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How to Paint a Room | Basic Painting Tips

Learn some of my best techniques on how to paint a room. The tips include ceiling, trim, and baseboard and are perfect for beginners.

Your face glows with excitement as you brush a sample of the most beautiful paint color on your shabby, old walls. 

You can’t wait to start the transformation but you’re a little nervous about messing it up. And you don’t even know where to begin.

Don’t worry –  painting a room is a job you can do yourself, quickly and inexpensively. 

Here are my basic painting tips on how to paint a room in your home.

paint brush on top of paint can

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MATERIALS:

  • paint (one with primer is a great idea)
  • spackling paste or patch-n-paint
  • #220 grit sandpaper
  • paintable sealant (caulk)
  • Swiffer duster or rag

TOOLS:

You can print the material list and instructions below.

SIDE NOTE: Yes, something is missing from the list! The way I paint a room is with NO painter’s tape. I don’t want to take the time to apply it and with my tips, you will do just fine without it.

STEP 1: How to prep a room for painting

Before pulling out any paint, you need to prep the wall, ceiling and trim for painting.

Remove furniture and items from the room before you do the following:

  1. Wipe the walls and trim with a Swiffer duster (or rag) to remove the dust. If your walls or trim are really dirty, wash them or, if needed, paint them with a primer before applying the paint (before step 2).
    swiffer the wall before paint
  2. Patch all nail holes, dents, or paint clips with Patch-n-Paint (spackling paste). Make sure to sand smooth after dry time.
    patch n paint for wall
  3. Caulk (sealant) any seams or cracks; this is normally around baseboards and trim.
    apply caulk to baseboard before painting wall
  4. Remove all outlet and light switch covers. I like to remove anything that could be easily replaced, like a light fixture if painting the ceiling.
  5. Sand the walls, trim, and ceiling so that any old paint drips or bumps are removed.
    sanding wall before painting room
  6. Wipe the walls again with the Swiffer duster or cloth.
  7. Lay old sheets or drop cloths on the floor to protect them from paint.

STEP 2: PAINTING THE CEILING

If you need to paint the ceiling of a room, I would recommend painting it first before the wall.

Also, I would recommend using a flat or satin finish because anything else will make your ceiling very shiny.

Are you wondering how to open a can of paint? See the full tutorial on how to open and close a can of paint.

Here are the steps and tips for painting a ceiling:

  1. Starting with a paintbrush, cut in around all the edges of the ceiling and into the walls, about 3″. You do not need to be careful of the walls because you will be painting them later.
  2. Make sure you are not applying too much paint that it is dripping.
  3. Cut in around the lights too!
  4. With a paint roller and extension pole, load the roller with paint. Then, starting in one corner, roll in one direction toward the opposite wall.
    • TIP: Don’t roll directly over your head but instead roll in a direction toward yourself.
  5. For the ceiling, do not roll in a “W” or “V” pattern; instead, roll in straight lines (I like to overlap my lines). Continue rolling until the entire ceiling is painted.
    • SIDE NOTE: Make sure to load more paint when needed; do not apply excess pressure to the roller to get more paint onto the ceiling. This is how you create unwanted paint lines.
  6. Let the paint dry according to your paint can’s directions.
  7. If you need a second coat, apply the coat the same way as steps 1-6 but when rolling, apply the new coat in one direction but perpendicular to the first coat.

STEP 3: PAINTING TRIM AND BASEBOARDS

There are different ways to paint a room but I prefer painting the trim and baseboards before the actual wall.

Although most people recommend using a semi-gloss or gloss paint finish for trim and baseboards, I like to use a satin finish for everything.  Buy the finish you want!

SIDE NOTE: Apartment Therapy has a fantastic article about how to choose the right paint finish

Here are my steps and tips on painting trim and baseboards:

  1. Using an angled paint brush and a 12″ taping knife (normally used for drywall), paint the baseboards. While you’re doing this, cut into the walls about 3”. This is my favorite way to paint a baseboard. 
  2. Using the same tools (the taping knife is optional here), paint the door trim and window trim in the room. Again, cut into the wall about 3″.
  3. Let the paint dry according to the directions on the can.
  4. Apply a second coat the same way if needed.
painting baseboards without tape using taping knife

STEP 4: PAINTING THE WALLS

As you’ve probably noticed, you always want to paint the edges and corners of any room first. It’s the same with walls but this time you need to be more careful not to get paint on the ceiling, trim, and baseboards.

rolling paint onto the wall with paint roller and extension pole

Here are my steps and tips on painting the walls:

