How to Paint a Room

Learn how to paint a room like a pro, plus how to paint trim and ceilings. We also have tips on planning your DIY painting project, paint prep, how to buy paint and more.


Skill
Beginner
Time
Few Hours
Cost
Less Than $500

What You Need for This Project

Preparing to Paint

  1. 1

    Buying Paint

    One gallon will cover about 400 square feet. Multiply the length times height to get the square footage for each wall and add them up. For the trim, multiply the length (in feet) by 0.5 for the width. 
    When using more than one gallon of paint, mix them in a 5-gallon bucket to ensure color consistency.

  2. Steps:

  1. 2

    Planning Your Paint Project

    Painting an entire room might take a couple of days to complete. Plan ahead, and make sure you have plenty of ventilation while working.

    Also, plan on working from the top down. Paint the ceiling first, then the walls, and finish with the trim.


  2. Steps:

Cutting-In

  1. 1

    Get Your Paint Brush Wet

    To paint the edges, or cut in, dip a brush about a third of the way into the paint and don't scrape it against the sides.
    Tip: Use a small paint bucket when you're cutting in. A small bucket will be much lighter and easier to handle when you're going up and down the ladder.


  2. Steps:

  1. 2

    Start Painting!

    Holding the brush as you would a pencil, paint with smooth strokes, feathering out the edges to prevent runs. Getting a little bit of paint on the trim won’t matter since you’re painting that later, but try not to be super messy
  2. Steps:

  1. 3

    Paint the Ceiling Edges

    On the ceiling, cut in first along the ceiling line. Then switch to the roller.
    For the walls, cut in one wall at time then switch to the roller. Painting can be a lot easier with two people. One person can cut while the other uses the roller.


  2. Steps:

Painting Using a Roller

  1. 1

    Prep the Roller Pan or Bucket

    If you’re using a 5-gallon bucket, insert a roller grid. For pans, use a liner for easy cleanup.

  2. Steps:

  1. 2

    Load the Roller with Paint

    To help the paint load, first dampen the roller cover with a wet rag. Dip just a little way into the paint and roll onto the grid or liner a few times to even it out. Resist the urge to submerge the roller - it’ll make a mess.

  2. Steps:

  1. 3

    Paint in a Zig-Zag Pattern

    Starting a few inches away from the edge, roll the paint on the ceiling or wall in a zig-zag pattern. Overlap your lines and go slow to avoid paint spatter. Don’t press and squeeze the roller against the wall to get more paint out of it, just reload.
    Work in 4-foot sections. For walls, work at the top, then the bottom.

  2. Steps:

  1. 4

    Go Over the Edges

    Once you get some paint on the walls you can go back along the edges. Turn the roller sideways to get really close to the ceiling and baseboards.

  2. Steps:

  1. 5

    Remove Buildups & Runs

    To remove buildup and runs, lightly roll over the painted area from the ceiling down to the floor. Apply very little pressure.

  2. Steps:

  1. 6

    Apply a Second Coat

    Paint one wall at a time. Apply two coats.

  2. Steps:

Painting the Trim

  1. 1

    Apply Painter's Tape

    After the walls are completely dry, apply painter’s tape along the wall-trim edge. Press it down with a plastic putty knife.

  2. Steps:

  1. 2

    Paint the Trim

    Paint the trim with a brush.

  2. Steps:

  1. 3

    Remove Painter's Tape

    Carefully remove the tape shortly after painting. Don't wait for the paint to dry completely. This will prevent peeling. A knife can help cut along spots where the tape is stuck. Some tapes have specific removal time recommendations so check the package.

  2. Steps:

Clean-Up: Latex Based Paints

  1. 1

    Pour Any Excess Paint into the Can

    Use your brush to scrape paint from the pan back into the original paint can. Firmly press the lid back onto the can.

  2. Steps:

  1. 2

    Rinse Paint Brush

    Run the brush under warm water and use a comb or nylon cleaning brush to help remove the paint from the bristles.

  2. Steps:

  1. 3

    Add Soap

    Rub some hand cleaner into the bristles and rinse again.

  2. Steps:

  1. 4

    Leave to Dry

    Reshape the brush and hang to dry.

  2. Steps:

  1. 5

    Start Cleaning Rollers

    For roller covers, use a paint multi-tool to remove the paint under running water.

  2. Steps:

  1. 6

    Leave to Dry

    Allow the roller to dry in an upright position, then store in a paper bag or cardboard box.

  2. Steps:

Clean-Up: Oil Based Paints

  1. 1

    Use Paint Thinner to Start Cleaner

    Cleaning oil-based paints can be a challenge. Sometimes it’s best to let your tools dry and throw them away. However, if you plan on saving your tools you’ll need mineral spirits, paint thinner or lacquer thinner, a cleaning comb or brush and two metal containers or glass jars with lids. One container will be for clean solvent and the other for dirty solvent.

  2. Steps:

  1. 2

    Dip Paint Brush in Solvent

    Pour a little solvent into one of the containers, just enough to dip the brush about halfway.

  2. Steps:

  1. 3

    Work Out Excess Paint

    Dip the brush into the solvent and work out the excess paint/stain. As the cleaning solution gets dirty, change it out for fresh solvent. You’ll need to do this several times. When all the excess paint or stain is out of the brush, clean it one more time.

    Check with your local recycling center for solvent disposal instructions.

  2. Steps:

  1. 4

    Reshape & Dry

    After cleaning a synthetic brush with a solvent, use soap and water for one last cleaning. Reshape the brush and hang to dry.

    Skip this step if using a natural bristle brush. After cleaning with a solvent, reform the brush and hang it to dry.

  2. Steps:

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