How to Paint a Room: 10 Steps to Painting Walls Like a DIY Pro

Beginning DIYers, new homeowners, and seasoned home renovation gurus all need to know how to paint a space effectively. After all, it’s generally painless, affordable, and simple to remedy if something goes badly wrong. But before you grab your roller and start rolling on your first coat, make sure you have a strategy in place. To help you started, we contacted a few experts for their finest painting techniques and methods. Continue reading to learn how to paint a room and see what you’ll need to do each step of the way to ensure your project is a success.

1. Make a strategy

Begin by imagining how you want the end project to look, and keep in mind that you aren’t confined to four walls or a whole room in one hue. Consider painting an accent wall in a bright color or using a contrasting shade or finish to showcase moldings. Don’t forget to take a look up to see whether the ceiling may need some TLC as well.

2. Decide on a color

It’s easy to become overwhelmed while looking at fan decks and paint chips. Begin by identifying the basic color characteristics: Do you like a warm or cold color? Is it better to be neutral or saturated? If you have any existing furniture or artwork, think about how the hue will look with it. Choose a few hues and request samples—many direct-to-consumer brands, such as Backdrop and Clare, will send you sticky swatches you can slap on the wall to get a better idea of shade (and it will save you a trip to the store). Examine the colors to see how they seem in the room at various times of the day.

Many paint firms’ Alex Trend Paintersalso feature facilities that allow you to upload a photo of your room and see how different colors would look on the walls. However, because colors might seem differently in different lighting, you’ll need to test it out in the room.

3. Choose your supplies and tools

Every project is different, and depending on the paint you choose and the condition of your walls, you may require various tools, but there are a few must-haves:

  • Paint
  • Roller for paint
  • Extension pole for a paint roller
  • tarpaulins
  • Paintbrushes
  • Tray for painting
  • Sandpaper
  • Tape for painting
  • Rags
  • Knife for applying putty

4. Calculate how much paint you’ll require

According to Carl Minchew, vice president of color innovation and design at Benjamin Moore, the usual rule of thumb for painting a powder room or the exterior of your home is one gallon per 400 square feet. However, this is only a general guideline: Use a paint calculator like the ones provided by Benjamin Moore or Pratt & Lambert to get a more precise number, which you’ll need for large jobs. They take into consideration window and door specifications. (And both projects are based on two coats of paint.)

Do you want to whitewash a charcoal gray wall? When transitioning from dark to light, you’ll probably need more paint. A rich color base, on the other hand, requires more coats of paint than a lighter hue, according to Carolyn Noble, color marketing and design manager at Pratt & Lambert. To help limit the amount of applications, she suggests adding a gray-tinted primer to the surface before painting your walls a vivid hue. You may have heard that the glossier the finish, the higher the coverage rate, but Minchew says there isn’t enough of a difference to impact the amount of gallons you need to buy.

Buy a little extra if you’re painting a highly textured surface rather than a smooth one, suggests Julianne Simcox, associate brand manager at Pratt & Lambert. Cabinets with intricate millwork will also require more paint; Minchew recommends buying around 10% more than estimated.

5. Prepare the room and the walls

If you don’t want to ruin your favorite sofa or the heirloom Grandma gave you, remove all of the furniture from the room. Push everything to the center of the room if you don’t have enough space to shift anything. Cover the pieces with a drop cloth or lightweight plastic sheeting, as well as the floor and any cupboards or worktops that may be vulnerable to splatter. John Colaneri and Anthony Carrino, stars of the HGTV shows Cousins Undercover and Kitchen Cousins, as well as The Build Up and Grand Design on Ellen DeGeneres’ Ellentube, add, “Don’t miss the drop cloth—paint will splatter, we swear.”

Take a roll of painter’s tape—the cousins prefer FrogTape—and apply it firmly to the room’s corners, base and crown moldings, and door and window casings, sealing any gaps with a putty knife if necessary. “Getting a strong seal so paint doesn’t go beneath the tape is crucial,” Colaneri and Carrino explain. “Plus, it will pull away clean after everything is dry.” You can completely avoid tape if you dare (or have an artist’s steady hand). To protect outlets and switches from paint drips, remove light switch and outlet covers and cover them with painter’s tape.

6. Prepare your paint

Stir the paint with a wooden paint stick and re-stir as needed during the project. If you don’t stir your paint constantly, the ingredients will separate, and you’ll risk losing the true color you want. If you’re using more than one gallon of paint, mix the cans together in a big bucket in case there’s a color difference.

7. Select your painting methods

Your paint is mixed and your roller is ready, but before you begin, make sure you have a strategy in mind. Begin at the top of the room and work your way down, beginning with the ceilings. Do you want to make a statement with a large focal wall? First, paint the adjacent light-colored walls. “Don’t worry if you spill paint on the wall that will be your accent wall; the dark paint will cover up any lighter paint. Tape off that edge when the lighter wall dries so the dark color doesn’t leak over your new paint,” Colaneri and Carrino suggest. Plan on three coats if you’re covering dark walls with a brighter color: your primer, plus two coats of the new color to make sure nothing shows through.

One wall at a time should be tackled. Paint along the molding and corners from top to bottom using a brush, while your painting partner covers the broad expanse of the wall with a roller, avoiding the more exact locations. Use long strokes in a W pattern while applying paint with the roller for maximum coverage (and to avoid those pesky roller marks). The wall is ready for a second coat once it is dry to the touch.

Remove the painter’s tape and wait for the walls to dry before putting tape to the walls if you’re painting the trim. Begin with the ceiling trim, then move on to the door and window frames, and finally the baseboards.

8. Don’t forget about the ventilation

It’s not fun to watch paint dry. Open windows and use fans to keep your place adequately aired throughout the project. The cousins believe that keeping the room warm and having a fan blowing helps speed up the drying process. “If it’s a wet day, the paint will take significantly longer to dry.”

9. Take care of the mess

You’ve applied many layers, but it’s not quite time to unwind. Remove all of the painter’s tape and gather drop cloths, ensuring that any spills or splatters are completely dry before moving them. Clean brushes with soapy water for latex and water-based paints, but mineral spirits for oil-based paints. Cleaning and reshaping bristles can be done with a painter’s brush. Use the curved edge of a 5-in-1 tool to remove extra paint off roller covers under running water if you wish to reuse them (they’re also useful for opening paint cans, removing nails, and scraping).

10. Allow adequate time for yourself

The length of time it takes to complete your job is determined on the size of the room, the method you use to paint, and your skill level. Using a dark color on the walls and painting the ceiling and trim, for example, will take longer than simply painting the walls a neutral hue. Some places can be completed in a matter of hours, while others may take many days. Make sure you budget for more time than you think the project will take, and don’t forget to account for prep and cleanup.