How I Paint a Room with Latex Paint

Because Mark asked, I’m providing my championship method for relative pain-free interior house painting. Or: The painting technique that starving college painters don’t want you to know!

I am paying this forward, as I used to have terrible interior painting technique and paid for it dearly with sore muscles and boatloads of aggravation. A maintenance man I used to know showed me his winning technique and I literally made at least $3000 USD painting apartments ever since. If you do the same after this, remember who learnt ya.

Here are is half of a room, for demonstration purposes:

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One huge plain wall (seems simple enough until it isn’t) and one “featured” wall, in that it has a door and a window (seems complicated but isn’t, really).

You will need:

  • A roller with a 1/2″ or 3/4″ nap – 2 roller covers if you are priming
  • A 2″ angled brush (sash brush) – 2 if you are priming
  • A paint cup – 2 if you are priming
  • A paint tray – 2 liners if you are priming
  • A tarp or drop cloth
  • Spackle
  • Putty knife
  • Cardboard, such as a flattened box
  • Painter’s tape (at least an inch wide)
  • Screwdrivers (Phillips and Flat)
  • Hammer (To close the paint can)
  • Clothes you don’t care about
  • A stepladder (I don’t need one for standard rooms but I just realized other people might)
  • At least 1 gallon of latex paint (max 2, really)
  • At least 1 gallon of primer (optional but nice to have)
  • A radio cranking “classic rock” – per state and federal laws
  • Nitrile gloves – optional but nice to have

First, prepare the room.

(Music: “Black Dog” by Led Zeppelin)

Remove any switch or outlet plates with the appropriate screwdriver and set aside. I’m starting with the huge (mostly) blank wall.

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Using the putty knife, apply spackle to any huge nail holes and smooth it out. I prefer the type that turns white when it is dry. If you’re clever, no sanding will be required afterward.

Place painter’s tape over any exposed switches or outlets.

Frame out the room with painter’s tape, and lay out the tarp or dropcloth.

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For this example we will assume you are NOT priming, but if you are, double everything from here until the next prompt regarding priming.

Instead of stirring the paint: Keep the can closed tightly, and shake it like a huge martini shaker. You can do it slow-like, by tipping the can over one way, then the other, back and forth, for about 5 minutes.

(Music: “All the Young Dudes” by Mott the Hoople)

Open the paint can over some cardboard with a flat-head screwdriver. The cardboard will catch any spills. Pour some paint into the paint cup. (Can be as simple as a red solo cup, or those measuring cup looking things in the paint section at the hardware store.)

Using the sash brush, “cut in” at least 3 inches away from the edges of the walls, ceilings, and baseboards. Paint around the exposed outlets or switches.

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Next, set the cup and brush aside. Pour some of the paint into the tray and saturate the roller.

Starting in the upper left corner of the room (stepladder may be required depending on your reach), make 3-4 downward strokes with the roller, making a square pattern, Repeat with side strokes so the square was made with downward strokes, then filled in with sideways strokes.

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Run the roller through the paint tray.

Overlapping slightly (the technical term is “maintaining a wet edge”), make another square under the first square. 3-4 strokes downward, then 3-4 across.

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Run the roller through the paint tray again.

(Music: “Run Like Hell” by Pink Floyd)

Continue the column, making a square each time (or close enough, depending on wall height) until you reach the bottom where you “cut in” with the brush.

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Take a moment to marvel at what you’ve accomplished so far. I was right, right? Relatively painless? Feelings of adequacy, nay, accomplishment? I know!

Run the roller through the paint tray again, and start another column to the right of the first one, overlapping it slightly.

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Continue the column, running the roller through the paint tray after each square.

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(Music: “I’d Love to Change the World” by Ten Years After)

No joke. This seems really quick, but you’ll go through entire “commercial free hours” just on one room, but sooooo worth it when you’re done!

Finish the second column:

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Progress! Like, really, really!

One thing you may notice with my mock-up using marker on an index card is that unlike trying to scribble over the whole page to fill it in, I’m getting neat, consistent results inch by relative inch. If you’re applying the paint somewhat thickly, without gobbing it onto the wall, but not so thin as to be leaving  “latex paint inspired” marks on the wall, then the up-down side-side pattern will fill in nicely and you may, although I really have yet to find the latex paint that accomplishes this, you may get this done in one coat.

(Music: Commercials, because you just spent 5 hours Googling around home improvement forums looking for one-coat guaranteed paint. Wet edge, I said! Stop stalling!)

Okay, so here is the “my way” versus “the high way” methods side by side. If you tune into “crash decorating” shows of some sort you’ll see the host making huge V patterns up and down the wall with the roller, usually mounted to a pole. NO.

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See how my way gets you nice consistent, steady results? The “flying V” technique may look rockin’ but like progressive rock, you want everyone to look at your paint job and say “Yes”.

(Music: “Roundabout” by Yes)

Wait for the primer OR paint to dry. If you did prime first, repeat the process from the “open the paint can” step upthread, only this time with paint.

Okay, so you get the drift about huge, fairly blank walls. What about “complicated” walls, with a door and window?

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For this example, we’re going to assume you really wanted to paint the walls and the trim forest green, but as a house painter I once met told me, “if you like it, I love it.”

We begin by prepping the wall. Truth be told, you would have done this up front but what if this were an accent wall for some reason? Or it needs freshening up?

Do the spackle thing as needed, depending on the “holey-ness” of the wall.

Remove any outlet and switch plates and set aside. Frame out the room with painter’s tape, and also the door edges, exposed outlets/switches, doorknob, hinges, and window pane(s). Lay down your drop cloth or tarp. This by the way is why you didn’t want paint dripping from the can directly onto the dropcloth.

(Music: “Black Betty” by Ram Jam)

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Using the paint cup and sash brush, “cut in” around the edges of the room, and at least 3 inches out from any other features (like the door frame). If the surface area is going to be too tight for a roller to manage, use the paint brush instead. I painted the trim around the door and the window in this example.

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(Music: “With a Little Help From My Friends” by The Beatles)

Next, it’s roller time. Instead of making a up-and-down column, I do rows (side to side) but using the “one square at a time” method. Start at the upper left-hand corner of the wall.

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Run the paint roller through the paint tray and continue.

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(A few squares were done to save time as I type these steps.)

Continue until the top of the wall is completed with the roller.

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(Music: “Bell Bottom Blues” by Derek and the Dominoes)

Depending on whether you’re also using one of those trim rollers, you could bust out the areas on either side of the door, or do it the hard way with the brush, depending on the room. Depending on how close the door frame is to the adjacent wall you may have no choice but to use the brush, but it’s really not a big deal.

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Then it’s either columns or rows across under the window to the cut in area by the door.

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(Music: “Fly by Night” by Rush)

And… wall.

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Now: Wait for the paint to dry.

When it is still tacky, you may decide that it will in fact need 2 coats. Repeat this whole process from “using the cup and sash brush” upthread.

OR:

If you primed, wait for it to try, then do the paint thing.

When the paint is dry, such as the following day, the tape may be peeled away, leaving a nice clean edge.

So, uh, how much was this information worth to ya?

/Everybody leaves
//And they all go to the paint store

SRSLY, I hope this helps.

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