send you off to a positive and constructive day.
Tip: Let your family’s lifestyle guide you in making the right decision.
Less is not more when it comes to buying paint.
Once you make your mind up, purchase sufficient quantities of paint of the same batch. Note that the manufacturer’s instructions on the paint packaging are only approximate. Factors, such as the pre-painting finish of the surface, the room temperature, or the type of tools you use will affect the amount of paint you will need to cover a square meter of the surface.
Tip: Any paint leftovers will come handy should you have to patch up a mishap in the future.
2. Organise your home prior to painting and get all the tools you’ll need.
No one can blame you if you are too eager to reach for the roller. But you are begging for poor painting results if you don’t do your homework first.
Make sure you tidy up and relocate what units might stand in your way.
Remove all light furniture from the room. Wipe all surfaces clean from dust and grime. You can dilute some mild washing up liquid to spot-wash particularly dirty areas on the walls. For glossy woodwork, you are safe to use a stronger detergent to remove oil build-ups and sticky dust.
Tip: A sponge is more effective than a cloth at removing grease spots and dirt from surfaces.
Tools and materials checklist
Depending on the type of surface you want to paint, you will need some or most of these painting essentials and materials:
- Preparation work:
Scraping tools, a putty knife, sanding paper, primers, caulk, masking tape, a paint can opener, a paint stripper, brushes (for the primer), a dust mask (for when you need to sand the surface), a canvas drop cloth;
- Painting work:
Paintbrushes of different size (for water-based and solvent-based paint), paint trays, paint (latex, gloss, etc.), a roller and an extension pole, a ladder, stir sticks, a paint edger, a trim guard.
Tip: Using a trim guard when painting the wall that meets the baseboard or the door/window casing makes the task much easier. It acts as a reinforced protection against mishaps, such as paint wicking through the masking tape.
A few tips on health and protection.
Ensure that all remaining furniture in the room, wall fixtures, and sconces are well covered and protected. Many people choose to remove door handles, sockets, and light switches so that they have an easier time during the paint application process. Cover the floor well with a drop cloth to safeguard the surface against paint splatters. Kit yourself out with goggles and gloves. It is important to shield your hands if you use chemical paint strippers or strong paint thinners to dilute oil-based paints. Wear old clothes and pants with many side pockets that can house small handy tools (a touch-up paint pen, a roll of masking tape, etc). You may find that slip-on footwear also comes useful if you need to intermittently leave the room.
Tip: Do not make the mistake of replacing the drop cloth with a plastic sheet.
Firstly, it is slippery, so your stepladder won’t be as stable as it should. And secondly, plastic is not an absorbent material like canvas or cotton are. Paint drops stay wet on plastic, hence you risk slipping or you may accidently track the paint into other rooms. Always use a dust mask when you sand surfaces.
3. Preparation work is vital for a truly pro finish.
Experienced painters say that 95% of a good painting job is in the prep work. The amount of preparation work you need to do will depend on the condition of the surfaces prior to painting. What type of finish you want to achieve (smooth, textured, etc.) will also affect the pre-painting procedures. If your renovation project involves painting the walls, the ceiling and the woodwork in a room, below you will find professional tips on how to complete each step that the prep process may entail.
How to prepare walls and ceilings:
A previously painted wall does not usually require to be pretreated with a primer. You can just wash it to remove all impurities as advised above. However, if in bad condition, you should do some preparation work beforehand. Flakes of old paint need to be scraped off with a paint scraper. Fill any grooves, small dents, and deeper holes in the plasterwork with a polyfilla of your choice. Apply the material carefully with a filling knife and smooth off the patch with a wet knife. Allow time for the repair work to dry completely before gently sanding the wall. Apply a water-based primer as you would do on new plaster surfaces. Alternatively, use an oil-based primer for stain-damaged surfaces. Leave primer to dry overnight. Sand again with a fine grit sandpaper (size 220). Vacuum thoroughly to remove the dust.
