Painting a room is one of the most common do-it-yourself projects around the home. It’s an affordable way to remodel your space without hiring a professional. While it may seem straightforward at first, proper planning and preparation are key to achieving professional-quality paint results.

    Follow these essential steps when painting a room, and you’ll have a fresh new look that impresses all your guests.

    Painting Preparation

    Preparing your wall before painting is essential to ensure that the new paint adheres correctly and delivers optimal coverage. Be sure to clean the walls thoroughly, fill any holes or defects with spackle, sand smooth, and spot prime patched areas before painting.

    using a paint roller to prime for paint on a wall

    For interior walls, check if priming is needed. Different types of paint require different preparation. Typically, latex paint can go directly over existing latex. However, prime the wall first when painting over oil-based paint or covering repairs. It is also important to prime the wall when you’re covering a dark color with a lighter paint or if the walls are glossy. We recommend using a stain-blocking primer made for painting over problem surfaces. Follow our guide for easy wall prep. 

    Steps For Wall Prep

    1. Wash walls with TSP or another cleaner to remove dirt, grease, and residues
    2. Inspect closely under bright light and fill dents, pops, or cracks with spackle
    3. Once the compound dries fully, sand smooth and remove dust
    4. Spot prime repairs for seamless coverage; prime entire wall if painting over oil-based

    Walls aren’t the only thing that needs to be prepped. Before priming or painting, inspect the trim and molding thoroughly for defects and caulk gaps with quality latex or silicone caulk made for indoor use before painting. Carefully apply caulk and smooth evenly. Allow proper drying time before painting.

    Trim and molding may also need priming, especially if it is covered in oil-based enamel paint. Always prime trim before painting latex over oil-based paint to improve adhesion. It isn’t always obvious if your trim has latex or oil-based paint. Rub the trim with alcohol on a rag to test; if the paint comes off, it’s latex, but if not, it’s oil-based. Follow our quick guide for the best trim prep results. 

    Steps For Trim Prep

    1. Carefully remove loose old caulking and clean the surface thoroughly
    2. Fill gaps between trim and walls with appropriate caulk
    3. Allow caulking to dry, then sand smooth if needed
    4. Scuff sand glossy trim to roughen for paint adhesion
    5. Wipe trim with an alcohol-dampened rag to test if the existing paint is latex or oil
    6. Prime trim before painting if covered in oil-based enamel

    Painting Techniques

    Believe it or not, there is a technique when it comes to painting your wall. Approach painting a room systematically to achieve professional-looking results. It’s best to work top-down when painting, starting with the ceiling and finishing with the trim work. This allows any dripping paint to be covered as you work your way down the wall. Be sure to use high-quality applicators and follow proven techniques.

    • Ceiling: Cut along edges where the ceiling meets walls with brush. Roll ceiling paint using a 3/4″ nap roller cover. Apply paint in 3′ x 3′ sections.
    • Trim: Use a high-quality trim brush for best results. Cut along edges with a brush, then roll large flat areas. Work slowly and carefully.
    • Walls: Cut along the top edge, baseboards, and corners with angled brush. Roll walls using 1/2″ or 3/8″ nap roller in 2′ x 4′ sections. Work methodically and maintain a wet edge.
    Today’s Homeowner Tips

    Allow proper dry time between coats per manufacturer’s specifications. From our experience, two finish coats deliver optimal durability and appearance. Apply the final coat using light, uniform strokes.

    Painting Supplies

    After you’ve selected the color you want to paint your walls, it’s time to invest in the proper painting supplies. The correct supplies will allow for a seamless application process and give you the best results. Here are the supplies we recommend for your next painting project. 

    Painting Supplies You’ll Need:

    • Drop cloths, painter’s tape, and protective materials
    • Ladder or extension handle for cutting high walls and ceilings
    • Paint tray, liner, and grid if using roller
    • Quality nylon/polyester brushes for cutting in edges
    • Roller frame and covers – 3/4″ nap for ceilings, 3/8″ or 1/2″ for walls

    Applying Paint

    Painting a new room can be daunting, especially if you’ve never worked with paint. With a few application tips, your painting renovation will go spectacularly. 

