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How to paint a room like a pro — follow these quick tips

Man painting wall light blue
Man painting wall light blue (Image credit: Shutterstock)

If your room looks dated or in need of a makeover, knowing how to paint a room like a pro can make all the difference. A fresh coat of paint is an affordable way to refresh a space, brighten up a dull room and give it an instant uplift. 

What's more, painting a room is a quick project we can easily tackle ourselves without calling in the professionals, saving us extra cash.

While it may seem like a simple task, there are some tips and tricks of the trade to know before you start. Common mistakes can often happen without the right preparation, so it’s vital to know how to paint a room properly to get those professional results. 

So whether you fancy a fresh color for or simply want to revamp a tired-looking room, here’s how to paint a room like a pro in nine easy steps. And be sure to check out our guide on how to paint a ceiling without making a mess. If you're stripping walls, you'll need to know how to remove wallpaper before painting.

How to paint a room

1. Prep the room for painting

What you'll need

Painter's tape

Drop cloths

Putty knife

Caulk

Paint brushes (both angled and straight)

Paint roller

Paint tray

Stir stick

Paint swatches

Paint

—  First, move furniture and fixtures out of the room or away from the walls into the center of the room. Cover furniture with protective drop cloths. 

—  Then, cover the floor with drop cloths or old bed linen to protect it from paint drips and splatters. Canvas sheets are more durable and absorbent than plastic drop cloths , but the plastic sheets are less expensive and more accessible. We recommend this Canvas Drop Cloth ($24, Amazon (opens in new tab)) which is both heavy duty and durable.

Room covered in drop cloths for painting

Room covered in drop cloths for painting (Image credit: Shutterstock)

— Remove outlet and light switch plates to prevent any paint getting on them, and cover what remains with painter’s tape.

— Ensure there is proper ventilation before painting to eliminate the build-up of paint fumes by opening a window or door.  

2. Repair the walls 

— Check the surface of the wall for any cracks, holes or dents that need to be repaired. Apply caulk to fill in any cracks or holes with a putty knife, and let it dry completely. We can recommend Dap 18128 Alex Plus Acrylic Latex Caulk Plus Silicone 5.5-Ounce - 4 Pack ($21, Amazon (opens in new tab)).

—  Once dry, lightly sand the area with a fine 220-grit sandpaper or sanding sponge to smoothen the surface. Then, wipe the surfaces clean with a damp cloth and allow to dry again. 

Filling cracks in wall with putty knife

Filling cracks in wall with putty knife (Image credit: Shutterstock)

 3. Apply painter's tape 

—  Next up, apply painter’s tape around your skirting, windows, light sockets and doors to prevent paint bleeding through.

For a non-textured surface, ensure you mask it off where it meets the edge of the wall, pressing down firmly along the edge. We recommend ScotchBlue Sharp Lines Painter's Tape ($24, Amazon (opens in new tab)) or Frogtape 1358463 Multi-Surface Painter's Tape with Paintblock ($5, Amazon (opens in new tab)) to do the job.

Applying painter's tape on skirting

Applying painter's tape on skirting (Image credit: Shutterstock)

4. Sample the paint

—  Test a sample of the paint first to give you an idea of how the color will look. Often the color charts look different to reality, so paint two coats of your chosen color in a 12 x 12 inch square to see what it looks like on your wall.

—  If you don’t want to test directly onto the wall, you can paint two coats on a foam board and tape it to the wall. This will also save you the hassle of repainting a room if you don’t like the final color.

Painting test swatches on wall

Painting test swatches on wall (Image credit: Shutterstock)

5. Prime the walls 

— You’ll need to prime your walls before painting, especially when you’re painting over a dark color with a lighter tone or want to hide unsightly stains. Using a good quality primer is essential; it will help seal the wall and prevent mold.

—  First, dip a paint brush into the primer and “cut in” 2- to 3-inch bands of primer around the edges, corners and frames of a room. Then, pour the primer paint into a tray, dip your roller brush in until it’s covered, roll off the excess, and start painting the primer onto the wall. Professionals recommend to work top to bottom, followed by rolling back and forth across the wall in V or W-shaped strokes until the section of wall is covered. This will ensure good coverage. 

—  Leave to completely dry before painting. Most latex primers can take between 30 minutes to one hour to dry, while oil-based primers can take up to 24 hours to fully dry. Follow the given instructions for time to dry. 

Pouring primer into paint tray

Pouring primer into paint tray (Image credit: Shutterstock)

6. Sand your wall primer 

— When the primer is dry, lightly sand the wall with a fine grit sandpaper on a block to get rid of bumps or ridges and create a smooth surface. We can recommend Fandeli Sandpaper Sheets ($13, Amazon (opens in new tab)), or MICHENG 6PCs Sanding Blocks ($8, Amazon (opens in new tab)).

— Once the area is smooth, wipe the wall clean with a damp towel or sponge and allow it to dry.

Sanding wall by hand

Sanding wall by hand (Image credit: Shutterstock)

7. Mix the paint  

— Open the can of paint and always mix the paint thoroughly with a wooden stir stick before use. This is because the ingredients tend to separate, especially after sitting for a long period of time. This will ensure that the color and finish will look consistent. 

Mixing green paint

Mixing green paint (Image credit: Shutterstock)

8. Paint your walls 

After all the prep work, you can finally paint your walls with a roller brush and a paint brush. 

— Start by using an angled brush to “cut in” with a two-inch painted line around the edges of shirting boards, door frames and the ceiling. Then, pour your chosen paint into the tray and fill to about ¼ of the capacity, before rolling your roller brush back and forth in the paint, and pressing off the excess. 

— Using your roller brush, start working from the top to the bottom of the wall. Then roll back and forth across the entire wall in a series of V or W-shape strokes for a more even coat. 

— Leave the first coat to completely dry (to the touch) before applying another. It’s recommended to paint at least two coats to get a more rich and vibrant color finish.   

Woman painting wall with a rollerbrush

Woman painting wall with a rollerbrush (Image credit: Shutterstock)

9. Clean up time 

— Once your walls are painted and dry, remove the painter’s tape from around the walls and borders. Avoid leaving on for too long as small pieces of tape can break away and leave residue. 

— Then, decant the tray's leftover paint back into the tin before sealing the can tightly. If it’s tricky to seal due to dried paint around the edges, tap the lid's edges gently with a hammer to close. 

—  Next, rinse the tray with warm soapy water and thoroughly clean your paintbrush and roller. Finally, leave the brush bristles and roller to fully dry before putting away.  

Removing painter's tape

Removing painter's tape (Image credit: Shutterstock)

How long does it take for paint to dry?

Tins of paint

Tins of paint (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Latex or water-based paints are usually dry to the touch after one hour and you can recoat within four hours. While oil-based paints take much longer and are dry to the touch between six to eight hours. In this case, you’ll need to wait 24 hours before you can recoat. 

Be sure to check the instructions on the paint label to confirm specific dry times.      

Cynthia Lawrence specialises in Homes ecommerce, covering all things homes and garden-related. She has a wealth of editorial experience testing the latest, ‘must-have’ home appliances, writing buying guides and the handy ‘how to’ features. 


Her work has been published in various titles including, T3, Top Ten Reviews, Ideal Home, Real Homes, Livingetc. and House Beautiful, amongst many.


With a rather unhealthy obsession for all things homes and interiors, she also has an interior design blog for style inspiration and savvy storage solutions (get rid of that clutter!). When she’s not testing cool products, she’ll be searching online for more decor ideas to spruce up her family home or looking for a great bargain!