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Tips for Painting New Drywall Like a Pro

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Matt is a professional painter and freelance writer, sharing his knowledge, house-painting tips, and product reviews.

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Can You Paint Right Over New Drywall?

Painting new drywall should only be done after the walls have been primed first with the appropriate primer sealer. Never paint directly over new walls. Without primer, paint doesn't absorb evenly into the chalky surface of drywall mud. The taped seams and corners will show through the paint, even after several coats. You will end up using more paint too because bare walls are very spongy and porous.

When you prime the walls, using the right primer, paint absorbs into the surface evenly without visible drywall seams in the finish. The coverage is so much better too with less paint consumption. It's important to know too that all-in-one paint and primer should not be used as a substitute for drywall primer. The two are not the same.

Clean the Drywall Before Painting

Bare drywall is very chalky and usually covered with dust from joint compound. Removing the dust before priming is important. If you prime over the dust, you'll end up with rough spots instead of a nice smooth finish.

Drywall sanding dust is messy and toxic for your lungs. I highly recommend wearing a good painting respirator when cleaning the dust. A dust mask would work too, but a respirator with cartridges and filters protects your lungs more, and you can use a respirator for painting projects too.

Removing Dust

A broom can be used to remove dust, but that produces airborne dust. Use the brush extension on a shop vacuum to remove dust from the drywall. The remaining dust can be removed from the walls with a slightly damp rag. Do not wipe down bare drywall with a dripping wet rag. Excessive water can damage the drywall patching and joint tape underneath.

Unless the floor's already covered, or will be installed after the painting is done, floor protection is important because drywall sanding dust is a huge mess on wood flooring when dust particles settle in between the floor boards. Vacuum dust from in between floor boards first before mopping the floor. Water will solidify the dust and make it hard to remove from crevices.

Painting over freshly primed walls.

Painting over freshly primed walls.

Use the Right Drywall Primer

Priming your new drywall before you paint is critical, but don't use general latex primer. The best primer to use is one that's formulated for bare drywall. Roll on one coat of a PVA primer sealer to seal the surface of the wall to help the paint dry in a uniform finish. Primer also enhances the paint color and gloss.

The PVA primer I always use for new walls is called Drywall Primer from Sherwin Williams. This stuff rolls on easy and dries in a smooth finish. It hides the drywall seams really well and seals the surface to maximize the finish and color of your paint. You can also use this type of primer on walls that were already painted, but not originally primed. Make sure you've already removed the dust from the walls before you prime.

The Best Roller for Painting New Drywall

Roller nap thickness is important for coverage and the finish quality. Using a roller that's too thick leaves "ropes" and heavy stippling texture on the walls. On new and unpainted walls, use the right roller nap from the beginning for a professional finish.

  • 9-inch roller length
  • 1/2-inch roller nap
  • Lint-free roller

Use a 9-inch roller with 1/2-inch nap, or 3/8-inch. I personally use 1/2-inch roller nap on new walls and ceilings. The 1/2-inch nap lays on a lighter coat with tighter stippling texture than a roller with a thicker nap.

The best paint roller is one that's lint-free. I'm big fan of both the Purdy White Dove roller and the Contractor Series Soft Woven rollers from Sherwin Williams. The Soft Woven rollers are basically the same as the White Dove, but less expensive. Both rollers are lint-free and work great for primer and paint on drywall.

Rolling the Perfect Finish

Roll the primer onto your walls from one side to the other, rolling from top to bottom. Never start in the middle of the wall, or roll without an extension pole. If you're painting the ceiling too, I highly recommend using the Goose Neck extendable paint brush to paint the corners. This brush makes painting a lot faster and a lot easier. The neck of the brush is bendable. I use it all the time for painting stairways.

Apply one coat of PVA primer and two coats of paint. I like Sherwin Williams paint. Their Duration Home interior paint is great, as well as Super Paint.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Matt G.