Painting perfection

CorrespondentNovember 22, 2012 

  • More tips • Use light plastic drop cloths sparingly. They’re fine for covering furniture, but floors are better covered with fabric cloths or old sheets. Plastic is slippery and paint dries slowly on it. You’re more likely to track paint out of your work area. If you use plastic on the floor, cover it with cloth. • Remove lint before using a roller. Wash in water, or press with the sticky side of painting tape. • A wide drywall knife makes a fine straight edge and will improve your drywall patches.
  • More information Special touch For a special touch, experiment with chalkboard, white board or magnetic paint. In a child’s room, for instance, paint the back of the door or the lower third of one wall with chalkboard paint. Kids can draw and erase. Or in the kitchen, create a family message center by applying white-board paint to the back of a cabinet door. Read instructions carefully and – especially important – be sure to mix thoroughly.

Don’t be scared of color or, as the designers say, color averse. Remember: It’s only paint. You can always use builder beige over that Passion Plum. (What were you thinking?)

Most paint companies offer online tools that let you experiment with colors and combinations in digital room settings. You can even try them out on a photo of your own room. And don’t ignore those color pamphlets at your paint store. Experts have pulled together colors that work well together or create popular looks.

At the paint store, compare color chips in natural light – not under fluorescents.

Buy inexpensive sample-sized cans of paint – they’re a lot cheaper than making a mistake. Apply sample colors to cardboard, and check color boards in different spots in the room at different times of day. Shifting light changes colors, and nearby surfaces like hardwood floors can have a huge impact.


Homeowners overwhelmingly use latex, or water-based paint, for interiors. Note: Not all latex is 100 percent acrylic, which experts (including the Paint Quality Institute) say is best.

Paint stores are terrific places to get your questions answered. If you think you’re going to run out of paint on a Sunday afternoon, though, buy a brand that will be available then.

Most important: Don’t buy cheap paint. Buy at least the middle quality or better.

For a designer look, use satin or eggshell on most interior walls. Flat works well on ceilings, because it hides imperfections. Use semigloss on woodwork.

White woodwork? Ask the paint pro which white will cover best. Many are formulated to accept tints to create other colors. That affects how well they cover.

Don’t try to hide stains with latex paint. Use a stain-blocking primer such as Bin or Kilz. Match the primer to the stain. For how-to, visit or For stains on popcorn ceilings, try an aerosol designed for the purpose such as Upshot, from Kilz.

If you’ve chosen a bold accent color – a deep blue or vivid red, for instance – it’s a good idea to prime all the walls first. Ask your paint pro to tint a primer.

Afraid you might miss a spot on a ceiling? Try one of the paints that go on pink and dries white. (Yes, they really do change color.) Glidden makes a popular one.


Never buy cheap brushes. For latex paint, choose one with bristles of a nylon and polyester blend.

You can’t do a smooth job, maintaining a wet edge, unless your brush holds enough paint. A 3-inch brush is good for interior woodwork and trimming out walls before rolling. A smaller brush will slow you down, making brush marks more visible.

When choosing a roller cover to paint walls, match the length of the nap to the texture of the surface to be painted: Longer nap for rough surfaces, shorter for smooth surfaces. Good all-around roller covers for home painting are 9 inches long with nap of 3/8 or 1/2 inch. The roller handle should be threaded to accept an extension pole.

Clean brushes properly. When the wash water you squeeze out runs clear, wash one more time. Use a wire brush to remove paint from the ferule, or metal band on the brush, and smooth the bristles as you clean. Brush from the ferule toward the brush tip.

Working brush conditioner into the wet bristles after cleaning will prolong brush life. Or rub in some hair conditioner.To store: Wrap brushes in newspaper or the original sleeve to keep bristles straight. Always lie them flat.

Wash latex paint from roller covers with water. Then, with the cover on a frame, and the frame on an extension pole, hold cover under a strong stream of water from the hose. The water pressure will spin the roller, for additional cleaning and fluffing the nap. Make sure the cover is thoroughly clean, especially the ends. Any debris would be a problem the next time you paint.


When choosing a caulk, select one that’s paintable. The siliconized acrylics are suitable for interiors and are easy to use.

Caulk at least 24 hours before you plan to paint, so the caulk will have time to shrink as it cures. Smooth with a finger. Two swipes are plenty – the third swipe will just make a mess.

Some fast-drying spackling and drywall patch can be hard to sand. It’s often a tradeoff. If you’re patching the day before painting – and you should – plain drywall compound, or mud, is user-friendly.

For sanding drywall, pros use a special drywall sanding screen on a pad. Sandpaper is fine for small patches like nail holes. A grit of 150 is good all around.

You don’t have to rip wall anchors and mollies out of the wall. Tap them slightly below the surface with a hammer, then cover with drywall compound. Sand, prime and paint.

Don’t just drive in popped drywall nails and paint over them. Pull them. Then, near the same spot, drive in a drywall screw with your electric drill. Sink the screw head slightly below the surface of the drywall, then patch, prime and paint.


Paint surfaces in this order – and if you’re an old hand, this might sound curious: ceiling, crown molding if you have it, windows and doors, walls, baseboards. Years ago, painters did the woodwork last because they used oil-based enamels that dried slowly. But latex enamels dry fast enough to allow you to change the order, making the job much easier.

Lap the door and window trim paint slightly onto the wall, an eighth of an inch or so. After it dries, trim the wall paint carefully to the edge of the woodwork.

Remember, you can paint a cleaner, neater line by pulling the brush toward you than by pushing it.

Trim out a wall with your brush, then roll that wall. To avoid lap marks, never trim out the whole room and then go back and roll.

If you work in this order, you shouldn’t need tape – which can be more trouble than it’s worth. You’ll have to trim the top of the baseboard to the wall, but that’s the easiest molding edge to paint.

If you’re going to use tape for stripes or other decorative elements, choose the proper type. Some is labeled “delicate” and works well on wallpaper and other vulnerable surfaces. Press it tightly, especially the edge. Use a plastic putty knife for this purpose, to avoid marking the wall or trim. Then remove the tape as soon as the paint dries. Leave it on too long and you risk damaging the paint edge when you remove it.

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