12 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.

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. Use latex paint

Not long ago the benefits of oil paint — 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 in latex paints make them the choice of professionals and amateurs, even for outside jobs, where oil-based paint used to be standard.

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 like gloss will. 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.

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. Avoid cheap paint because it might force you to repaint sooner or use several coats to achieve the same coverage of a single coat of a better paint.

Tips:

  • 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 to access the report. Or, use your public library’s subscription.

4. Preparation 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.

Are you employing a previously used roller? Trim the crusty edges with scissors.

5. Try this neatness trick with a rubber band

Another ingenious tip: Fit a tough rubber band around a paint can so that it stretches across the can opening, offering a taut lip on which you carefully wipe your paint-loaded brush. This tip minimizes dripping and keeps the can opening clean, which keeps paint from squishing on you and the can when you close the lid.

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 and 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.

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