Tip: Sand large surfaces diagonally to smooth down plaster bumps, old paint blobs, or patched-up spots before treating the wall with the primer. You can staple the sandpaper to a sanding block for an easier time or use a professional pole sander.
How to prepare for painting woodwork:
Your room may have a variety of woodwork that needs preparing before being painted: trims, baseboards, casings, mouldings, etc. It is unlikely that you would need to use a chemical paint stripper on flat wooden trim work to remove old paint as this product is more suitable for stripping old paint off furniture instead. Just use a 100 to 150 grit sandpaper to remove old varnish or gloss paint. Fill any dents with caulk or a wood filler and sand down again once the material is dry. A medium-sized grit sandpaper is also suitable to use on new wood to smooth down caulked nail holes and sharp edges or in order to remove raised grain. When sanding contours and shaped mouldings, use a sanding sponge. It is more pliable and it follows easily the outlines and curves of the trim work. Clean the dust off with a brush and wipe the surfaces with a cloth.
Apply a wood primer on bare and fresh-sanded wooden surfaces. Undercoats should be completely dry before you proceed with the finishing paint.
Tip: Pay heed when sanding window frames so you don’t accidentally scratch the glass panel. Change sandpaper frequently for an effective result.
How to prepare for painting covings and cornices:
Ornate covings and cornices can be made from different materials. Polystyrene covings are very absorbent so they are best sealed with an appropriate primer before being painted. Plaster cornices can be primed with a water-based undercoat. On the other hand, a decorative trim made from a polymer-based material is usually pre-primed during the manufacturing process.
Tip: Newly installed cornices and covings should not be pre-treated/painted for at least 24 hours to allow the adhesive to set properly.
How to prepare for caulking
Caulking the gaps between trim work and wall surfaces is important if you want to achieve that perfect pro finish. The task is generally done after the surfaces have been primed. Try to use a quality dripless caulking gun for an easy application. Ensure to also buy a paintable acrylic-latex caulk rather than a silicone caulk. You will have a hard time trying to paint over the latter.
Load the tube in the gun and cut a hole that is no bigger than ⅛ inches to avoid a messy job. Apply in long and uninterrupted strokes, both, when using the gun and when wiping the caulk with a wet finger. If the crack is just covered and the caulk forms a curved transition between surfaces, you have done a good job. Allow for the caulk to dry.
Tip: Never caulk right after you have finished with the painting job. Dry caulk collects dust if it has not been painted over.
4. How to apply paint on walls, ceilings, and woodwork
“Should I paint my walls or trim first?” This is a question that may come to mind before you set out painting the interior of your home. The truth is, there are quite a few different ways to handle decorative trimming. For instance, the ceiling is generally painted first in a flat white finish. But if an intricate coving encompasses the surface above your head, it is recommended that you paint the ceiling trim work first.
How to paint your ceiling:
To paint your ceiling is effort consuming enough to be considered as a stand alone task. First, cut in the edges of the ceiling by painting 2 ½ -inch wide bands with a paint edger to avoid touching the wall, unless you are using the same colour for the entire room. You can also do the edges with a brush and a trim guard, especially if your ceiling is decorated with a cornice.
Then, mentally divide the surface into a grid and start painting each imaginary square with a roller, attached to an extension pole.
Tip: To minimise dripping, ensure that the roller is evenly covered but free of any excess paint. Just roll it back and forth over the shallow end of the painting tray.
How to paint the woodwork:
Whether you stain, varnish, or paint your primed woodwork and baseboard trim with gloss, you should dilute the finishing material with an appropriate thinner. For best results, professional painters advise that you apply the finishing coat with the help of a trim guard. The device should be pressed gently at an angle, leaning towards the wall surface.
When painting door casings and window frames, always start from the top and work your way down so that you can quickly take action in case the paint runs. You can use a trim guard on window trims to protect the glass pane. The tool can also help you seal the inside edge against moisture by leaving a 1/16 of an inch-wide strip of paint onto the glass panel.
