Interior House Painting - How To Paint Walls & Ceilings

Jeremy Holderness

Dramatic Great Room Highlighting Interior House PaintingAfter you've picked your colors and done your prep work on the walls, it's time to apply some paint.  But forget everything you've seen your fellow homeowners do on the popular DIY home improvement shows.

Take a little extra time and follow these tips and you'll be guaranteed to make any professional painter envious of your interior house painting prowess.


Protect Your Work Area

If you're not confident in your ability to cut a clean, straight line with your paint brush - you might want to consider using some blue painter's tape to mask off any window and door trim, baseboards, crown moldings, etc. that you don't want to accidentally bump with your brush and roller cover.

At a minimum I would recommend masking off the top of your baseboards.  This will keep paint spatter (small dots of paint that fly off your roller cover) from speckling your trim.

It's also a good idea to either cover your switch and outlet covers with painter's tape, or - if you're knowledgable about working around electricity - removing the covers from the wall and covering the opening with tape so you can paint under them.

Make sure you also cover your flooring with your canvas drop cloths to protect them from paint spills, and tape the drops down to the floor along the baseboards to keep them from pulling away from the walls.


Prepare Your Applicators

For best results make sure you're picking the right tools for your interior home painting project.  Now you'll want to prep your brush and roller cover so they can hold the maximum amount of paint and release it evenly onto the surface.

First, take some masking tape and completely wrap your new roller cover like a mummy.  When you remove the tape it will take any loose fibers with it so they don't end up on your wall.

Finally, you'll want to make sure that both your brush and roller cover are loaded up with paint so that there are no dry bristles or fibers - leaving a streaky or inconsistent finish.

Completely saturate your roller cover in your paint bucket, then run it along the grid to push the paint into the fibers - repeating this a couple of times.

As for your brush, dip it into your cut bucket about 1/3 of the way up the bristles.  Push the end of the bristles against the inside of the bucket or another flat surface, moving it around in a circular motion to ensure that all of the bristles are evenly coated with paint.



Cut It In

Assuming you've properly prepared your surfaces for paint you're ready to begin.  See our recent blog post for professional tips to prepare your walls for interior painting.

*Tip*  Never pour more than a small amount of paint in your cut bucket.  That way if you spill it, it won't become a huge mess.  It also helps to keep a damp rag handy at all times to quickly wipe up any drips or spills.

If you're painting your ceilings you'll want to paint them before you start the walls.  Using your brush, cut-in a straight line where the ceiling meets the walls or, if there's crown molding, where the ceiling meets the trim.  If you're also painting the walls and/or crown molding you can actually overlap the paint onto the adjacent surfaces since you'll be covering it up later.  Make certain you keep your brush wet to avoide any drag marks on your finish caused by dry bristles.

Another tip to maintain an even finish when cutting-in is to hold your brush parallel to the adjacent surface then draw a 2' - 3' long paint line in one continuous motion about 1/2" -1" away from the edge, until most of the paint that was on your brush has released onto the surface.  This will apply the paint evenly along the line, then you can immediately go back over it to bring your cut line closer to the corner without the fear of having so much excess paint on your brush. 

Finally, holding your brush perpendicular to the adjacent surface, you'll want to feather out the line you just applied so there is no paint build-up.  Ideally your cut line should be about 2" - 3" wide so you don't have to get too close to your corners with the roller cover.


Roll It Out

Once you've cut-in your ceiling, load your roller cover with paint and run off the excess along your grid so it doesn't drip. 

Your paint should be rolled on in two phases:

1. For Uniform Coverage:  Apply the paint to the ceiling in the shape of an "M" that covers approximately a 5' square area.

2. Smooth For Appearance:  Backroll over the "M" you just created to smooth out the paint that's heavy in those areas for an even application over your 5' coverage area.

You can adjust the size of the area you're covering with each full roller cover depending on how heavy or light the coverage is turning out.  The paint should be heavy enough to cover but not heavy enough to run, sag, or drip.

Working from dry areas backwards into wet areas as you make your way across the ceiling, be certain that you're working in areas narrow enough so that you can maintain a wet edge at all times.

Blend your roller work into the previously cut-in areas, and do not stop until the entire ceiling has been painted.

Most ceilings only require one coat as they don't often change color.



Cut It In

Cut-in one wall at a time using the same method as described above for the ceiling cut-in.  Be sure to also cut-in around doors, windows, baseboards, etc. 

Complete the roller work on the freshly cut-in wall before cutting-in the next wall so that you are always keeping a wet edge.  This will help you to create a uniform finish where the roller work meets the brush work.


Roll It Out

Apply the paint with your roller in the same two phases I described above.  Instead of working in a 5' square area, try working in more narrow strips that extend from floor to ceiling.

After you've rolled-out each strip you'll want to tip-off each one as you go, by very gently rolling over it one final time - going from ceiling to floor with each pass to give it a smooth final appearance.

Make sure you always paint corner-to-corner before stopping to take a break.  Never stop in the middle of a wall as it will often show in your final product.

Apply your second coat in the same manner as the first.  Some dark accent colors can at times require more than two coats to achieve complete coverage.


Wrapping Up

When you've finished your walls and ceilings they should be uniform in appearance, and there should be no visible line that can be seen from normal viewing distance where your brush work meets your roller work.

If you need to touch-up any areas on the walls or ceilings make sure you use the same applicator to do your touch-ups as you used when you originally applied the paint.  And try to do your touch-ups when the surface has not yet completely dried. 

If you're touching up in the middle of the wall apply a light amount of paint - rolling it in the same direction that you did when you tipped off your walls - to avoid having to repaint an entire wall.


Next week we'll cover painting interior doors & trim work.



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photo by: drothamel / CC BY 4.0



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