Whether you’re doing a small touch-up or a total renovation, a perfect paint job is often the final and most important step to most DIY projects. You may have seen just how smooth and flawless professional painters can make a wall, but may also find yourself doubting your own ability to achieve this.
Even if you have painted before, you may not have been impressed with the result or found it difficult to achieve an even, smooth coat. The difference is that professional painters know exactly how to maximize the efficiency and quality of their painting, having developed numerous techniques and tips to improve their craft.
If you’re interested in how to paint like a professional, we have several tips and techniques you can employ to massively improve your results and give you the confidence you need to finish off your project to a very high standard.
One of the most important and overlooked steps during any DIY, particularly painting, can be preparing thoroughly. This is often overlooked because painting is something that happens towards the end of a DIY project and a mix of overconfidence and tiredness can make for a far more difficult and awkward job if you start without taking the time to get things ready.
One of the key things when the painting is to ensure that the surface you are painting on is as smooth and unblemished as possible. Paint will often show even slight scratches and holes in walls, and not noticing this until after you’ve started painting can mean a total restart which is a massive waste of time and paint.
Take some time before you crack out the paintbrush to examine your walls and fill in any dents, scrapes, holes, and scratches. Using filler and sandpaper can do a marvelous job on these types of small imperfections, and taking this step will make your paint go further while also improving the end result. For bigger areas or very damaged walls, replastering may be something to consider or using a belt sander on certain surfaces that need smoothing out.
It’s also good practice to clean the wall before painting, to remove dust and dirt that may affect the quality of your finish. Depending on the surface it may be prudent to use water or simply dust it off thoroughly, but make sure not to skip this step. It doesn’t take very long but can make a surprising difference.
Once the walls are prepped, you should also make sure you have the right equipment ready, whether it be ladders, brushes, paint rollers, or having the correct paint in the necessary quantity.
Another overlooked part of preparation is making sure the room is ready. This may not be a concern during bigger projects or empty rooms but is definitely worth being aware of. Always make sure to remove wall hangings, posters, hooks, and nails, you can always put them back once the paint has dried.
Tape off any important edges with masking tape to create straight even lines and keep things neat. You can also use tape to cover outlets and switches to make sure they don’t get accidentally painted over, and ensure the lines surrounding them are near and tidy.
Cover furniture and flooring to help protect them from accidents and spillages, and then cue the music, because it’s almost time to start painting.
A Word on Equipment
While using a humble paintbrush is perfectly acceptable, using the right tool for the job can make your life far easier when painting.
Having a good quality paint roller, a ladder, and a good paint tray can make a world of difference and are not particularly expensive or difficult to source.
They will massively improve your efficiency, which is one of the secrets of professional painters, knowing how to maximize their efficiency, reducing tiredness, and thus increasing the quality of their work.
Just make sure you keep the paintbrush on hand for those difficult to reach corners and other spots that require extra care and precision.
Test Your Paint!
Before going guns blazing and covering a massive central part of your wall, take a small amount of paint and apply it near the edge without covering a large area.
The purpose of this is to make sure that your paint will take to the surface well, and to also make absolutely sure that you are happy with the color you have chosen. Once you’ve done this and are satisfied it’s time to get started.
Give your paint a good stir to make sure it’s smooth and will take to your brush or roller evenly. When you actually start painting, it’s important to start near the edges, so use either a brush or a small roller to start in a corner and begin slowly working your way around the edge.
The benefit of this is that you will be able to finish these more difficult areas that require greater precision before you get tired. Work in a W or M motion to prevent brushing or rolling repeatedly over the same area.
Doing this will waste paint and leave marks that can affect how smoothly your paint settles on the wall. Gradually work your way around until the entire perimeter of your wall is neatly finished.
The Middle Bits
Then grab your big roller and get ready to tackle the bulk of the remaining empty space. Ideally, you want to continue using an M or W motion as mentioned before. This may even be more important as you’re now going to be using more paint than on the smaller brushes.
Try to work your way across in a controlled manner without letting paint run. You can prevent this by not loading your brush up too much. A good even coating without lumps or drips of paint will enable you to create an even layer of paint fairly easily, making second coats easier to apply and reducing the number of extra coats required.