To achieve the best edge, try removing excess paint via your average razor blaed. Make sure the strip has not yet fully dried off. The best moment would be when paint is half way being dry.
Tip: For a perfect finish, apply at least two finishing coats. In between coats, sand down the surface (when dry) with a very fine grit sandpaper before applying the last coat.
How to paint the walls
Before your proceed to wall painting, it would be best to secure your trim work via simple masking tape. Ensure that the wooden surfaces are completely dry, then carefully tape the area around the mouldings, door casings, window frames, and the baseboard. Once this is done, stir the paint well and thin it with water if you need to. Pay attention to its consistency as the paint should not be too runny. For the best results possible, use either a angle brush or a paint edger. Start up near the ceiling and work down from there. You should also do some cut in work near the corners of your wall if you intend to paint it in a different colour.
Tip: Use one of the smaller brushes for narrow wall strips between your ceiling and upper window frames.
Painting pros recommend that you start painting the wall by drawing a large “W” with a roller attached to an extension pole. Without lifting the roller, fill in the shape and repeat this action on the other walls as you move along.
Allow for the first coat of paint to dry out. Check all walls for tiny blobs of paint and gently remove them with a putty knife. Then, sand lightly with a medium to fine grit sandpaper and wipe off the dust before applying the final coat. Remove the masking tape slowly to minimise the risk of tears.
Tip: Paint can wick through the masking tape. To avoid mishaps, you can use a trim guard when cutting in the paint.
5. How to best finish a painting project
You probably have a good eye for colour and an understanding of colour schemes. But do you know your paints? A perfect painting job is also reliant on the finish. So, feel free to check our quick recap below on how to best complete your project by applying the right type of decorative paint.
Flat or matte finish
This latex paint will help you achieve a non-reflective opaque finish, which is most suitable for walls and ceilings. The matte paint is usually applied in two to three coats, depending on the previous condition of the wall and on whether it has been primed first. It is one of the most widespread water-based options that you can apply via rollers, brushes or even sprayers. It also often requires diluting, especially if used in a sprayer. Latex paint dries faster than any other type of paint.
Tip: Always use a flat finish when painting a ceiling. The non-reflective quality of the paint helps draw the attention away from the surface, making the room feel higher and more spacious. Conversely, a reflective finish on a ceiling will make you feel closed in.
Eggshell and satin finish
Both options come with a dash of sheen to them. They are more durable than flat and low-lustre paints. Both are suitable for painting walls, while the satin finish will surely add a smooth and soft feel to your interior. As long as you apply the primer right, you will have a slick and even result with only a few coats of paint.
Oil-based satin is used on interior wood surfaces as an alternative to shiny gloss finishes.
Tip: Sheens in decorative finishes differ between brands, so always ensure that you are buying the exact paint and sheen from the same brand if you have run out of the material in the middle of a painting project.
Semi-gloss and gloss finish
The most reflective hardwearing and durable paint finishes have a high degree of lustre. They are usually oil-based paints, which makes them washable. Both, gloss and semi-gloss finishes, are suitable for painting or sealing wooden surfaces. A single coat of a solvent-based gloss is usually enough after one or two coats of primer have been applied.
There are also water-based versions of the two paints. Acrylic enamel gloss paints usually leave a durable and ultra-smooth finish. Semi-gloss is is most suitable for bathrooms and kitchens because of its mould-resistant properties. These are the rooms that are most vulnerable to moisture, so taking precautions is the best way to prevention!
Tip: Some people prefer to paint their children’s room in semi-gloss as the walls become easy to maintain and clean.
So, is there anything else that we have missed?
A good preparation work, the right colour and finish, a range of handy tools, enthusiasm and patience is what you will need to complete a painting job like a pro. Great results come with effort, practice and patience. If at first you don’t succeed, dust yourself off and try again.
Dmitri Kara / Painting and Decorating expert at Fantastic Handyman London,