Learn to Paint Without Leaving a Mark

Lead Image
What You'll Need
Drop cloths
Painter’s tape
Quality paint brushes
Paint roller and frame
Paint tray
Ladder or sturdy step stool

Paint is perhaps the most economical way to redecorate a room. It's a fast fix for new décor, but sometimes painting results in streaks, drips, and unsightly lap marks left by paint rollers. How can these be avoided? Take a few minutes before your next painting project to learn about the best techniques for the job.

Prep Properly

Before painting a wall with a paint roller, prepare the room. Move and cover furniture and flooring with drop cloths. Apply low tack or blue painter's tape to adjacent walls and trims that won't be painted with the same wall color to protect the edges.

Tip: Do not use masking tape for this. Although it is much less expensive, it may damage the walls, trim, and floors.

Cut in the Edges

Cut in the edges and wall corners with a paintbrush. Load the brush with paint adequately, but do not saturate it to the point of dripping. Paint a section along the edge of the wall one to two feet long. Skip forward the same distance and paint back towards the wet, painted area. Continue in this fashion, always painting from a dry area to a wet area.

When cutting in the edges of painted walls, apply paint in a stripe about three or four inches wide. The area should be wide enough to cover the edges of the wall the paint roller won't reach while keeping the roller far enough away from surrounding walls to prevent it from scraping and marking them.

Use a Roller for Large Surfaces

With the cutting in through, the rest of the wall can be covered with a paint roller. Loading the roller properly will go a long way towards keeping your walls free from streaks, drips, and lap marks. Fill the roller evenly, completely covering the surface. Use the ridges at the top of the paint pan to remove excess paint so you can be sure the roller is not dripping when it is raised.

Another key to eliminating lap marks whenever you are painting is to paint in the proper direction. Rolling in a straight line up and down seems natural, but can result in a lap-marked wall if you are careless. Instead, paint in a zigzag pattern. Cover three to four square feet of wall space at a time, starting at a top section of the wall and pushing the paint roller away from you. Paint as if you are making a capital M on the wall, then zigzag back over the area until it is filled in.

Paint below the first M next, until the section of the wall is completely painted down to the floor. Move back to the top of the wall, next to the first painted section, and begin again. Continue in this way, always painting from an unpainted area towards a painted section. After covering about four-square areas, roll back over the completed wall section to blend the areas together. Then move on to the next wall, using a ladder for any hard-to-reach areas.

Paint the Trim

For streak-free trim paint, follow the directions above for cutting in walls. Paint in 12 to 18-inch lengths from a dry area back towards a wet, painted length.

There are two keys to painting rooms free from drips, streaks, and paint roller lap marks. The first is to avoid overloading paint brushes and rollers. The second key is to paint in workable sections in a zigzag pattern. Crisscrossing over the paint applied will blend lines together and pick up areas of excess paint. The result will be a smooth, professional-looking paint job anyone can be proud of.

Tip: An average-sized room can be completed in four hours if doing walls only. Give yourself three additional hours for trim such as windows, baseboards, doors, and frames.

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