33 Painting Tips (The Pros Want You To Pay For)
Updated: Oct 11
The time you spend reading this article will come back to you tenfold in the time you will save applying the painting tips to be shared.
If the pros knew what I was about to tell you, I’d probably have to go into hiding. In every trade, there are tricks that the pros use, and once you learn those tricks, it gives you an advantage over the average person who wants to DIY their house paintwork.
33 Painting Tips (The Painting Pros Don’t Share)
Painting is just painting, right? If you’ve ever done your DIY painting, you know there’s more to it than just buying paint and a brush. These painting tips will make a difference, so let’s get right into it.
Painting Prep Tips
If possible, it's best and more convenient if the room you are working on is clear of any furniture. Moving it to another room will give you the space to work and cut the time it would take to wrap the items in plastic or cover them with drop clothes.
If it’s impossible to move the furniture out, you must cover it with painter's plastic.
Lay Down Canvas Drop Cloths
Saving time and money may tempt you to use painter’s plastic on the floor, but don’t do that. Plastic is fine for furniture, cabinets, and anything you will not walk on.
Paint drops are inevitable, and they will accumulate on whatever you lay on the floor to protect the carpet or flooring. If you spill on plastic and accidentally step on a drop, the plastic will stick to your shoe, pulling up and moving. It just becomes a hassle.
Use canvas drop cloths. They come in different sizes and shapes. This is a crucial step, saving you from having to stop and clean the floor. Worth every penny in our book!
Check for Loose Paint
Checking for loose paint will save you a headache and later sanding time. Inspect the walls, corners, and/or ceiling for any visible bubbles in the paint or apparent cracks.
After inspection, take a putty knife and gently scrape the surface, careful not to gouge the wall or ceiling. If necessary, you will take some fine grit sandpaper and again gently take off only the loose paint.
Wipe with Tack Cloth or Damp Cloth
This tip is mainly for working on cabinets, doors, and trim. Not particularly necessary for walls or ceilings. Of course, if the walls or ceiling are dirty, it's best to clean them clean.
Remove Electrical Plates
Removing the electrical plates around the outlets and switches will reduce prep time and allow unrestricted movement when cutting in and rolling out.
This step alone will save a lot of time because you won't have to mask off and tape every wall socket or light switch. Be careful when working around electrical outlets and switches, but don’t skip this tip.
Apply Caulking Before Paint
If caulking is applied, it is best to use it after all other applications for pre-paint have been taken care of. This keeps the caulking from getting bumped and having to reapply it. Make sure if you are painting over the caulking that, it is paintable caulking.
Let it dry completely (very important!). This step will make the finished product stand out. Consider purchasing a pro caulking gun. You will thank yourself later.
Interior Painting Tips
When painting the interior of your home, it’s in the details. You’ll probably have to look at your work every day, and by following these few types, you won’t judge your work harshly. You’ll probably even be proud of it.
Buy Quality Brushes and Roller Covers
Proper equipment and quality tools make the difference between a job that looks okay, to a job that looks like a pro did it. There’s nothing worse than a cheap brush that leaves lines and won’t cover them because it's cheap.
And as for roller covers, the cheaper ones save you a dollar, that's true, but they will also leave fuzz embedded into the drying paint that must be removed and the spot painted over again. Consider buying wool blend roller covers. The pros swear by them.
Purchase Quality Paint
Don’t buy the cheapest paint you can find. You also don't have to buy the most expensive, because sometimes that doesn’t mean that's the right paint for you either. Pros know one thing, and that is that quality counts when it comes to painting.
Choose a quality builder-grade paint. Stick with a reputable brand. Look for a higher “scrubbability” rating (this means you can wash your wall and not have to repaint), which is usually found in higher-quality paints. Warranties will also be a good indicator of quality; the longer, the better.
Paint the Trim First
This tip will change your painting game. Paint the trim first. You won’t have to worry about being so precise but can concentrate on getting good paint coverage if you follow this tip.
Tape off Trim
Once the trim dries, you can use painters masking tape and mask off the trim. The blue is better than the standard color masking, you probably know, because this is made for painting. Take your time and ensure the lines are straight; you can go to work once it's tapped.
Allow the paint to dry just a bit, don’t leave this tape on for too many days. Depending on the heat in the house, it might start to stick.
Cut-In the Corners
This may be the only time you want to “cut corners” regarding home improvement. By “cutting in” the corners and edges first, you will have a more finished look without the brush stroke marks ruining a good roller application. Cut in around all the trim, windows, doors, sockets, and outlet boxes.
After the cut-in has dried a bit, you can roll up to the edge without hitting the trim, and this will give you a more professional quality edge. Remember, the trim is masked, so you can roll to the trim. But to make sure, cut in the edges.
Start Rolling from the Top
When applying the paint, it is better to begin the roll toward the upper part of the wall. By doing this, there’s less chance that paint runs will be left at the bottom of the wall.
