How to Touch Up Paint Perfectly

A man touching up paint on a door.
  • 1-3 hours
  • Intermediate
  • $160-250
What You'll Need
Mild dish soap
Two sponges
Fans (optional)
Ladder (as needed)
Paint tape
Interior latex primer
Small or medium-sized paint brush or a small roller
Paint finish

There’s nothing like a fresh paint job on the walls of your home. But what happens when paint jobs start to fade, peel, or lose their luster? It happens in every home, whether it’s because the room receives a large amount of traffic, environmental factors like condensation, or just the passage of time. For that reason, it’s important to know how to touch up paint jobs to keep rooms looking fresh without having to repaint the entirety of a room or wall. Learn how to do so below in order to keep your home looking its best.

Step 1 - Decide to Touch Up a Paint Job

Before you get started, make sure that you are making the right decision in touching up a paint job. Prior to delving into the project, decide if any kind of a paint job is actually necessary. Try removing marks off the wall using a damp and soapy sponge.

Also consider the reason your paint job is lacking to decipher whether or not a paint job will solve the problem. For instance, if a paint job has faded from the sun, the touch up may not be successful.

Step 2 - Match Your Paint Color

A man paints a grey wall.

Once you’ve decided to touch up your paint job, an important step in the process is matching the paint color to what’s already on your wall. This takes some time and effort, but it’s vital to the success of the project.

Obviously, if you know the exact color you used in a given room, you’re already in business. However, you want to be wary of using leftover paint without treating it properly beforehand. Stir the old paint well to ensure that it’s evened out. When paint sits for an extended period of time, some ingredients may have settled on the bottom, affecting its coloring.

If you don’t know the exact color used on a given wall, you’ll need to do some more work. You can either go to your local hardware store and see if they have paint-matching technology, as many stores can custom mix colors to fit your painting needs. You can also take an alternate route. Consider taking advantage of today’s technology and using an app that uses the camera feature to match a paint color (such as Behr's ColorSmart App).

Step 3 - Encourage Ventilation

Before you start painting, open windows or set up fans to encourage adequate ventilation in the room throughout the project.

Step 4 - Plan the Project

You’ll need to put some thought into how you’re going to complete this project. You’ll be most effective in making these improvements to a paint job by using the same applicator as what was originally used. For instance, use a brush if that’s what was used last time or a roller if that was previously the tool of choice (however, don't want to use the exact same roller unless you wrapped it in plastic to keep the paint from drying). You may want to choose a small roller if that’s what you’ll be using, as it’ll make it easier to apply paint to smaller areas.

Step 5 - Prep the Surface

A man touches up a wall's paint.

Use a damp and soapy sponge to wipe down the surface you’re planning to paint. Then, rinse the wall with a separate sponge that is damp but devoid of soap. Gently dry the wall with a clean towel.

Another part of prepping the surface you’re looking to paint is to prime the wall. Use a latex primer, careful not to go outside of the perimeter of where you’re looking to touch up.

If you’re painting to cover holes or to mask a dent, you’ll need to first actually fix the problem before you paint. A simple layer of paint won’t rid your walls of these issues, so be sure to fix them before you reach for your paint can for the best possible results.

Step 6 - Prep the Paint

Take your matched paint and slightly dilute it with a reputable thinner, preferably one that is recommended by the paint manufacturer. Thin paint is much less noticeable on an already-painted wall than a regular layer of paint. Don’t forget to stir your paint liberally to ensure it’s even.

Step 7 - Paint Where Needed

You’re now ready to paint areas that require touching up. Use the “feather” technique to create a smooth transition between the spot that needs some TLC and the rest of the wall. Brush with extended strokes that reach beyond the touch-up area or use a roller to paint from the center of the area, gradually lifting the roller away from the wall as you extend your stroke.

You’ll want to paint in multiple directions to effectively camouflage your patch job. Think of the paint job in the shape of a sunshine, making the patch the middle and painting in a multitude of directions around it, like the rays of the sun.

As you’re painting, start with very little paint on your brush or roller. It is much easier to add more paint if needed than it is to take it off if you originally put too much on.

Step 8 - Let Your Paint Dry

A man paints the outside of a house.

Be patient in letting the paint dry on your walls. Paint that looks awkward and patchy after it’s applied may dry to match the rest of the wall perfectly, so give it the time it needs to fully adhere to the wall.

Step 9 - Apply a Matching Finish

If your wall has a finish on it, apply the same one to the areas that were touched up to give the wall a cohesive look. This is a step that many forget while touching up paint jobs, but it’s nonetheless an important one.

After that, your project is complete. It’s a good idea to keep leftover paint to use at a later date. Store paint in a cool, dry place to keep it in usable condition. Never pour leftover paint down a drain as it could lead to a clog.

This tutorial is perfect for anyone looking to spruce up a space that’s looking a bit tired without having to commit to a completely new paint job. Follow it and you’ll find that touching up paint jobs is easy and packs some serious punch in the aesthetic of your home.