Top Tricks For Hassle-Free Painting

Top Tricks For Hassle-Free Painting

Top Tricks For Hassle-Free Painting We’re using Renovation Week to kick off our new Reno 101 column, a weekly look at tips and tricks for better DIY practice. And we’re kicking off Reno 101 with a look at one of the most common tasks: painting.

Picture by Alan Cleaver

If you’re a veteran painter, then hopefully not much of what follows should be news to you. Just remember: everyone has to start somewhere. I’m not covering absolute basic techniques here (because that would probably work better in a video); instead, I’m sharing general tips and tactics that have served me well over more room and furniture-painting jobs than I’d care to count.

Spend more time on prep than you do on painting

Oft-repeated but inescapably true: it will often take you more time to sand, strip, clean and mask the surfaces you want to paint before you paint them, but if you don’t put in that effort, you won’t get the best result.

Invest a decent sum on rollers and paintbrushes

We made the point in our perfect toolbox roundup that spending extra money on decent tools is usually a good idea, and that’s absolutely the case with paintbrushes. Sure, you can pick up a packet of five brushes for $5 in a discount store, but in all honesty you’ll be lucky if they last out even a single job. A good-quality brush will last for years, The same applies to rollers. If you buy cheap gear, you’re likely to spend a lot of time removing loose hairs and excess roller lint as you paint, which is in no way conducive to a good end result.

Cling-film is your friend

Top Tricks For Hassle-Free PaintingIf you’re part-way through a paint job and have to finish for the day, then you can wrap your roller tray with cling film for a faster start the next day. I’ve also seen people do this with the rollers themselves, as in the picture. This can be handy over a lunch break, but I can’t stop myself from rinsing them out at the end of a working day. Picture by Matt Gibson[imgclear]

Buy a proper paint-stirring stick

Stirring and agitating large tins of paint is essential before using them, to ensure the colour is evenly dispersed. Yes, you can shake the tin before opening and then use a stick, but a proper paint-stirrer does a much better job, and will only set you back a few dollars.

Choose the detail work solution that works for you

When it comes to painting on small areas and on the edge of window-frames and the like, some people swear by edging tools; others (like reader Jay) prefer just to use a very small paintbrush. I don’t think one or the other is a particularly superior solution, so choose the one you feel more comfortable with. In this context, being confident with your choice will give you a better result.

File away the sample cards showing your chosen colours

A good paint store will write the name of the colours you choose on the tins, but that’s not an infallible record: often the texta wears off or the writing ends up (surprise!) coated with paint. Keeping a note of your colours and brand in whatever filing system you prefer (electronic or not) is wise, but an even better idea is to file away the sample colour cards that are on display where you purchased. If you do want to get a duplicate batch made up in the future, that will make the matching process simpler.

Use a T-shirt to minimise paint splatter when closing a tin

When you hammer the lid back on a tin of paint, you can easily end up dispersing excess paint from around the rim over a wide area. Avoid that fate by placing an old unwanted T-shirt (or rag of similar size) over the top before you start, to catch any excess as it attempts to escape.

Hoard small containers for small paint jobs

While you can get a surprising amount of paint off the inside lid for cutting in and other detail jobs, it’s rarely enough to do a job of any scale. Hang onto small containers (tins, yoghurt pots or jars) for use when doing this kind of work. In many cases, you’ll be able to rinse them out and use them again, but if not, they’re no loss.

Avoid paint shopping on weekends

Top Tricks For Hassle-Free PaintingObviously this isn’t always an option, but the queue to wait and get colours mixed is always much longer on weekends (especially with all the people hanging around waiting for sample pots). If your local hardware megastore has extended hours, a weeknight or early morning can be a better pick (though admittedly you’ll miss out on the sausage sizzle). Picture by mang78[imgclear]

Wear a showercap when you have to paint ceilings

If you have to paint a ceiling, it’s often hard to avoid a light spattering of paint over your cranium. Wearing a showercap can be a lot less hassle than getting the paint out of your hair afterwards.

What tricks do you use to make painting go more smoothly? Put down that roller and help us brush up in the comments.

Lifehacker’s weekly Reno 101 column covers the basics of renovation and DIY.


  • I just painted my house over christmas.

    I assumed Bunnings would be the cheapest place to get paint but my local paint stores were actually considerably cheaper. Plus it was nice to support small business 🙂

    • My local paint store was slightly cheaper.

      I went to Bunnings first just to get some prices and ask a few questions. What they told I found hard to believe after waiting for ever to get someone to serve me. I just got the prices and the colour I wanted then thought to try a proper paint store( initally to get the advice). The guys were so helpful I just went screw it and get all the stuff here. Turned out cheaper but the advice was worth gold.

      Get you stuff from a paint store. +1

  • Take care of your brushes and rollers as if they were your children. Unless you’re a terrible parent, in which case, treat your brushes and rollers better than your children.

    Also, when cleaning a roller, get a water stream with some pressure behind it – a hose with a good nozzle will usually do it fine – and once you’ve scraped the roller off and given it a cursory rinse, then blast it with the hose, aiming at the edge of the roller – let’s not be stupid, aim for the “bottom” edge and point the roller away from you, or you’ll get covered in paint-water – and then move the hose back and forth across the roller till the water is coming off clean.

    Rinses the paint out of the pile, and spins the dirty water off at the same time, so that you don’t end up with tinted rollers at the end of the day, and you don’t have drying paint leftover in the bottom of the pile. Makes your rollers paint better, and last longer.

  • I’ve just finished painting my 3rd house – I don’t know why my brain didn’t remember it’s an awful job. Took about 2 weeks each time – pretty long days by the time you move the furniture, do the prep, clean up etc etc.

    My first tip though: Never try to do it all in one coat. 2 quick coats is much better than 1 “try to do it perfect coat”.

    My father-in-law was helping me one day and he spent ages on a room and kept going over the wall again and again until you couldn’t see any gaps. Well by the time it dried, there were plenty of gaps. It certainly looked better than my first coat of every other room, but when I came in the next day and gave it a quick and dirty second coat – it looked the same as every other room.

    Second tip: Everyone that wants to help you just wants to do the actual painting bit – so you end up doing all the other crap and getting none of the easy stuff 😉

  • A couple of tips I have for clean-up… If you are using oil based paints I find it easier to use mid range paint brushes for just the one colour/day and then throw it out. Much easier than trying to clean with turps.

    Also invest in one of these for cleaning your rollers (about $25-$30). They are easy to use, allow you to save a heap of paint out of the nap and clean rollers better than anything else I have seen!

  • Ditto on throw away brushes, and I throw rollers too. No cockroach poo in the rollers when you come to do your next painting job either.

    To get through the job, refrigerate brushes and rollers overnight.

    Any tips on the old argument about walls first or window sills first?


  • And there’s the tip (which I think I got from here) to punch a hole in therecessed rim of the paint pot so that excess paint drips back in to the tin rather than down the side.

    I find those hose attached roller cleaners take a long time and use a *lot* of water to clean properly. You’re better off scraping off the excess back into the tin then quickly rinsing it under a tap.

    • Graeme, i used to think the same, but then read the instructions and saw that you are meant to scrape all the paint first with the curved edge of the product. After scraping, I find 1-2 mins on the hose and the rollers are almost like new.

  • A painter once told me when buying wall paint to order a half-tint of the colour you’ve chosen. It helps avoid that affect where something looks good on the paint chip, but really in-your-face once up on the wall, because the surface area is so much bigger. If you’re doing the trims and doors in the same colour, use a normal full tint to get a bit of contrast.

    I’ve followed this tip ever since and been happy with the results.

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