Know the Tools of the Trade: Painting Tools

When preparing a room for painting, Shari and I always make sure that we have all the tools we need close at hand.  We store all of our tools in plastic containers and take care of them as if they are part of the family.

The tools we use are listed below along with tips for painting any room in your home!  If you’d like more information, we have articles on how to paint and prep within

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Furniture Movers

If you have ever painted a room by yourself, you know how hard it is to move the furniture to the middle of the room on your own.  These plastic glides do the trick; they can be purchased in many sizes and for carpeted floors as well as hard wood floors.

Keep these guys clean, especially the ones used on hardwood floors, the dirt on the glide could scratch the furniture.


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Cloth Drop Cloths

For protecting floors and furniture, nothing beats a canvas tarp or drop cloth.  They absorb spills, don’t slide under feet and are thick enough for small disaster/paint spills.

Use light weight plastic tarps to protect furniture and tall areas.

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Roller Tray- and Plastic Liners

Purchase a paint tray that a plastic paint liner can be inserted into, the plastic liner makes it easier to clean up after painting or can be thrown away.

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I suggest you pour the paint back into the paint can, and let the tray dry, then peel away the dried paint, and reuse the tray again.


Clean up tip, when painting for more than one day, store the paint tray and roller cover in a sealed plastic garbage bag, the paint will stay wet, and you will not have to use another tray or roller cover.

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Roller Frames

A nine inch roller frame is standard.  Look for quick release frames.  These frames make it easier to remove a roller cover.  Just tap the frame against a plastic pail and the roller cover will fall right off.



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Roller tip, look for roller frames that can be attached to an extension pole.  An extension pole makes it a lot easier to roll paint onto larger walls and ceilings.  Instead of using just the frame, the pole gives you more leverage and you will be able to cover a larger area faster.

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Roller Covers

Roller covers are made out of different materials for each type of paint, and also different nap thickness for each type of wall surface.

The general rule of thumbs is:

*If the nap is natural, it’s for oil based products.  Such as mohair covers.  If its man made, best for latex products.

*If the nap is thick it’s for rougher surfaces.  Heavy stucco walls call for a thicker roller covers, such as 1 inch to 1 ½ inch thick.

*A smooth wall like a bathroom wall with no texture, a ¼ inch nap would be the best bet.

So if I’m painting a semi smooth living room wall, I would use a polyester roller cover that is about 3/8 inch thick.

When in doubt, ask a paint store clerk.

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Roller Cleaner

This tool is great for cleaning your roller cover, place the roller on the spinner, place in a 5 gallon bucket, run a watering hose into the pail at a slow trickle and add water and spin.  The centrifugal force cleans the roller in minutes.  After the roller spins clean, stop the water flow and spin to dry.

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Paint Pail

Instead of carrying a full gallon of paint around a room while you paint, pour about of inch into a plastic pail.  That way you’re not carrying a lot of weight around and you don’t run the risk of spilling a whole gallon of paint on the floor.

Pail tip, when cleaning the paint pail after use, pour the paint back in the can, allow the remaining paint to dry in the pail, then peel it out of the bucket and throw it away.  No mess, no wasted water.

photo 10Painters Tape

The hardest thing to do in painting is cutting a straight edge.  Use painters tape and you will have no problem.  This low tack tape can be left on trim for several days and then easily removed without a lot of tugging and damaging the trim.  We use Frog Tape for a sharp clean line.  Look for the green frog!

If you have left tape on to long, use a low setting on a hair dryer, warm up the tape glue and it will pull away nicely, then clean up the remain glue with a little paint thinner.

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5-in-One Tool

For what it cost, maybe a hair under 8 bucks, this tool is a painter’s favorite.  From cleaning roller covers, opening cracks for spackling, using as a putty knife, the list goes on an on.  Some models can even be used as a hammer, with the blunt end strong enough to drive a nail.

Use the five in one to open paint cans, sure beats ruining the tip of a good screwdriver.

Paper Towels and Clean Rags

Need we say more; keep a generous supply handy, rags in a box are terrific.

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Flexible putty knife

This tool is for applying spackling compound, the better the flex-the easier to apply flush spackle.

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Flush Spackle

For small holes and thin crack repairs (picture hanging holes) use a flush spackling compound, no need to sand and dries quickly.  For larger holes and cracks use a quality sanding spackling compound.

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Caulking Gun

Some folks call me a caulking fool.  Nothing makes a room look sharper that all the gaps between trim and baseboards filled with caulk and finished to a smooth look.  Purchase one that has a cutter in the handle to cut the tip off of caulk.  The gun should also have a plunger along the length to puncture the seal of the caulk tube.  I also use a silicone/latex type caulk.

Purchase a small caulk cap for about 2 bucks to seal the caulk between uses.  And don’t allow caulk to freeze, just like latex paint it will lose it integrity.

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Paint Brushes (the best is for last)

The bread and butter tool for professional painters.  Show me a painter’s tool box and I’ll show you a tool that is taken care of like a favorite family pet.  Most brushes will last several years for a painter because of the care given to the brush.  When choosing a brush keep these things in mind:

Natural bristle brushes like hogs hair and boar bristles are meant for oil based paints.  They may cost more but they are the tool that leaves very little or no brush strokes.  Can only be cleaned with paint or mineral spirits

Synthetic/polyester bristle brushes are meant for latex paints.  They are designed for carrying large amounts of paint and have stiffer bristles, but are work horses for do it yourselfers.  The best part for using this type of brush: soap and water cleaning.


The four brushes to have in your paint kit.

2 ½ inch tapered brush, polyester, for paint trim and cutting in.
2 ½ inch straight brush, polyester, for cutting in and general painting.
2 ½ inch natural bristle brush for those times where oil based trim is the only choice.
4 inch straight brush, polyester.   Great brush size for removing dust on walls and trim.  Don’t spend a lot of money on this brush, but it is a must have.

Don’t skimp on the price of the brush.  If you are a true do it yourselfer, you will be using this brush for a long time.  The cheaper the brush the more work, good brushes carry more paint and leave less brush marks.

We all have heard that it is the tools that make a good painter, well take my word for it this is very true, many of my paint projects have become nightmares when I didn’t have the proper supplies to complete the job…..and this is from a guy who has painted literally hundreds of rooms.

Tools and patience make a great painter.


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