How to Paint a Room after Your Prep is Done

How to Paint a Room after Your Prep is Done


There’s a running joke in my house that every time the kids come home from some trip or weekend away, they swear they smell fresh paint. I’m generally met with deep sniffs and inquisitive, “Mom, what did you do?” looks. To be honest, the kids may not be that far off. There’s usually a change somewhere. Not always with paint, but I do like to freshen things up more often than some. Here’s the thing: I LOVE FRESH WALLS. Unfortunately for my family, I notice every fingerprint, mark and ding and it doesn’t take long for me to need to fix it. As discussed in How to Prep a Room for Painting, I detailed how I go about dealing with all of those things. And now we are ready for one of my favourite things, PAINT. Paint can be as simple as just freshening up a space, or with the right colour, change the space entirely. I just love the endless possibilities that paint brings.

Now, a word about paint brands: no two brands are the same. Sorry to all those who swear by the big box brand paints being just the same, but we are not in agreement. Yes, you may save money initially. If that’s all you can manage, then by all means, do that. But I have worked with countless types of paint and there is no comparison: buy cheap paint, get cheap results. There, I said it. When you buy a better quality paint, it goes on better, it spreads farther, is more durable, (think kid-spills and runaway dinky cars), and the colour saturation is beyond comparison. Instead of a thinly spread layer of a colour that barely ‘sits’ on a wall like the cheapies, you get a wall that becomes the colour you apply. You’ll be happier for longer when the colour looks luxurious. Trust me. I’m picky. 

So what brand do I use? I’m a Benjamin Moore girl all the way. No, as I write this, I do not have any benefit to telling you this. No one has sponsored that opinion in any way. It’s all mine and it has been my opinion for twenty years. I just think of all the brands I’ve worked with, I am never disappointed with the product, the colour, the outcome or the longevity of this paint. Love Benjamin Moore.

So here we go: let me take you through a step-by-step process of how to paint a room properly and get a professional finish without the professional cost!

Paint Your Ceiling

This might seem pretty straight forward, but let me give you some tips.

First, unless you have painted your ceiling VERY recently, chances are it’s dull, marked or stained with watermarks or insect residue. A clean, crisp ceiling makes all the difference in your finished work. And you don’t want to attempt painting your ceiling AFTER you’ve just freshly painted your walls. Teeny Tiny Splatter City. 

Second, use a brush to paint all of the edges of the ceiling. When you do the ‘edging’, it is best to feather ceiling paint lightly down onto the walls about half a centimetre, to a full centimetre. Why? This will ensure that when you paint the new colour on your walls, that you will get a clean, crisp edge between your ceiling and the wall. (You won’t have any surprises of the old colour peaking through, as I have experienced in the past…grr)

Third, I know it’s hard on your back and shoulders, but one coat is never enough. Use a roller extension, use the paint that goes from pink to white (if you’re painting your ceiling white), and always do AT LEAST two coats. Each coat should be laid perpendicular to the previous coat. (i.e. if the first coat was put on east-to-west, the second coat goes north-to-south). Let dry between coats and check for missed spots or streaking.

Fourth, a coloured ceiling can look AMAZING in a space. Just be aware that if you ever want to change it, it will be extra work. I once had a client whose ceiling was going from olive green to white. Seven coats later, we had coverage! Ow, my shoulders!

Decide if you need to Prime your walls

Priming seals drywall and covers previous or darker colours from leaking through your finished result. You may not need to prime if you are covering over a lighter colour. But some colours just look better after a tinted primer has been applied, even over a lighter paint. One such instance is red. Most suppliers will encourage you to prime with a brown or grey tinted primer before applying red, as this will ensure you get the result you see on the swatch, rather than some blotchy close-ish reference to your colour. Ask your paint supplier if you need primer.

