How to Paint a Wall Like a Pro

Getting ready to paint your walls? Hint: A properly primed surface makes all the difference.

Home renovations paint roller on wall
Photo: Patryk Kosmider/Getty Images

Painting the walls in your home is one of those DIY projects that most homeowners can tackle—and it'll cost far less than hiring pros to do it. But you'll want to study up a bit before you take on this project—using proper painting techniques will give you a professional finish.

Tools and Materials

The right painting tools will make it so much easier to get a professional finish for your paint project.

  • Cellulose sponge
  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Painter's tape
  • Primer
  • Paint
  • Paint tray
  • Paint roller
  • 2-inch angled paintbrush
  • Extension pole
  • Ladder

Techniques for a Better Paint Job

It may be tempting to skip ahead to the painting part, but prepping the wall appropriately is essential for getting professional-looking results.

01 of 08

Clean the Walls

Using a large cellulose sponge and a solution of water mixed with a few drops of mild dishwashing liquid, clean your walls to remove any dust, dirt, and grease.

02 of 08

Tape the Trim

Use blue painter's tape (not masking tape) to protect areas you don't want your paint to get on, such as trim, molding, doorknobs, window frames, and door frames. Run long strips of the tape just inside the outer edges of these areas. (The outer edges of the tape should lie exactly where the wall meets the trim, covering the parts of the trim that your roller or paintbrush might hit when you paint.)

03 of 08

Pour Primer in a Tray

Pour in enough so that it almost fills the well toward the bottom of the tray without covering the angled portion of the tray where the ridges are.

04 of 08

Roll the Primer Onto the Wall

Dip your roller into the primer, rolling it back and forth across the tray's ridges a few times to remove any excess and prevent drips. Make sure the roller gets evenly coated. Run the roller up and down a section of the wall, applying primer until the section is fully covered. Continue until your wall is fully covered, reapplying primer to the roller as needed.

Tip: Follow the manufacturer's drying instructions, which you'll find on the can, to make sure the primer is completely dry before applying paint.

05 of 08

Brush Where You Can't Roll

Brush on paint around trim and in the corners of walls, where your roller can't reach, with a 2-inch angled brush. Extend out 2 to 3 inches from windows, doors, and moldings.

06 of 08

Roll on Paint in a "W" Shape

Fill a paint tray with paint and dip your roller into it, removing excess. Roll the paint onto the wall in a 3-by-3-foot "W" shape. Working your way back across that "w" without lifting the roller, fill in empty patches until that section of wall is fully covered. Continue, adding more paint to the roller as needed, until the whole wall is painted.

Tip: Consider using an extension pole, even on the walls, to make it easier to refill your paint roller and cover your wall more quickly.

RELATED: How to Paint an Accent Wall

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Know When your Paint Is Dry

Different kinds of paint dry at different speeds—and they'll feel dry to the touch before they're ready for you to lay on an extra coat. A latex-based paint will feel dry to the touch in about an hour, and be ready for a second coat in four hours. An oil-based paint takes six hours to feel dry, and you should wait a day to apply a second coat.

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Remove the Painter's Tape

Peel off the tape while the paint is still wet to avoid accidentally removing any dried paint along with it.

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