Choosing the Best Paint Roller for Semi-gloss Paint

A paint roller applying a red, semi-gloss paint to a white surface.

It’s a good idea to understand how paint roller options can affect the final result of your painting project. Certain kinds of rollers and other tools go better with specific kinds of paint, and matching the right tool to your project will help provide an easier painting process and a better overall paint job.

Semi-gloss paint is a relatively high-sheen paint, second only to full gloss in shine. Gloss and eggshell paints are relatively easy to clean, and some types can stand up to a good scrubbing. This means that both are commonly used in places where a lot of cleaning may be needed, such as the kitchen. However, as they have a relatively high sheen, semi-gloss paints tend to show off dirt or irregularities and accentuate flaws and spackle repairs on wall space. As such, a good roller is important for the application, to minimize flaws that will draw the eye.

Roller Options

Foam paint rollers are tempting because they are relatively cheap, and advertised as disposable. These rollers also absorb a lot of lighter paints and help them to be applied evenly to a wide, smooth surface. However, they release a lot of paint that can drip when pressure is applied and tend to leave lines of paint at the edges of the roller. If you miss catching these drips and lines, they will show in your final result, for all your visitors to see.

A narrow synthetic or lamb’s wool roller is a better choice for semi-gloss paints as the roller does not have to be that thick with semi-gloss paints.

Tip: Since foam rollers release drips of paint with pressure, it is not advised to use them much at all. Since most DIY painting is done infrequently, and even if a professional painter is working, ALL rollers are disposable. You can keep a paint-saturated roller in plastic shopping bags for a few days, and just throw them out when done. They can generally be had for less than five dollars and are not worth the trouble to wash out. If you do wash them, when they are reused, they usually splatter paint.

Roller Methods

In addition to good roller choices for semi-gloss paints, some practical application tips can really help with the final result. Smooth the wall area carefully before applying the paint, and make sure to remove any dust. With paint rollers, some experts recommend a type of “V” or “W” pattern, where broad strokes on a wall are tied together by finer, more precise painting to create an even application.

Other pros don’t like this method, as paint can dry fast, and some areas will look different than others because they are double-coated. They recommend rolling be done in straight lines from floor to ceiling, overlapping halfway, giving the best uniform look for the least amount of paint.

Smaller paint rollers, called “trim rollers,” may help to reach corners and other small areas. Thinking ahead can make a painting project much easier and provide a better visual result when the job is over.

Tip: Do not skimp on roller covers and buy the cheapest ones. Often the less expensive ones will deposit pieces onto the wall when first using them, often referred to as the “Fuzzies.” Spend a little more money to avoid a lot of aggravation later. It is also a good idea to saturate the roller cover with water and use a “spinner” or a roller cleaner to remove any material that would otherwise come off on the wall.

Edward Kimble, a professional painter, and author of "Interior House Painting Blog" contributed to this article.