Buy a nine-inch roller with a good, sturdy arm (such as the Wooster Brush Company Sherlock Roller Frame, $8.50, homedepot.com) and a roller sleeve of the same size. For smooth Sheetrock or plaster walls, buy a sleeve with a 3/8- or 1/2-inch nap (nap is the degree of fluffiness). For textured walls, like stucco or brick, get one with a 3/4-inch nap. A quality roller sleeve holds more paint and makes the whole job easier than a cheapie version.
You’ll also need a 2½-inch paintbrush for corners and trim; you might want to choose a sash brush (about $15 to $20), which is slightly angled for more control when painting edges.
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Also have: a roll of 3M ScotchBlue Painter’s Tape; a drop cloth (canvas is reusable and stays in place, so it’s a pleasure to use; plastic can be slippery, but it’s inexpensive and disposable—your choice)
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Damp Cotton Cloth
A damp cotton cloth for wiping drips as you go.
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Ladder or Stool
A ladder or stool that lets you reach the ceiling comfortably without standing on the top step.
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If you’re painting a large room, you might also want an extension pole (about $30 for a sturdy one) for ceiling painting. Just attach the roller to the end and you can get long, even strokes while standing flat on the floor.
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And about that paint tray? Skip it. Pros recommend a roller grid instead. It’s a metal screen that hangs inside a five-gallon bucket (pieces sold separately: grid, about $3; bucket, about $4). You dip the roller in the paint, then run it along the grid to work the paint evenly into the nap.
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Excess paint drips back into the bucket, meaning you lose less. Another plus: If you’re painting a big room, you can mix together all your cans of paint in the bucket to ensure consistent color. (Remember to cap the bucket between sessions to protect the paint.)