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Painting techniques: Which tool—brush, roller, pad or spray gun?


1st Jan 2015 Home & Garden

Painting techniques: Which tool—brush, roller, pad or spray gun?

Preparation is key when painting and decorating. Chose the right tools for the job to get the effects you want for your home. 

Invest in a flexible frame

It’s worth buying a good-quality paint roller, with a cage that spins freely and springs back into position when you squeeze it. Look for a comfortable handle, with a threaded insert to take an extension pole.

The pole will save you bending if you want to paint a floor, or climbing a stepladder to reach ceilings. A telescopic pole is the most versatile type.


Choose your sleeve carefully

Use a cheap foam roller sleeve for general painting work where the standard of the finish is not important. For a good finish on a very smooth surface, a mohair sleeve with a short pile is best. A sleeve with a long lambswool or synthetic fibre pile forces paint into every crevice on a highly textured surface.

Use a long-nap sleeve with a tough nylon pile on rough exterior surfaces such as pebbledash.


Create a textured finish

A sculptured roller sleeve will add a textured finish to a flat surface. Hessian, bark, swirl, patchwork and stipple effects are among those available. Some can be used to create a repeating pattern with successive parallel passes of the roller.


What size brush?

The general rule is to use the widest brush that you can handle comfortably, and which is appropriate for the surface being painted. A 100mm brush is ideal for applying emulsion paint to walls, while a 75mm one is better for gloss-painting flat woodwork.

The wider the brush, the quicker you can paint, making it easier to keep a wet edge as you work.


Get the best from a cheap brush

A cheap brush is fine if a good finish isn’t important—when brightening up an under-stairs cupboard, for example. Try to use the brush for priming and undercoating first, so that when it’s time to apply the top coat it has stopped shedding bristles.


Natural versus synthetic

Modern synthetic fibre brushes will perform as well as all but the finest hog bristle brushes, and suffer far less from ‘hair loss’ in use. They are also easier to clean than bristle brushes, and keep their shape better too.


When a pad is best

A paint pad is the best choice for applying thin coats of paint to smooth surfaces easily and without drips. In the past, pads used to fall apart when used with solvent-based paint, but these days they last well, whether you need to clean them in white spirit or just wash off water-based paint.


Reaching behind a radiator

Use a radiator roller or brush to paint behind a radiator. Both tools have long handles, so the new paint colour can be taken right out of sight. Be sure to remove dust and cobwebs before you start. Mask the newly painted wall with plastic sheeting or hardboard when you come to painting the radiator itself.


Allow time for masking

Applying paint with a spray gun is faster than putting it on with a brush or roller, but remember that the time you gain from faster application has to be offset against the time it takes to mask off adjacent surfaces that won’t be painted.


Airless is best

Use an airless spray gun, in which an electric pump forces paint through the nozzle. This is easier to use and causes less overspray than a spray gun powered by compressed air.

Power through the job

Consider hiring a power roller if you have a large area to cover. Because paint is continuously fed along the hollow extension pole, you can finish the job much more quickly. You need to keep the roller moving to avoid drips and runs.

You can find a number of useful paint tools on Amazon.

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