12 Secret Tips and Simple Tricks to Help You Paint Like a Pro

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Whether you've been painting for 30 minutes or 30 years, these simple hacks will help you save both time and money the next time you paint.

Few do-it-yourself home improvements deliver more satisfaction than a fresh coat of paint. Newer types of paint are easier than ever to use, and a good quality product delivers great looking results for a relatively modest investment.

If you are new to painting, limit your ambitions at first so you can learn as you go. These 12 tips will help you produce sharp results with a minimum of expense and fuss.

1. Forget oil paint. Use latex

The first question every home painter has to answer is whether to use oil-based or latex paint. Not long ago the benefits of oil, particularly durability and a smoother finish, were indisputable, according to DIY Network. But oil paints emit strong fumes, are more difficult to use and require toxic solvents like turpentine and mineral spirits for cleanup.

Advances have been made in latex paints that today make them the choice of professionals and amateurs, even for outside jobs, where oil-based paint used to be standard. Home improvement expert Bob Vila recommends water-based (latex) exterior paints for superior performance and protection against mold, mildew and dirt. Latex holds an advantage inside the home, too, especially for amateur painters.

2. Get the right finish for the job

Paint comes in an array of finishes, from flat (no shine) to eggshell, satin, semi-gloss and gloss (high shine). Each has advantages and disadvantages, and the best choice depends on your taste, as well as where you are using it.

Rule of thumb: Flat paint looks great. However, it stains more easily and doesn’t hold up to intensive cleaning. “The higher the sheen, the higher the shine — and the higher the shine, the more durable it will be,” HouseLogic says.

Higher gloss finishes are best on trim or walls requiring frequent hard cleaning, those in a nursery, bathroom, kitchen, mud room or child’s room, for instance.

3. Don’t buy cheap paint

A gallon of high-end paint can cost $50 to $100. Is it worth it? Often, yes, Consumer Report’s paint-buying guide says. Well, maybe not $100, but avoid cheap paint because it may force you to repaint sooner or use several coats to achieve the same coverage of a single coat of a better paint.

“Higher grades of paint contain titanium, which gives the paint more coverage so it does a better job of concealing the surface it covers,” DIY Network says. Cheaper paints don’t cover as well because they use clay instead.


  • Find a paint store or hardware store whose clerks you trust and ask for their product recommendations and advice.
  • Consumer Reports tests several lines of paints and rates products (a subscription is required, or use your public library’s subscription).

4. Preparation (really) counts

Time and elbow grease spent on preparation — sanding, spackling, patching and cleaning — create a much better result.

Case in point: Spend a few moments on your paint roller. Use a lint roller on it to remove the accumulated dust, hair and fuzz that otherwise will end up in the paint.

Employing a previously used roller? Trim the crusty edges with scissors, as shown in the video above.

5. Try this neatness trick with a rubber band

Another ingenious tip you’ll see in the above video: Fit a (tough) rubber band around a paint can so that it stretches across the can opening, offering a taut line on which you carefully wipe your paint-loaded brush. This tip minimizes dripping and keeps the can opening clean, so when you close the lid, paint won’t squish all over you and the can.

6. Line the roller pan

Use heavy duty aluminum foil to line your roller pan, pressing the foil to fit the pan’s contours. Alternatively, slip a plastic produce bag or grocery bag over the tray. This makes cleanup a snap. Instead of rinsing and cleaning the pan, you’ll need only to remove your liner and replace it with a new one. Changing liners makes changing colors easy.

7. Record your paint colors

If you own a garage shelf or two filled with cans of mystery paint, you’ll appreciate the importance of recording the name, ID number, date, place of purchase and location where you’ve used a paint color. Include notes on things like the paint’s finish, how many coats were required and make a small color swatch. You’d be surprised how often a paint color (or entire line) is discontinued, leaving you glad to have a paint chip for color matching. Stewart tapes her notes to the backside of a light switch. Or you can write the information on the paint can or store it in a paper or computer file.

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