Let’s Talk About Paint: How to Paint Walls

Last week I went over my favorite tools and products for painting.  Today I’m going to cover my process for painting walls.  Painting walls really isn’t difficult so if you have the time and aren’t afraid of getting a little messy it’s probably not worth hiring out,* especially if you’re working on a budget.


There are multiple different techniques for painting, but this is what works well for me. If you’ve got your own awesome tips, tricks, and techniques feel free to chime in in the comments!

If you have carpeting, you’re going to want to drop cloth the bejeezus out of it (unless you’re planning on replacing it, then make sure you paint first and voila! Built-in drop cloth).  I’ve had hardwood floors for years and, um, don’t actually do much of anything to protect them.  If you drip a little paint you can wipe it right off while it’s still wet and even if you don’t catch it before it dries you can scrape it off or use some Goof Off.   I really just use a big scrap of cardboard to pile my roller tray and paint can on and just shove it around the room with me as I go. Carpet is not as forgiving, so you’re going to want to be careful about protecting it.

Cutting In

I start by cutting in.  In a perfect world you’d keep a wet edge everywhere you go, but if you’re working solo that’s not always practical. I cut in using a 2″ angled brush (I hardly ever tape anymore) and make sure I cover at least 4″ or so away from the edge so I don’t have to worry about my roller bumping the ceiling or trim.  When cutting in you also want to feather out your wet edge so you don’t end up with a line as it dries.  Basically, once you have most of the paint off your brush (or edger) come back over inner edge of your paint and smooth it out any excess paint.

To get a nice clean line (without tape!) I start by dipping just the tip of my brush into the paint.

***It’s important to have a good brush if you’re going to do this. I used a crappy one once and it was a gigantic mess!  I’ve been super happy with the Wooster Shortcut for cutting in and I think the short handle makes it very easy to control.***

Set the brush down on the wall a little bit away from the edge,


Then smoosh the bristles down a bit so they fan out slightly.


Then slowly sweep the brush towards the edge.


And finally, drag the brush downward (or across for horizontal edges) keeping only the very tip the bristles against the edge. You can see I also still keep the brush at a slight angle so only a small section of it is coming into direct contact with the trim.


Work slowly and don’t load too much paint onto your brush.  If you’re worried about your cutting-in skills, you can still tape your edges and practice to see how much paint really ends up on the tape.


The open areas of walls are the easy parts.  Load your roller up with paint and then use the textured part of your paint try to roll off excess.

I work in a N pattern on the walls (most people say W, but I tend to actually make an N or  M)–roll your paint on in a 2-3 foot N….


….and then roll right back to fill it in.  This distributes the bulk of the paint from your roller and then spreads and evens it out as you come back over it. I set my roller down to get the picture so I starting rolling again on the same side I started with.  If I’m not pausing in between I’d naturally roll my N then double back the way I came, just slightly off-set… whatever works.

paint_walls_2Your may have to go back and forth a couple times to fill it in nicely, but don’t add more paint to your roller, just work with what’s already up on the wall.


Once you’ve filled in your N then you can go back for more paint.  Start a new N (or M or W) shape, slightly overlapping your previous section and repeat.


When working with a roller make sure you don’t have too much paint on it (it should be saturated but not dripping) and roll slowly.  This will minimize both paint drips and spray from the roller.  You also want to slightly overlap your previous section each time.  This keeps a wet edge and helps each section of paint better blend into the other.  You also don’t need to put a lot of the pressure on the roller–remember, you’re rolling, not scrubbing.  If you find yourself scrubbing with the roller it’s probably a sign you need a new cover.

If you need to stop partway through (waiting a couples hours until the next coat, ran out of time for day, etc) you don’t have to wash out your brush and roller.  Wrap them in plastic wrap, and if you’re not picking back up until the next day, stick them in a cool place like the fridge (we were out of room in our fridge, but our basement’s pretty cold so I stuck mine there).

No too scary, right?

Also, how absolutely amazeballs does this color look????


Let’s Talk About Paint

Part 1: Supplies


*Super tall walls and stairwells are TOTALLY worth hiring out in my opinion, but I’m not so good with ladders. Also ceilings. Painting ceilings is a bitch.

