Basic Painting Tips Every DIYer Should Know

Lead Image for Basic Painting Tips Every DIYer Should Know

Whether you're a newbie DIYer or a painting aficionado, there are a few basic painting tips everyone should know. Painting is something almost every DIYer will have to do at some point, whether it be painting a small project or an entire house so it doesn't hurt to go over a few basic tips.

Use Primer

In order to ensure a perfect-looking paint job, you will want to use a primer before you start to paint. Primer essentially seals the wall so that the paint you are applying does not seep into the wall's existing color.

This ensures that you will need fewer coats of paint and makes your final paint job look professional, without any unwanted colors bleeding in.

Protect Walls and Furniture

For things you don't want to be painted, like walls and furniture, make sure to protect them before you start painting. To do so, you should use drop cloths. Lay these over the floor and furniture. Ziplock bags or saran wrap can go over things like doorknobs.

Remove Outlet Covers

hand painting wall with outlet that has its cover removed

Take off your outlet covers before painting so they do not get any paint on them. When you finish your painting job, you can put these back on the wall.


While it may be tempting to go with the cheapest paintbrush and paint you can find, resist the temptation. Cheap brushes do not last long and cheap paint requires more coats. If you take care of paintbrushes, they can last a really long time, making it worthwhile to invest in good-quality brushes.

Mix Cans

If you are doing a large-scale project which requires multiple things of paint, do not use the paint directly out of the bucket you purchase it in. Instead, mix all buckets of paint in one larger bucket.

This will ensure that the color of the paint is the same throughout and does not vary slightly when you switch from one bucket to another. This process is called boxing.

Preparation is Key

Before you begin to paint, take a thorough look at your wall. If there are any cracks or peels, these will need to be fixed before you start to paint. For areas that are peeling, sanding, or scraping them is an easy fix. If there are any cracks, however, you may need to call in a professional to identify the cause.

Dry Weather

If your painting project will be done outside, make sure you wait for dry weather. If, for example, you are painting your house and it is humid or raining, the paint will not dry correctly.

Use Rollers

hand painting wall with roller

Paint rollers are a great way to paint large spaces in short amounts of time. Make sure you purchase a good-quality roller. Do not apply too much pressure when using the roller and do not put too much paint on the roller at any one time.

You can also use an extension pole to cover more area with your roller, even the ceiling. This is easier and safer than using a ladder.

Top Down

While it may seem easier to start painting eye level to you, you should actually start at the top and work your way down. The exception to this is the baseboard edges, which you should do early in a room painting process.

Think about it: any drips run down. By painting down, you can fix these drips as you go rather than having a lot of clean-up to do at the end.


Before you begin painting, clean any dirty or oily areas. This will help ensure that the paint will adhere well to the wall and not paint off or chip easily. You can use a deglosser or heavy-duty cleaner to do this.


You should sand any chips in the walls before you even begin to apply your primer. This will help make sure the wall is perfectly level and fix any issues in your wall. And if you are using a glossy paint, sanding the painted wall will help the paint dry and adhere to the wall.

Painting Tips FAQ

What do I need for DIY painting?

If you're planning on painting as a DIY project, you will use all the same tools and supplies as any professional painter. You will want to get painter's tape to create crisp lines, dropcloths to protect floors and furnishings from paint, a painter's tray with a liner to hold the paint, a paint roller and a couple of paint brushes in a large-to-medium size and one in a small size.

You will also need the paint you're going to use, of course, along with clothing to wear that you would be willing to throw away.

Do you roll or cut in first when painting?

Professionals recommend always cutting in first when you are painting. This means you will take a paintbrush, load it with paint, and paint the edges of the wall before you use the roller to apply paint all over the wall.

You will essentially be creating a border of paint across the ceiling line and floor line, and paint the borders of the wall on either side. Once this is done, roll the paint on the rest of the wall and you're already finished with the entire wall.

Do professional painters wash walls before painting?

Professional painters are typically hired to paint, not to clean, so it would be unusual for them to wash walls prior to painting. Unless the walls are excessively dirty or it has already been pre-arranged that they will clean walls, professional painters are not likely to perform this task.

Do you paint trim or walls first?

When painting everything in a room, painters are most likely to paint the trim, the ceilings, and then the walls in that order. Trim is quick and easy to tape off, so it makes more sense to paint the trim and let it dry, then tape it off and continue with the rest of the paint job.

How long does it take to paint a room?

Professional painters can typically paint an average-sized room in a few hours, less than one working day in many cases. DIYers can expect to spend about twice as long at the task until they get the hang of painting.

The time it takes to paint a room varies based on the size of the room of course, but if you work at a steady pace and you don't work quite as fast as a professional painter, you can expect that painting a 120-square foot room will take 10 to 14 hours.