    1. Always paint ceilings first to prevent drips on the walls. If you have a drip, it will be easy to cover once you’ve moved to painting the walls. 
    2. To avoid unwanted paint on trim or molding, cut edges first with a brush and then roll large areas. 
    3. Lap marks show when wet paint and dry paint overlap during the application process. It is best to maintain a wet edge and overlap strokes to avoid any lap marks. This can be done by applying paint in a “W” or zig-zag stroke evenly over the surface. 
    4. Allow proper dry time between coats according to the manufacturer’s instructions. 

    Cleanup and Protection

    It is important to properly clean your supplies so they will last you for years to come. Carefully clean brushes, rollers, and other painting tools following the manufacturer’s instructions. Properly dispose of rags, drop cloths, and waste. Finally, replace switch plates, outlet covers, and furnishings that have been covered by paint.

    Today’s Homeowner Tips

    To protect fresh paint while drying, we recommend keeping children and pets away from the area and walls. It is always a good idea to close windows and doors to prevent dust or bugs from damaging the finish. Avoid cleaning newly painted surfaces for at least two weeks until the paint has fully cured.

    With thorough preparation, quality application tools, and proper cleanup, your DIY paint job will rival work done by a professional painter. Be patient, take your time, and work systematically for excellent results you’ll be proud of.

    So, Is Painting a Room Yourself Worth It?

    While DIY painting requires more time and effort than hiring a pro, the cost savings may make the extra work worthwhile. If you have some experience and are willing to properly prep, the paint quality can be mistaken for a professional job. 

    Follow the techniques here carefully. Protecting surfaces well and priming where needed helps amateur painters succeed. Also, splitting work over several days can make the project more manageable. Unless you feel comfortable painting on high ladders, you may want to hire a pro for high ceilings. 

    Focus DIY efforts on the walls and trim — and if you lack patience for careful cutting-in edges by hand, hire a pro to brush while you roll. With strategic DIY and pro work splits, painting your space can be very doable.

    Get Your Estimate From Expert Painters
    Match with painters near you to help you with your project.

    FAQs About How to Paint a Room Like a Pro

    What is the most important step when prepping to paint?

    Thorough cleaning is the most vital prep step. Grease, dirt, and residues must be removed for proper paint adhesion. Wash walls with TSP or similar cleaner and rinse well.

    How do I fix nail pops and dents in the wall before painting?

    Use a spackle compound to fill small holes, cracks, and defects. Allow complete drying, then sand smooth. Spot prime repairs before painting.

    Should I use oil or latex paint?

    Latex paint is preferred for interiors. It applies easily, dries faster, and has a very low odor. Oil paint can yellow over time. Latex delivers a smooth, rich finish.

    What nap roller should I use on walls?

    A 3/8″ or 1/2″ nap roller works best for smooth interior walls. Use a 3/4″ roller for textured surfaces. The thinner the nap, the smoother the finish.

    How long does the paint need to dry between coats?

    Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for dry time between coats — usually two to four hours. Allow new paint to cure for at least two weeks before cleaning.

    Further Information

    Editorial Contributors
    avatar for Lauren Greene

    Lauren Greene

    Staff Writer

    Lauren Greene is a passionate storyteller with over 4 years of experience writing and editing. She attributes her expertise from working at local magazines, newspapers, and corporate marketing and communications teams. She has worked on content with topics ranging from plant care, home decor, and home improvement. Lauren resides in Raleigh with her adorable Shih Tzu. You can catch Lauren attending to her plants, spending time with her puppy, enjoying the greenway, or lifting weights at the gym when she’s not writing or researching the latest home improvement topics.

    Learn More

    photo of Jeff Zoldy

    Jeff Zoldy

    Jeff is a writer, editor, and marketer based in Charlotte, North Carolina. He has been editing on the Home Solutions team for over a year and is passionate about getting homeowners the information they need when they need it most. When he’s not working, Jeff can be found at baseball games, golfing, going to the gym, reading, watching movies, and playing video games.

    Learn More