How to Paint (Just About) Anything

This handy guide will help you paint key elements throughout your home.
Cabinets, Ceilings, and Brick
woman standing in front of red wall

The good news: "It is possible to paint any surface," says Danielle Hirsch, host of's Decorative Paint Techniques streaming videos and cohost and painter/contractor on HGTV's Design Remix. The bad news: "You have to take the time to prep the surface properly."

Here, she and Brian Santos, the Wall Wizard and author of Painting Secrets and Faux Finish Secrets, share their expert advice and timesaving tips.


It's best to paint ceilings before you paint walls. Santos likes to use a roller with a telescoping handle and paint two coats, the first coat in the same direction as the major light source (such as a window) and a second coat perpendicular to the light. To make painting a white ceiling easier, several manufacturers offer paints that are pink or blue when applied and then dry to a white finish.

If you have a textured ceiling, expect to use 10-15 percent more paint, Santos says. He also recommends using a foam roller that will conform to the textured surface and provide even coverage. "You'll apply a lot of paint with less energy and effort," he says.


Although common practice is to remove a door before painting, Santos says you might as well paint it in place -- that way, you can paint all sides at once and won't have to rehang it. First, remove the knobs and hardware, and mask hinges (Santos suggests brushing on two coats of rubber cement to mask hardware). Use an oil-base sealer and primer to lock in the original finish, then at least two coats of semigloss or gloss paint.


When painting cabinetry, "prep work is everything," Hirsch says. First, remove the doors and drawers (as well as any hardware) and clean the surfaces. The type of primer you should use depends on whether the cabinets are wood or laminate.

If your cabinets have been painted before, you'll want to determine what type of paint was used (see our tips on page 3). This is important because an oil-base finish requires an oil-base sealer/primer.

After you apply the correct primer, apply two or three coats of paint to ensure the cabinets will stand up to daily use. "The more layers, the more durable it will be," Hirsch says. "One layer of paint dries only to the thickness of tissue paper." For best results, Santos recommends applying the paint with a foam roller and then using a brush to spread the paint and create an even finish.

A red base coat, a gray top coat treated with crackle medium, and steel blue frames transform these cabinets.

Brick Fireplace Surround

First, you'll need to clean the brick thoroughly. Use a wire brush and nonsudsy trisodium phosphate (TSP) to loosen grime. Santos recommends taking another look at the surround after the brick is clean -- you may decide a good scrubbing is all you need.

After the brick is clean, apply a primer. Hirsch recommends using a stain-blocking primer to hide any soot stains. When choosing paint, consider that the higher the gloss, the more it will resist soot. Santos likes to use satin or semigloss paint. High-temperature paints can be used on metal that's part of the surround, but don't paint the inside of a fireplace.


Use an oil-base sealer on finished wood furniture. For the top coat, oil-base paint creates a harder finish. "If it's a surface you're going to throw your keys onto, such as a catchall at your entry, I recommend painting it in an oil-base paint," Hirsch says. Try using a clear primer if you want the wood's grain to be seen through the paint.

If you want a quick fix, especially for a textured item such as a wicker chair, spray-paint it. For plastic furniture, use a spray paint specifically designed for plastic. For metal furniture, look for a spray paint that has corrosion inhibitors to help prevent rust.

Continued on page 2:  Flooring, Molding, and Walls