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What's the Best Way to Paint a Room?: Pro Painter Tips

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Matt is a professional painter who owns and operates his own painting business, specializing in interior and exterior house painting.

Prepping and painting a kitchen.

Prepping and painting a kitchen.

The Easiest Way to Paint a Room: Tips From a Painter

Painting a room, even a small bathroom, will end up taking longer than it should if you don't have a good plan from the start. Do you paint the walls first, or the ceiling? The sequencing for painting interior rooms is important, as well as the house painting tools used for preparation.

In this article, I'll show you how to paint a room faster and with professional results.

Step-by-Step Process for Painting a Room

  1. Get the Right Painting Supplies
  2. Cover Everything Not Being Painted
  3. Patch and Repair Drywall
  4. Paint the Ceiling Before the Walls
  5. Prep and Paint the Trim
  6. Paint the Walls Last

1. Get the Right Painting Supplies

Make a list of painting tools and buy all of them before you start so you don't have to make a trip to the store in the middle of your project. Most painting supplies are inexpensive, but there are quite a few.

Must-have painting tools include a high-quality paint brush (Corona, Purdy, Wooster) and an extendable painting pole for rolling the paint. If you're painting a ceiling, especially a high ceiling, I highly recommend using the extendable paint brush I talk about further into this article.

All of the house painting tools and supplies in this article are what I use for my painting projects.

Must-Have Painting Supplies

A hallway I prepped and painted.

A hallway I prepped and painted.

2. Cover Everything Not Being Painted

First remove furniture from the room and cover the floors with canvas drop cloths. For drop cloths, I recommend using heavyweight canvas (10 to 12 ounces) instead of lightweight canvas. Paint will seep through drop cloths that are too thin.

If you want optimal protection for your hardwood floors, use a heavy duty floor protector like Trimaco's X-board. I use X-board on wood floors when I spray paint trim and cabinets. The material is thick and protects flooring better from paint spills and scuffs from step ladders.

Cover Furniture and Windows

Cover window sills with masking paper and the windows with plastic. If furniture can't be moved out of the room, move everything into the middle and throw a sheet of painter's plastic over the top. Tape off baseboard trim with painter's tape.

Don't forget to remove:

  • Outlet covers
  • Switch plates
  • Air vents

Use a Hand Masker

If I could pick a favorite tool for paint prep, the hand masker is it. The 3M hand masker is a must-own painting tool for masking windows, lights and walls. Check out my full review on the 3M hand masker. This masking tool holds one roll each of plastic film and painter's tape and dispenses both of them at the same time for easier masking.

I use 3M hand masker for spray painting prep and covering floors when I paint baseboard trim. The rolls of 3M plastic and paper for this masker are sold at most home improvement stores, or you can buy them on Amazon. This is a fantastic tool I highly recommend if you're doing a lot of painting.

The white marks in the "before" photo are spots where I patched the drywall.

The white marks in the "before" photo are spots where I patched the drywall.

3. Patch and Repair Drywall

Repair drywall damage on walls and ceilings before painting. Patch small nail holes with a putty knife and spackle, or use drywall joint compound. My favorite spackle is Crawford's in the green can. For shallow nail holes and minor drywall damage, Crawford's is all you need. The spackle dries fast and blends in nicely with paint without flashing.

Tip: Inspect the drywall for water damage stains and prime them. Sometimes water stains are hard to see without looking closely, but they show up through paint without priming first. The best primer for drywall stains is oil-based primer or white shellac primer (BIN primer).

The order in which you paint the various surfaces matters. Start with the ceiling!

The order in which you paint the various surfaces matters. Start with the ceiling!

4. Paint the Ceiling Before the Walls

Sequencing your painting project will have a big impact on the amount of time it takes to finish. When painting a whole room, always paint the ceiling before the walls, not after. If you paint the ceiling after the walls, the walls have to be covered with plastic to protect them from paint drips.

Tip: The fastest way to paint a ceiling is to use an extendable paint brush attached to a pole to cut-in the corners first and an 18-inch paint roller to roll it out. The longer roller length cuts rolling time in half. The extendable brush I use is the Goose Neck extendable paint brush. What makes this brush unique is the brush handle itself is bendable and threaded, so it screws onto any extension pole. This brush is truly awesome for painting high walls and ceilings over stairs, or in a foyer. It is a huge time saver not having to climb up and down a ladder.

Choose Ceiling Paint Wisely

Use paint with good coverage to minimize the number of coats needed. Unless you're painting a bathroom ceiling, I recommend using flat paint instead of a glossy finish. Flat paint does a better job at hiding drywall seams and imperfections.

Not all flat paints are truly flat. My favorite true flat paint for painting ceilings is Sherwin Williams CHB, which is actually a wall paint, but it works great on ceilings too. The paint is inexpensive and covers really well in one to two coats. In the past, I have also used Sherwin Williams Eminence and ProMar ceiling paint with good results, but Eminence can be difficult to find in stock.

Always protect the floor when you paint the trim.

Always protect the floor when you paint the trim.

5. Prep and Paint the Trim

After painting the ceiling, prep and paint the trim before painting the walls. Once the trim is painted and dry, you can tape it off and begin working on the walls. Crawford's spackle, or painter's putty, are both great for patching nail holes in trim. Fill the holes with a putty knife.

Use paintable white caulk to fill cracks in the trim. Make sure the caulk is totally dry before painting otherwise the caulk will crack. Cut-in the trim with an angled paint brush that is 2 to 2 1/2 inches wide.

When painting quarter round trim, protect the floor below with painter's tape and masking paper, using the 3M hand masker I recommended earlier. Use green Frog tape instead of blue painter's tape when painting a room. The tape does a better job at preventing paint from leaking underneath so you have sharper paint lines.

Use Quality Trim Enamel

Don't use cheap low quality paint for your trim and walls. For painting trim, I really like acrylic alkyd enamel, but even straight acrylic trim enamel works great. I've used Pro Classic acrylic enamel on trim and doors for many years. The enamel levels nice and dries in a couple hours. Acrylic alkyd enamel (hybrid) dries a little harder than straight acrylic. A good example is Emerald urethane enamel or Pro Industrial water-based alkyd urethane enamel. Both are great options for trim and doors.

Save the walls for last when you're painting.

Save the walls for last when you're painting.

6. Paint the Walls Last

When painting a whole room, paint the walls after the ceiling and trim. Like the ceiling, use an 18-inch paint roller to roll the walls faster. Choose a lint-free roller with 3/4-inch nap. The thicker 3/4-inch nap holds more paint for better coverage. You won't have to dip the roller as many times.

Tape off the baseboard and the edges of door and window frames before rolling the walls. Spread drop cloths over the floor and cut-in the wall paint around the trim and corners. My article How to Paint Edges of Walls without Tape provides helpful tips for getting sharper paint lines when cutting-in.

  • Tape off the baseboard
  • Cut-in the walls two coats
  • Roll the walls two coats

Tip: Always use a painting extension pole when rolling walls and ceilings. Using only the paint roller itself to paint a whole room is really hard and time consuming. An extension pole that extends to a maximum of six to eight feet is perfect for walls eight feet in height. A longer extension pole is needed for painting high walls and ceilings.

Roll Walls the Right Way

Never start rolling your paint in the middle of a wall. The best way to paint walls in a room is to roll them in one direction back to where you started. When rolling, it's important to lay the paint on evenly at a steady pace while keeping a wet edge. Latex wall paint dries quickly and rolling too slowly leaves roller marks in the paint. Roll two coats of paint to enhance the color and sheen of the finish.

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.

© 2021 Matt G.