you can do this

How to Paint a Room Smarter

Photo: Universal Pictures

Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve all been spending an inordinate amount of time at home. Some of us have used the time to pick up new hobbies, read great books, or even redecorate. If you’re in that last group, one of the easiest ways you can change up your space is with paint. It’ll brighten up your apartment, and if you pick the right color, you can relieve stress and improve your mood — something all of us could benefit from right now.

As a longtime contractor and serial do-it-yourselfer, I have decades of painting experience. Here are some of the best tips, techniques, and tools that I’ve picked up along the way. We’ll start with the simplest one: The best paint for interior surfaces is acrylic latex paint, which has excellent adhesion and cleans up with soap and water. See below for the rest.

Buy the right tools

Of the dozens of different painting tools available, you’ll only need two paintbrushes and two paint rollers. For brushes, get a 1½-inch-wide sash brush and a 2½-inch-wide sash brush. I prefer sash brushes to standard paint brushes because their angled bristles allow you to apply paint very neatly and smoothly in corners, along edges, in tight spaces, and along the tops of walls at the ceiling.

To paint broad, flat surfaces, use a standard 9-inch paint roller with a 3/8-inch-thick nap paint-roller sleeve. (Nap refers to the fluffy surface of the sleeve.) If you’re painting a particular rough or heavily textured surface, like concrete or those horrible old popcorn ceilings, use a thicker ½-inch nap roller cover.

You’ll also want to pick up a 4-inch mini trim roller, which lets you roll paint onto areas that are too narrow for the 9-inch roller. This includes spaces above doors, around bookcases and between windows.

Condition your paint roller

Before using a new paint-roller sleeve, it’s important to condition it, so that it will easily and consistently absorb paint. Slide the new sleeve onto the paint-roller frame, and spin it as you liberally spray it with water from a mister. Remove the excess water by spinning the sleeve quickly, then use the dampened, conditioned sleeve to immediately apply paint

Get an extension pole

One of the very best wall-painting accessories is a paint-roller extension pole. The adjustable, telescopic pole screws right into the threaded end of the paint-roller handle, extending your reach by 3 to 12 feet.

Cover your drop cloth

A plastic drop cloth protects floors and furniture, but it doesn’t absorb paint drips and spills. So if you step in wet paint, you might track it through your home. After spreading out a plastic drop cloth like this one, cover it with newspaper. The paper will absorb paint spatters and create a less slippery surface.

Use plastic wrap to protect surfaces…

Photo: retailer

For surfaces that drop cloths can’t easily protect from spatters (think things that can’t be easily moved out of the way, like toilets, sinks, light fixtures, and counters), buy a roll of adhesive-backed plastic food wrap, such as Glad’s Press/N Seal. Unroll the plastic wrap and stick it to the surface.

… And to store paint

Before tapping the lid closed, take a piece of that plastic wrap and push it down into the can so it lies right on top of the paint. Then press the wrap against the sides of the can. Replace the lid and set the can on a shelf. The plastic wrap will seal out air and keep the paint fresher longer.

Make a strike wire


Cut a length from a wire clothes hanger that extends beyond the edges of the top of your can of paint. Bend each end at 90 degrees so it sits against the outside of the can. Wrap the can with a strip of duct tape to secure the wire. Now, dip your paintbrush into the paint and then wipe — or strike off — the excess paint by wiping the bristles against the wire. Instead of gathering in the lip, where it can easily spill, the paint falls back into the can.

Use a bucket for big jobs