How to Paint a Wall

Freshly painted interior walls have an immediate and positive impact on how a room looks and feels. Follow our purchasing, preparation, and wall painting techniques to revitalize most any space in just a day or two.

How to Paint a Wall

Painting doesn't have to be a job for a professional. With the right tools, prep, and steps, you can master the art of painting an interior wall yourself. 

The procedure for painting walls is fairly simple—cutting in the edges with a brush, then filling in the balance with a roller. With this in mind, painting a wall goes a lot more quickly when two people work together: one using a brush to cut in the corners in sections, and the other following with a roller and filling in. Tandem painters are able to eliminate any lap marks caused by applying rolled paint to an edge that's already dried.

With our help, you can go into your next painting project with confidence. We'll help you decide what to buy and how to prepare the walls. Plus, we'll show you our master wall painting technique that promises to get the job done right. 

  • Working Time 6 Hours
  • Start to Finish 1 Day
  • Difficulty         Select Projects Kind of Easy
  • Involves Painting

What you need

Tools

  • Drop cloth
  • Putty knife
  • Broom, dust mop, or dusting rag
  • Small, hand-held container
  • Angled sash brush
  • Paint roller
  • Roller tray

Materials

  • Surfacing compound
  • Fine-grit sandpaper
  • Drywall patch, if needed
  • Nonsudsy trisodium phosphate, also known as TSP
  • Primer, if needed
  • Painters tape
  • Latex paint

How to do it

Step 1 Prep for the Project

Head to the paint store

Head to the hardware store to pick your wall paint colors. Choose latex paints in satin or eggshell finish for most interior walls. Durable semigloss paints are shinier and can be used on kitchen and bathroom walls. Opt for flat finishes for walls with imperfections; flat finishes hide defects. Glossier sheens will highlight flaws. Once you have your paint mixed, apply it to your walls within 24 hours—any longer than that and the colorant will start to separate from the base paint and your wall color won't have even coverage.

Then, prepare the room by moving small furnishings out. Push larger pieces to the room's center and cover with plastic. Remove all wall-mount fixtures and hardware; take down curtains and artworks. Cover switch plate and outlet receptacle openings with plastic and painter's tape.

Also consider adjusting the room's humidity levels. When you're painting inside your house, you don't have to worry about rain pouring down your newly painted surface. You should, however, be mindful of the inside temperature and humidity. Interior paint goes on more easily and dries more uniformly in moderate temperatures and average humidities. Ask your supplier for the interior temperature and humidity ranges most suitable for your paint. You may need to adjust the thermostat, open windows, or add an exhaust fan to control the temperature. If the air is heavy with moisture (often the case when it's raining outside), you may be able to reduce the humidity by turning on the air-conditioning to a low level or bringing a dehumidifier into the room. To raise the humidity in a dry room, run a humidifier.

Step 2 Sweep and Dust

Use a broom or dust mop to sweep dust and cobwebs from the room's ceilings, walls, and woodwork. If there is a lot of dust in the space, vaccuum as well to get rid of particles that could get stuck in the paint.

Step 3 Repair Wall Surface

Repair wall surface

Next use a putty knife and surfacing compound to fill nail holes; thinly spread surfacing compound across each hole using an X-motion. Scrape off excess. Let dry. For any hole larger than a screw or nail hole, use a drywall patch or drywall repair kit.

Step 4 Sand Patches

Sand patches

Sand the patched areas with fine-grit sandpaper until it is smooth and flush with the wall. If you sanded too aggressively or your putty shrank in the hole, repeat the previous step and sand again until you reach the desired finish.

Step 5 Wash Wall

Wash the walls

Working from the baseboards up, wash walls and woodwork with TSP and water. Take special care to remove greasy residue; grease may interfere with paint adhesion and create a bumpy finish.

Step 6 Rinse and Dry

Rinse and dry

Rinse walls with water and let dry fully before starting to paint.

Step 7 Tape Trim

Tape trim

Lay down drop cloth. Protect woodwork, ceilings, and other non-wall surfaces with painters tape. Adhere the tape firmly to surfaces in a straight line, making sure tape edges don't intrude on areas to be painted.

Step 8 Cut In

Cut in

Fill a small hand-held container with paint. Working on one wall at a time, use an angled sash brush to apply lines of paint (cutting in) along the top of the wall, around window and door trim, down the corners, and above the baseboard.

Step 9 Roll Wall

Roll wall

Starting in a corner, roll paint in a W-pattern across the walls. Work in small, 3- to 4-feet sections, getting even coverage before moving too far along the wall. If your reach is short, attach the roller to an extension pole. Once you've filled in the area, finish it with light vertical strokes to smooth the paint and remove roller marks. Alternate between cutting in and rolling until you've completed a wall.

Step 10 Check for Flaws

Check for flaws

Check the finish for flaws, missed spots, texture paint, or drips; try to repair defects before paint dries. How much time you need to allow for latex paint to dry and properly cure depends on what you intend to do with it after it's applied. 

Generally you'll need to wait at least 2 hours before applying the next coat of paint. You may need to wait even longer if conditions, such as high humidity or low temperatures, slow down the drying process, if you've applied the paint in a thick coat, or if you've applied a heavily tinted paint (one with more than 8 ounces of colorant per gallon). If paint is blistering, wrinkling, or lifting, or if it has an uneven sheen, it needs to dry longer before recoating or applying a wall paint design. 

Step 11 Remove Tape

Remove tape

Remove painters tape as quickly as possible while the paint is still tacky. This will prevent tape from getting stuck to the wall. 

Normally you should wait 2 weeks or longer before cleaning the surface. Some manufacturers recommend 30 days, and the wait time is influenced by a number of factors. Gloss paints have more co-solvent to evaporate and rely on getting maximum hardness from the binder, so they require longer drying than flat paints. Your cleaning method also matters. Cleaning with a wet sponge is less demanding than with a brush and detergent. If your paint abrades, blisters, or changes its sheen or color when you try to clean it, you'll need to wait longer.

Allow 30 days before applying masking tape to new paint to prevent the tape from pulling up the paint. This extended dry time allows residual co-solvents time to evaporate so they won't bond to the tape adhesive.

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1 Comment

  1. Instructions were very clear

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