Let’s Talk About Paint: Supplies

I started painting the dining room today.  I got about 1/2 done but now have to shove the furniture into the other corner so I can paint the other 2 walls.  I’ve done quite a bit of painting over the years–walls, trim, furniture.*  I know not everyone has painting experience though so I’m going go over the supplies I use, and then run through my process.


At the time of writing this I have no sponsors, no advertisers, no one slipping me convenient wads of cash behind the scenes.  This is what I use and my honest, unbiased opinions.


Almost all paints I see these days are a paint + primer, but a separate primer is still definitely worth on some things.  If you’re painting over bare wood or drywall, you should probably prime.  If you’re painting over a finish that may be a little grimy (kitchens, homes previously owned by heavy smokers…. that sort of thing) you’ll probably want to prime.  I’ve been using the water-based Bullseye 1-2-3 primer and have been pretty happy with it.  An oil-based primer will give you even better adhesion, but will also need more ventilation and special cleanup.  Also, you can use latex paint over oil-based but shouldn’t oil-based over latex.


I always use an Eggshell finish on walls in all rooms.  Sure there are lists that specify certain finishes for certain rooms based on durability, but my go-to is always eggshell.  It’s cleanable, but not shiny (quick n’ dirty breakdown: the shinier the finish the more scrub-able it will be, but shinier will also highlight any imperfections or texture changes on the walls). If you have kids who are prone to drawing on walls, you might want to bump up the sheen in problem areas.

My paint brands of choice for walls are Behr  (Home Depot) and Clark + Kensington (Ace). They’re pretty inexpensive as far as paints go, but have pretty respectable coverage.

Trim, Cabinets, and Furniture:

I used to always use a high gloss on furniture, and then I discovered satin. To me the satin is more in the range of a “factory finish” level of shine for most things and the high gloss can leave things looking obviously painted. Painting my kitchen cabinets turned me into a Benjamin Moore Advance convert (fangirl!).  I’d read good things about it so decided to give it a shot.  It’s a little pricey, but the coverage is excellent and the finish is beautiful. I was raving to my sister about it and when she saw our cabinets her comment was “I can see why you liked this some much.”

We also used Advance (satin finish) on our trim… after the kitchen.  I went to buy Advance but the Ace near us didn’t carry Benjamin Moore since they’re too close to another BM dealer and the guy there highly recommended Clark + Kensington. I’d used it on walls and been really impressed for the price point and at half the price of Advance I thought sure, why the hell not.  3 coats plus primer (and could probably use another) is why the hell not. And painting trim is a beast so I think it’s better to splurge on better coverage here (but I’ve personally never found the pricier paints worth it for walls). After the kitchen we switched over to my original plan of Advance. It still needed 2 coats + primer, but was definitely looking good at that point (and if you’re only using about 1/2 the amount of paint, it’s not really even a splurge anymore)!


paint_supplies_1The basics: paint tray, roller, roller covers (don’t be afraid to splurge on roller covers, or at the very least, don’t reuse your covers to death –>guilty) drop clothes, 2″ angled brush. I really like the Wooster Shortcut, but there is a little bit of personal preference involved.  This is another area where you don’t want to choose the absolute cheapest option and take good care of your brushes.


paint_supplies_2Very useful extras: pole/extender for your roller (I really wish I had an adjustable one!), painters pyramids (if you need to prop up something flat to paint the edges), paint pail (sure, you could use any old plastic container, but the handle and magnetic brush holder are pretty sweet), paint tray liners (they make clean up waaay easier, I dump as much extra paint back into the can, let the rest dry, and then peel it off and reuse the liner**), and a flexible pour spout (they conform to both gallon and quart cans, make the paint easier to pour, and prevent paint from clogging up the rim of the can).


paint_supplies_3Marginally useful extras: Edger (I have had various levels of luck with these, they work well in some situations but not others, and some of them constantly fall apart or get paint where they shouldn’t), paint guide (like the edger it works well in some areas and less so in others, if you use one keep a damp rag around and wipe it down constantly).

To Tape or Not to Tape?

I used to be a taper because I was told that was just a normal part of prep work… then I read an article over at Apartment Therapy and it changed my life. They claimed that taping was actually more time consuming and even a little more risky than just cutting in by hand. So I tried cutting in the old fashioned way…and it was wonderful!  You need a good quality angled brush and a steady hand, but if you go slow it’s not that hard.

