How to paint interior walls?

Although painting a room is seen as one of the more accessible DIY home improvement tasks, it’s not without a learning curve. Professional painters spend years building up the knowledge to quickly and cleanly paint a room.

You might spend all day painting a room that a pair of professionals could knock out in a couple of hours. They also give a professional finish, without unsightly imperfections.

However, many homeowners prefer to tackle this task themselves. If you have the time and desire to practice, then painting an interior wall can be an extremely rewarding task. Keep reading to get some of our best professional-quality painting tips on how to paint your interior walls.

General advice on painting interior walls

  • Learn how to cut in

The cut-in technique allows the painter to paint around the edges without using tape. Use an angled brush to apply paint to walls next to trim. With some practice, you can quickly paint edges without having to apply tape.

  • Get a good drop cloth

Purchase either a canvas or heavy fabric drop cloth. Don’t rely on plastic sheeting in areas where painters will walk. The paint stays wet on the plastic, then gets tracked through the house. Canvas drop cloths are easier to move and protect better from small drips and spills.

  • Use high-quality paint

Many homeowners try to save money by getting cheaper paints. Unfortunately, cheap paint is often low-quality. High-quality paints cost more money initially, but they last nearly twice as long. Additionally, high-quality paints give better coverage, meaning you spend less time painting.

Steps for painting an interior wall

1) Gather your supplies.

Here’s a quick list of some essentials: 

  • Roller with an extension pole
  • 2” angled brush for painting edges
  • Paint trays with liners
  • A short ladder (6’ or 8’)
  • Work lights
  • Primer
  • Interior paint (acrylic-latex is the gold standard for most applications)
  • Painter’s tape
  • Canvas drop cloth
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Wooden stirring stick
  • Paint can pour spout
  • Screwdrivers
  • Protective gloves and eyewear

2) Clear obstacles and protect furniture

Move smaller pieces of furniture and other small obstacles out of the room. Move larger pieces of furniture to the center of the room so they are out of your way. Cover anything that can’t be moved with plastic sheeting.

Use a screwdriver to remove any light and electrical plates. Remove all items from the wall, like hooks, nails, or picture frames. Cover electrical switches and outlets with tape to protect them from paint.

3) Prepare walls for paint

Fill small holes (less than 1/8” in size) with a spackling compound using a putty knife. Wait for the spackling to dry, then apply it at least two more times, because the compound shrinks as it dries (wait for it to dry between each coat). After the third coat dries, sand the compound smooth.

Be sure to fully clean the walls. Use a wet rag to wipe up dust and cobwebs. If the wall has significant grime or grease buildup, use a cleaning agent like trisodium phosphate (TSP).

4) Protect areas with tape

Apply painter’s tape to protect surfaces that will not receive paint. Begin by taping baseboards, windowsills, and the edge of the ceiling. When you remove the tape, you will have much cleaner lines. Additionally, tape helps those who haven’t mastered the cut-in technique paint more quickly and cleanly.

5) Begin with primer

Primer serves a few purposes. First, it provides great adhesion and coverage for the first color coat of paint. It also covers up stained areas and the previous color of paint. Definitely use a primer if you plan to go from a dark color to a lighter one. If your paint is similar to the previous color and is in good condition, you might avoid using primer.

6) Stir the paint

A small step, but an important one. Be sure to stir well. Proper paint application requires thoroughly mixed paint.

7) Paint around all edges

Paint out approximately 4” from each edge. Use your 2” angled brush for this task. Apply at least two coats of paint to the edges.

8) Use a roller

Use your roller to paint the bulk of the wall. Work the roller up and down in a “W” shape, putting more paint on the roller as needed. Work in one direction and work quickly. Try to maintain a “wet edge,” which means that the edge you are painting stays wet. This prevents lap marks from forming.

9) Apply a second coat

Wait for the first coat to dry, then apply a second coat. This fills in spots that you may not have noticed you missed. Additionally, the second coat better seals porous surfaces and gives your paint better durability.

10) Clean up

Rinse out all brushes and rollers and throw away plastic sheeting. Wait until the paint has completely dried before removing the tape.

Enjoy your new room!

The process of painting an interior space can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding.

If your home needs more than one room painted, however, consider giving us a call. Painting an entire home can be a huge, time-consuming task. Before you commit to it, consider letting us provide you with a free estimate, no commitment required. Our mission is to help you love your home even more, and we know a great paint job can help you do just that.
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