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10 Tips & Tricks for a Professional-Quality Paint Job

You’ve heard me say a couple of times at this point that being willing to overlook paint colors can save you thousands of dollars on a home. I’ve had multiple buyers walk away from homes because they didn’t want to pick up a paintbrush. But, the truth is, paint is such an easy and inexpensive fix. There are obviously a few exceptions to this but more often than not painting is a relatively straightforward DIY project. Sure, it’s not fun, but with a little time and patience, most jobs can be done without professional help.

I haven’t met anyone yet who genuinely loves to paint (but if that’s you…more power to you) but DIYing can save you thousands and it’s not really that bad. After painting literally (and I really do mean literally) every single room in the last two homes we’ve bought, we’ve picked up a trick or two to maximize our efficiency and make the process as painless and professional-looking as possible.

Let me help you skip the learning curve and get some great results with minimal frustration. We've had to learn a few things the hard way, so, if I can save you from that I feel like I've done my job. Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.

1. Paint Quality Matters – Cheap quality paint is 100x more frustration than it’s worth. Plus, it’s generally thinner so have to buy more paint for more coats than with the more expensive stuff…so it’s not really going to save you as much money as you think (trust me, we’ve been there). We have tried a bunch of paint at this point and Sherwin Williams and Behr Ultra have by far been our favorites. If you catch it at the right time, Sherwin Williams offers 40% off sales periodically, making the paint much more affordable.

There are also lots of different finishes of paint too and each one has its pros and cons. For a more durable finish, it is generally best to go with eggshell or satin because these finishes wash much easier than a flat finish (this is especially important if you have kids) but they also show more imperfections so you want to be sure you smooth out any surface before it’s painted or it will be more obvious than before. Previously, I had seen flat paint primarily on ceilings but I am seeing it more on walls, just make sure they are low traffic areas. Want a run-down on all of the different paint finishes so you’re sure you’re picking the right one for your space? This one is my favorite.

2. Materials Matter Too – High-quality rollers and brushes will also make the job significantly easier. A good quality brush and 3/8 or 1/2” shed-resistant roller will work for most jobs. Use a plastic disposable tray liner in a metal roller pan for easy cleanup. Also- get the good tape. I know some people have very strong opinions about not using painters tape but we always have. I know myself, I get lazy and sometimes a little sloppy half-way through a project and painters tape allows me significantly more room for error during the process. Plus, the higher quality tape gives you much cleaner lines. The cheap stuff bleeds through and you won’t get that nice, straight, clean edge you’re looking for. Forget the gadgets that are supposed to make edging easier… 9 out of 10 times they’re just a bigger headache and don’t work as advertised…just spend the money on tape.

3. Specialized Equipment Can Make Your Job Easier – I know I literally just said edging gadgets don’t work but the good news is there are some gadgets that do. An adjustable roller extender can help you reach if you have high ceilings. A step ladder with a shelf can also make your life infinitely easier if you’re dealing with high ceilings. Also, this handy paint cup is a lifesaver when cutting edges. It has a magnetic strip that allows you to place your wet brush inside the cup and a handle that allows you to attach the cup to the edge of a surface or hook onto your hand for easy gripping.

4. Prep Work is Key – Take the time to spackle, caulk, sand, and smooth the surfaces you are painting. This can sometimes be what takes the most time, but it is worth it. Again, certain paint finishes will show every single imperfection. Even the best job can look sloppy if you’re not working with a smooth surface to start with. Next, remove outlet and light switch coverings and tape around the edges of your project and around windows or any other place on the wall you want to protect from paint. Lay down a tarp or drop cloth to protect your floors against paint splatter or spills- trust me, no matter how careful you are, it happens. Priming is really only 100% necessary if you are making a very drastic color change from dark to light if you are using a different type of paint (water to oil-based) or painting over wallpaper (always use an oil-based primer for this).

5. Don’t Forget Your Samples – Don’t rely on those tiny color swatches or Pinterest alone to pick your paint color. Paint can look completely different in different lighting or in photographs. Buy a few small sample containers of your top choices and paint different sections of the wall to see what the colors look like in different amounts of light. You can also buy removable swatches or paint poster board to hang on the wall so you don’t even have to paint the wall itself (this is particularly helpful if your samples are drastically different shades)

6. Cut Edges Before Rolling – Use a brush to paint along the outside edges of your project (along ceiling or trim and around windows) before picking up your roller. This will ensure a clean finish along the outside and no missed spots.

7. Paint with a Process - When rolling start in a top corner and work your way across and down. Having a process will ensure a smooth, even finish, and that no spots get missed. If you start in the middle of a room it ups the odds that you will miss a spot and you might be left with uneven roller marks as it dries.

8. Paint a Second Coat…If You Need To – I’ve found the higher quality, thicker paint you can often get by without a second coat…a huge time saver! If the color change is significant, however, you’re probably going to need it. Depending on the paint, you can usually do a second coat within about an hour of the first. If you need to wait longer, be sure to wrap your brushes and rollers in plastic wrap to keep them from drying out. After finishing the job, go back and check your work, making note of any spot that needs touching up. It’s much easier to take care of it now while the paint is already out than to have to go back later to take care of the spots you missed.

9. Tackling Trim – I know I said I hated painting, but for some reason I find painting trim strangely therapeutic. If you’re not ready to tackle a whole wall, repainting trim alone can freshen up a room. Buy a shorter trim brush like this one to help create clean lines and use cardboard held at an angle to paint right up to carpet while still keeping the floor clean (tape won’t do the trick for this). Typically, you’re going to want a semi-gloss paint for trim. It helps the trim pop more, especially if you’re painting it white.

10. Ace the Clean Up – If you tarped, you don’t have to worry about paint splatter but if you skipped the step, soap and water can often do the trick to remove splatter from the carpet, especially if caught relatively quickly. Products like Goof Off or Goo Gone can also be helpful for this, particularly if the splattered paint has been allowed to dry. Just make sure you wear gloves to protect your skin. Remove tape within 30-45 minutes of finishing your last coat of paint. Leaving it too long will make it more difficult to remove and you may take some of your fresh paint with it.

Have any tried and true painting tips you'd like to share? Leave a comment below. I'd love to hear about them!



My name is Lindsay Walston.

I'm a healthcare provider turned real estate agent with an eye for luxurious details. Let me show you how to create (or find!) a beautiful and functional home, no matter your budget.  Want to learn more?

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