Decorating 101: How to Paint a Room

By Emma Clark

One of the least expensive tricks to change the look of your new apartment is to paint it. Just make sure you get your landlord’s permission before you pick up the paint brush… if you don’t, you put your security deposit at risk.

Once you’ve chosen your color combination, bought all the essential tools, and decided on the look for a particular room, it’s time to get on with the actual process of painting a room.

Painting a room is one of the simplest DIY jobs there is, and your experience as a painter won’t matter that much if you follow the instructions correctly. So be confident! And remember: patience and perseverance are the keys to all home improvement projects.

Materials (available at any hardware store, such as Home Depot or Lowe’s):

• Paint (water based is easier for a first time painter to use)
• Primer
• Brushes (wall brush, trim brush, sash brush)
• Roller
• Paint tray
• Painter’s tape
• Tarp or drop cloth
• Plastic wrap
• Ladder
• Extension pole (if you paint the ceiling)
• Rags
• Rubber gloves
• Old shoes
• Mask or respirator
• Coveralls (optional) or set of old clothing
• Protective eyewear
• Hat

1. Prepare the room

Before you start painting, remove all objects from the room, including furniture, light fixtures, ceiling fans, and everything else that can be removed. After that, lay down a drop cloth or a large tarpaulin on the floor.

The next thing you need to do is apply the painter’s tape to trims and edges of doors, windows, baseboards, light switches, and electrical outlets. Remove peeling or cracked paint from the walls and repair any damages or cracks. Sand down painted woodwork. Clean all the surfaces with a damp rag and allow to dry before moving on to the next step. Open windows for ventilation to let paint fumes escape. Turn up heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer.

Pro tip. To reduce the amount of paint smell, lay down a few buckets of water with lemon slices on the floor (or any odor-absorbing object like charcoal). The water can help absorb some of the odors from the paint.

2. Prepare your materials

Double check that the hardware store mixed the paint color you ordered correctly. Check all  the brushes and rollers you will use, to make sure that they are clean and free from any debris or old paint. Learn the proper way of dipping a brush into paint. This can be done by dipping two-thirds of the bristles into the paint, and brushing the excess paint off the edge. Another cool trick is to wrap a heavy duty rubber band around the paint can vertically (across the top), and use the rubber band to remove excess paint. This can reduce the amount of paint spilled over the edge of the can.

3. Apply a primer

Before anything else, apply a primer to your wall. Primers are cheap and are easy to apply, so take the time to do so before painting your room. A primer will allow the paint to adhere to the surface better, while preventing stains from bleeding through the paint.

4. Paint the ceiling first

If you’re going to paint the ceiling, do it before painting the walls and trims.  The easiest way to do so is with an extension pole attached to your roller. You can also use a ladder, but do not use a chair, it is not stable enough.

To paint your ceiling, push the roller away from you and create a pattern similar to painting the walls (see below), until the first coat covers the entire ceiling. Let the first coat dry completely before adding your second coat.

5. Paint the walls

The walls are also painted with a roller. Roll in the roller onto the tray, and remove the excess on the tray’s angled platform. Paint a section of the wall at a time. You can use the roller like this:  paint up a single strip from bottom to top, and then make a zigzag pattern going down. For best results, make swift and smooth motions with the roller. Use a wall brush for spaces that the roller cannot reach. Do so with a smooth stripe from top to bottom of the wall.

How do you know when to reload your roller with paint? If the roller no longer sounds wet and squelchy, simply dip it again in your paint tray and you’re good to go. Paint and reload until you have finished your first coat.

Most paints will not look good enough with the first coat, so allow your paint to dry completely before adding a second or even a third coat. By that time, you will have achieved your desired shade.

Seems pretty easy, right? Well, I’d say anyone can paint a room, even beginners with no experience in painting at all!

Pro tip: If you’re going to take a break, make sure to wrap your rollers and brushes in cling wrap or plastic to avoid them getting dry. Replace the lids on the paint buckets and cover the paint tray as well.

6. Paint the trims

First, remove the painter’s tape as carefully as possible to prevent leaving adhesive residue on the trim. Use a trim brush for frames of the doors and windows, and a sash brush for more complicated spaces such as around a light fixture. Just make sure to go slow and steady, but still fast enough to avoid brush marks or paint splatter. If you mess up, don’t worry! For example, if you accidentally paint over a frame or light switch, immediately remove the paint. The imperfections will be less noticeable on the trims and edges. Then, allow the first coat to dry completely and apply a second coat if needed.

Trims can be difficult for inexperienced people with less than steady hands, but do not let mistakes discourage you. Think of it as practice for your next painting job!

7. Clean up

You’re almost done! By this time, congratulate yourself on a job well done. But there’s more to do; and that’s cleaning and replacing all the furniture in the room. Remove the paint apparatus from the room before anything else, and clean your brushes and rollers immediately to store for future use. Remove the drop cloth last. Once the room has completely dried and most of the smell is gone, re-install the fixtures you have removed previously and replace the furniture in the room.

The process of how to paint a room is as simple as that! If you’re a beginner, I suggest watching a few tutorial videos alongside using this article as your reference before you begin. Remember: it’s okay to make mistakes the first time, but make sure you learn from them for the next time.

Emma Clark blogs at The Art of Home Renovations. She is an interior designer with one true passion: home improvement. With her experience and skill, she wants to help you make your home into a revolutionary & magical work of art through easy, inexpensive, and innovative ideas that you can DIY!

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