New This Month

Painting 101: How To Paint The Perfect Wall

Achieving a professional look takes some prep and know-how.

roller brush wall paint
Photography by: Janelle Jones

Unlike retiling your kitchen floor, painting a room is a doable task that even renovation newbies can tackle in a weekend. But before you grab your paintbrush, know the basics. Here, the Home Depot’s senior paint merchant, Chris Richter, shares his expert advice for the perfect paint job.

 

[PREP: Follow These Tips Before Painting Your Wall]
prepping wall for painting hole
Photography by: Janelle Jones

Prep the Walls

Before you can break open a paint can, inspect your walls for cracks, holes or stains.

 

“First, look at the wall and see if there are repairs that need to be made,” Richter says. “Fill holes from things like pictures and peel away areas of chipping paint.”

 

Next, lightly sand any patched areas to ensure there are no ridges left from applied spackling and use a tack cloth to clean up any dust from sanding.

 

“You can spot prime those patched or repaired areas but a primer on its own is generally unnecessary,” says Richter. “I would recommend priming an entire wall if the surface is in bad shape or stained.”

 

According to the expert, a “clean, or recently painted wall” doesn’t need to be primed, especially if you’re using a high-quality paint-and-primer-in-one, which saves you time and money.

 

If your wall has some marks, Richter says to use a rag and a household cleaner and wipe the area. For tough grease stains he suggests a TSP (trisodium phosphate) cleaner, or using a non-toxic cleaner like Simple Green to lightly wipe down the wall and remove any dirt or oils.

painters tape
Photography by: Janelle Jones

Protect your Goods

Once your wall is in good shape use painter’s tape to protect baseboards and other areas like moldings, door and window casings, light fixtures, and switch plates.  “I’m a big fan of the ScotchBlue Painter’s Tape, it’s great for every person to own,” says Richter.

 

Next, make sure that all your valuables are out of the way or protected.

 

“Move furniture to a centralized location in the room if you can’t move it all out, and cover it with plastic or a canvas tarp,” advises Richter. “Then, protect the floors with a drop cloth.”

 

Once you’ve covered your bases, open up your paint can and pour it into a tray.

 

“The ramp of the tray helps distribute paint evenly on the roller,” says Richter. “And trays can also be a good way to work faster if you have more than one person painting.” For bigger jobs the expert recommends using a roller screen combined with the 5-gallon bucket for an even more efficient system.

 

[INSTANT UPGRADE: See How Paint Dramatically Changes This Room]
painting supplies
Photography by: Janelle Jones

Pick Your Tools

As far as tools, the expert is a fan of Wooster Pro brushes. “They’re (the brushes) labeled as ‘the best’ in our stores, so they’re easy to spot,” he says. He also says look for the label “shedless” when it comes to rollers.

 

A painter’s tool kit should include: sandpaper, painter’s tape, drop cloths, paintbrushes like the Wooster Pro brush, paint roller, paint roller extension pole, paint tray and the paint color of your liking. For the wall above we used Behr Blue Hydrangea and painted the trim in Behr Ambience White, both available at homedepot.com  

 

Start at the Top

If you’re painting an entire room including the ceiling, Richter recommends tackling the ceiling before the walls.

 

“It’s really personal preference but I like to work from top to bottom,” he says. “I start with the ceiling and work my way down.”

baseboard paint edge
Photography by: Janelle Jones

Master the Technique

There are two pro phrases to keep in mind while painting: “cutting in” and “wet edge.”  

 

“Cutting in is when you use a brush first to paint the top and bottom areas of your wall along the trim from left to right (or in reverse, if you’d like). Then go back in with a roller to fill the wall space between, from top to bottom” Richter explains.  

 

The expert says to work in small, four-foot sections of the wall. 

 

During this process, you want to keep a ‘wet edge,’ meaning the cut in sections of paint stay wet and don’t dry before you go back in vertically with your roller (hence working in manageable four-foot sections). “If the cut in paint dries before the rest of the wall is done, you’ll see those sections through the rest of the paint,” he warns.

 

The same technique applies to the ceiling as well. As far as the trim, Richter says to tackle that before the ceiling or the wall. Using a brush, create sweeping, side-to-side strokes. 

white and blue paint cans
Photography by: Janelle Jones

Store Supplies like a Pro

When you’re finished painting, Richter recommends not touching the walls for at least two hours.

 

Instead focus your energy on preserving your brushes and any remaining paint.

 

“Rinse your brushes and rollers with warm water and maybe a little bit of mild soap,” he says. “Most paints are water-based so they clean off easily. Keep rinsing until all the paint is gone and then it’s ready to dry and store.” For the cans of paint, just hammer the lid back on and store in a cool, dry place. “I’ve had paint last for years and years.”