Interior House Painting Tips for The Perfect Paint Job

Interior House Painting Tips

Here are some tips to make your home painting projects go smoother and faster while giving you a professional-looking finish that your friends and family will be astounded with. We'll also teach you how to cut your cleanup time in half and extend the life of your paint brushes.

Tip: Mix several cans of paint into a bucket for consistent color

Paint color always varies slightly from one can to the next - after all, its mixed by a human or a machine that works within constraints. If you have to open a new can in the middle of a wall, the difference may or may not be noticeable. You can eliminate this problem by doing something called "Boxing" in the paint world.  Mixing your paints together eliminates the potential for variation, so you'll want to estimate the amount of paint you'll need before starting your project. 

If its difficult to estimate the coverage you'll need, then you probably know what rule to apply... more is better than less. For large jobs, use the bucket and a roller screen rather than a roller tray. It’s much faster to load your roller with the screen than to use a roller pan.

"Boxing" your paint into a 5 gallon bucket to mix for consistency.

"Boxing" your paint into a 5 gallon bucket to mix for consistency.

Tip: Clean dirty surfaces to make a strong bond

This one is easy but often overlooked by laziness or the thought that you may save time, but if you paint over dirty surfaces you'll find hard work being rewarded with chipping and peeling. So before painting, clean grimy area with a heavy-duty cleaner intended for pre-paint cleaning. They’re ideal for cleaning greasy or oily areas like kitchen and bathroom walls and removing hand marks around light switches, doorknobs and other high traffic areas.

Wipe on the cleaner in a circular motion using some sort of lint-free cloth so that you don't leave fibers in your paint job. After the surface is clean, fill in any nicks, holes and cracks, then sand them smooth before painting the surface. These cleaners are widely available at paint stores and home centers like a Home Depot or Lowes. We can't stress enough to be sure to wear rubber gloves and eye protection in any of these home projects that involve chemicals and residue. 

Tip: Avoiding "lap" marks

Lap marks are the stripes caused by uneven layers of paint buildup. You can avoid lap marks by rolling the full height of the wall and keeping a wet edge. So move fast...

Lap marks occur when you roll over paint that’s already partly dry, and latex paints can begin to dry in less than one minute in certain temperatures or clients. The key to avoiding lap marks is to maintain a “wet edge,” so each stroke of your roller overlaps the previous stroke before the paint can begin to dry.

How do I maintain a wet edge? Simple; Start near a corner and run the roller up and down the full height of the wall, moving over slightly with each stroke that you make. You can even out runs or thick spots by moving backward when necessary. Reload the roller often, as letting it dry out can cause inconsistencies to. You can avoid paint ridges by keeping the open side of the roller (where the hanger doesn't connect), facing the area that is already painted. Its just a physics and pressure thing. :-)

Tip: Order - Paint the trim, ceiling, then the walls

Professional painters usually follow a certain order when painting a room because its easier and faster to tape off the trim than it is to tape of the walls. And you certainly don't want to do both; that's wasted time and money. So paint the trim first, then the ceiling, then the walls. 

This helps in your process as well because when painting the trim, you don’t have to be neat about it. Concentrate on getting a nice finish on the wood and if trim paint gets onto the walls, don't worry about it - you’ll cover it later when painting the walls. Once the trim is completely painted and dry (we would recommend waiting at least 24 hours), tape it off with painters tape, then carry on to paint the ceiling, and then the walls.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Tip: For a perfect edge, let the paint dry before removing tape

Once your paint is dry, the typical inclination to grab an end and rip it off the trim. STOP!  Paint forms a film between the wall and the tape. Removing the tape usually tears pieces of dried paint off the wall with it, so before pulling off the tape, cut it loose.

You should really wait until the paint is completely dry. Give it 24 hours. How many times have you gotten antsy and tried to remove tape before completely dry? We've all done it and it leaves you dabbing with a damp towel to remove the splatter. The best method is to wait 24 hours, then use a sharp box cutter or razor to slice through the fine film. Start in a corner or someplace behind a piece of furniture incase your blade isn't sharp enough and causes a tear. Once you're in, just pull the tape up at a 45 degree angle as you tear. Viola!

Photo courtesry of

Photo courtesry of

Tip: Roll paint along the edges

You've probably noticed in your previous painting excursions that corners and edges next to your trim have a notice-ably different texture than the wall when painted with a brush. To ensure the finished texture will be consistent in these areas, brush on the paint as you would have, but then immediately roll it out with your wall roller before the paint dries.

You may want to use a smaller roller, such as a 3 inch roller to fit in this space easier, but you'll want to ensure that the "nap" has the same thickness as your primary roller used on the rest of the wall. Otherwise, you guessed it, inconsistency prevails. 

An Example of Painting Roller Naps. Image courtesy of

An Example of Painting Roller Naps. Image courtesy of

Tip: Feather out paint on ceilings

Our third tip address lap marks. However, you can’t cover large areas like ceilings, extra-tall walls or stairwells in single, continuous strokes unless you're elastic man. The best way to addressing minimize lap marks on these large areas is to feather out the paint along the edges that you can’t keep wet. A thinner, feathered coat of paint will avoid the buildup that causes lap marks. 

How do you do it? Roll a nearly dry roller in different directions along the dry edge, feathering out the paint as you go. After completing the entire length of the wall or ceiling, move to the next section and paint over the feathered edges. For the second coat, apply the paint in the opposite direction. This crisscrossing paint application sharply reduces lap marks, and in some cases, eliminates them completely. Its a little bit harder on your shoulders, but your ceiling should look sweet!

Tip: Drop cloths - Cotton or plastic?

No one is perfect, not even the pros. Splattering paint is just going to happen regardless of how careful you are. Like all things in life, preparing for it, rather than reacting to it makes your project a heck of a lot easier. You definitely don't want to be cleaning paint off a wood floor or worse yet, out of your carpet. Canvas drop cloths in your work area stay in place, so you don’t need to tape it, and you can use it to cover any surface.

Plastic drop cloths are slippery to walk on or set a ladder on and don’t stay in place. Even worse, paint spills on plastic stay wet, and they can end up on your shoes and get tracked through the house. Canvas can be slippery on hardwood floors, so rosin paper ($10 for 400 sq. ft. at home centers) is better over vinyl, tile and hard- wood. Tape the sheets together and then to the floor to provide a non-skid surface.

Whatever your preference, spills will seep through or spread with your feet, so clean spills immediately to avoid a longer work day at the end. 

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