Expert Advice: Tips for Novices

Expert Brian Santos reveals the laws of painting. Read more in his new book, "Painting Secrets."
Brian Santos Author Brian Santos

Q. What are three things a novice should know about painting?

Brian Santos: It's time to lay down the law -- the three immutable laws of painting. These are the secrets of painting. Use them to control the paint in its liquid state. Understanding and utilizing these laws dictates the way you apply paint. To be a Wall Wizard, you have to master the medium, so it does not master you.

Law 1: Never paint out of a paint can.

Prepare paint and materials

Container contamination. As you paint, your brush picks up dust, grease, grime, fly boogers, spider snots, and other spots. When you dip into the can to reload, all that debris ends up back in the can, contaminating the paint. That causes flecks and specks in the paint finish.

Dangerous drying. If you ever have painted from an open, full can, you probably noticed as you worked that the paint became gooier, stickier, and thicker. This is the air reacting with the exposed paint, which is setting up in the can, not on the wall.

Material mover. A paint can is strictly a storage and delivery container. It was never designed to be painted from or carried around; it's too awkward and heavy. You are more likely to knock it over and spill it, especially the gallon size.

Law 2: Pour no more than 1/2 inch of paint into the container.

Material management. Pour only 1/2 inch of paint into a plastic bucket to stage and control it before application. This forces you to refresh the paint more often, keeping it in its liquid state for better flow and bond to the surface.

Lighter load. With only 1/2 inch of paint in your bucket, you carry less weight, work faster with better control, and avoid fatigue by the end of the job.

Spill spoiler. Because you have only 1/2 inch of paint in the bucket, if you happen to stumble, the paint is less likely to spill out. And if you do happen to spill, there's less to clean up.

Law 3: The enemy of paint is air.

Air wars. The air around us is the drying agent for paint. Paint doesn't dry in a sealed paint can, but the minute you open the can, air rushes in and starts the drying process. Limiting paint's exposure to air until the paint is where you want it to be is a way of controlling the project.

Oxygen factor. In simple terms, oxygen is the reactor that turns paint from a liquid to a solid. Exposure to air thickens the paint, creating drag during the application, producing brushstrokes in the finish.

Cap it. Reduce paint's exposure to air by immediately replacing the lid on the paint can. Cover your working container (bucket or tray).

Painting Secrets Book Cover