Painting techniques: Painting everything in the right order

Make sure you decorate wisely to avoid drips, slips and spills. Follow our guide to orderly painting, and ensure your painting job looks professional. 

Danger overhead

Wear safety spectacles when painting a ceiling. They will protect your eyes from paint splashes when you look upwards.

Avoid making splashes with a roller by pushing it slowly; don’t snatch it away at the end of each pass. Try not to overload the brush when painting a ceiling. Dip just the bottom quarter of the bristles into the paint; then it won’t seep into the ferrule and run down the handle—a common problem when painting ceilings.


Bands and strips

Apply paint in horizontal or vertical bands, then blend the parallel bands together. Paint walls and ceilings in strips about 600 mm (2 ft) wide, working quickly so that the edge of the paint doesn’t get a chance to dry.

Finish off around door and window frames after the rest of the wall is covered. Turning the heating off and closing windows will extend the drying time—worth doing if you have a large room to paint.

If you ever have any doubts on what to do when painting a wall, Pro Paint Corner teaches you the right basics

Read more: How much paint do I need to buy?


Brush the margins

If you are going to paint the ceiling or adjoining walls different colours, use a brush for the edges first, then a roller to infill the rest of the surface.


Start at the centre

Paint outwards from the centre of a door towards the edges: do the panels and the vertical surfaces separating them first, then the horizontal sections (called rails), next, the verticals (stiles) and edges. Leave the frame until last.

Read more: Painting tips, tricks and techniques to perfection


Frames before paper

Paint door and window frames before hanging wallpaper, so there’s no chance of getting paint on the paper. Extend the paint beyond the edge of frames and onto the walls by about 6 mm (1/4 in), then any gaps you leave between the edges of the wallpaper and the frames won’t show up.


Protect your hands

Wear a pair of fabric gloves while painting, especially when using solvent-based paints. They save having to remove paint from your hands with white spirit, which can irritate the skin. A barrier cream will help to stop paint sticking to your skin if you prefer to work without gloves.

Read more: What tools should I use to paint?


Ceiling before walls

Emulsion the ceiling first, so that any splashes on the walls are covered later. Start to paint a wall at the top righthand corner if you are right-handed, from the opposite corner if left-handed.


Keep a spray gun on the move

Practise on a test surface with a spray gun. Always keep the gun parallel to the surface; do not swing it in an arc. Begin moving your arm before you press the trigger, and continue the movement for a moment or two after releasing it. Check that the hose on the spray gun is long enough before you start to use it; a sudden jolt will ruin the job.

Read more: How to look after equipment after painting


Don’t shoot yourself!

Keep your spare hand out of the way of the nozzle when spray-painting: the paint is forced out at high pressure and can become embedded in the skin. Wear gloves and long sleeves as a precaution. Safety goggles and a face mask or, preferably, a respirator are vital protection against fine paint droplets.


Dealing with flaws and spills

  • Act fast if you spill paint. Scrape up as much as you can with a flat-bladed tool. Then dab off what’s left with dry absorbent  cloths and paper before lifting the last traces with clean cloths dampened with cold water (for spilt emulsion) or white spirit ( for solvent based paint). Use washing-up liquid on a damp cloth to remove traces of white spirit from fabric.
  • Sags and runs are difficult to remove from paintwork. Sometimes you have to sand the surface back to the bare wood to get rid of them. Try to prevent them by not overloading the paintbrush. If any do form, don’t try to remove them while the paint is still tacky.
  • Attack dried emulsion paint on carpets by repeatedly dampening the stain and teasing lumps of paint out of the pile with an old toothbrush. A water-based paint stripper may successfully remove solvent-based paint from carpets and hard floor surfaces. Test it on an inconspicuous corner first. Neutralise the stripper residue with water immediately afterwards.
  • Rub insects off dry paint. Don’t try to remove small insects that become trapped on gloss paint when it is still tacky. Wait until the paint is dry, then rub them off with a rag dampened with white spirit.
  • Scrape paint off glass. The best tool for removing paint from a window pane is a plastic scraper fitted with a trimming knife blade. The blade should be inset very slightly so it cannot mark the frame. Unless you spot a stray bristle as soon as it appears and can lift it off the paint before it gets stuck, wait until the surface is thoroughly dry before attempting to remove it. Then use a scalpel or sharp craft knife to carefully cut it away from the new paintwork. 
  • Every other tread. Paint or varnish every other tread when decorating an uncarpeted staircase, and identify which can be walked on by taping sheets of newspaper over them. Adapt the same method when painting or varnishing a floor you need to use all the time, doing half of it one day and the rest the next.
  • Don’t forget to wipe surfaces with a clean damp cloth or a tack rag after rubbing down between coats of paint or varnish. Otherwise, specks of grit and dust deposited by the abrasive will show in the next coat, spoiling it, and you’ll have to sand it back again once it has dried.

Read more: 13 common painting problems solved!

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