Paint Your Home Like a Pro With These 12 Tips

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, start with smaller projects so you can learn as you go. These tips will help you produce sharp results with a minimum of expense and fuss.

1. Use latex paint

Male customer in paint store.
Stocked House Studio /

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 have made them the choice of professionals and amateurs, even for jobs outside, where oil-based paint used to be standard.

2. Get the right finish for the job

Hardware store clerk working with customer.

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 the paint.

Rule of thumb: Flat paint looks great and tends to mask imperfections better. 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, such as those in a nursery, bathroom, kitchen, mudroom or child’s room.

3. Don’t buy cheap paint

Open cans of paint containing bright colors.
nmedia /

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 as a single coat of a better paint.


  • 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. You need a subscription to access the report, but you could use your public library’s subscription instead.

4. Preparation counts

Many repairing wall cracks with spackle.
sima /

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 you apply.

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

5. Try this neatness trick with a rubber band

Close up of rubberbands.
Quang Ho /

Another ingenious tip: Fit a tough rubber band around a can of paint, top to bottom, so that it stretches across the can opening. This creates a taut lip on which you can carefully wipe your paint-loaded brush instead of using the edge of the can.

This tip minimizes dripping and keeps the edges of the can opening clean, which keeps excess paint from squirting on you and the can when you close the lid.

6. Line the roller pan

Paint pan with roller and brush.
tab62 /

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.

Such liners make 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

Open can of red paint with paint swatches
goir /

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 such things as the paint’s finish and how many coats were required, and make a small color swatch.

You would be surprised how often a paint color (or entire line) is discontinued, leaving you glad to have a paint chip for color matching.

8. Color your primer

Boards with green-colored primer.
Braslavets Denys /

Primer gives paint a good clean surface to adhere to. If you are covering an unpainted surface or a darker color of paint, definitely use primer. Likewise, use primer if you are covering joint compound, spackle, putty or other materials or repaired areas that absorb paint differently from your main surface.

If you’re covering stains, mildew, a moist area or something smelly, ask your paint store for a special primer or sealer for the job. Here’s a pro tip: Tint your primer by mixing in a bit of the paint you’ll be using. “This trick greatly enhances the ability of the topcoat to completely hide the primed surface,” Popular Mechanics says.

9. Simplify cleanup

Dirty paint tools.
Alex Kosev /

When you’re done painting for the day but have more to do, don’t bother cleaning your brushes, rollers and tray. Instead, squeeze much of the paint out, and cover them with several airtight layers of plastic wrap or plastic bags.

Popular Mechanics advises then putting them in a refrigerator. Remove them from the fridge 30 minutes before you start painting again.

10. Rejuvenate old brushes

Encrusted paint brush.
Banglens /

Are you the owner of old, paint-encrusted brushes? Before you spring for new ones, see if you can revive the old ones. Soak them in vinegar for an hour or two to see if the bristles become flexible.

Next, cover the bristles with vinegar in an old saucepan, bring it to a boil and let the bristles simmer for a few minutes. After the vinegar and brushes cool, work the paint out of the brushes with your fingers, rinsing under running water until clean.

11. Neutralize paint fumes

Woman holding nose.
PhotoMediaGroup /

Oil-based paint fumes are really bad, but latex paint can be plenty smelly, too. To neutralize the odor, try adding a tablespoon of vanilla extract to a gallon of paint. It’s a natural deodorizer and won’t affect the paint color.

Alternatively, you could seek out paints that contain less volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. Low-VOC and no-VOC paint might cost more, but there’s a case to be made that they are healthier for your family and the environment. And they will have little or no smell.

12. Nuke old masking tape

Roll of masking tape
Ekaterina43 /

Old masking tape is useless when the adhesive dries up. Before you toss it, though, see if you can bring it back to life by warming the glue in the microwave.

Here’s how: Put the roll of tape on a paper towel in a microwave oven and zap it for about 10 seconds. If the tape isn’t too dry, you may be able to reuse it.

“It works about half the time,” says home projects expert Joe Truini, at Today’s Homeowner.

Do you have painting tricks? Share them in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Earn money when you shop — plus a free $10 bonus

Earn extra money by using Rakuten (formerly known as Ebates) — a site where you can earn up to 40% cash back at more than 2,500 stores. As a bonus for joining Rakuten, you'll earn $10 when you spend at least $25 within the first 90 days. Start earning cash back and claim a free $10 bonus today.

5 Monthly Bills You Can Easily Negotiate Down
5 Monthly Bills You Can Easily Negotiate Down

Here’s how to bring down recurring expenses and save hundreds — or even thousands — of dollars each year.

5 Reasons You Should Claim Social Security ASAP
5 Reasons You Should Claim Social Security ASAP

Experts often recommend postponing claiming your Social Security retirement benefits. But there are situations in which you should start taking the money sooner.

5 Ways to Score an Extra Discount at Walmart
5 Ways to Score an Extra Discount at Walmart

Some shoppers are furious that Walmart is ending its Savings Catcher program. But there are other ways to boost your savings in the retailer’s stores and at

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.