How to Paint Like a Pro With These 12 Simple Tricks

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, start with modest projects 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

Male customer in paint store.Stocked House Studio / Shutterstock.com

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 outside jobs, where oil-based paint used to be standard.

2. Get the right finish for the job

Hardware store clerk working with customer.ALPA PROD / Shutterstock.com

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, mud room or child’s room.

3. Don’t buy cheap paint

Open cans of paint containing bright colors.nmedia / Shutterstock.com

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.

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. 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 / Shutterstock.com

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 / Shutterstock.com

Another ingenious tip: Fit a tough rubber band around a can of paint so that it stretches across the can opening, offering a taut lip on which you carefully wipe your paint-loaded brush instead of using the edge of the can. This tip minimizes dripping and keeps 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 / Shutterstock.com

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

Open can of red paint with paint swatchesgoir / Shutterstock.com

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.

8. Color your primer

Boards with green-colored primer.Braslavets Denys / Shutterstock.com

Primer gives paint a good clean surface to adhere to. If you are covering an unpainted surface or a darker color, definitely use it. 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 / Shutterstock.com

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 the refrigerator. Remove them from the fridge 30 minutes before you start painting again.

10. Rejuvenate old brushes

Encrusted paint brush.Banglens / Shutterstock.com

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 a saucepan, bring it to a boil and let 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 / Shutterstock.com

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 tapeEkaterina43 / Shutterstock.com

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.

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