Interior Painting 101

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House painting is one of the most economical and versatile DIY home projects. It can accentuate furniture, add charm, whimsy, or sophistication, and turn your house into your one-of-a-kind home. While home painting projects are typical, they can also be one of the most commonly flawed projects homeowners take on. While a good paint job keeps your home beautiful, a bad paint job can negatively affect your home’s resale value. From picking the paint color to prepping your walls to enjoying your finished job, this guide will teach you how to tackle any interior painting project like a professional.

Prep work

It can be easy to rush into a new painting project; however, remember, the more thought you put into preparation, the less likely you will run into a major hassle down the line. Before you crack open the paint can ensure you’ve done all the prep work needed for a perfect paint job. If you decide not to do it yourself or are in an area with many nooks and crannies, have a home contractor give you a quote on the project.

Choosing a color

Painting and decorating go hand in hand for a pleasing aesthetic. Look at the overall decor of your room and start coming up with multiple options. When pairing down paint colors, try out as many samples as possible to see a wide variety of choices. The color in the store may look entirely different than it does on your wall. Once you feel ready to purchase a color, don’t buy all the paint you’ll need at once. Grab a liter or a sample can first and paint a small portion of the wall.

Tools of the trade

Take your time to gather all the necessary supplies for the task. Consider the space and its specific needs and make a comprehensive list. You may need a paint roller extension pole if your room has high ceilings. Notate the material of the walls you’re painting. Different walls absorb paint in various ways, requiring a specific roller nap.

How much paint do you need?

The amount of paint you need will differ based on the project. An accent wall will take far less paint than a whole room. Start by adding the length of all the walls from end to end. Multiply that number by the wall height from floor to ceiling. Next, divide your total by the approximate coverage of one gallon of your preferred paint. Most paint covers about 400 square feet. For example, if your room has four walls, each 10 feet wide and 9 feet tall would take between 4 and 5 gallons. If you’re painting a lighter color over a dark one, you may need multiple coats, meaning additional paint gallons.

Estimate the time

When you’re planning for your project, make sure you space out the work in sections and leave everyday essentials within reach. For the average homeowner, prep work for an average-sized room will take about one to two hours. Cutting in, or painting your borders, typically takes anywhere from two to three hours. Priming and painting will run you another two to three hours, making your total project time around five to eight hours, not including dry time.

Visual inspection

Before you paint, clean your walls and trim. Make sure you dust door frame ledges and other areas to prevent dust from falling or settling into wet paint. Inspect your walls for cracks, bumps, or rough patches. Do any necessary repair work before starting your painting for an ultra-smooth finished look.

Prep the painting area

After your wall surfaces are clean and repaired; it’s time to cover and/or move your furniture. Take breakables, knick-knacks, and bulky items out of your space to make it easier to move from wall to wall. Pull large items like couches or beds to the center of the room and cover them with a cloth or plastic tarps. Next, use painter’s tape to tape off everything near the walls you don’t want wall paint on—think trim, baseboards, switches, and doorframes.

Painting tips

After you complete your prep work, it’s time to get painting. While painting walls may seem pretty straightforward, some tips and tricks help the job go faster and create a better finish. From various techniques to wall paint types, read on to discover more expert home painting tips.

Use a primer

While many homeowners hope to skip as much prep work as possible, a good primer makes the finished paint job smooth, even, and overall higher quality. Even when painting with lighter colors, a primer helps you achieve the exact color of paint you choose without any discoloration from the layers underneath.

Paint a sample area

Even if you’ve previously painted samples on your wall and chosen your preferred color, it’s a good idea to paint a fresh sample on a new wall area. See how the paint dries and looks with your trim and baseboards. Various daylight, light bulbs, and seasons can affect the look of paint. A larger sample area allows you to live with the color for a few days before your final commitment.

