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Paint Like a Pro

A breakdown of the basics

You’ve picked a color and are ready to give a room a fresh coat of paint. Before you dip your brush, keep these tips in mind for a professional-looking result.

  • Remove outlet covers and switch plates. It really is easier to unscrew and remove these accessories rather than spending time taping around them. 
  • Fix holes and cracks. Fill nail holes and cracks with spackle or patching compound, let it dry, and then sand the patched area so it’s smooth and flush with the wall surface. 

  • Wash the walls. Dirt and grime make it harder for paint to adhere, so it’s worthwhile to use a sponge and warm water to wash the walls. If walls are greasy (typical of a kitchen or mudroom), use a degreaser to clean them. 

  • Tape off the trim. Use painter’s tape (not masking tape) to tape off window and door trim. Make sure to press the tape down flat so the paint doesn’t bleed through. 

  • Use canvas drop cloths. Canvas is a better choice for a drop cloth than plastic, as its thicker, heavier material helps prevent drips from seeping through to your floor. And if you drip paint onto a plastic drop cloth, the paint will take a long time to dry—meaning you run the risk of stepping in it and creating a mess. 

  • Light things up. With a good, bright light, you can easily see spots you’ve missed.

  • Stir the paint. Paint separates, so a good stirring before you begin (and periodically throughout the project) ensures consistent color. 

  • Pour it out. Leaving a can open so you can repeatedly dip your brush into it will dry out the paint in the can faster. Instead, pour some of the paint into a smaller container that you can hold in one hand—and put the lid back on the paint can. 

  • Prime and paint the ceiling first. Use a brush to cut in (paint the edges) where the ceiling and wall meet, then paint the rest of the ceiling with a roller. Vary the direction you paint in, to avoid showing overlap marks. 

  • Prime and paint one wall at a time. Prime one wall at a time; once the room is primed, paint one wall at a time, rather than painting the edges of the entire room first. This way, the edges of the wall you’re priming or painting will still be wet when you blend them with paint from the roller, giving you a more seamless look. 

  • Wrap up your brush. Wrap your paintbrush or roller in plastic wrap in between walls, to keep the paint from drying out..

Unscrew wall accessories Unscrew wall accessories

Don’t skip taping off trim Don’t skip taping off trim

Use a roller for the ceiling Use a roller for the ceiling

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