Bag up Your Roller
When it’s time for a break, you don’t want to leave the paint roller floating in the bucket. One way you can keep from having to wash it out every time you wish to stop for a moment is to take a plastic bag, like the ones from the grocery store, place the roller inside, and wrap up the roller. This will keep it moist and ready to go again when you are.
Buckets to painters are like gold. The extra buckets can be used from so many pro tricks.
Buy an extra bucket so that when you take breaks, you can put your brushes in water.
Have an extra dry one so you can spin off your brushes in it with a brush spinner.
You can also carry and store your tools once the job is done.
Pushing the Paint
When cutting the edges, it works better to start away from the edge and push the paint back towards it. This keeps the excess buildup of paint from getting onto the trim or anywhere you don’t want the paint. This comes with practice, but the results will be worth it.
A gentle touch, with plenty of paint on the brush, and leaving your brush loaded are some pro moves that make a big difference.
Cabinet Painting Tips
Cabinet painting is one palace where some pro tips can come in handy. The cabinets, doors, and trim can be considered focal points. They are probably the first thing people notice. The following list of cabinet painting tips may look more like a how-to, but each of these can be seen as a painting tip.
Don’t Skip Prep
The painting tip is don’t skimp on prep. Cabinets are where you will need to take your time and get it right before the first drop of paint goes on the cabinet.
Don’t try and cut around the hinges, it never works out. You can pull the hinges and handles, wrap them with tape and mark them so they go back to the same drawer or door. You can mark the drawers and doors in a place where you can dab a touch-up behind where a hinge goes or on the bottom of the drawers.
Fill Holes if Necessary
Small holes or imperfections can be easily filled with wood putty or a wood filler. Each has its benefits and drawbacks and is equally useful. You will apply the filler and let it dry, then lightly sand the area until smooth.
Lightly sanding the first coat after it has fully dried will give the second coat something to grab ahold of.
Light sanding with high-grit sandpaper (that means it's not super coarse), usually 220 grit, is perfect for sanding between coats.
Wiping all the cabinets' dust and debris will ensure you get a smooth finish. This step is often missed.
The ideal way to apply paint to cabinets is with a paint sprayer. You can rent one for a day from your local home improvement center, or if you are going to keep spraying other projects, think about picking one up. There are some good DIY sprayers.
Quality Brushes and Roller Covers
This is by far one of the essential tips. Cheap brushes will leave streaks, and cheap roller covers will leave lint. Spend the extra dollars on professional brushes and roller covers. The best roller cover you can get to use on cabinets is a foam roller. No chance of any lint, and it doesn't leave behind too much paint.
Let Dry Completely Between Coats
This may seem obvious, but there is a tendency to want to get that second coat on and finish the job. It is essential to let the first coat dry completely before attempting to put the second coat on.
Exterior Painting Tips
Exterior paint is a weekend project, if not more. You need to follow steps and tips to help you lay on a paint job that will probably get your neighbors trying to hire you to do theirs.
Washing the Exterior
Washing the exterior is critical if you want to achieve a smooth fish. If possible, rent a pressure washer. This will do the best job, and it will also help with tip #2.
Side note: if your house was built in the late 70s, you might want to get a lead paint test kit. You're not obligated by law, but the kits are available if you want to know.
Scrape loose paint
Scrape all loose paint that you can see with a putty knife. You may have to sand in some places, but scraping will generally be sufficient on exteriors.
Choose a good silicone caulking to seal the joints and weatherproof you're home. This type of caulking might be a bit more expensive, but well worth it. The caulking will be rated by how many years it is under warranty. You can find exterior silicone caulking with an extended extended-year warranty.
Check the weather
Before you dip your first brush in the paint, you need to know what the weather will be like all day when painting exteriors. If it rains on you or the wind blows dirt and debris, it will wreck fresh paint in a flash.
Make sure you have the right ladders for the job. Don’t be tempted to take long turns or hang off the roof or out the windows to paint the trim. Use stabilizers and adhere to all safety precautions.
Quality Paint and Primer
On exteriors, it's a good idea to think about adding a primer as the first coat, especially if you're going from dark to light colors. Quality exterior paint with a good warranty will assure good coverage and lastability.
Paint the Doors and Windows First
You want to paint the doors and windows first so, at the end of the day, when it’s time to shut windows and doors, the paint is dry. If not, the paint will stick, and when you open up the window or door in the morning, it will wreck the paint, and you will have to scrape, sand, and repaint the whole door or window.
General Painting Tips
Buy Good Brushes and Roller Covers
This is a repeat, but this is one of the best tips to follow. Getting the right tools for the job and buying quality will pay for itself in the long run.
Box the Paint
Boxing the paint will ensure that all the paint going on will match. This is done by pouring all of the paint into a 5-gallon bucket and mixing it, then boxing it into an empty bucket, and then pouring it back into the original bucket. Repeat a few times to get a good mix.
Tinted Primer for Colored Walls
To keep from adding coat after coat to cover up the primer, you can get your primer tinted. This will help save time and paint.