Painting the interior walls of your home can completely transform and refresh its look and feel. But before picking up a paintbrush, it’s important to understand the proper techniques and best practices to ensure you achieve beautiful, professional-looking results. We’ve compiled this comprehensive guide with tips from expert painters on how to properly prepare for and carry out an interior wall painting project.
Planning Your Paint Job
Determine the Type of Paint to Use
When choosing interior paint, you’ll first need to decide between water-based latex paint or oil-based alkyd paint. Here are the key differences:
- Latex paint – This is the most common type of interior wall paint. It’s water-soluble, dries quickly, and has a low odor. Latex also allows for easy cleanup with soap and water. It provides good coverage and an even finish. However, it may require an additional coat for very dark colors.
- Alkyd paint – Also called oil-based paint, alkyd has a stronger odor and requires clean up with mineral spirits. It dries slower than latex but provides excellent coverage, especially for deep colors. Alkyd also creates a harder, more durable finish. However, ventilation is key when using it indoors.
For most interior rooms, latex paint works well and is the easiest to use. But for high-moisture areas like bathrooms or kitchens, alkyd may provide better protection.
Choose the Correct Sheen
Paint sheen refers to its level of glossiness. The right sheen depends on the room:
- Flat/Matte – Provides a non-reflective finish that minimizes imperfections. It’s ideal for low-traffic areas like bedrooms.
- Eggshell – Has a soft glow while still hiding flaws. It works well in living rooms, hallways, and dining rooms.
- Satin – Offers moderate shine and durability for high-traffic areas. It’s commonly used in family rooms and stairwells.
- Semi-gloss – Provides a bright, shiny finish and is very washable. Use it for kitchens, bathrooms, trim, and doors.
- High-gloss – Has a reflective, glass-like finish. It’s best for doors, cabinets, and woodwork in top condition.
Decide on a Theme or Color Scheme
Determine the overall aesthetic you want before choosing paint colors. Some approaches include:
- Complementary colors like blue and orange
- Monochromatic using shades of one color
- Bold, contrasting colors that make a statement
- Soft, harmonious colors for a calming look
- Neutral base with pops of color in accent walls or decor
You can use color trends for inspiration but also consider the room’s size, lighting, and furnishings when planning a color scheme.
Gather Your Supplies
Having the right tools makes painting projects much easier. Be sure to have:
- Paintbrushes – 2-3″ angled brushes for cutting in edges, 4-6″ brushes for rolling large areas
- Paint rollers – 9″ rollers for standard walls, smaller rollers for tight spaces
- Roller covers – 1/4″ nap for semi-gloss/glossy paints, 1/2″ nap for textured surfaces
- Paint trays – For holding paint when rolling
- Drop cloths – To protect floors and furniture
- Primer – For new or unpainted surfaces
- Paint – Calculate how much you’ll need based on room size
- Masking tape – For creating clean paint lines and edges
- Caulk/filler – For sealing cracks and holes
- Sandpaper – For smoothing patched/caulked areas
- Mini roller – For cutting in corners and edges
- Paint stir sticks – For mixing paint thoroughly before and during use
Prep the Room
Proper prep work ensures the paint adheres well and provides a flawless finish. Be sure to:
- Remove switch plates, vent covers, fixtures, etc. and store safely.
- Clean walls thoroughly to remove dirt, grease, and grime.
- Fill holes/cracks with caulk or filler and sand smooth when dry.
- Patch and sand damaged wall areas until smooth.
- Lightly sand glossy surfaces to roughen them up for better paint adhesion.
- Wipe away all dust with a tack cloth.
- Apply primer to any new, unpainted, or repaired surface.
- Use painter’s tape to mask off trims, baseboards, etc.
With the room prepped, it’s time to start painting!
Painting Techniques and Application
Cutting In the Edges
Cutting in involves outlining edges, corners, and trim with a brush before rolling the main walls. To get nice clean lines:
- Use a high-quality angled brush designed for cutting in.
- Keep a stable grip about halfway up the brush handle.
- Dip just 1/4 of the bristles into paint to avoid drips.
- Apply paint with the tip of the brush by lightly pressing and scooping rather than brushing.
- Work methodically around the room keeping a wet edge.
- Use your free hand to steady when painting corners.
- For straight edges use painter’s tape instead of cutting in by hand.
Take the time to cut in carefully as this seals the perimeter and creates a professional look.
Rolling on Paint
After cutting in, use a roller to apply paint to the main wall areas. Follow these tips:
- Use a roller sized appropriately for the wall space. Typical sizes range from 9” to 18”.
- Load the roller evenly by rolling it in the paint tray from end to end.
- Apply downward pressure as you roll to spread the paint evenly. Lift on the upstroke.
- Move the roller in a zigzag “W” or “N” motion, working in 3×3 ft sections.
- Avoid excessive rolling which can create bubbles. Stick to 2-3 up-down passes per section.
- Periodically reload the roller to maintain a saturated edge and even coat.
- For missed spots, roll back over before the paint dries.
Take care not to press too hard or overwork the paint which can ruin the finish.
Painting ceilings requires some adjustments:
- Cut in the ceiling edge first, then roll the open area.
- Use a roller extender pole to reach high ceilings from the floor.
- Apply paint in 2’x 2’ sections using “M” shaped strokes.
