Before you pick up that paintbrush or roller, do yourself a favor and study up on the types of paint, the materials you’ll need to do a good job and the techniques required to make your painted surfaces look like you hired a pro.
Types of paint. Paint falls into two basic types: water-based and oil-based. Water-based paints include latex and acrylic. They are best used on sheet rock surfaces such as walls and ceilings. They also can be used on any wood surface, but for interior trim, doors and cabinets, oil provides a much better look. Latex and acrylic paints are fast drying and cleanup is easy with soap and water. About 75 percent of paint sold, especially to do-it-yourselfers, is latex.
Oil-based paints, which use petroleum products as the base, are best used on wood surfaces where a fine look is needed, such as doors, baseboards, crown molding and cabinets. Oil-based paint takes longer to dry and leaves a fine, elegant finish. The oil base and longer drying time helps the paint to settle out, meaning that brush marks dissipate. Clean up is more difficult since brushes need to be cleaned with paint thinner or mineral spirits then followed up with soap and water. Never pour leftover oil-based paints or stains down a drain or anywhere that would allow it to seep into the ground or enter the water system. Many cities have hazardous waste disposal programs if you need to get rid of cans of leftover oil paint. Also, oily rags used to clean up should never be left in a pile because they can spontaneously catch fire. Instead, spread them out separately where they can air dry before disposal, or put them in a sealed metal can with water. Primer paint is what is used to first paint a wall that may have been previously painted a dark color or may have needed extensive repairs. The main coat of paint is applied over the primer. The primer paint provides a good, uniform surface to which the main coat can adhere.
Regardless of the type of paint you choose, be sure to work in a well-ventilated space.
Texture and Sheen. The sheen of paint describes what sort of finished look it has. By texture, we mean not how it feels to the touch but how it looks to the eye. Sheen ranges from a flat finish which has no shine, to high gloss which has a highly refined shine. In between those two ends of the spectrum are eggshell, satin and semi-gloss, each one having a slightly brighter sheen than the one before.
Tools. You’ll need good brushes and rollers for painting. There are brushes made for oil-based paints and brushes that can work with either oil- or water-based paints. Some brushes have the bristles cut at an angle that make “cutting in” easier. Cutting in refers to painting around the perimeter of a wall or ceiling or around a door or window frame before painting the main body of the surface. A good brush makes painting easier and the job more professional looking.
Rollers are used to cover large areas quickly, like walls and ceilings or the flat sides of window and door frames. Use a short-napped roller for surfaces with flat or little texture and a longer-napped roller for textured walls where the longer fibers can get the paint into the valleys and dimples of the surface.
You’ll also want to have spackle paste and a putty knife to fill holes and cracks. You’ll need painters tape and masking paper to protect surfaces nearby that you don’t want to paint. You also will need drop cloths to protect the floors, furniture and counters.
Choosing paint. Spend some time deciding on the look you want to achieve. Do you want primary colors or pastels? Do you want strongly contrasting walls from trim? Do you want different colors in different rooms? It’s up to you. Keep an online portfolio of pictures of rooms you admire. Or, if you’re old-fashioned, keep a file of magazine photos. Talk to the paint specialists at your home improvement store.
Next, browse the color charts or cards at your local paint or home improvement store. But never trust the color cards entirely. It is very common for the paint to look a little different once it’s painted on a surface. Purchase a small can and paint a small section of a wall in the room you wish to paint. If there are contrasting lights on the surface, paint several sample swatches in different sections of the room. It’s well worth the extra time and extra small expense.
When you have settled on a color, calculate how much area you need to cover. One gallon of paint will cover about 400 square feet of surface. If you need multiple gallons, before you begin painting, mix them together in a large five-gallon bucket, which will guard against any slight variations in color when the individual gallons were mixed.
Time to paint. If possible, enlist the help of a friend or family member who has experience painting. Also check YouTube for videos on painting techniques, such as how to cut in around windows and doors and how to properly coat a room using rollers.