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It's time to lay down the law—there are three immutable laws of painting. These are the secrets of painting that will deliver the best results every time, no professional painter required. Each law is used to control the paint in its liquid state. This will help the paint stay as fresh as the first time you used it, even years later. Understanding and utilizing these laws dictates the way you apply paint. Read on for our expert tips for a perfect paint job.
Law 1: Never paint out of a paint can.
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. It’s also smart to make sure anything you put in the paint can, such as a stirring stick, is wiped clean and dry before it’s used.
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. Many homeowners assume a large batch of paint cannot dry out quickly, but don’t make that mistake. As soon as the paint hits the air, small changes begin to occur.
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. Plus, you will never be able to evenly dip a paint roller in the can like you would on a tray. In other simple but forgotten problems, you are more likely to knock it over and spill it, especially the gallon size. That’s a mess no one wants to deal with.
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 or paint tray 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. This is especially important if you’re working up high with trim or a ceiling. The bucket should also have a handle to make carrying from place to place easier.
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. Still make sure to cover the room you’re painting with a drop cloth to protect floors and furniture. Stepping on even the smallest drop of paint can track it around the room easily without you knowing.
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. If you know you are going to want to save the paint for another project down the road, it may be safer to buy two smaller buckets of paint instead of one large gallon.
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. Work quickly as you paint, and refill your supply if you notice the paint is thickening.
Cap it. Reduce paint's exposure to air by immediately replacing the lid on the paint can. Cover your working container (bucket or tray) with a paper plate or other flat device that can be removed and placed quickly.