Working your way inward from the edge will help you to stay organized and not go over areas you’ve already painted. This will also help to avoid streak marks, or lap marks, which happens when you go over paint that has already started drying out.
Once you’ve worked your way to the middle the wall should be totally covered in the first layer of paint and there’s nothing to do but take a well-earned bite to eat while the paint dries.
If you’ve done a good job, two coats of paint should be sufficient and is the mark of someone with real painting chops. But don’t panic if you do end up needing a third coat, you can just rinse and repeat until you are satisfied, providing you have enough paint! Just make sure to allow ample time for the paint to dry between coats to avoid lap marks and streaks.
Once the first coat is dry, you can start the process over again, working around the edges to make them precise and then beginning to work your way inward, again taking care not to retrace over paint that is in the process of drying.
When starting your second coat it’s best to follow the same pattern as you did on the first to stay in a rhythm and to start where the paint had the longest time to dry out.
This is also a good opportunity to check for any imperfections you may have missed before applying the first coat. Look for any uneven spots, scrapes, or lumps that stand out in the finish of your dry first coat, and don’t be afraid to deal with them before you start on the next coat.
If necessary, break out the sandpaper and filler again, repeating the preparation steps as required to make sure your wall is as even and smooth as possible.
Once this is done and you’ve finished your second coat, you can take a break while it dries and prepare yourself for further coats if they’re required.
Final Check and clean up
Once the second coat is dry you may be happy with the end result and can prepare to tidy up your equipment. The paint you’re using will often have a recommended number of coats so feel free to check this.
If you’re unhappy a third coat may be the answer, especially if you haven’t used a primer or are working on a difficult surface. If this is the case, repeat the same steps as before, working from around the edges into the middle.
If a second coat was sufficient you can begin cleaning up. Make sure the paint is dry and then carefully remove the masking tape you’ve used to protect the edges of adjacent surfaces, as well as outlets and switches. Remove the tape carefully to avoid ruining your edges.
Once this is done collect up your brushes and rollers and scrape off the excess paint back into the paint pots.
Before replacing the lid on your paint, however, make sure to leave as little air as possible inside the paint tin to prevent the paint from drying out. If you need to do touch-ups in the future, having some spare paint handy can be a lifesaver.
Some people place a plastic bag inside the rim of the paint tin in order to create an airtight seal, while others resort to the unusual technique of placing golf balls into the paint in order to increase the volume of the paint in the tin and reduce the amount of air shut inside.
Whatever you decide to do, place your paint somewhere safe so that it can’t be accidentally knocked over or accessed by minors, and then clear up your brushes and sheets.
Washing brushes in water is usually sufficient but it does depend on the type of paint you’re using, so make sure to check this.
Once everything is cleared away you can fully admire your handiwork and pat yourself on the back. Painting isn’t as easy as it looks and even if you’re not as happy with the result as you hoped, you will have learned things and improved and be that much better the next time you try it, the same as any skill.
A word on Primers
Primers are a preparatory coat of paint that is sticky and flat that makes subsequent coats of paint apply much more evenly and easily.
That being said, whether you need to use a primer or not is difficult to say and depends on the state of the wall you’re painting and the type of surface you’re painting on.
If you want to make your finish the absolute smoothest and finest it can be, then using a primer will definitely help you achieve a professional level of finish. However even without primer, following the steps above will enable you to achieve an excellent finish so it really depends on your preference.
Troublesome Tape? – Sometimes tape can refuse to budge or tear when being removed while other times it can refuse to stick at all.
Some painters recommend heating your tape a little by placing it on a radiator or hot surface before using it, to make the adhesive more active. This can be useful with older tape also. Just don’t leave the tape unattended while you heat it up.
Use a paint pen! – A paint pen is a special tool that allows you to save up some of your paint in a special pen that will let you do small touch-ups if your wall gets damaged in the future.
These paint pens will keep the paint fresh for around a year or so depending on which one you use. If you do have to use it though, shake it well to make the paint smooth before applying.