Painting Tools and Techniques

Erica touching up ceiling paint

Today we’re serving up part two of a discussion of painting resources we started last week. We were initially planning on this all being covered in one post. Once I got started writing it, I realized that paint is SUCH a sexy subject that it needed to be a two-parter. In case you missed it, check out the first post on painting tips, and read on to learn about useful painting tools and techniques.

Quick background in case you missed it last week: my parents owned and operated a franchise of a painting company when I was a kid, so my dad is the ultimate resource for all things paint. Any time I have a project painting something around the house I go to him to find out what products and techniques I should use. He was my resource for the content of this series.

To start, I figured it would be useful to know how to determine how much paint you’ll need for a project. 300 square feet per gallon is a rough rule of thumb. Paint cans will have an estimate of coverage on the can, but assume you’ll get about 80% of the coverage listed. The company’s estimate is based on using every drop of paint in the can to the exact specs recommended. Inevitably you’ll end up with paint left in the can, or in your rollers and brushes so you’ll end up with less coverage than the manufacturer states. Another thing to consider is the quality of the paint. A cheap paint that goes on thin will spread further, but it won’t cover as well so it will take more coats. For this reason, a higher-grade, more expensive paint will probably end up saving you money in the long run. The paint won’t spread as far, but the coverage will be better. You will need less paint overall.

Painting tools-things to know

One of the painting tools that I thought would be simple when I first painted my house is a roller. After struggling to get even coverage on my textured walls I realized I was probably doing it wrong. You want to be pretty generous with the amount of paint on your roller to ensure full coverage. There are different thicknesses of rollers which are best suited for different kinds of wall textures. In areas like Texas where walls tend to be highly textured, you’ll need a higher pile. A flat wall can be painted with a lower pile roller. The best thing to do is ask the people who work at the store where you’re purchasing your paint.

Roller extension handles are also helpful for increasing your reach if you’re using a roller. There’s a technique to using a roller-three strokes. The first stroke is up a wall from floor to ceiling. The second stroke is down over the first stroke, and the third is back up in the same place. This helps to flatten out splatters as the roller moves along the wall.

Use a cut-in bucket or cup rather than the original paint can to carry around paint when doing cut-ins and details with a brush. This makes it easier to maneuver and is less tiring. I personally LOVE paint pails with brush magnets. It makes it easier if you need to set down your pail to move a ladder or adjust tape because it keeps the brush from sitting all the way in the paint and getting too saturated.

When it comes to roller pans, if you’re doing a large area it’s more efficient to use a 5 gallon bucket with a screen to get excess paint off your roller. This is much faster than a flat roller pan because you won’t need to keep stopping to refill the pan.

When it comes to tape, standard masking tape is good for most places, but not all. You want to be careful of what you’re taping over, because there’s a risk the tape will pull up whatever’s under it. You need to be especially carefully with wallpaper and some floor finishes to make sure your tape doesn’t take the surface with it. Paint takes a while to fully cure, so the fresher your paint, the more likely it is tape will pull it away. Keep this in mind if you’re painting something like an accent wall and taping over an area that was painted recently. The best way to reduce the risk your tape will pull away paint when you remove it is to give the paint as much time as possible to cure before taping over it, and remove the tape as soon as possible once you’re done with it. Blue painter’s tape is more sensitive and less likely to pull up what’s underneath it.

There are a few tricks to help get clean lines when you’re taping. You can use the back end of your brush handle to press the edge of the tape to get a really tight seal. Another option is to run a very thin line of caulk along the edge of the tap to seal it. I’ve also heard you can paint over the edge of the paint with the color under it, let that dry, and then continue painting your wall. This helps ensure any paint that bleeds is the color of whatever’s underneath so it isn’t noticeable.

One last note-a 5-in-1 is one of my favorite painting tools, period. Actually, I’ve found a lot of applications for it outside of painting. It’s usefully for patching holes, opening paint cans, and a bunch of other things.

Cleaning painting tools

If you need to take a break, you can keep your paintbrushes from drying out by wrapping them in plastic wrap. Avoid leaving a wet paintbrush lying around for very long so it doesn’t dry out. When you’re cleaning water-based paint out of a paintbrush, the trick is a lot of running water. Swishing it around in a bucket won’t be enough to get all the paint out. Also be careful to get the paint out from around the ferule (the metal band that holds the bristles on). Once you’ve rinsed out all the paint, shake the brush to get any excess water out.

Cleaning rollers is the same story-a lot of running water. (Water-based paint only on this one. Oil-based paint needs to be cleaned with mineral spirits or solvents, and those chemicals should NEVER be poured down the drain. They must be disposed of at your city’s hazardous waste drop-off.) Another tip-the curved part of 5-in-1 tool is meant to help squeeze excess paint out of a roller before you rinse it.

Steps for painting over oil-based paint

If you’re painting over oil-based paint with water-based paint, there are some steps needed to help ensure the paint will adhere:

  1. Clean the surface
  2. Scuff the paint-either with fine grit sandpaper, a scotch-bright type sponge, or deglosser (a chemical scuffer)
  3. Clean again
  4. Paint

If you aren’t sure if your trim is oil-based or water-based paint, you can use denatured alcohol to check. This is different from rubbing alcohol and is generally available at home improvement stores or paint stores. Dip a cloth in denatured alcohol and wipe it on your trim. If the trim is oil-based, the paint won’t come off on the cloth. If it’s water-based, the paint will start to rub off. Make sure you do this somewhere like the top of a door frame where you won’t notice it if it does rub off the paint.

Steps for painting kitchen cabinets and exterior doors:

  1. Clean the surface
  2. Scuff the paint (same as you would for painting over oil-based paint)
  3. Clean again
  4. Caulk any cracks or gaps
  5. Prime if you think there might be any issues with adhesion
  6. Paint-be careful with your brush strokes and don’t work it back and forth too many times. Think about what happens with nail polish-if you brush too many times the paint will start to dry and won’t flow out to fill in the brush strokes. If it’s a wood door, brush in the direction of the grain.

That’s it for now! I hope these two posts about paint are helpful and something you can bookmark for reference later. Do you have any painting tools or tricks you’ve found to make life easier? Do you have any big painting projects coming up? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below, or on social media. You can also sign up for our email newsletter to get updates about new posts.

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