The “risky” part of taping is that it can lead to overconfidence because if your tape is not perfectly sealed or you’re a little too globby with your paint it can ooze underneath.  Also, there’s a risk of peeling off some of your new paint if you don’t time your tape removal right.

Ultimately it comes down to personal preference.  If you’re new to the painting game you may still want to tape everything, but maybe still try your hand at cutting in carefully and see how much paint you really get on the tape.


*Ceilings are hands down the worst.  If I ever want to repaint our ceilings I may just hire it out.  Really.

**Cheap, green, whatever you want to call it

Dining Room Day 20: Enough with the Mudding!

I’ve been obsessing over this patch job for WEEKS now!  The better the mudding comes out, the better your paint will look… especially if you pick a paint with any sort of sheen to it–that sheen will just make every imperfection pop.  I happen to like eggshell for walls, it’s not shiny, but it’s not flat either (and if you have kids or a tendency to beat the crap out of spiders you find on your wall, you really don’t want a flat finish because it’s not cleanable At All).

Eyeballing your finish isn’t quite enough; if you really want it to turn out well run your hand over it.  You’ll end up feeling bumps you might not have caught otherwise.* After things were feeling pretty good with the hand test (not perfect mind you, but pretty good) I went over everything with a coat of primer.  Once everything’s an even color it’s also easier to pick out areas that looks a little off, just make sure to check it out as the lighting changes throughout the day.


I was crazy happy with how good the spot looked after priming.  1) It looked way more even than expected and 2) the texture left the primer and roller seemed to be just enough to match the subtle wall texture that was already there.  I was a little worried about that and had started to look into some of aerosol texture sprays, but think we may be ok!

I also (mostly) finished painting the trim.  I started last week on our day of rest after Vegas and got one coat of paint on about 1/2 the room.  This weekend I got almost everything else done (I couldn’t reach everything since our table is shoved against one wall, so I’ll be working in sections). Trim is the most tedious thing to paint I think.  Walls are a piece of cake, but trim… it’s more of a souffle–time consuming and finicky.


Because I’m impatient, I also put a little patch of paint up to see how it looked against the trim.


SO excited to get this room painted!

I switched my day off for this coming week from Monday to Wednesday to help out a co-worker and it ended up working well for me too.  I get a break from manual labor and can hopefully dive into painting on Wednesday.  Karma.


*Lighting and shadows can be tricksy

Dining Room Day 7-8: Priming

I spent the last week working on smoothing out the patch job.  It’s a fairly timing consuming project since you have to wait for the previous layer of joint compound to fully dry before you can add another… which pretty much means waiting a full day in between coats.

With the walls well underway I decided to start tackling the trim.  The baseboards are going to come later, but I wanted to get the door and window trim and the crown molding painted before painting the walls.  I think it’s easier to paint trim first (personal preference) and I could knock out the trim while still finishing up the patch job on the wall.

Priming isn’t that exciting, but solid prep-work is important.  All the trim got wiped down with a liquid deglosser and then got hit with a coat of primer.  What I’ve read about using deglossers is that they tend to lose their effectiveness if they sit too long, so I worked in small sections.  Deglossed the kitchen doorframe, let it dry to the touch (about 10 minutes), primed. Then I moved on to one of the windows, degloss, dry, prime… next window, etc.

I’ve been using Bulls Eye 1 2 3 primer and have been pretty happy with it. If you can stomach it, an oil-based would be even better, but it’s cold here and the windows are staying closed.  No matter which primer you choose just make sure to follow the directions on how long to wait between coats because if you don’t give it enough drying time it won’t end up bonding as well as it should.


If you’ve never primed anything before, don’t panic if it looks splotchy and awful, because it will.  It will make your top coat(s) look SO much better though and it will reduce the number coats you’ll need.

After priming, a bunch of old nail holes and assorted wear spots popped up. I should have touched them up before priming, but I wanted to illustrate the shape our trim was in.


All the top edges were like this from years of, I dunno, mounting curtain hardware directly to the trim? There were also holes and chips like this everywhere.  Bits of the decorative moldings were chipped and the inside frame had gouges around the nail heads holding it in. I didn’t manage to get a good shot of the sill, but it was even worse.


I touched them up with wood filler and then went back the next day to sand and spot prime.


I’d say it’s looking better, but it really still looks like a construction zone here.


