Interior Painting 101

Bored with the decor of your home? An easy and inexpensive way to spruce up any room is with a fresh coat of paint. Most paint outlets have knowledgeable staff, before purchasing your paint confirm with them that the product is suitable for the task at hand.

The Basics - Types of Paint - Sheen - Applying - Using a Brush - Using a Roller - Touch Ups

The Basics

Before starting to paint the surface of the walls should be clean, wash the walls with TSP, don't worry if there are streaks, the paint will cover them. Use any premixed filler to fill any small holes or cracks. Major damage needs to be properly repaired or patched with dry wall joint compound and tape.

You can get by with a brush about 3" wide and a roller and tray to paint most rooms, these, with advice, will be available where you purchase your paint. You will need something to protect the floor and any furniture in the room, there are now inexpensive poly sheets available just for this.

You will also need a roll of painters tape to mask of areas that you don't want to get paint on such as trim, door handles and hinges, etc.

Remove any switch and outlet covers before you start, drop the light fixtures down if possible, otherwise cover them with masking tape.

Wear old clothes and shoes that won't matter if you get paint on them. Have a damp rag or paper towel handy to wipe up any spills or drips as they happen.

Types of Paint

You will see three terms used to describle paint, "latex", "oil" and "alkyd".

Latex paints are water based, durable and lower in ordor than oil based paint. They can be cleaned up with soap and water so have become a very popular choice for interior decorating.

Oil paints are a bit more durable so have good resistance to scraping and general wear and tear.

Most oil based paints contain alkyd, a soy-based resin which dries harder than latex. Oil based paint must be cleaned up with paint thinner.

What is Sheen?

Sheen is the gloss level of the paint, the higher this gloss level the shinier the paint and the more durable the finish. This paint is very good at hiding minor surface imperfections.

Flat Paints

Flat paints provide a beautiful matte coating, ideal for low traffic areas such as master bedrooms and dining rooms.

Eggshell Paints

Eggshell paints give a smooth finish with a subtle sheen, a bit more glossy than flat. It gives a washable surface suitable for bedrooms, hallways, home offices and family rooms.

Satin Paints

Satin paints are tougher than eggshell, more scrubable with a subtle gloss, suitable for most rooms.

Semi-gloss Paints

This paint offers maximum durability, suitable for playrooms, high moisture areas and trim work.

High-gloss Paint

The finish is highly reflective and very durable, suitable for highlighting details such as decorative molding and trim. Excellent choice for high abuse areas such as cabinets and doors.

Ceiling Paints

Ceiling paints are extra splatter resistant designed specially for painting overhead. Many brands now offer a colored tint in the wet paint that disappears when the paint dries to help in the application of it.

Applying Paint

In home decorating paint may be applied by brush or roller. A brush will mostly be used to "cut" the corners and edges of a wall and to paint the trim, the surface of the wall will be painted with a roller.


Brushes are available in two basic types: natural bristles,and synthetic bristles.

Natural bristle brushes should be used only when applying alkyd or oil-based paints.

Synthetic bristle brushes are used to apply latex paints, and many can also be used with alkyd products.

A quality brush will have split or "flagged" end and is flexible at the tip, which helps produce a finer finish.

The bristles in the center will be slightly longer than those at the edge, which helps lay the paint down smoothly and evenly.

It will be at least half again as long as it is wide, a 2" wide brush should be at least 3" in length.


As with a brush use a synthetic roller for applying latex paint.

On wallboard, smooth plaster, wood, or metal, use a short nap of 1/8" to 1/4"

On light-textured stucco, concrete, or rough wood, use a medium nap of 3/8" to 1/2".

On heavy-textured stucco, concrete block, or brick, use a long nap of 3/4" to 1".

Using a Paint Brush

Trim and sash brushes with pencil handles are grasped much as you would a pencil, with the thumb and the first two fingers of the hand. This technique gives you excellent control for intricate painting.

With larger brushes you'll need a stronger grip because the brushes are wider and heavier. Hold the handle with the entire hand, letting the handle span the width of your palm as you would hold a tennis racket. This technique works best when you're painting large, flat surfaces.

The idea of loading a brush is to get as much paint on the wall as possible without dribbling it all over the floor and yourself in the process.

With the first dip, move the brush around a bit in the paint to open the bristles and let the brush fill completely. With most latex paints, you can simply dip the brush and let the excess drip off for a few seconds before moving the brush to the wall. With thinner coatings, however, you may have to gently tap the brush against the inside of the paint can or lightly drag it across the inside edge of the lip to remove excess paint.

To paint up to a line where two edges or colors meet, called "cutting in," use a trim brush with beveled bristles Paint five or six strokes perpendicular to the edge of the ceiling or the wall, then smooth over these strokes with a single long stroke, painting out from the corner first, then vertically. Where the wall and ceiling come together, use downward strokes on the wall first followed by smooth horizontal strokes.

Using a Paint Roller

Brush paint along the ceiling, inside corners and moldings before rolling the rest of the wall or ceiling.

Use an extension handle, this will allow you to roll long strokes the entire length of the wall.

Using a disposable liner in the roller tray makes cleanup much easier.

Start about a foot from the bottom and 6 inchs from the corner and roll upward at a slight angle using light pressure. Stop a few inches from the ceiling. Now roll up and down back toward the corner to quickly spread the paint. You can leave paint buildup and roller marks at this step.

Reload the roller and repeat the process in the adjacent space, working back toward the painted area keeping a wet edge. Keeping a wet edge is crucial to all top-quality paint jobs. The idea is to plan the sequence of work and work fast enough so that you’re always lapping newly applied paint onto paint that’s still wet.

Roll back over the entire area you’ve covered to smooth and blend the paint. Don’t reload the roller with paint for this step and use very light pressure. Roll up and down, from floor to ceiling, moving over about three-quarters of a roller width each time so you’re always slightly overlapping the previous stroke. When you reach the corner, roll as close as you can to the adjacent wall without touching it.

Smooth the paint along the ceiling using a long horizontal stroke without reloading the roller with paint. The “cutting in” process left brush marks that won’t match the roller texture on the rest of the wall. For the best-looking job, you’ll want to cover as many brush marks as possible with the roller.

Touch Ups

Mark which room the paint was used for on any left over cans of paint so any damaged areas can be touched up later. Both brushes and small rollers made of foam are available and are very handy for touching up small areas.

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