These directions summarize some supplies and steps we have found helpful when painting. This information is offered for use at your own discretion, and it may or may not be applicable to your specific project. Please consult a professional for more detailed advice regarding your project.


  • 2 ½ – 3” oval or square paint brush
    • Optimal size for cutting in
    • The better the spring of the bristles, the better the brush
    • A good brush can cost about $40 but can also last 15 years
  • 5-in-1 painter’s knife
    • Can be used to apply spackle, clean rollers, open paint cans, hammer (if it has a brass end) scrape and cut
  • Putty Knife
    • Flexible, metal blade ideal
    • Will rust if not dried properly
    • If it rusts, clean with steel wool
  • Roller frame
    • Also get a roller frame extension pole for standard wall and ceiling painting
    • An extension pole can be purchased for extra tall walls and ceilings
  • Roller
    • The lower the nap, the tighter the stipple of finish
    • If the wall is highly textured, consider using a roller with more nap
  • Paint tray
    • If you wash it, you don’t need the liner
    • A reusable metal tray will last for life
  • Step Ladder
    • Usually a 4-6 footer is all that is necessary for interiors
  • Masking tape
    • Generally the blue type
    • Some tapes are marketed as being more resistant to bleeding
  • Masking paper
    • For use in a masking tool, get both at a professional paint supplier
  • Stir sticks
  • Drop cloth
    • Make sure it’s a material that will absorb paint
  • Damp rag
    • Should be carried with you throughout the job and used to wipe up drips and clean up little accidents
  • Spackle
    • “1-time,” lightweight spackle is the best
  • Caulking gun
    • Get a dripless gun.
  • Sandpaper
    • 120-grit good for roughing up a surface
    • 220- grit good for finishing touches

Calculate the amount of paint you will need for the project

  1. Multiply the length x height of your room, in feet, to get the square footage
  2. Subtract the surface areas of doors and windows with the same formula
    1. A general rule is to subtract 20 square feet for doors and 15 square feet for windows
    2. When in doubt subtract less than you think you need to subtract
  3. Divide the surface area by the coverage per gallon. Roughly speaking, one gallon of paint will cover 250-350 square feet of wall
    1. This number varies, depending on a number of factors—application methods, the height of texture on the wall, etc.
  4. Account for paint needed for additional coats

Prepare the surface you would like to paint

  • If necessary, scrape and/or sand the wall
    • Scraping and/or sanding may be necessary if the paint is flaking or the surface is too slick to bind to new paint
    • Always sand the surface prior to painting, even if you’re only planning to touch up a small spot
    • Avoid sanding a wall that has been painted with lead-based paint. It’s an easy way to ingest something that is very dangerous
    • If using water-based paint, avoid steel wool when sanding. It can leave behind remnants that will provide a poor finish to the paint
  • Assess whether you need to prime the wall
    • If the paint you’ve chosen has good hiding qualities, you may not need to prime the wall
    • If there are stains or pen marks on the wall, you may need to, at minimum, spot prime
    • Priming can also be necessary on spackle spots

Spackle any holes in the surface of the wall

  1. Put a healthy amount of spackle on the putty knife
  2. Going in one direction, smear the spackle over the hole. This will likely fill the hole partially.
  3. Moving in the opposite direction, repeat the motion
  4. Continue until the hole is completely full
  5. Put enough spackle in the hole so that it’s bulging slightly—for example, 1 mm above the surface. The spackle will shrink slightly as it dries
  6. Before you move on to spackle the next hole scrape off the excess spackle around the hole with your putty knife
  7. Allow for the spackle to dry. The time will vary depending on the kind of spackle and the size of the hole. The container should give drying directions
  8. When the spackle is dry, sand down the bulge to an even level. Don’t apply too much pressure, or you’ll create another divot
  • A preferred kind of spackle has polyvinyl acetates (PVA) glue with round glass microspheres. It works well with modern paints
    • Other kinds of spackle are more plaster-like. They are water based and take longer to dry, shrink more when drying, and don’t work quite as well with modern paints

Mask the areas around the wall that you want to keep clear of paint (finishes, millwork, carpet, etc.)

  • Choose tape that comes off the roll easily and doesn’t tear the finish it’s intended to protect
  • Try to use long pieces of tape, tearing it as infrequently as possible
  • To prevent bleeding through the tape, use fingers, putty knife or credit card to push the tape into its spot firmly
  • For a large job, consider buying a paper masker

Prepare for painting

  • Stage your tools and supplies in a part of the room that is low traffic and easily accessible
    • Don’t put your materials in a place that will be right under your feet while you paint
  • Put a drop-cloth in the areas you will be painting
  • Plan to first paint the rooms that you use the most
  • In each room, plan to work from the top down—ceilings, walls, millwork


  1. If the roller is dirty, dusty or shedding, wrap masking tape all the way around it and remove it, to pull off excess clumps and dust
  2. Wet the roller and shake it dry
    1. This will help prevent paint from sticking to it once it’s cleaned and will preserve the roller for reuse
  3. Put the roller on the frame and add an extension if necessary
  4. Load the roller by rolling it into paint tray as evenly as possible
  5. Choose one direction- either up or down- and “unload” the paint on the wall in one careful, even motion. You should unload in this direction throughout the rest of the room
    1. This first stroke is only meant to unload the roller in your chosen location and give you paint on the wall, which can now be rolled again for a proper finish
    2. Some suggest making xs or ys on the wall. Moving up and down in careful vertical strips will provide a better texture and more professional, even look
  6. Go back over your unload pass as evenly as possible, always keeping even pressure on each end of the roller cylinder to avoid creating “fat edges.”
  7. Do a final “finishing stroke” in the same direction as your unload stroke. You should do the finish stroke in the same direction throughout the room, meaning either down or up.
    1. Try not to do your finishing stroke too many times, or you will actually begin to remove the paint from the surface
  8. Choose which direction you’d like to move across the wall—left or right.
    1. It’s often easiest to move from left to right, in order to prevent the roller’s extension from coming unscrewed
  9. Overlapping the initial strip by about ¼ of the length of the roller, create the next strip in your chosen direction, keeping the pressure of your roller in that direction
    1. Too much pressure will push excess paint to the side in what’s called a “fat edge.” Adjust the pressure of your roller to avoid that
    2. Try to keep the strips of paint even and straight
  1. Continue the process to cover as much of the room as possible.


  1. Wet the paint brush, completely submerging all the bristles in water
  2. Shake off the excess water, then whip the brush downward in the air, to get rid of the rest of the water
  3. Dip the brush into the stirred paint such that the paint goes about 1/3 of the way up the bristles
    1. To avoid dripping, unload a little paint with a tap on a surface, such as the inside of a paint can.
  4. Follow the same principle as rolling, using the first stroke to unload the paint

Cutting in

  1. Make one slow, deliberate stroke to unload the paint about an inch parallel to the trim
    1. Keep in mind, cutting in is not meant to be done in one shot. It takes a couple stages for the right result
  2. Place the bristles of the paint brush parallel to the edge of the trim and heavily distress the bristles
  3. Then, slowly bend the bristles toward the trim and move the brush alongside it
    1. You’re creating the effect of a squeegee, where you push the paint to the edge of the trim, rather than actually painting right next to the trim
  4. Return the paint brush to its normal position and do a finishing stroke