Original image: Hyperbole and a Half, Modifications: me


This is basically the mantra for the bathroom.  The vinyl is nasty, the wood is in sorry shape, and the wall color is just plain unfortunate.  Because I don’t know when we’ll have the budget for a full gut job I’m pretty much painting every square inch of this room.

After I tackled repairing the window trim, I moved on to demo-ing the closet shelves.  Their configuration was bizarre and they’d be annoying to paint around.  Unfortunately as I removed them I notice the paint on the inside of the closet was peeling badly.  Bad news: it will probably need to be skim coated.  Good news: it’s the inside of a closet so I probably can’t fuck it up too badly.

Luckily, skim coat or not, priming everything was the first step. Ok, second step.  First I scraped off all the really lose bits with a putty knife and filled in what I could with spackle and then primed everything in sight.


Doesn’t that already look so much better?  The beigey vinyl was absolutely disgusting and even just seeing it primed makes a huge difference! The tub base got primed too since it is certainly not staying it’s previous dirty-beige color.

Personally I think it’s easier to paint trim first.  My dad disagrees so this is a clearly a personal preference thing.  Coat #2 for me though was all the vinyl and trim.  You don’t need to worry about a clean edge, just a smooth edge.  Basically any paint you get onto the next surface you’re going to paint make sure you feather out so you don’t see brush lines or blotches. The trim, vinyl, and closet interior are all Clark + Kensington (satin) tinted to Benjamin Moore Simply White (mostly because I had it to use up… I was unimpressed with Clark + Kensington for trim*). The trim did get a second coat of Benjamin More Advance too.


Aaaaannd now for some blue (Behr tinted to Benjamin Moore’s Opal Essence to be exact).  MAN this was a long time coming! This is just a sneak peak for you.  The bathroom’s not quite done yet–we have a new vanity and faucet to install, closet shelves to rebuild, and additional shelving to add.


Up next we tackle our pretty dismal counter space issue.


*Still love it for walls though–that and Behr are my go-to for walls, but BM Advance has won my heart for trim, cabinetry, and furniture.

50 Shades of White

If there are any wood-purists reading this, get your pearls ready. The first thing EVERYONE has said upon seeing this house was some variant of “omg look at all that wood!” Um well… get ready for some disappointment.

I’m painting the trim.

Commence clutching of pearls.

I know this is a very polarizing topic and I’m not going to change anyone’s mind, but here’s my thought process:

I’m a very firm believer of that if it’s yours you can do whatever you want to it to make you love it. Enjoy your space, your furniture, your whatever to the fullest. The wood trim just isn’t doing it for me. I think it works better with a more classic style and I’m very eclectic. The last couple apartments I’ve lived in have been from around the same time period and have had white trim. I personally think this is gorgeous in turn of the century homes. The trim is also not in nearly as good a shape as it looks form the general pictures. There’s a decent amount of damage, some missing quarter round, and assorted areas that just need some patching.  The trim in the kitchen/mud room is also completely different from the rest of the house and the dining room will need all new base boards after we rip the bookcases out.  I’m not sure what I’m going to do in the family room since the paneling is actually in really good shape so I don’t really want to paint that, but I still want to maintain continuity.

I know there will be plenty of people out there who think I’m doing a horrible thing (heck, I’m pretty sure my own mother is one of them), and that’s ok. We really all have to go with our own guts for our design choices because your home design isn’t really for anyone else but you. If you try and make every decision based around “the future home buyer” you’ll just go crazy.


Do you know how frackin hard it is to choose a white paint? Hard. I could have just used an off-the-shelf white white, but I though that would be a little too stark, especially in an old home. But once you get away from pure white you get grey tints, yellow tints, blue tints…. basically every color of the rainbow tinted whites. This means your “white” can end up reading a little funky as the light changes.

Here’s the thing though, there’s no single solution for the “perfect white trim color.” Colors depend a lot on the environment they’re in—what’s the light like? What are the surrounding colors like? Yeah… the only thing to do is pick up a crap-ton of swatches and tape them up everywhere. I did do a little bit of googling to find out other people’s go-to trim colors (otherwise I’d be bringing home every single white swatch in the store…which I came close to doing anyway).

