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

If 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

Obviously 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.

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