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Home > Projects & DIY Toolkit > Buying Guides > Paint an Interior Room

Paint an Interior Room

Those old walls that look drab and have no style need a boost. Fix those walls up and add an entirely new look to any room in your house by painting. But keep in mind that painting is more than just applying a coat or two of paint to the wall. Purchasing the right tools and a high quality paint is essential for getting good results. So in order to get professional results, there are a few basics steps you should follow. You will be pleased with the beautiful, finished product.

Tools & Materials


  • Caulk gun

  • Paintbrush

    • 1" brush for tight spots

    • 2" brush for painting trim

    • 4" brush for areas too small for a roller

  • Roller frame

  • Paint tray

  • Extension pole

  • Paint edger

  • Ladder

  • Dust mask

  • Putty knife

  • Damp sponge

  • Sandpaper (150 to 200 grit)

  • Tack cloths and damp rags

  • Painter's tape

  • Painter's shield

  • Brush comb


  • Paint

  • Primer

  • Spackling compound

  • Mesh tape

  • Mesh tape

  • Caulking

  • Dropcloths

  • Mineral spirits to clean your tools (for oil-based paint)

  • Rubber gloves

  • Plastic sheets

  • Paint edger pad refills

  • TSP (tri-sodium phosphate)


You should have plenty of air circulation and ventilation in the room you will be painting. Use an oscillating fan for additional circulation.

Removing Hardware

Turn off the breaker or fuse for the room when working with electrical outlets, switches and lights.


If you've decided to paint the ceiling as well as the walls, remove all ceiling fixtures. For fixtures that are suspended by a post:

  • Remove the cover plate.

  • Cover the fixture to protect it from paint drips.

  • Paint the area covered by the plate.

  • Once the ceiling is dry, simply replace the plate.


Before painting the walls, remove all the hardware in the room and anything hanging on the walls. The following are items you may have to remove:

  • Electrical switch plates and receptacle plates

  • Cable TV outlets

  • Phone jack covers

  • Curtains

  • Art/pictures

  • All decorations

  • Nails/screws

Protecting Furniture and Immovable Items

Remove any furniture that you can from the room. All other furniture should be pulled away from the walls. Move as much furniture as possible to the center of the room.

After you've removed everything that can be moved, protect all areas that won't be painted.

  • Use painter's tape and plastic sheets to cover electrical receptacles and switches.

Cover all of your furniture and floor area with drop cloths. Paintbrushes sometimes drip and rollers emit a fine spray of paint that settles over the room like dust.

Repairing Walls

A new coat of paint should be applied to a clean, hole-free surface. If you are painting over a pre-painted wall, make sure there is no loose or flaking paint. If your home was built before 1978, you may have lead paint on the interior walls. Read our Lead Based Paint-What You Need To Know information before continuing.

All holes and imperfections in the wall should be repaired. Be sure to wear a dust mask when sanding. The basic repair steps are below; see Patching and Repairing Drywall for more detailed instructions.

  • Apply the spackle with a putty knife. Spread the spackle over the hole several times using an X motion. Scrape off excess spackle from the wall.

  • Allow the spackle to dry overnight according to the manufacturer's instructions.

  • Close all doors and vents to prevent the sanding dust from spreading to other areas of the house.

  • Sand the spackled area smooth using fine-grit sandpaper (150 to 200 grit).

  • Clean the repaired areas to remove dust.

Cleaning and Taping the Walls

Now that everything in the room is removed and/or covered, it is time to wash the walls and remove dirt, dust and other substances. Wear gloves to protect your hands.

  • Wash the walls from the bottom up using TSP (tri-sodium phosphate).

  • Rinse the walls with clean water and a sponge.

  • Allow the walls to dry before taping.

  • Protect your moulding and window sills with painter's tape.

Apply the tape in a straight line along the bottom of the crown and along the top of the base moulding. Make sure the lines are level and smooth.



New construction and patched or repaired areas will need to be primed before painting. Priming seals the surface and helps the paint cover more evenly. See Choosing Primer for information on the best kind of primer for your application. If you are painting a pre-finished surface that has a high gloss paint, prime it before re-painting.