So if you’re trying to decide on a white trim color, here’s are what seem to be the top 5 go-to colors I found:


Benjamin Moore: Simply White


Benjamin Moore: White Dove


Benjamin Moore: Decorators White


Benjamin Moore: Cloud White


Benjamin Moore: Chantilly Lace

(Apparently designers/decorators really like Benjamin Moore…The nice thing though is that pretty much any paint place can color match to anything nowadays)

For the past few weeks I have had about 15 swatches (Benjamin Moore, Behr, Ralph Lauren… I just kind of hoarded white samples when I would walk by a paint display) taped to a shelf from a BILLY bookcase that I’ve moved from room to room and stared at. Eventually I hope to give our existing BILLYs an custom built-in look in the living so I want the trim color compliment them.  It doesn’t have to match exactly for my plans, but it can’t leave them looking dingy, so an ultra white is right out.

After 3 weeks of staring at the swatches in nearly every room and in nearly every light condition I think I’ve made a decision.  And the winner is…. BM Simply White.  It’s just ever-so-slightly not quite pure white but unlike the other swatches it doesn’t get too creamy, too gray, or even (as happened with a couple samples) too brown.  I also used it to paint our bedroom dressers a while back so I know it does actually read white. It was a close race with that and BM Cotton Balls for a while. Cotton Balls looked the absolute best with the bookcases, but a tad dingy against the white appliances and future carrera marble/subway tile plans for the kitchen.  Ultimately I figured I could always paint the bookcases, but that would be harder for appliances and tile.

Paint in my hair, don’t care

I attacked the horrible brick red radiator this week and man is spray paint a bitch in confined spaces!  If you’ve never tackled painting a radiator before, here’s my quick rundown.

Step 1: Prepwork

Give the radiator a good cleaning.  A flexible dryer vent brush is seriously your best friend here.  If you have never cleaned out the inside of a radiator before, be prepared to be amazed at how much nastiness you’ll knock out.  If there’s any flaking or bubbling paint, take it off with a wire brush or sandpaper (if you think the paint could be lead based, be careful and look into appropriate precautions).  You’ll also want to wash it all down to get ride of any remaining dust or particles.


Step 2: Tape off everything like you’re trying to make your own hazmat decon unit.


The biggest problem with spray paint is over-spray. Not a big deal if you’re outside, but if you have ANYTHING you don’t want paint on in the same room, cover it.  I didn’t cover absolutely everything and there’s a fine dust all over the floor (the particulates dry pretty quickly as they drift, so this actually isn’t a bad clean up).  I taped around all the feet and pipes, layered craft paper (or cut up grocery bags) over that, drop clothed to cover a wider spread, and taped lightweight plastic sheeting to the walls and over the brick (FYI painters tape does not like brick.  At. All.).


Step 3: Light Layers


I really didn’t use anything special for paint, just Rustoleum Universal white in a satin finish.  The sprayer on these bottles is pretty sweet and doesn’t cause annoying finger cramps like the standard spray nozzles can.  Rustoleum sells a High Heat spray as well, but since their normal spray paint is good up to 200 degrees there’s really no need for the high heat stuff.  They also make a Radiator Enamel… but I couldn’t find it in stores near me so Universal it was.  Don’t worry about getting a good coat on the first pass.  In fact, don’t even try.  You want light layers so they dry faster and don’t get all drippy. Also, get as much ventilation as you can cuz this stuff is pretty potent.  If you know several friendly weightlifters you they can also disconnect the radiator and haul it outside making a lot of this considerably easier.


Step 4-Infinity: Lather, Rinse, and Repeat


Lots and lots of light layers.  Patience is important here… and it’s totally not one of my strong points.  I got up to coat 5 before I ran out of paint.  Trying to cover up red is probably especially difficult… so is trying to paint something complicated that’s stuck in a corner.


Step 5: Fuck it, just use a brush

After coat 5 I was out of spray paint and didn’t really want to keep going.  Plus I had also covered myself in a layer of spray paint and didn’t really feel like another day of trying to scrub it all off.  I picked up a tiny can of Rustoleum white paint in a satin finish and used a foam brush to touch up the areas I failed at spraying.  If I had to do this all over again, I’d probably just brush paint from the start. I also forgot my camera at home at this point and then collapsed into a puddle of moving exhaustion, but you’ll get to see it soon once I’ve got the cabinets finished.  Spoiler: It looks a lot like the last picture from step 4, just a lot better close up.  Crazy.