  1. Using an edger tool or 2″ angled paint brush, cut in around the ceiling, trim, and baseboards. Take your time during this step to only paint the wall.
    • TIP: I like to have wipes or a damp cloth close by to wipe up any unwanted paint on the ceiling, trim, or baseboards.
  2. Using a paintbrush, cut in around the corners of the walls and around the outlet/lightboxes about 3″. You are cutting in around anything that a roller cannot get to.
    • TIP: Smooth out the cut in area by lightly brushing to remove drips but also to give you a feathered edge.
  3. With a paint roller and, if needed, an extension pole, load the roller with paint. Then, start working from one top corner of the room. Break the height of the wall into three sections and apply paint in a “W” or “V” pattern to the top section of the wall. This will help place an even amount of paint onto the wall.
    • TIP: The “W” pattern should not be any wider than one arm length, about 24″ to 36″.
  4. Continue rolling the “W” pattern onto the second (middle) section then the third section of the wall.
    • TIP: Make sure to load more paint when needed. You should not be applying excessive pressure to the roller to get more paint; this will leave unsightly roller lines.
  5. Repeat the “W” pattern until the entire wall or walls are painted. Then, let the paint dry according to the can’s directions.
  6. If you need a second coat of paint, repeat steps 1-5.

Do you want to see how to use a paint edger? Here are my tips on how to use a paint edger which is about a $4 tool.

Once the walls have dried, stand back and admire your hard work! But, not for long, because there are a few more tips I want to share.

TIPS ON STORING SUPPLIES DURING DRY TIMES

One thing I do not like is cleaning up paint. So, to save yourself from cleaning the paintbrush and everything else, here is what to do between dry times:

  1. Use a Ziploc bag. I use sealed, zipper plastic  bags for my paintbrushes and rollers.
  2. Use a garbage bag. I use a garbage bag to wrap the paint tray.
  3. Use the paint within a couple of days. You don’t want to let the paint sit for more than a couple of days or it will start to dry out.

I hope these basic painting tips on how to paint a room will help you update your next space plus help the process go a little smoother.

Yield: painted room

How to Paint a Room

paint brush on top of paint can

Learn the basic painting tips on how to paint a room. The tips include ceiling, trim, and baseboard, plus this tutorial is perfect for beginners.

Prep Time 40 minutes
Active Time 1 hour
Additional Time 3 hours
Total Time 4 hours 40 minutes
Difficulty Easy

Materials

  • paint (one with primer is a great idea)
  • spackling paste or patch-n-paint
  • #220 grit sandpaper
  • paintable sealant (caulk)
  • Swiffer duster or rag

Tools

  • 2″ angled paintbrush
  • roller
  • painting tray
  • paint extension pole
  • caulk gun
  • block sander
  • step stool or ladder
  • scraper
  • 12″ taping knife
  • edger tool (optional)
  • old sheets or dropcloths

Instructions

PREPPING THE ROOM

  1. Wipe the walls and trim to remove the dust. swiffer the wall before paint
  2. Patch all nail holes, dents, or paint clips with spackling paste.
  3. Caulk (sealant) any seams or cracks.apply caulk to baseboard before painting wall
  4. Remove all outlet and light switch covers.
  5. Sand the walls, trim, and ceiling so that any old paint drips or bumps are smooth.
  6. Wipe the walls again with duster or cloth.
  7. Lay old sheets or dropcloths on the floor to protect them from paint.

PAINTING THE CEILING

  1. Starting with a paintbrush, cut in around all the edges of the ceiling plus into the walls about 3". Cut in around the lights too!
  2. With a paint roller and extension pole, load the roller with paint. Then starting in one corner, roll in one direction toward the opposite wall. Do not roll in a "W" or "V" pattern but straight lines (I like to overlap my lines). Continue rolling until the entire ceiling is painted.
  3. Let the paint dry according to your paint can.
  4. If you need a second coat, apply the coat the same way but when rolling apply the new coat in one direction but perpendicular to the first coat.

PAINTING TRIM AND BASEBOARDS

  1. Using an angled paintbrush plus a 12" taping knife (normally used for drywall), paint the baseboards, door trim, and window trim. Plus cut into the walls too about 3".
  2. Let the paint dry according to the can.
  3. Apply a second coat the same way if needed.

PAINTING THE WALLS

  1. Using a 2" angled paintbrush, cut in around the ceiling, trim, and baseboards making sure to only paint the wall.
  2. Then cut in around the corners of the walls and around the outlet/lightboxes about 3", anything that a roller cannot get to.
  3. With a paint roller and if needed an extension pole, start working from one top corner of the room. Break the height of the wall into three sections and apply paint in a "W" or "V" pattern to the top section of the wall. This will help place an even amount of paint onto the wall.
  4. Continue rolling the "W" pattern onto the second (middle) section then the third section of the wall. rolling paint onto the wall
  5. Repeat the "W" pattern until the entire wall or walls are painted. Then let the paint dry according to the can.
  6. If you need a second coat of paint, repeat the steps.