No matter how many times you’ve picked up a brush, this easy-to-follow guide will teach you to paint like a pro
These painting hacks will help you get the job done like a pro. Image: Thinkstock
You can always tell a good paint job because the new finish is only on the wall, and not on the doors, windows, ceiling, carpet or trim.
Painting is a messy operation, and keeping the paint where it belongs requires good preparation, including solid taping techniques, and well-planned surface protection.
Maintaining your tools for the next job is also an important part of painting, so we asked the professionals how they go about keeping it all neat and clean when they get to work.
1. Protect trim
When you apply masking tape to trim, run a putty knife or a 5-in-1 tool over it to set the tape. This bonds the tape to the surface and helps prevent paint from seeping under it and onto the trim.
When you apply masking tape to trim, run a putty knife or a 5-in-1 tool over it to set the tape
2. Use smaller drop sheets
Large drop sheets are great if you’re painting a ceiling, but they’re overkill for walls and trim.
Drop sheet runners are usually about a metre wide and are much easier and safer to work with because you don’t have to fold them several times. Folded drop sheets are easy to trip on, and nothing good results from tripping with an open paint can in your hand.
Choose heavy-duty cotton canvas drop sheets for painting, as they can absorb drips and you won’t slip on them if you do have a spill.
And when they get dirty, you can wash them at a laundromat that has oversize washers and dryers.
Drop sheet runners are usually about a metre wide and are much easier and safer to work with
3. Keep the carpet clean while painting skirting
When painting skirting, cover 5mm of the base edge with tape, pushing down hard on the carpet so it stays down while you paint.
Add a strip of wider tape to create a shield over the carpet then spread a drop sheet over the top. When you remove the tape, the carpet will spring up to cover the unpainted edge.
When painting skirting, cover 5mm of the base edge with tape, pushing down hard on the carpet so it stays down while you paint
4. Use old paintbrushes for dusting
Even though you diligently clean your brushes, they will eventually wear out over time. Instead of throwing them out, save a couple of different sizes to repurpose as cleaning brushes.
An old paintbrush is an excellent tool for dusting off window trim or whatever else needs a light touch.
Even though you diligently clean your brushes, they will eventually wear out over time
5. Protect windows and doors with hanging plastic
Applying masking tape to protect the trim won’t necessarily protect windows or doors so it’s important to cover them, especially if you’re painting the ceiling.
The easiest way to do this is by hanging plastic using a hand-masker tool. If you don’t have one, first tape off the top of the trim and attach a folded section of plastic sheeting.
When the sheeting is secure, unfold the plastic so it drops down to cover the door or window then attach it to the trim with tape.
Applying masking tape to protect the trim won’t necessarily protect windows or doors so it’s important to cover them
6. How to paint next to a textured ceiling
It’s hard to create a straight line when you’re painting the wall adjacent to a textured ceiling. As you move the paintbrush along, the bristles get hung up on the texture, which creates noticeable paint globs. Use a 5-in-1 tool or screwdriver to remove a few millimetres of texture, creating a clear path for the brush.
It’s hard to create a straight line when you’re painting the wall adjacent to a textured ceiling
7. Remove masking tape without peeling paint
When you remove masking tape that has been left on for too long, the tape can pull chunks of paint off with it.
Ideally, you should remove it while the paint is relatively wet and never leave it on overnight.
But when it has stayed on too long, it’s best to gently cut the tape along the line where it meets the trim. This prevents the paint from sticking to the tape and coming off the wall.
When you remove masking tape that has been left on for too long, the tape can pull chunks of paint off with it
8. Use less paint
Masking tape is a precaution, not a guarantee. No matter how careful you are, there may still be a void or two left between the tape and the trim. If you expose the tape to an excessive amount of paint, some is bound to get through.
The trick is to pretend the tape isn’t there. Don’t force a lot of paint into the corner at an angle. Instead, lightly load the paintbrush and run it down parallel to the trim.
Don’t force a lot of paint into the corner at an angle, lightly load the paintbrush and run it down parallel to the trim
9. Clean as you go
Never underestimate how much rubbish a painting job can create. Running around the house armed with big wads of plastic and tape covered in wet paint will not make you popular, so be prepared.
Get out the garbage bags before you start, either hanging one out of the way on a doorknob or setting one up in a rubbish bin or portable garbage bag holder.