- Maintain a wet edge and blend sections together.
- Watch out for drips and splatters since you’ll be painting overhead.
Painting ceilings before walls means you won’t have to be as careful about avoiding drips.
Handle Corners and Angles
Where walls meet at corners or angles, use these techniques:
- At inside corners, carefully cut in both sides of the corner angle first.
- For outside corners, run the roller over the corner edge horizontally rather than vertically.
- Or, use a mini-roller sized for corners to coat each side evenly.
- At the ceiling-to-wall joint, cut in the ceiling first, then the wall edge to overlap it.
Take extra time at awkward angles and corners for a seamless look.
Apply Second Coats
For best results, two coats of paint are recommended:
- Allow the first coat to dry fully before adding the second (usually within 2-4 hours).
- Sand or degloss shiny surfaces between coats for better adhesion.
- Use a brush or mini roller to spot paint missed areas on the second coat.
- Work methodically section by section as you did with the first coat.
- The second coat will provide complete coverage and an even color.
Don’t skimp on applying the second coat or you may have uneven results.
Troubleshooting Common Paint Problems
Even experienced painters run into snags. Here are fixes for the most common issues:
Brush marks or streaks – This happens when the paint dries too fast. Use a dampened rag to gently smooth marks before the paint dries completely.
Bubbles – Overrolling can cause bubbles. For small bubbles, simply let the paint dry and sand gently. For large bubbles, wait until completely dry then cut out the section, fill the area with putty, sand, prime, and repaint.
Drips/splatters – Minimize splatter by not overloading the roller or brush. For small drips, gently smooth the run with a damp rag. For large drips that have dried, carefully scrape or sand them before spot painting.
Missed spots – Touch up missed areas by cutting in with a brush or using a mini roller for larger patches. Work while the surrounding paint is still wet to blend it in.
Flashing – When the finish looks patchy and uneven, this is referred to as flashing. This happens when the paint isn’t bonded well. Sand the area, wipe clean, apply primer, then repaint.
Poor adhesion – If the paint scrapes or peels easily, the surface wasn’t properly prepped and primed. Completely remove the paint from the troubled area, prep, prime, and repaint.
Achieving a Professional Look
Here are some final best practices to ensure your painted walls look professionally done:
- Maintain clean lines along trims and edges using painter’s tape. Carefully pull off the tape just after painting.
- Caulk along trim, joints, fixtures and fittings for a seamless look.
- Sand surfaces thoroughly between coats for smooth results without brush marks.
- Apply paint generously but avoid excessive rolling or brushing.
- Work top to bottom in a systematic fashion. Finish off with the ceiling.
- Use leveling tools to catch drips and avoid splatter on floors.
- Give trim and moldings an extra coat for added durability.
Take your time and don’t rush the preparation, cutting in edges, and applying coats. Follow these tips from the pros and your painted walls will look like perfection!
Frequently Asked Questions About Interior Wall Painting
How long should I wait between paint coats?
Ideally wait 2-4 hours between coats, allowing proper drying time based on the paint type and humidity levels. Wait longer in cooler damp conditions. Test if fully dry by lightly touching the surface before adding another coat.
What sheen should I use in a bathroom?
Bathrooms should be painted with semi-gloss or high-gloss paint. These more durable, high-sheen finishes resist moisture and are easy to keep clean. Use 100% acrylic latex paint formulated especially for bathrooms.
How do I fix paint bleeding through old layers?
To stop bleed-through, first seal the surface with an appropriate primer or sealer designed to block stains. Then apply two coats of topcoat paint. Sanding between coats also helps the new paint adhere better.
Should I paint or replace old wood trim?
If wood trim is in good condition with no rot or structural damage, you can likely repaint it. Lightly sand, prime bare wood, caulk gaps, and apply two coats of enamel paint formulated for trim.
What’s the difference between airless vs. HVLP spraying?
Airless spraying uses high pressure to push paint through the nozzle, requiring less thinning. HVLP (high volume, low pressure) uses lower pressure and flows at higher volumes, requiring paint to be thinned to spray consistency.
How do I clean walls before painting?
Clean walls using a mild soap and water solution. For greasy or heavily soiled areas, use a degreasing cleaner. Rinse thoroughly. Allow to fully dry. Run a damp microfiber cloth over walls just before painting to pick up any last dust.
Should I remove wall plates and light fixtures before painting?
Yes, remove all switch plates, electrical covers, vents, and fixtures prior to painting. This allows for full wall coverage and uniform painting. Replace hardware afterward.
What causes roller marks when painting?
Applying too much pressure when rolling or trying to stretch paint too thin can leave roller marks. Use an evenly loaded roller and gently roll the area. If marks occur, smooth them immediately with a damp cloth before the paint fully dries.
With the tips and techniques from the pros provided here, you can tackle any interior wall painting project like an expert. Carefully preparing the surfaces, using proper tools, applying paint in a systematic fashion, and smoothing out any imperfections will result in beautiful, professional-looking painted walls. Be sure to protect nearby surfaces from drips and splatters, work in sections, and maintain wet edges for seamless results. Follow these best practices as you plan your color scheme, prep, cut in edges, roll paint onto walls and ceilings, and finish with a durable second coat. With some practice and patience your newly painted room will look fresh, clean, and done by a seasoned painter.