How To Paint Your Wall

A quick paint primer

Painting the walls can be an easy and inexpensive way to freshen up the look of a room. You can do a simple color change or get fancy with textured paint on the wall, paint designs on one or more walls, or use contrasting colors as accents. This article will cover the basics of applying a simple coat of paint to the wall.

Paint Choices

When choosing wall paint, look for an interior house paint or one labeled interior / exterior. Exterior paint is not suitable for use inside. Wall paint generally comes in two types and several finishes.

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The two types of paint are:

  • Water-based or latex paint: The liquid part of this paint is water. It dries fairly fast and cleans up with just soap and water.
  • Solvent-based or oil paint: The liquid is mineral spirits. It takes at least 24 hours to dry and clean-up requires paint thinner or turpentine.

Paint finishes come in various levels of "sheen" or light reflection. Paints with a higher sheen are more stain resistant than low-sheen finishes. The most common sheen classifications are:

  • Flat: A non-reflective (no sheen) paint that hides imperfections well and does not spatter much when applied.
  • Eggshell: Contrary to popular belief, this is not a color, but a type of finish. It has a low sheen and works well in bedrooms and dining rooms.
  • Satin: Somewhat more sheen than eggshell and relatively easy to clean.
  • Semi-gloss: A popular choice for its durability and ease of cleaning. It has less shine than a true gloss. These paints work great on woodwork as well as in high-traffic or high-humidity areas like bathrooms.
  • Gloss: The most durable and easiest to clean. It's suitable for the same areas as semi-gloss but is somewhat less popular as imperfections in the painted surface show through more easily.
  • How to Prepare Your Wall

    Before painting, be sure to prepare the wall. Patch holes with a spackling paste (pre-mixed is easiest). When the patches are dry, sand them and any other rough patches. Any dust from the sanding will cause an unattractive final finish, so dust with a clean lint-free cloth. Remove all switch and receptacle plates.

    If you are not painting the trim or baseboards, cover them with painters tape. Other types of tape may strip the finish off your trim when you remove them, but painters tape has a gentler adhesive (glue) that can safely stay in place for up to three days.

    Using a Paint Primer

    Primer will help the paint adhere and improve the final appearance. This is true even for new wood or drywall, which can absorb paint unevenly, making the final appearance blotchy. It's also essential when changing from bright or dark colors to lighter colors.

    Staining the primer to match your paint can improve coverage, and may prevent needing a second coat. You might want a stain-blocking, waterproof paint primer if there are already stains on the wall. This is especially common in damp areas like basements or bathrooms.

    How to Paint Your Wall

    Now it's time to paint. You will need either a large paintbrush or a paint roller and paint tray.

    Walls are easiest to paint with a roller. Load up the roller with paint (not too much, it shouldn't be dripping) and apply the paint in an "M" shape, filling in the "M" by rolling back across it. Paint in small sections at a time (no more than a few feet square). Start in a corner and work your way out and across the wall.

    Clean up spills and spatters as you go along. It's much easier to wipe up wet paint with a damp cloth than to scrape the dried paint off later. If you do miss some spatters, use a razor-blade or putty knife to chip off the dried paint.

    Allow the first coat to dry and evaluate the coverage. If necessary, apply a second coat.

    One final note: No matter how careful you are there will be drips, so cover the floor and any furniture left in the room with drop-cloths. Paint spattered floors and furniture will not enhance your freshly painted walls.

    by Melissa J Luther

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