Painting Primer: Planning & Prepping for a DIY Painting Project

Painting Pro Tips: Planning & Prepping for a DIY Painting Project

So you’ve decided to make your painting plans a DIY project. And why not? It will save you money, and can actually be quite fun. However, many people underestimate the difficulty of undergoing a DIY painting project. It can be time-consuming and physically taxing. Often, it can also be difficult to gauge where to start.

With the right materials and knowledge of the step-by-step process, it can be simplified. There isn’t much room for mistakes here, so it’s important to ensure you are well-prepared before you begin. Start with a checklist of materials...


Painting Checklist

  • Sandpaper: To sand down previously painted surfaces and remove glossy finishes that make it more difficult for new paint to stick.
  • Caulking gun & spackling paste: To fill in holes and cracks in the walls.
  • Masking tape: To outline trim, window panes, and door frames so that the paint does not interact with those surfaces.
  • Roller brush: To get to those hard-to-reach places and roll paint on in wide, easy strokes.
  • Smaller paintbrush: To fill in corners and edges with paint.
  • Primer: An undercoat that ensures better adherence of paint to surface.
  • Roller tray: To pour paint into and used to reapply paint to roller brushes.
  • Tarp: To cover furniture and the floors in the room so that paint does not get on them.
  • Paint: Obviously!
  • Step ladder: For reaching ceilings, and the upper parts of walls.
  • Scaffolding (optional): A great tool for painting exteriors and high-up places where step ladders simply don’t reach (such as roof trim).

Painting equipment for DIY home painting projects

Getting Started

Although not mandatory, you might want to consider starting off by cleaning the walls. You can do so with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser or just a cellulose sponge soaked in warm water and dish soap. Let the walls dry before you take on the next step. Use this time to fill in any cracks or unsightly holes in the wall with spackle.

Take this opportunity to also sand down the wall surface if it has been previously painted. This will dull any glossy coats that can be difficult to paint over.

Once the walls are smooth and clean, begin placing the masking tape over trim, molding, door frames, and window panes. You likely won’t want to get paint on these parts, so the tape will prevent that.

Take this time to also move any furniture that is against the wall into the center of the room (or out of the room if it’s a smaller space, such as a bathroom). Cover remaining furniture and all floors with a tarp to prevent paint stains and drips.

Now, you’re ready to begin! Fill the roller tray with primer and begin by priming the walls with the roller brush. The wall should be fully covered with the primer. Using a smaller brush, apply primer to the trim as well. Dry time depends on the primer you are using, so make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Getting Into It

Experts recommend painting the trim first, as it is usually easier to tape off the trim than the walls themselves. IMPORTANT: Before you begin painting the trim, make sure all doors and windows are open. A detrimental mistake is painting them shut by accident

Painting a door / window trim

As the trim can be rather narrow, tackle it with a smaller paint brush. Paint using short, horizontal strokes. Paint small parts at a time. Once a small section has been covered using a small brush, use a wider brush to cover that section in one long stroke.

Repeat this across the entire trim. Carefully pull off the masking tape once finished.

Now that your trim is dry, you’re ready to get into the meat of the project. Fill the roller tray with paint and dip your roller into it, shaking off excess paint well. When painting, it’s generally best to work from top-to-bottom. That means that if you’re painting the ceiling, start there and work your way down.

Work in small, three to four-foot sections of wall so that you can equally coat each part. If you take on too large a portion at once, it will be difficult to get equal coverage. Many people use the “W” method to guarantee equal distribution. This entails painting a “W” (or an “M”) onto each small section of wall and filling it in before proceeding to the next section, painting in the same “W”, filling it in, and so on and so forth.

Getting It Done

The number of coats you apply will depend on how vibrant you want the color to be. A second coat of paint is typically recommended, while a third is best only if you really want a deep color. Follow the same pattern for applying subsequent paint coats. Wait at least 3-4 hours between coats.

While painting, make sure to use a smaller brush to really get into the corners of the walls. Let the paint set overnight and try to avoid any temptations to test it for dryness beforehand.

Once your picture-perfect paint job is done, you should save your materials for touch-ups and future paint projects. Rinse off paint brushes with warm water and soap, and hammer the paint lids back onto the cans. Store in a cool, dry place where it will last years upon years.

For the most part, an adequate paint job is simply a matter of getting the sequence of events right. Perform one task out of order, and you might need to start over. Follow the order carefully, however, and you’ll have a smooth and seamless paint project.

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