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How to Paint a Room Like a Professional

Woman standing on a ladder painting a room pink
PR Image Factory / Shutterstock

Most people look for ways to save money while taking on home improvement projects, which is why many homeowners opt to paint the interiors of their homes themselves. It can feel like a daunting project, but with the correct tools and the right steps anyone can paint a room with professional results. Here is an easy, step-by-step guide on how to paint a room yourself.

How to prep and clean walls before painting

How well you clean and prep your walls before painting determines how well the paint will stick and how it will look when dry. And well-prepped walls means a faster painting process as well. Follow these steps to make sure your walls are ready to go before applying any paint.

1. Cover up all furniture in the room or move it away from the walls 

Cover furniture and floors with plastic sheets or drop cloths. If you are painting the ceiling as well, disconnect and remove any light fixtures.

 2. Cover your electrical outlets

Using a small screwdriver, remove all outlet covers and switch plates. Turn off the electrical circuits that control the outlets and switches to avoid any risk of electrical shock, then place blue painter’s tape over them to prevent from accidentally painting over them.

3. Repair any holes and smooth the walls

Patch any holes with spackling and let it dry. Then smooth the walls by scraping off any flaking paint with a paint scraper and using sandpaper to even out any bumps.

4. Clean the walls before painting

With a sponge or rag and warm water, wipe down the walls to make sure they are clean before painting. This is an important step as it ensures you have the smoothest, cleanest surface possible, which will give your walls a polished look when painted. Be sure to allow the walls to dry thoroughly before applying any primer or paint.

5. Tape off borders

If you aren’t painting your door and window trims the same color as your walls, tape them off along the edges with blue painter’s tape. Do the same thing  for baseboards. And make sure you vacuum or wipe down dusty baseboards to ensure the tape will properly stick.

6. Apply primer to the walls 

Applying primer isn’t necessary in every case, but it is recommended when painting over a surface that is glossy, porous, or stained, or if you are going from a dark color to a light color. The type and color of primer to use varies depending on your wall type and paint color. If your walls are clean and in good condition, you likely don’t need to use a primer.

Once you’ve prepared your walls, follow these 5 room painting steps

Now that your walls are clean and prepped, it’s time to get painting. Here are five simple steps to follow to paint your room like a professional.

1. Mix your paint

The pigments in paint can separate and settle, so mix your paint with a wood paint stir stick before pouring it into a paint tray. If you are using a paint bucket, you can use a metal spiral mixer attachment on an electric drill to mix the paint.

2. Paint the edges.

Using an angled brush, lightly dip it into the paint and slowly paint along the edges of surfaces that will not be painted like window trim, baseboards, or the ceiling. Keep a rag on hand to clean up any drops or mistakes as you go. Apply at least two coats. Painting the edges of the walls creates a border to help you paint more quickly and accurately.

3. Dip and coat the roller.

Take your paint roller and dip it in the paint without soaking it. A paint-soaked roller will cause paint to drip down the wall and that can be tricky to roll out.  Run the roller across the top of the paint tray several times to coat the entire roller and remove any excess paint.

4. Roll paint on in a W-shape.

Roll the paint onto the wall in a “W” or “M” pattern that is about 3’ by 3’ and then fill it in without lifting the roller off the wall. Finish one section before starting another, and work quickly so that you always maintain a wedge edge when beginning a new section.

5. Apply a second coat.

Once the wall is fully painted, allow it to dry completely. This will take up to several hours depending on the paint type. Glossier paints have longer drying times than flat paints. When the wall is dry, apply a second coat using the same process as the first coat.

Products and tools you’ll need to paint your room

The bottom line on room painting

Painting a room yourself is not the monumental task it might appear to be. Having the right equipment and a plan will ensure a smooth, headache-free process. Take the time necessary to first prep and clean your walls and to trim the edges of your space to maximize efficiency and precision. Once you learn how to paint a room, you’ll be able to tackle any paint project that comes up in your home.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to hire a painter to paint a room?

On average, it costs about $380 to $790 to hire a professional painter to paint a 10’ x 12’ room. To do the same job yourself, it costs about $200 to $300 but will likely take you longer than it would take a professional.

How long does it take to paint a room?

It depends on room size and if you are applying primer, but typically it takes a professional several hours to prep and paint a room and longer for someone with less experience.

What is the best paint color for a bedroom?

Cooler hues like greys, blues, and warm neutrals are popular picks for bedrooms because they have calming qualities and can make rooms feel bigger. Avoid harsher colors like reds, oranges, and bright greens.

What can I do to minimize paint odor after applying fresh paint?

The key to eliminating paint fumes is to properly ventilate a room while painting and as the paint is drying. The circulation of warmer air also helps expedite the drying process.

What do I do with leftover paint?

You can either store, donate, or discard extra paint. If you have more than a quart of paint left, you can store it in the sealed paint can in a cool, dry place. Latex paints can last up to 10 years if stored properly.

If you are looking to donate leftover paint, organizations like Habitat for Humanity or local schools often take donated paint to use for their projects.

To discard paint, first read your city’s disposal guidelines. Oil paints must typically be taken to waste drop-off facilities while latex paints can be mixed with sand or cat litter, dried out, and then discarded with regular trash.


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