How to Prep a Room Before Painting

Step #1: Protect Your Furniture

Remove all furniture from the room or move everything to the center and cover with drop cloths. Also spread drop cloths over the floor.

Step #2: Remove Outlet Covers

Remove the plates covering your outlets and switches. Tape the screws to them so you don’t lose them. If you’re painting your ceiling, unscrew the cover plates of any light fixtures and allow them to slide down, then wrap the light fixture in plastic. If you have a fan in the room, you can remove the blades to make covering the fixture easier.

Step #3: Break Out the Painter’s Tape

Use painter’s tape to cover any exposed switches. Also apply tape around door handles, along baseboards and molding, around windows and any other room feature that you’ll be painting around.

Step #4: Scrape and Spackle

If there is peeling or flaking paint on the wall, use a putty knife to scrape it off. If there are any holes in the wall, use spackle (or a patching kit for large holes) to fix them. Apply primer to any repaired area.

Step #5: Dust and Apply Primer

Dust the walls you intend to paint and scrub them down with a damp rag or sponge.

Apply primer to the walls if:

  • You’re painting over bare drywall.

  • You’re painting over bare wood.

  • You’re using high-gloss paint.

  • You’re painting over walls that have been stained or damaged.

  • You’re making a drastic color change (for example from a dark color to a pastel).

Once the primer is dried, you can start painting your wall.

Important Note: 

If the walls you intend to paint are already painted, you may need to determine whether it was painted with latex or oil-based paint. The reason? You can’t paint over an oil-based paint with latex. So if your intended new color is latex-based and your current paint job is oil based, you’ll need to sand the wall and apply bonding primer before you can add the new coat.

To test your current paint simply dip a cotton swab or cotton ball in rubbing alcohol and rub it over a section of paint. If the paint comes off, it’s latex. If it doesn’t, it’s oil-based.

How to Choose the Right Paint Finish

Flat or Matte Finish

Flat or matte paints have no shine and work very well to mask any problem areas on a wall. They’re best for ceilings and walls with a large number of imperfections. They also work well in bedrooms and areas of the house that don’t see constant use. Flat/matte paints are difficult to clean, so they should NOT be used in kitchens, bathrooms, or any other areas where splashes, spills, and dirt are frequent problems.

Satin Finish

Satin paints have a pearl-like sheen and a silky feel. They’re a good choice for painting over woodwork. Satin paints are also easy to clean, so they’re ideal for kitchens, bathrooms, children’s rooms and any areas where messes are frequent.

Eggshell Finish

Eggshell paints have a slight sheen. They work best in low-traffic areas, like bedrooms.  They should NOT be used in high-traffic areas like kitchens or hallways because their finish can easily wear away when brushed against frequently.

Gloss Finish

Gloss paints have a crisp, shiny quality. They are ideal for woodwork (like window frames) trim and moldings. Gloss paints generally shouldn’t be used on walls at all, because their high shine causes even slight imperfections to stand out. Gloss is the most durable type of paint and cleans easily.

Semi-Gloss Finish

Semi-gloss paints are durable like full gloss versions, but have less of a shine. Like gloss, they’re a good choice for woodwork, trim and moldings. They also work well in kitchens, bathrooms and other moist environments, because they stand up very well to humidity. Semi-gloss paints are also easier to clean.

Why You Should Always Use Painter’s Tape

Painter’s tape can be pricey for something you may only use once, so many budget-conscious first-time homeowners opt to use regular old masking tape instead. The sole advantage of using masking tape is that it’s generally cheaper than professional painter’s tape. Unfortunately, masking tape isn’t made to stand up to paint, and so there are a slew of disadvantages to using it for your paint job.

Masking tape is great for protecting the glass while you paint window frames since it will peel off cleanly, but aside from that, masking tape can often make a mess of your paint job. You really want to avoid using masking tape for the following reasons:

  • On walls and baseboards, masking tape will leave behind a sticky residue that’s difficult to clean up.

  • Because masking tape isn’t designed for painting, paint drips can stick to the surface and cause your new paint job to peel when you pull the tape up. 

  • Paint drips can eat through masking tape or cause it to pucker, allowing paint to seep onto the surface you were trying to protect. 

  • Finally, masking tape needs to be removed almost immediately to prevent it from damaging the surface it’s supposed to protect or leaving severe residue.

If you need to use tape for your paint job, painter’s tape is always your best bet. It’s built to stand up to paint, so it won’t degrade or pucker, ensuring clean lines and protected surfaces. It also won’t leave behind residue, and will still pull off cleanly even if left up for several days.

How to Choose the Right Paint Brush 

To ensure that you’re using the right materials for the job, take a look at this list to find the supplies that best fit your particular DIY painting project.

Where to Use a Brush:

Brushes are designed for small areas where precision is needed. Use brushes to paint edges and corners when painting a wall, and to paint elements like trim. Brushes with an angled edge are especially good for corners and other cut-in areas.

Types of Brushes to Consider:

Natural Fiber Brushes:

Natural fiber brushes should be used with oil-based paints. Natural fibers will soak up the water in latex-based paints, causing them to lose their shape and stiffness. This in turn makes it next to impossible to use them effectively.

Synthetic Fiber Brushes:

Synthetic fiber brushes should be used with latex based paints. Because they’re made to be resilient and multi-purpose, synthetic brushes can also be used with oil-based paints.

Where to Use a Roller:

Rollers are designed to apply a large amount of paint quickly. Use rollers to paint large areas with no obstructions, like walls and ceilings.

Types of Rollers to Consider:

Foam Rollers:

Foam rollers are used to cover an area with an even layer of paint. They should be used on smooth, flat surfaces.

Plush Rollers:

Plush rollers soak up and apply a thicker, less uniform layer of paint. They should be used on textured surfaces.

Types of Paint:

Oil Based Paints


  • Oil based paints are your best bet if you live somewhere with a dry, warm climate. 

  • They are also your best choice for high-traffic areas and for painting over wood. 

  • Oil paints dry slowly, which allows you more working time. 

  • They also provide more coverage with one coat than latex based paint.


  • Oil based paints are hazardous to the environment and must be disposed of according to local household hazardous waste guidelines. 

  • Oil paints also produce fumes that can become overwhelming in small areas.

Latex Based Paints


  • Latex based paints are your best bet if you live somewhere with a humid environment or with frequent weather fluctuations. 

  • Because latex paint is fast-drying, it’s also a good choice when you’re on a limited time budget. 

  • With a latex based paint, you can do multiple coats in one day.

  • Latex paints are also environmentally friendly and don’t need to be handled as carefully as oil based paints.


  • Latex paints cause wood surfaces to swell, necessitating sanding between coats. 

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