5 Types of Paint Rollers Explained

Types of Paint Rollers

There are five primary types of paint rollers to choose from: manual rollers, pad rollers, texture rollers, and mini hot dog rollers. Each type has advantages and disadvantages and each is suited to specific painting projects.

Just as with the cost of paint, the cost of a roller impacts the final result of the project. Some painters use a roller once and throw it away. Others invest in more expensive rollers that can be washed and reused many times. Avoid the temptation to cut costs on your project by buying the cheapest roller on the shelf.

A roller is only as good as the frame it sits on. Make sure your frame is clean, in good shape, and that the roller fits it snugly. Quick-release frames make clean up at the end of a project a bit easier.

A man uses a manual roller.

Manual Rollers

Manual rollers are the most common type of paint roller. These rollers are typically used to apply paint to walls and ceilings and, as such, have handles that feature connectors for handle extensions. Because of the length of their handles, manual rollers are particularly useful in painting high surfaces.

In fact, if the handle is long enough, you can paint a ceiling with a manual roller without having to use a ladder. One potential drawback to this type of roller is that it tends to produce a fair amount of paint drips if even a little too much paint is applied.

Find manual paint rollers on Amazon

TIP: Our painting consultant Pam Estabrooke, of ProTect Painters, says, “Ceilings that will be painted with flat paint can take a thinner, ½-inch, nap roller. Walls with flat or satin paint will do well with a 3/8-inch nap. Surfaces that are textured, stucco, plaster, stipple ceilings, require a regular paint roller, but with a thicker nap, usually ¾ to 1-inch.”

Pad Rollers

Pad rollers are an effective tool for painting trim or edging. These unique rollers utilize a highly absorbent, flat pad to apply paint in straight, even strokes. They feature small wheels along their edges that help keep the paint application nice and straight.

Whereas other types of rollers have a tendency to splatter paint as a result of the circular motion through which they operate, pad rollers are able to lie flat on surfaces, virtually eliminating splattered and dripped paint. Because of their flatness, pad rollers tend to hold paint better than other types of rollers and are the best paint rollers to use when painting a single surface more than one color.

A man looks at a wall he is painting.

Textured Rollers

Textured rollers are specifically designed to paint a texture onto a surface. These rollers feature special foam covers that have certain patterns etched into them to allow the paint to go into the wall in a certain way, like a faux finish. There are rollers that simulate wood grain, brick, stone, tile, and many other patterns. Like manual rollers, textured rollers are best suited for use on large surfaces, like walls and ceilings.

Specialty Rollers

Textured paints, like suede, stone, and light plasters, usually have a specialty roller the paint manufacturer wants you to use to apply their product. They typically don’t produce as much paint splatter. As many texture paints have a very heavy consistency, these rollers tend to be quite absorbent.

A small paint roller used on a table.

Mini Hot Dog Rollers

Mini hot dog rollers are miniature paint rollers whose popularity is steadily on the rise. As the name suggests, these unique rollers are shaped like hot dogs and are the perfect tools with which to paint areas that are difficult to reach. They are particularly adept at applying paint to surfaces located behind heavy fixtures, such as sinks and toilets. In addition, mini hot dog rollers are very useful when it comes to painting cupboards, shelves, and rolling doors. Also, like pad rollers, they're good for applying paint to trim and edging. However, given their size and shape, mini hot dog rollers can give way to quite a bit of paint splatter if too much paint is applied.

TIP: Pam says, “Take a long length of painters tape and wrap it around your roller before you put it on the frame. This acts like a lint brush and will remove any loose pieces of the nap before they can get loose in your new paint and end up stuck on the wall. Wrap your roller in plastic at the end of the day or for a prolonged break. This will keep it moist until you are ready to paint again.”

Pam Estabrooke, a district manager of ProTect Painters, contributed to this article.