The Homeowner Painting Like A Pro

Artistic Endeavors

I once wanted to be a professional artist. I can draw someone’s face and make it look just like them. I can paint a street scene or wooded pathway just from memory. Houses, buildings, people, vehicles, trees, desert scenes, and likenesses of statues. I have been there and done that. Commercial art was my goal when I was in college. It didn’t pan out.

Art teachers can be very critical and discouraging. They look for a particular style and certain characteristics from each student. One would give me very good grades and another one not so much. It’s a very subjective business.

I once did a charcoal rendition of Michelangelo’s Moses and it turned out very well with a lot of character. But I embellished the details and made the figure very angry looking. Two protuberances behind his head were detailed in such a way as to give the finished work the appearance of Satan. No one wanted to hang the artwork in their house. Too bad. It was well done.

Turning Talents Elsewhere

I eventually decided to turn my talents elsewhere. Painting homes and apartments became a source of income for me when I was in school. I had to teach myself how to do it well so that the customer would pay me when I was done.

Since most of what I have learned in the construction business was self taught, I had to learn tricks that worked for me but maybe not someone else. That was true for carpentry, plumbing, electrical work, and painting.

Painting a wall, spraying a cabinet, staining a piece of wood, they all involve certain techniques for success. Your can be trained by a mentor as well as study techniques from instructional materials. Or you can learn by trail and error, like I did. This blog will allow me to give some of my tips to make you a better painter. Take them as you will as they will be short and to the point.

To Get A Professional Look

  • Use drop clothes that do not allow paint to bleed through. Rubber backed canvass-type is best. Plastic will bunch up on floor as you move around. Construction paper must be taped to the floor. Painters plastic can cover furniture.
  • Use quality brushes. Cheap brushes only allow individual strands of bristles to come loose and get attached to the paint surface. A 2 1/2 inch tapered brush is best for painting corners and straight lines.
  • Use a roller with a slight amount of “fluff” built in. Low nap rollers are okay for enamel, but flat paint needs something to grab onto. It will allow you to ride over slight imperfections and feather out roller-marks better.
  • Get a Painter’s Brush- Holder Cup that allows you to hold paint and has a slot to hold and clean your brush. Home Depot carries them.
  • Buy quality paint. Cheap paint will only fade and not stand up to cleaning. Quality paints have acrylic in them which helps bonding, coverage, and clean-ability. Many newer paints from Sherwin Williams, Benjamin Moore, Behr, and such are designed with a one-coat, primer included, style of paint. Don’t paint that way.
  • I install a high-hide primer over bare drywall. It seals the wallboards and raw joint compound and creates a proper bond between the finish paint and wall or ceiling. It also helps expose defects.
  • When you paint your first color coat, use it to find your imperfections in the wall. Fill in or fix with Spackle or joint compound, then sand repairs with sanding block or orbital sander. Let repairs dry thoroughly. Then install your final coat of paint.
  • When you roll paint onto a wall, do not allow paint to bunch up at the end of your stroke. Feather it out slightly to keep paint lines from forming. You can do this when your roller has minimal paint on it.
  • As you are painting, go back over your immediate paint pattern, back and forth, to get rid of “holidays”. Those are areas where your paint did not cover and the primer is showing through.
  • If you need a nice finish on shelves, doors, or woodwork, use a foam roller. You can enhance the smoothness of a latex-paint finish (water based) with a product like Floetrol. It will minimize the roller or brush marks. If a brush is part of the deal, use the brush first, and follow up with the foam roller. Again, be careful of stroke lines or marks.
  • If you need to keep paint from drying in roller tray or on roller when not in use, cover tray with piece of drywall with notch for roller arm. This will allow drywall to lay flat on tray and seal against air penetration. You can also seal a small foam roller in a zip-lock plastic bag.
  • Before opening a tightly sealed paint can, shake it well. This easily beats stirring the paint with a stick and avoids messy runoff and dripping.
  • After pouring paint into painter’s cup or tray, always clean out grooves on can with brush. The brush holder on the side of the cup will keep brush from drying while you are rolling the walls. Place paint can lid loosely on can to keep paint in can from creating a dried film on top of the paint.

Painting Straight Lines

  • If you need to paint a straight line of one color over another, use blue or Frog tape to define the crisp difference between the two colors.
  • If you have a colored wall butting up to a white ceiling, paint the ceiling first and lap the paint down slightly onto the wall area.
  • Hold the tape roll flush against the wall and tight to the ceiling. Push the tape straight up onto the ceiling flush with the wall. Press tape tight with your fingers as you go.

I know of very few professional painters that can paint a straight line by hand. It requires extraordinarily steady and precise hand movement to do it so that the paint line is perfectly straight. If not done properly, it is readily noticeable.

  • When you paint against the tape, come in at an angle opposite the area defined by the tape. Do not come in at an angle into the part of the tape creating the straight line. You will minimize the chances of paint creeping under the tape. In any event, make sure tape is pressed tightly against the surface to prevent air bubbles and such. Rest tape roll on your ladder until you move forward to keep it from pulling installed tape loose.
  • Do not let paint dry on the tape. If you do, you risk peeling chunks of paint along with it when it is removed. As you finish your first run, continue your second run. When touching up later, bring paint brush close to your straight line but not to it unless there is a bad spot.
  • Let paint set for a few minutes and then start pulling tape down and out away from wall. Loop tape in your hands to keep wet paint from contacting wall, ladder, or flooring. Throw into nearby trashcan.
  • Blue tape or Frog tape works equally well for caulking door trim or baseboard to a wall. Again, pull it loose as soon as you finish one section before it dries.

Cleaning Tips That Work For Me

  • When you clean the brush, repeatedly wash brush out on both sides with water for latex paints. Place in the cleaned-out brush holder side of a painters cup. Shape the wet bristles so that no bristles are sticking out. Excess water will drain out into the cup and allow the brush to remain slightly damp.
  • For oil based paint, use a different brush than the one you use for latex paints. Clean out brush as thoroughly as you can with paint thinner. Soak it for awhile in the brush holder part of 2-part painter’s cup. Then wrap brush back into its original cover or paper towel.
  • Lacquer thinner will loosen crusted paint and stiff bristles. However it will also cause bristles to come loose from the metal containment strap if you are not careful. Same is true for a brush cleaner liquid (acid based).
  • If you want to keep your roller, then wash it out thoroughly with water for latex paints. Place the roller in a cleaned-out paint tray. Press the spray hose tightly up against the roller and move it back and forth as you rotate it. When the water runs clear in the tray, remove roller. Then hold it out away from you and spin it quickly with a water stream on the edge. This will fluff out the roller evenly and eliminate flat spots and clumping. Allow roller to dry so that none of the nap is touching anything.
  • For foam rollers, you must rinse, squeeze, and repeat until water runs clear for latex paints. For oil based paints, toss the roller.

Wrapping Up

Painting is an art. Take the time to do it right. There is no reason your home cannot look like it was done by a quality-oriented professional painter.

Don’t let those who visit your home get the feeling that it was painted by an amateur. Too many Do-It-Yourself projects look that way. Take extra time if you have to.

It’s your home. Save money by getting personally involved with upgrading it. You will be more satisfied with the outcome and feel that you are more a vital part of each and every project when it’s done.


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