We All Should Learn the Basics of Painting Walls


Even I know the basics of painting walls – and it’s because I had a great teacher – Matt! The following is a video by him, full of the kinds of painting tips he taught me!

I know you would expect the basics of painting to come from Matt since he was a licensed painting contractor for many years.  Well, perhaps the information is better coming from a novice who learned from the master?  And if it makes you feel better, he did look this over and approved it before we published it!

In my hallway project, all I had to paint was the walls.  I did check the status of the ceiling and since the house is newer, the ceiling still looked great.  The trim was recently painted, so I was in luck.  I had only the easy part to do!

I do want to be very responsible with this article, so be patient, I want to go over every detail of painting just the walls. If you’ve never painted before, the walls are a great place to start, and this could be the information you’ve been searching for!

Materials List:

  • Drop cloths
    We prefer cloth to plastic because of tracking
  • Blue Painter’s Tape
  • Screw driver
    To remove outlet and switch plates
  • Paint of your choice
    Latex flat or satin recommended for walls
  • Paint key or a 5-in-1
    To open the paint can
  • 2 ½” Sash brush
    For cutting in
  • Small bucket or Disposable Paint Trim Tray
    For cut in paint – I LOVED the tray by WorkForce
  • 9” Roller handle
  • 9” Roller cover
    Appropriate nap for type of surface
  • Extension pole
  • Either a Paint tray and plastic liner
    Or Large 5 gallon bucket with paint screen
    Sort of the contractor’s way but great for homeowner’s as well.
  • Clean rags or paper towels for clean ups!
  • Roller Spinner for cleaning rollers and brushes



1. Proper preparation always comes first.  In this hallway, or in a room where you are planning to simply paint the walls, the preparations are fairly easy.  First, remove all the outlet and switch plates.  I use the blue tape to tape the screws to the back of the outlet cover but some folks put the screws back in place. You could place everything in a baggie to keep it all together.  If there are register covers remove them as well.


Proper preparation also includes using painter’s blue tape to tape off cut lines so they are straight, baseboards if you like and you can also place some tape on top of the outlet and switch.  Be very careful doing this so you don’t touch any metal and get shocked.  However, taping over these does help keep them clean when you are rolling around them with the paint.


Place fabric drop cloths on the floor to cover the area you are working in.  I did end up unfolding this cloth one more time to get a bit more coverage before I got started.  Some people purchase the plastic drop cloths and expect to throw them away.  These don’t absorb the spill and you end up tracking the paint around the house on the bottom of your feet.


2. Now it’s time to get your painting supplies together.  For cutting in, I really enjoyed using this little paint tray.  It has a small metal bar that you install to be used as a wipe and rest bar.  It was easy to hold on to and it worked like a charm.  If you’d rather use a small pail you have around the house, gather it up along with your 2 ½” sash brush for cutting in.


3. Also get your supplies ready for painting the wall.  I used a metal paint tray with a plastic liner.  Along with this I used a new roller cover I recently purchased called a Colossus.  It was perfect for the orange peel walls I have in my home.


I pulled out my favorite 9” roller handle and of course my extension pole.  Matt taught me a long time ago that an extension pole is THE WAY to paint a wall.


Make sure when you are purchasing a roller frame that the end is threaded so you can attach an extension pole.  The advantage is that you can stay on solid ground, (your floor instead of the ladder) the entire time you are painting the largest surfaces.  Just extend the pole as far as you need to reach the ceiling cut in, and roll away!


Some people who paint a lot, like Matt, prefer to use a 5 gallon pail and a paint screen.  The top edge of the screen hooks over the lip of the 5 gallon pail and the bottom edge rests on the inside of the pail.  Matt holds the paint pail between his feet as he fills up the roller and then takes off any excess paint by rolling the roller over the paint screen.  It’s a good system as well.
Along with the above, get your ladder ready and some damp and dry rags or shop towels….just in case!

4. When it comes time to actually bring the paint out, if it is brand new you may just have to swirl the can a bit in your hands before opening it to make sure all the colorant is stirred in. It never hurts to stir it a bit after opening and then proceed to pouring it into the trays or containers. If the paint has been sitting around in the garage for a year, shake it well, open it, stir it with a paint stir stick to locate and film that may be floating around inside and clean up the paint.  I’ve heard of straining the paint with a paint strainer as well if you think there are lots of loose particles in it that will ruin the smooth finish on your walls.


By the way, do me a favor and open the paint can with a paint can opener, this can be a paint key or a 5 in 1 tool – NOT a screw driver or Matt will be really upset with me!


5. Believe it or not, there is a system to painting a wall.  First, you start with a cut in.  In other words, you use your sash brush and paint up close to the ceiling, baseboards, door trim, and in areas that the roller won’t fit.

Then, like in a coloring book, you fill in up to the cut in.  When doing so, start at the ceiling and paint about a 3 foot square box with vertical zig zag pattern strokes moving left to right then right to left to fill in the box.  Once that box is filled in, move beneath it to create another.  Work down the wall, top to bottom creating a column of color.  Repeat this column of color until you’ve gone as far as your cut in, and then repeat the cut in at the top and bottom and then go back to your rolling.


This is one of the best ways to get good coverage.  However, I don’t think it is possible to get perfect one coat coverage.  Holidays, or places where the wall didn’t get painted are very hard to avoid.  I prefer waiting an hour or so and repainting a second coat while I have all of the tools out and ready to go.

If you have to wait overnight, put the paint tray in a plastic bag and make it airtight as possible.  Do the same with the roller, brush and cut in tray.  You can pick right up in the morning without all the prep time!

6. Clean up is another step in this process.  If you let the paint in the plastic trays dry completely, because the paint is made of latex, the film will peel right out and you can throw it away without using any water at all.  The same goes for the paint pails.

Use a 5 in 1 tool to remove as much paint as possible from a roller cover and a brush, just scrape the paint back into the paint can to be used for touch ups in the future.  Use a little water on the roller and on the brush, then use a roller spinner to spin the paint and water out of the roller cover and the brush. All paint stores should have roller spinners.


7. The final finishing steps include putting the outlet and switch plates back on the wall.  This might be a good time to add a piece of masking tape to the back of one of the switch plates with the paint color name and number you used just for future reference.

When you put the paint can away, make sure to mark on it which room it was used in and make sure the color name and number are easy to read.


When you are done, the rewards go on for quite some time.  You’ve changed a room in your home for the better both aesthetically and physically.  Painting protects your biggest investment and helps it to last longer.  Take the time to do this simple albeit tedious project and your home will be in great shape for years to come!


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