Painting a Room
READY . . . PREP . . . PAINT!

Painting a room is one of the simplest transformations and most cost effective improvement you can make to increase the appeal of your home. However, painting a wall, ceiling, or the trim work in a room is not something to rush. A poor paint job is very noticeable, even in a fully decorated and completed room. Be sure you can devote an entire day or weekend to your project with little distraction or interruption. Take your time and stay focused. The end result will be worth it.

Before you begin painting a room, prep your work space, walls and tools. Use the following guide to help you get organized and prepared for your paint day. The following prep assumes you are going to be painting walls, ceiling and trim. If not, skip those items that do not apply.


  • Remove all wall art
  • Remove window coverings, blinds, drapes, hardware (store hardware in a cup or container)
  • Remove all loose furnishings and decor
  • Remove all furniture if able
  • Push large furniture into the center of the room and cover with a drop cloth
  • Remove all switch plate covers, outlet covers, and wall or ceiling mounted vent covers
  • For added ease, you may wish to remove your closet doors and room doors from the hinges along with their hardware.
  • Remove ceiling fan blades and lighting fixture covers if applicable

Tip: Painting a room is a much easier job when it's empty.


Painting Supplies
You may want to consider some of these paint roller kits.
  • Step Ladder
  • Screw Drivers (Phillips head and flat head)
  • Spackling Knife (pliable plastic ones work best)
  • Spackling Compound (try the colored compound that turns white when dry)
  • Sandpaper (fine grit)
  • Paint Trays (metal or plastic) If you are using a ladder with paint tray holding capabilities, be sure your paint trays have tabs of the correct spacing to work with your ladder. Measure the distance between the tab inserts (slots) on the ladder to be sure.

  • Ladder Tray Slots

  • Paint Tray Liners (for easier clean up)
  • Drop Cloths
  • Paint Roller
  • Roller Extension
  • Roller Covers (multi-purpose for most walls and thicker nap for textured walls) For smaller areas or rooms such as bathrooms, consider the foam rollers. They are a bit neater to work with as they tend to hold the paint better.
  • Paint Pads and Pad Applicators (another option instead of a roller) I typically use paint pads for textured walls or ceilings where I want to eliminate any paint spray a roller may produce.

  • Paint Pad

  • Painter's Tape (typically blue or green and comes in different widths) Look for ScotchBlue brand or Frog Tape and don't use regular masking tape. It will tear and may also rip the paint off the wall. Unless you have an extremely steady hand and are very patient, consider masking all of your trim where it meets the wall (if painting the wall and saving the trim), or masking the wall where it meets the trim (when painting your trim).
  • Paint Brushes
  • Paint Stirs
  • Paint Can Opener
  • Hammer (to close paint lid and remove nails from walls)
  • Cup for Paint (for painting your trim) A clean, empty soup can works well also.
  • Plastic grocery bags and sandwich bags (to preserve wet brushes and rollers during breaks)
  • Old Rags/Paper Towels (Keep one damp rag handy to wipe up accidental drips.)


  • Before painting a room, clean the walls and ceiling with a slightly damp dish towel or rag to remove dust and cobwebs. Pay close attention to the tops of window sills and door trims. The other benefit of dusting the walls with a towel is that it will snag on nails or other foreign objects that you may not have noticed before. Remove them so you have a nice smooth surface to paint.

  • Fill holes and cracks with spackling compound and allow them to dry fully. This is the key to a nice paint job. Fill holes a bit fuller than necessary as the compound will shrink as it dries. There are a few neat spackling compounds that are pink and turn white when dry. Once dry, lightly sand with fine grit sandpaper and minimal pressure to achieve a smooth finish

  • You may want to dust again around areas where you sanded the spackling compound. The dust tends to collect on top of the floor molding and must be wiped off if you are going to apply painter's tape to protect it.

  • Mask all areas you want to protect from paint. This is a time consuming and tedious task but is necessary for cleaner results. If you have an extremely steady hand, try painting a room without the tape to save some prep time. I don't advise this option unless you have some painting experience under your belt.

That was a LOT of PREP!

Painting a Room - CEILINGS

If the ceiling is getting painted, do it first. You will want to "cut-in" with your paint brush at the point where the ceiling meets the wall. What is cutting-in? Imagine painting a 2" border around the entire room on the ceiling right where it meets the wall. You are doing this because it is sometimes difficult to paint this area with the roller. Since it has been pre-painted, you will blend into it with your roller.