Paint trim, baseboards, window frames and doors

Yes! Paint these BEFORE you paint your walls. After you have scrubbed, repaired and caulked your trim, baseboards, windows and doors, your next task is to paint them. Use a good angled brush that isn’t too wide and not too cheap. Dip your brush into the paint until the paint is only half way up your brush at most. Don’t overload your brush or you’ll have a mess on your hands. Wipe off the excess paint on the edge of your container and start painting with long, controlled strokes so you don’t get marks everywhere.

Just as with the ceiling, I like to feather the trim paint out slightly onto the walls to get that crisp edge. The top oh-so-thin edge of the baseboard is much easier to paint now than trying to do it after you’ve done your walls and you don’t want to mess up your beautiful finish. That’s why you paint them now and feather lightly up onto the wall. The wall paint will cover the feathering and you’ll have beautiful lines between your wall and baseboard.

For doors that you are freshening up with a similar white as the last time it was painted, go in a specific pattern so you don’t forget where you were in the process.

Always make sure that your paint for trim is more durable than regular eggshell wall paint. Baseboards take a beating, especially in higher traffic areas and when there are children using the space. Use Satin or Semi-Gloss to get the best results.

Paint walls

Ahh, finally! The best part…fresh walls! At this point, you want to take a small brush and feather over any patching with either paint or primer to seal in the PolyFil.

Edging: most people hate this part but I love it. There’s a trick to it and once you get it, you *might* love it too!

As with loading paint on a brush for your trim, you want to make sure you don’t oversaturate your brush for your edging. Dip your brush into your container and wipe off any excess paint. Slowly and carefully paint your edge with the brush PERPENDICULAR to your edge. That’s right, use the top part of the bristles to make your edge; not the side of the brush. You have more control over whether your paint ends up on the ceiling when you use your brush this way. Reload your brush with paint when you start to see your edge thin or skip. Then go over the line with the brush flat to the wall parallel to the ceiling, being very careful not to get too close to that edge. I recommend doing your edging in sections and then painting over it while the paint is still wet, rather than edge the whole room first, and then paint. It just doesn’t look right.

Next is rolling paint out on the walls. Make sure you ask your supplier what type of roller is best for your walls. A flat wall usually needs a 10 mm pile roller cover, while a stucco surface, or special treatments need something a little different. 

Load your paint in small strokes from your paint tray by drawing an amount of paint out and up the slope of the tray and rolling your roller back and forth until the whole cover has an even coat of paint on it. ( what I mean is, don’t dunk your roller into the deep end of your paint. Yuck. Mess.). 

Once your paint is loaded and you’ve rolled it out a couple times in the tray to lose drips, roll out your paint onto your walls. Use longer, controlled strokes with even pressure. Try not to go back over a spot over and over on the first coat. It may look spotty, but that’s what second coats are for. Keep painting in the same direction as much as possible and when you need to bring your roller off the wall, try to ease it off like a plane taking off up the wall…(whoosh)…rather than an abrupt stop and pull off, like ripping off a bandaid. If you do pull, you’ll get gloopy strings and bubbles. Not good. Remember, take off with a whoosh, not a rip.

Please do a second coat. I know people try to cut corners to save time or money. They try to load the roller with so much paint and throw it up, convincing themselves that one coat is enough…but honestly, the end result is you can actually see the paint sighing at the weight of it all. It looks like it’s oddly migrating south, slowly and in a depressed state like some version of a Charlie Brown special. Please. Two coats.

*while the first coat is drying, you can put your brushes, rollers and paint tray in plastic bags and tie them up so they don’t dry out overnight. If they are well sealed, you can even leave it for a few days!

Clean up and Reset

Now that all the hard work is done, you get to put the room back together and enjoy the fruit of your labour! Well done!

If you’ve only used latex paint, your brushes should just be cleaned with soap and water, but if they’re stubborn or you’ve used something heavier, use mineral spirits or varsol. Rinse well and store for your next project!

Put back (or replace) your electrical plates, hang your curtains and artwork, place your furniture and sit back to enjoy!

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