How to Paint: Five Steps to Perfect Results

As home improvement projects go, painting is on the easy end of the scale. Painting is fairly low-risk: the only thing a bad paint job can hurt is your pride.

Yet even your pride can be saved, and a room truly transformed, if you invest time and patience in your painting plan. Paint product choices, surface care, and even choosing the right time of year to begin your painting project is key.

Here are five tips that will lead to a beautiful paint finish:

Step 1.  Go shopping for brushes and paint
Paint comes in latex and oil-based formulations, with finishes ranging from flat to high-gloss. The combination you choose depends on the use of and traffic in the space you’re painting. For example, flat paints work well for walls that may have some blemishes, as flat paints reduce the reflection of room lighting that can highlight these blemishes. Ceiling paints are specially formulated to minimize dripping, and shiny finishes like satin and gloss work well for painting trim.

Alt=To achieve good paint results, you need to carefully prepare surfaces.Get walls filled and sanded before starting to paint.For long-lasting results with any paint selection, you should plan on applying two coats of paint preceded by a primer of the same formulation. Once you’ve tallied the resulting quantities, add a bit more paint than you think you’ll need. Many stores are actually willing to accept returns on unused paint, even if it’s in a custom color, and having extra paint means you’ll avoid color matching problems if you run short on paint.

You’ll also need the proper paint brushes for the job, and there are choices to be made there, too. Bristle brushes are available with either synthetic or natural bristles, also known as “china” bristles. For the best results, use synthetics with latex paint and natural bristles with oil-based paint. Paint rollers make quick work of large surfaces, except when you’ve chosen the wrong pile height and nap for the finish, so follow the paint manufacturer’s guidelines, and take care to remove any loose fibers that could mix with the paint and wind up on your wall.

Step 2.  Clean away the past
The next step in painting preparation is to scrub away any accumulation of smoke, oil and grime that can keep your new paint finish from adhering. Use liquid sandpaper to remove buildup from trim, and wash walls down with a TSP (tri-sodium phosphate) solution, available at most home centers and hardware stores. You can add efficiency to this cleaning chore and remove the risk of a ladder-and-liquid mishap by using a sponge-head floor mop for application of the TSP solution.

Step 3.  Preparation equals perfection
Once cleaned surfaces are completely dry, it’s time to smooth them out. This is where a lot of the work happens, so don’t skimp or get lazy with the details, because a new coat of paint won’t hide any imperfections. Take time to fill all holes and cracks, followed by a thorough allover sanding and removal of the resulting dust.

Alt=Get walls filled and sanded before starting to paint.Get walls filled and sanded before starting to paint.Once you think you’re done and before you start with the paint grab a really bright flashlight and hold it against and parallel to the wall you’ve just repaired. As the light bounces over the repaired area, you’ll be able to see exactly how the surface will look when the sunshine hits it in that typically uncomplimentary direction. If this test reveals unsightly details, go back and smooth them before packing up the sander.

Step 4.  Mask all surfaces to protect them from unwanted paint
One more detail round to go: protecting everything you don’t want painted and creating a clean edge for every coat. Take your time and plenty of care with this step as well, because whatever you leave to chance will only be defined by the new color you’ve chosen.

Apply painter’s tape along trim and glass edges, and use it in combination with plastic sheeting or masking paper to cover fixtures that can’t be moved and large surface areas to be left out of the painting equation. Also take the time to remove switch and socket plates (followed by a bit of tape over remaining switches and plugs) and all possible hardware.

Step 5.  Paint!
Before you start your paint job, check the temperature, because paint won’t adhere if it’s below 55 degrees and won’t go on smoothly if it’s above 90 degrees. All clear? Get started with your primer, cutting in around edges first and then filling in surfaces. After the primer has thoroughly dried, apply your new shade of paint in two rounds for a durable, beautiful paint finish. 

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