Tip: Partially fill up your cup or can with paint to hand hold as you cut-in with a paint brush.
Paint Cutting In Ceiling

Once done cutting-in you can begin painting with your roller. Painting with a roller is the easier portion of painting a room. Of course, if you have the means and have properly projected all surrounding areas, use a paint sprayer for an effortless job. Pour the paint into the tray, leaving room to roll off the excess paint. Be sure to have your handle extension if you are going to stand on the ground and paint. If you must use a ladder, move it to the desired location, carefully attach the paint try to the top and begin painting. You can paint in a typical forward backward motion while slightly overlapping your roll strokes as you go.

NOTE: Roller marks are less noticeable on a ceiling but if you are worried, you can paint in the typical "W" formation and then fill in the "W" and keep repeating. This helps eliminate the look of stripes in the finished result. Stripes are typically most noticeable on walls. It is caused by painting in an upward/downward motion only and slightly overlapping the preceding roller stroke.

Some darker color paints are more prone to showing this mark as the overlapped paint dries. To eliminate this, be sure to continually blend your paint roller strokes as you move across the wall. Paint the "W" shape to eliminate straight lines. The key is to keep moving. If areas begin to dry a bit and you go back over them with the roller, you may pull the drying paint up or cause it to bubble.

Tip: I predominately paint my ceilings in a white shade, flat finish.

Painting a Room - WALLS

If you are painting your walls the same color as the ceiling, you have just made life easier. If you are going with a white, I suggest a warm white like an antique or off white as opposed to bright white. Bright whites can be cold and uninviting. View some of my recommended whites in the color picks section.

Before you begin painting a room, you may want to mask off all your trim work if you need to protect it. You will then want to cut-in the edges of the wall and around door or window frames so you can paint up close (with your roller) without hitting the frame work, wall edges and ceiling.

Masking Trim

Again, use your cup or can to easily hold a small amount of paint as you walk around cutting-in.

Paint Cutting in Wall

After you are finished cutting-in with a brush, it is time to use your paint roller. Begin rolling paint on the wall in diagonals to produce the "W" formation and then fill in the "W". This method is used to help eliminate stripes or lines that may occur in the paint where vertical roller strokes would have overlapped. The key to a uniform look is to keep moving and make sure the roller has sufficient wet paint coverage on it at all times. As the paint is used up from the roller, gently blend adjoining areas with the diagonal strokes and then reapply paint to the roller and move on.

Most walls require at least two coats of paint, especially if you are painting a room with a new color. By the time you get back around to your starting point, it may be safe to begin your second paint coat. Check the paint manufacturer's suggestions before doing so however. Sometimes they recommend 2-4 hours between coats. If you apply a second coat too soon, the first coat may begin to pull up or peel as you roll over with fresh paint. A nice job requires patience.

Removing painter's tape before the paint is fully dry will minimize paint tearing. Remove the tape slowly and at a sharp angle.

Tip: To save some time, consider using a Paint-and-Primer-in-One. Two coats may still be required but you will eliminate the initial primer-only coat that may have been necessary.

Painting a Room - TRIM

If you are going to mask off the walls before painting your trim, be sure any recently painted walls have fully cured. See the paint manufacturer's suggestions on dry times. This is to eliminate any possibility of the wall paint ripping or tearing off with the painter's tape once it's removed.

Masking Walls

Painting trim is just as time consuming as painting the walls and ceiling combined. This is where you really need to have a bit of patience. If you are going to brush paint all of your trim, which I normally do, use your can or cup to hold your paint. This makes it a bit easier than moving around a larger container of paint.

Tip: Consider using a round-head sash brush to paint your trim. These brushes are my favorite to work with. They are difficult to find however, so you may have to shop around.
Paint Sash Brushes

You may also use a smaller edge roller to paint the majority of your trim or a combination of roller and brush as necessary. There are smaller, narrower roller trays to accommodate these rollers which are more convenient for smaller jobs.

Trim work almost always requires two coats. Let it fully dry between coats to reduce any chance of it pulling up when fresh paint it applied over it.

Removing painter's tape can sometimes be a hassle, especially with trim work. We tend to paint more heavily with the brush and the build up of paint on the tape makes its removal more difficult. It is best to remove the tape while the paint is still semi-wet to minimize tearing, or if you have painted two coats which is customary, remove the tape slowly and at a sharp angle. If the tape begins pulling the latex paint with it, stop and use a utility knife to carefully cut along the seam of the tape (where it meets the wall or the trim) to separate it from the paint.

Tip: Semi-gloss and gloss finishes are more prone to ripping or tearing when removing tape. Semi-gloss is what I typically use to paint all of my trim, including interior doors.

Safety First

Safety is of utmost importance when painting a room or with any home improvement job. When possible, consider using roller handle extensions rather than a ladder to paint your walls and ceiling. There will be times when you need to be on a ladder to paint trimwork for instance. Always be aware of your surroundings and don't rush.

Painting a room takes time but the finished result will be worth the time and effort.

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