Picking up a paint brush may seem like an easy home improvement project.   But in truth, painting may too often be just a little more complicated than what meets the eye.  Poor preparation, bad paint brushes and just plain lousy technique can turn your painting project from fabulous fresco to something that really misses the masterpiece mark.
 
Here are a few of the most common causes of paint problems along with the tips and tricks you’ll need to save time, money and your pride!
 
Painting tools: Getting the right equipment before you start the job means you won't have to stop in the middle of your painting project to run back to the hardware store.  You'll need ladders, drop cloths to protect sidewalks and shrubbery, long handled paint brushes and rollers, a paint sprayer and masking tape for trim and detail areas.  Also, when selecting paint brushes, get the best brush you can afford.  Better quality paint brushes deliver a smoother finish and the difference really shows.  Keep in mind that paint brushes are available in both synthetic and natural bristles, also known as china bristles.  For best results, use synthetic brushes for latex paint and natural bristles for oil based paint and cleaInterior Painting Tips and tricksr finishes.
 
Paint surface preparation: The success or failure of any paint project rides at its roots on one basic need: the paint has to stick.  It's not surprising then that much of the effort of any paint project goes into making sure this happens.  Paint won't stick to a loose or dirty surface.  Between air pollution, mold, mildew and the deteriorating effects of the sun, there's a fair amount of work that must be done to get the surface ready to paint.
 
For exteriors, pressure washing is a great first step to remove old paint and clean dirty or weathered sources. With a combination of high-pressure water and a bleach cleaning solution, you'll knock days off doing the job by hand.  If you are working inside, use liquid sandpaper to remove oil, dirt and grime from trim and wash walls down with a TSP (tri-sodium phosphate) solution which is available at most home centers and hardware stores.
 
Repair surfaces: Now that you can see the wood surface underneath the old paint, you should check for rot, warping and insect damage.  Replace any damaged boards around windows and doors, and have your local pest control company inspect any damage you think is insect-related. 
 
Take the time to inspect all surfaces carefully, being alert for anything out of the ordinary.  If there is loose, bubbled or peeling paint, it usually means there is a leak and you need to check for a water problem.   It's critical to not just ignore these symptoms and paint over them. If the underlying cause is not found and fixed, it will only get worse and your new paint job will not hold up well. This is also a great time to caulk any holes and gaps to improve energy efficiency.
 
Use a paint primer: Primers are critical paint coatings that must be applied to provide a firm bond between the substrate and finish coat. Although most do-it-yourself painters look forward to getting to the color coat as soon as possible, skipping the primer step is shortsighted.  Primer is the glue that makes the top coat stick.  Skip it and you'll find that the hours of preparation and painting work you put into your projects might have to be repeated long before the paint surface wears out.
 
Painting Tips and TricksPrimers are available in both oil and water base formulas.  For surfaces that are badly stained, or that have had a water leak, oil primers work the best.  The trick for using oil based primers is to prime the entire surface you are painting and not just the stained areas.  Since oil primers do such a good job of sealing the surface, spot priming may result in an uneven finished coat.
 
Types of paint: Exterior paint is different than interior paint, and many homeowners make the mistake of not choosing the right paint for their home.  Exterior paint is formulated for color retention, flexibility to withstand expansion and contraction due to weather, resistance to tannin bleed and resistance to mildew.  Exterior flat acrylic latex paint is the easiest for do-it-yourselfers to work with.  For trim, consider a durable alkyd/oil paint that offers high gloss with good adhesion and stain resistance. 
 
When it comes to buying paint, always invest in the best quality paint. You get what you pay for when it comes to paint and the lower the cost, the shorter life it will have.  Since paint is 90% hard work and 10% material, always buy quality paint from a name brand company. Also, always buy a bit more paint than you think you'll need.  Surprisingly, many stores are willing to accept returns on unused paint, even if it is a custom color, and having the extra means you'll avoid color matching problems if you run short and need more. 
 
Here's an important tip - Before you start your paint job, check the temperatures.  Paint won't adhere if it's below 55 degrees or won't go on smoothly if it's above 90 degrees.
 
For more painting tips and tricks, along with the solutions to common painting problems, check the web sites of major paint manufacturers like Behr (www.behr.com), Benjamin Moore (www.benjaminmoore.com), KILZ (www.kilz.com) and Sherwin Williams (www.sherwinwilliams.com).  Most offer paint problem solvers and color selection tools that help you get the painting project done perfectly every time.