How to paint a room


Know Your Project

Level of difficulty: easy

Time required: 1½ days, depending on room size

Cost: as little as $100*

*Prices may vary based on type, brand, and quantity.


1. Prep the room. Move furniture from the room. Turn off the circuit breaker for the room, remove outlet covers, and cover outlets with tape. Place canvas drop cloths on the floor—they’re less slippery than plastic.

2. Clean the walls. Use a damp sponge and a mild dishwashing soap to wash the walls and remove any dust, dirt, or grease spots. Rinse with clean water and let dry thoroughly.

3. Tape any edges. Use painter’s tape to protect trim or other edges. Go slowly and press the edges firmly to thoroughly seal the tape—this will reduce the need for touch-ups. Use a putty knife to press tape gently into corners.

4. Apply primer first. Primer seals the wall and creates an even base for paint. (You can save time on this step by choosing a paint-primer combination.)

5. Mix it. If you’ll be using multiple gallons of the same color, mix all of them together in a bucket to avoid slight variations in color with the final product.

6. Work from the top down. If you’re painting the ceiling, do it first. Then paint the walls, top to bottom, one wall at a time. Finally, finish the trim.

7. Use a brush for small areas. Use an angled brush to paint around the trim and in the corners of walls where your roller can’t reach. Careful not to apply too much paint on the brush. Hold the brush like a pencil, and brush with even, smooth strokes, feathering out the edges to prevent runs.

8. Use a roller. Dampen the roller with a wet rag first to help paint stick. Dip slightly into the paint and run along the roller grid or pan a few times to spread paint out. Roll slowly to avoid splatters.

9. Paint a W. Start near the corner of a wall and roll on a 3-by-3-foot W pattern, then fill it in without lifting the roller. Continue in sections like this until you’re finished. 

10. Paint the trim. When the walls are dry, tape where the trim meets the wall. Then paint the moldings and the door and window frames with an angled sash brush. Remove painter’s tape when the paint is dry to the touch, or according to package instructions, so paint doesn’t pull up with the tape.

Oops! Some paint peeled off with the tape.
You can fix this! Wait for paint to dry completely, sand the area lightly with a sanding block, and wipe off the dust. Then grab your angled sash brush and prime and repaint the spot, covering slightly outside the area and feathering to blend.

Safety first: Follow the product manufacturer's health and safety instructions including the use of personal protection equipment such as gloves, safety glasses and respiratory protection.

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