How to Paint Walls & Ceilings (10 Tips for a Smooth Finish)

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If the walls or ceiling you wish to paint have been recently plastered then they will need to be completely dried out before any paint can be applied. This could take several weeks depending on the temperature in the room.

It is sensible to wait this long because if paint is applied to a plastered wall/ceiling that has not dried completely, any moisture will effectively be trapped and could result in mould growth and the paint may not ‘key’ to the wall/ceiling as it should, resulting in flaking and peeling.

New plaster should be sealed with a primer coat before you apply the top coat(s). There are manufactured sealants on the market but you could mix your own.

If you intend to paint the plastered wall/ceiling with emulsion, mix water with emulsion in a ratio of three or four parts to one and paint this on first to seal it.

Any ‘old’ plastered walls/ceilings will probably require a great deal of preparation in order to achieve a good paint finish.

All holes, cracks and knocks etc, will have to be filled and sanded smooth with an appropriate filler and sand paper. Check out this guide on how to repair cracked or damaged plaster on internal walls.

It may be worthwhile preparing the wall/ceiling first and then wallpapering it with a cheap plain wallpaper or lining paper, letting it dry out and then painting over it to obtain a good finish.

Any walls/ceilings that have been painted previously should be cleaned using warm water and soap. If there are any stains, especially on the ceiling from nicotine etc, then try using sugar soap (available in powder form to mix with water or as ready to use wipes), this is more effective and recommended by most decorators.

Painting wall and ceilings to obtain the desired finish will probably require a couple of coats, dependant on the colour you are applying and any stains or marks that can’t be removed.

I always use a paint roller and tray for the majority of the painting and finish off corners and around woodwork with a suitable size brush.

Don’t overload the roller or brush with too much paint (after a short while you will be able to judge how much paint to load onto the roller or brush).

Cover any flooring or furnishings with a dustsheet that you don’t want speckled with the paint from the roller.

Give the paint time to dry before worrying that it looks a mixture of shades as sections of the wall / ceiling will dry quicker than others.

When you are finished, don’t forget to clean your paintbrush before the paint dries.

10 Quick Tips for Painting Walls and Ceilings Like a Pro

Painting might seem simple at first glance, but the tradesmen who have mastered it have plenty of secrets for improving efficiency while getting fantastic results. The top 10 tips for everything from preparation to completion are covered here so you can finish your project more easily without sacrificing quality.

1. To maintain a consistent texture, roll paint along edges instead of brushing

If you use a brush for edges while using a roller for the rest of your project, you’ll end up with obvious texture differences between the two areas. Instead, brush the paint on first, then quickly use a 3-inch roller of equal thickness to roll the paint out before it dries. Brush, then roll one section at a time, watching to make sure you don’t bump other walls or get paint on the trim in the process.

2. Prime with tinted paint and texture patches to ensure solid colour

Walls often look splotchy after being painted, especially over areas covered with filler, which absorbs paint. By priming, you can seal these areas to prevent absorption and dulling of the paint you apply. Avoid white primer and use tinted instead, rolling it out for a more vibrant result.

3. Cut painting tape before you remove it

After your paint dries, cut it before pulling it to avoid peeling paint from the wall. Use a utility knife to cut the paint in a remote spot at first, just in case. After cutting, use a 45-degree angle to pull the tape away from the wall.

4. Paint in one run and use extender to prevent lap marks

Unsightly lap marks can result from painting over areas that are slightly dry. To prevent this from happening, paint an entire wall at once, keeping a wet edge by overlapping each previous stroke before it dries. By using paint extender, you can make this easier by keeping the paint wet longer.

5. Use feathering techniques when wet edges aren’t possible

On ceilings, stairwells and high walls, single strokes may be impossible. To prevent lap marks in those areas, paint a section, then feather the paint out by applying the almost-dry roller in several directions across the side of the section. With the next area, cover these edges. On the following coat, work in the opposite direction.

6. Use only canvas drop cloths

Plastic drop cloths are slippery, and bedsheets will bleed through. With canvas drop cloths, you’ll have a stable surface that absorbs smaller spills. Unless you’re painting a ceiling, you only need smaller drop cloths along the wall you’re working on.

7. Between coats, sand the trim for the smoothest results

Single coats rarely cover trim completely, and failing to sand coats can cause graininess. For best results, use a fine-grit sanding sponge and lightly sand the trim after it has dried for at least a day. Before the next coat, vacuum the trim and wipe it off with a tack cloth.

8. Keep colour consistent by mixing multiple cans

Two cans may be labeled the same, but their colour can differ considerably, resulting in awful contrast if you switch cans halfway through a project. Instead, dump all the cans you need into a large bucket and mix thoroughly before you begin.

9. Thoroughly clean all walls and trim before starting

If walls are greasy when you paint them, paint won’t stick there in the long term. Before you get started, always use a degreaser to clean oily areas in the kitchen or spots that are handled often. Use a lint-free rag, then fill in cracks and sand before painting.

10. Paint trim before ceilings and walls

Taping trim is easier than taping off walls, letting you get the job done with less work. You won’t have to worry about getting paint on the walls this way. After the trim dries, tape it off and get started on the ceiling and walls.