Get Ready to Paint

Start Painting
Avoid running into an unexpected snag by taking a moment to glance over these guidelines to prepare for your next painting project. Knowing what to expect is half the challenge!

Start with the Right Tools

Choosing the correct tools helps ensure the success of your project right from the beginning. Choose your tools based on the surface you are painting, the type of paint you are using, and the size of the project.


Your brush options fall into two main categories: natural bristles and synthetic bristles. If you are using latex paint, choose synthetic-bristle brushes. Either synthetic or natural bristle brushes can be used with oil paint.

Brushes also come in many shapes and sizes. Wall brushes are 3 to 4 inches wide and are good for painting large, flat areas. Sash brushes are angled and about 1 inch wide -- they're useful for detailed areas. A 3-inch-wide, straight-edge trim brush is recommended for painting window frames and doors.


For paint rollers, follow the same rule as for brushes: Use only synthetic rollers for latex paint and either synthetic or natural rollers for oil-base paint.

Another roller rule of thumb: The rougher the surface you're painting, the longer the roller nap should be. To test a roller's quality, squeeze it around the middle with your hand. It should return to its original shape quickly. If it doesn't, invest in a better roller.

Choosing the Best Paint

When deciding on a paint finish, take into consideration the space you are painting and the look you desire. There are four different types of sheen to choose from when deciding on the best paint for your project. When looking for the best sheen, base your decision on the traffic of each room.

A Guide to Sheen

Flat paint has a matte finish, which is great for hiding wall blemishes, but the finish scuffs so it works best in low-traffic areas -- or no-traffic areas such as the ceiling.

Satin paint shows a slight luster and has a soft texture. It is more durable than flat paint, so it is best used in bedrooms, living rooms, and dining rooms.

Semigloss paint is tougher than satin and has a higher luster, but it shows wall imperfections more readily than satin or flat paint. This finish works well in kitchens, hallways, and bathrooms.

Gloss paint is durable, has a hard finish, and is easy to clean, making it a good choice for kitchen and bathroom cabinets.

Buying Paint

To buy the right amount of paint, use this formula: Add up the widths of the walls, then multiply that figure by the room's ceiling height and divide by 350 (the typical square footage that 1 gallon covers). The result is roughly the number of gallons of paint you need. The formula doesn't account for windows and doors, so you should have plenty of paint for touch-ups. If you use a sprayer, a gallon covers about 250 square feet.

Surface Prep

Prepare the surfaces you are going to paint so your paint job will look blemish-free. Examine all surfaces for any dents, holes, and cracks. Fill nail holes with spackling paste and smooth any dried ridges or lumps with 80-grit sandpaper. Caulk any gaps between trim and walls, smoothing the caulking bead with a wet finger or damp sponge.

Room Prep

Take these steps in order to ensure your room is protected as you paint:

Remove small items from the room and move large furniture into the center, covering it with a plastic drop cloth.

Protect the floor with a drop cloth. Tape the edges to the floor to prevent slipping.

Tape off window and door frames, ceilings, baseboards, and other trim.

Remove switchplates and outlet covers.

Time Out Your Paint Project

Before painting begins, make a schedule of how long each section of the project will to take so you know what to expect. For big paint projects such as a whole room, expect to spend one to two hours on prep work and another hour on cleanup after the job is complete.

Ceiling Painting Timeline

Ceiling First Coat:

Work time: 1 to 1-1/2 hours

Wait time: 3 hours

Ceiling Second Coat:

Work time: 1 hour

Wait time: none

Wall Painting Timeline

Walls First Coat:

Work time: 2 to 3 hours

Wait time: At least 3 hours

Walls Second Coat:

Work time: 1 to 2 hours

Wait time: none

Trim Painting Timeline

Trim First Coat:

Work time: 1 to 2 hours

Wait time: At least 3 hours

Trim Second Coat:

Work time: 1 hour

Wait time: none

Start Painting -- Which Comes First?

Whether you choose to paint the trim or walls first is a matter of personal preference. Most prefer to paint the trim first because it is usually done in semigloss or gloss paint. If you accidentally get paint from the wall on your newly painted trim, it is easy to wipe off.

Share the gallery

Better Homes & Gardens may receive compensation when you click through and purchase from links contained on this website.