Mixing paint vs. buying ready-made paint

Most stores that sell paint have a selection of ready-to-use paint colors and gallons ready for a specific mix of pigment to be incorporated. The benefit of ready-to-use paint is that you don’t have to worry about color variations or spending time ensuring your paint is thoroughly mixed. Custom-mixed paint has a much more extensive range of colors and hues but requires extra maintenance, like mixing before painting your walls and needing to reintegrate the pigment if the paint sits for a while. Mixed paint can vary slightly in color from gallon to gallon, while ready-made paint is relatively consistent between cans.

Painting techniques

To avoid lap marks, try to roll the full height of the wall from top to bottom. Working with the flow of gravity helps the wall paint to spread evenly. Keep a wet edge so that each stroke overlaps the last before the paint begins to dry. If you’re concerned about a consistent color, mixing several cans of paints into a large bucket ensures a flawless application without color variation. Move your roller slowly to avoid spray or flecking, and try to cover all the walls in a space in the same number of coats.

Ventilating the room

To ventilate a room, use a window-mounted box fan to exhaust the vapors from your work area. If you don’t have access to fans or can’t secure them easily, create cross ventilation by opening doors on opposite sides of the room that lead to fresh air. A well-ventilated room also dries faster!

Dos and don’ts

While each interior paint undertaking has unique challenges and needs, following these simple dos and don’ts will help steer you toward an easy and efficient project.


  • Do paint-proof your house: Take the time to remove door knobs, switch covers, smaller furniture, and lighting fixtures.
  • Do get professional help when needed: If you’re unsure where to start, need to test your existing paint for lead, or want to make sure painting a room won’t negatively affect its value, call a professional for expert advice and estimates.
  • Do apply multiple coats: Even paints that include primer or only need one coat for completion should be followed up with at least one additional coat. Doing this makes a better finish and ensures a longer-lasting paint job.


  • Don’t rush: It can be very easy to push past a new painting project’s prep work and decision stages. But you’re guaranteed to enjoy your results more and for longer if you do your due diligence.
  • Don’t paint over wallpaper: Wallpaper is an entirely different material than a bare wall and doesn’t accept paint similarly. You’ll end up with bumps, lumps, and cracking paint. If your walls have wallpaper, remove it and sand the walls down for the best paint application.
  • Don’t dilute all the paint at once: You may want to dilute the paint for specific paint application techniques. If this is the case, make sure not to do it all at once. Diluted paint dries out faster than standard paint, and you may lose a lot of your wall paint in the process.

Finish and clean up

Finishing work and clean-up are just as important a part of the process as prep. For the best results, follow these steps.

Clean the material

Make sure to clean and tools and materials you use during painting as quickly as possible. Use a mud sink or hose near an appropriate drain to clean off paint from rollers, brushes, and stirrers. Doing this lengthens the life of the tools and eliminates the possibility of spills while the room is drying.

Wait for the paint to dry

Just like every other step in a painting project, don’t rush the drying process. Be careful to keep away from the walls for the recommended amount of time—typically at least 24 hours. Block the room off from pets and children, and keep the ventilation from the painting process going.

Clean up the room

If you experience any spills or splatters during the painting process, try to wait to clean them up until after the walls are dry. It’s easy to misjudge how close you get to walls in spaces you’re comfortable in. Keep clean-ups at the end of your to-do list unless it’s an emergency. If you run into a cleaning emergency, contact a reputable contractor to assess the damage and get it taken care of professionally to avoid further complications.

Tips on how to save paint

Use the method listed above to calculate the exact amount of paint you’ll need, and try not to over-purchase paint. Find out if any friends or neighbors are also planning on painting and split the cost of bulk wall paint. And remember, using the right tools and the correct roller nap will get the job done with less paint waste.

How to dispose of the paint

Because paint can be dangerous to the environment if not disposed of properly, it’s important to follow local and state guidelines for paint disposal. You can safely dispose of latex paint by combining it with kitty litter, allowing the mixture to dry, and throwing it in the garbage. Oil-based paint is considered hazardous waste; you must take it to the appropriate disposal or drop-off center.

While the basics of an at-home painting project may seem simple, as with any DIY work, it’s always important to slow down, take your time, and follow through for the best results. Using this guide during your next paint job project could increase your home’s value and bring you and your family joy.