GOOD IDEA: If your paint is a deep color such as red, use a gray or matching tinted primer to match the paint. The tinted primer will reduce the number of coats necessary.

Application and Technique

Open the paint can and stir well. Make sure you mix down into the bottom of the can. The paint pigment needs to be thoroughly blended.

Suggested Painting Order

After you've repaired, cleaned, taped and primed, it is time for the actual painting. After all of the preparation you owe it to yourself to choose a high quality paint that will give you professional looking results. Picking the Right Interior Paint can help you choose the best paint for your room.

The order in which you paint a room should be top to bottom. The following areas should be painted in this order:

  • Ceiling

  • Walls

  • Windows and Doors

  • Trim

GOOD IDEA: If you are painting your room in radically different colors, apply the lighter paint color first and then the darker color.


Most people dread the thought of painting the ceiling. If you use a paint extension pole, the job will be a lot easier. You can stand on the floor to paint the majority of the ceiling. If your ceilings are vaulted, you may have to use a stepstool or ladder in conjunction with an extension pole.

  • Start in the corner of the room and paint the edge of the ceiling along the walls using a paint edger. Be careful to not get paint on the guide rollers on the edger.

  • Roll the paint on with a series of diagonal swaths (shaped like the letter M). Fill in the open areas by cross-rolling.


GOOD IDEA: Dip the roller in the paint tray. Roll it back and forth on the ridged part at the top of the tray to evenly distribute the paint.

  • Pour the paint in the reservoir area of a lined tray.

  • Use a small angled brush to paint next to the floor boards, ceiling and corners. This application will take some practice. In addition to the brush, use a long painter's shield to help with edging around moulding. Paint the area about 2" above the floor moulding and 2" below the crown moulding.

  • Load the roller and apply the paint in a large M shape, beginning in a corner near the ceiling. Fill in by rolling across the M.

  • Paint the wall in blocks of 4' by 4' from the ceiling to the floor. Paint each adjacent block before the previous one dries to blend the edges together.

  • If using high-gloss or semi-gloss paint, apply in smaller sections that measure 2' x 2'.

  • Allow the walls to dry completely. This usually takes about 3 hours.

  • Add a second coat of paint if the first coat isn't the desired color.

  • Paint the windows starting with the sashes. Then paint down the window casing to the sill.

  • Paint the woodwork using a sash brush. Paint with the grain of the wood.

Taking Breaks and Overnight Drying

  • If you take a break, never leave your brushes/rollers in paint. Cover paint trays with a damp rag to keep a paint skin from forming.

  • When taking overnight breaks, tightly seal paint cans and throw away tray liners.

  • Clean rollers/brushes and allow them to dry overnight.

  • If you are using the same paint colors the next day, you can keep the paint on the rollers/brushes by wrapping them in plastic wrap and placing them in the freezer. The rollers/brushes won't dry out or get hard.

Painting Doors

If you are painting your doors, use the following method:

  • For raised panel doors, paint the panels first using a sash brush. Then paint the door from top to bottom.

Flat panel doors can be painted with a roller.

Clean Up

Before you remove the drop cloths wait at least three hours for the paint to completely dry. Don't re-hang pictures for at least a day.

Latex Paint

Brushes and rollers can be re-used if properly cleaned.

  • Scrape away as much paint as possible from the brush/roller using a paint stirring stick.

  • Immediately soak the brushes/rollers (remove the roller from the frame before soaking) in water. Use a brush comb to remove additional paint.

  • Squeeze the brushes/rollers to remove excess water.

  • Clean them with warm, soapy water.

  • Rinse thoroughly and squeeze out as much water as possible.

  • Hang the brush/roller up to dry.

  • Wrap brushes in paper towels to help keep the bristles in good condition.

Oil-Based Paint

Soak brushes/rollers in paint thinner and follow steps 2-5 above.


Tools, products, materials, techniques, building codes and local regulations change; therefore, Lowe's assumes no liability for omissions, errors or the outcome of any project. The reader must always exercise reasonable caution, follow current codes and regulations that may apply, and is urged to consult with a licensed professional if in doubt about any procedures. Please visit our terms of use.

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