Clean as you go for an easier, clutter-free painting experience. Image: Thinkstock
10. Attach a cloth to your belt
Before the first tin of paint is opened, attach a cloth to your belt. That way, your trousers are protected when you wipe your hand on them absentmindedly.
Use a large cloth and unfold it a little, so that the messy side always stays facing out.
Attach a cloth to your belt so that you can wipe your hands without getting paint on your trousers
11. Clean brushes with a paintbrush comb
A proper paintbrush comb is the best tool for cleaning a brush instead of just running it under water.
Unlike other brush-cleaning tools, a comb penetrates and cleans deep between the bristles.
Rinsing the brush and using the comb at the same time also prevents the bristles from sticking together, which helps your paintbrush stay soft and retain its shape for longer.
A proper paintbrush comb is the best tool for cleaning a brush instead of just running it under water
12. Clean build up on paintbrushes
Paint can work its way up into the bristles covered by the steel ferrule on the brush handle and if you don’t clean it out, it will build up and cause the brush to stiffen.
Comb out the bristles, run water down into the ferrule, then comb again before leaving the brush to dry.
Paint can work its way up into the bristles covered by the steel ferrule on the brush handle and if you don’t clean it out
13. Scrub foam rollers clean
Don’t neglect your roller. If you don’t rinse it off, you’ll end up with hardened paint inside the bushings or bearings, resulting in a paint roller that ultimately doesn’t roll.
Keeping your painting tools clean doesn’t have to be expensive. A good trick is to use a $2 pot scrubber from the supermarket.
Use a scrubbing brush from the supermarket to keep your foam rollers clean
14. Prevent rust on foam rollers
Metal rusts, and the metal bushings or bearings in your paint roller are no exception. Do yourself a favour and spray a little lubricant on your roller before you store it.
A rusty roller can also squeak and pushing a roller back and forth for several hours is monotonous enough without adding a few thousand squeaks.
Prevent rust by spraying a little lubricant on your roller before you store it
15. Ensure there is good ventilation
Good ventilation is essential when painting, for your health and to speed up the drying time of the finish. In summer, keeping the air flowing will also ensure that you can finish the job without getting overheated.
16. Keep paint remover handy
No matter how careful you are, you’re bound to get paint on something you didn’t mean to, so keep a can of paint remover on hand for those little goofs.
Formulated paint remover is great for removing dried paint from trim, benchtops, door hinges, vinyl floors or whatever it is you spilled on.
17. Remove fuzz from foam rollers
Some new roller covers, usually the cheaper ones, have a layer of fuzz that comes off the cover. The first time you load one up, the paint mixes with the fuzz and creates bumps on the wall.
Remove the fuzz by wrapping masking or painter’s tape around the roller cover. When you pull the tape off, the excess fuzz will come too.
Some new roller covers, usually the cheaper ones, have a layer of fuzz that comes off the cover, remove the fuzz before painting
18. Use an easy-pour lid
Make life easier by investing in an easy-pour lid for paint tins. The Shur-Line Pour & Store Paint Can Lid, is flexible so it’s simple to slip over the rim and it seals better than a metal lid.
It also makes it easy to pour paint into a small container for brush work. For air-free storage, push down the spout and close the vent.
Make life easier by investing in an easy-pour lid for paint tins
19. Decant paint into resealable plastic bags
When you’re doing a job that requires the application of several colours, simplify the painting process and also save on cleaning time by decanting the paint into resealable plastic bags.
When it’s time to change colours, all you have to do is swap the bag that’s in the paint bucket.
Simplify the painting process and also save on cleaning time by decanting the paint into resealable plastic bags
20. Label leftover paint
When you paint a room, always save the leftover paint for touch-ups. Water-based paint keeps for 10 years and oil-based paint for up to 15.
write the name of the paint colour, reference number, purchase date and the room where it was used on the lid. On the outside of the tin, mark the paint level so you know how much is left without opening the lid.
21. Store tins upside down
Store partly used tins upside down so the skin that forms will be on the base when you turn the tin over. Or cut a disc of aluminium foil, using the lid as a template, and press it gently onto the surface of the paint.
If you have more than half a tin of paint remaining, position a piece of plastic wrap over the top and replace the lid securely for an extra-tight seal.
22. Use screw-top jars for storage
Use screw-top jars to store small amounts of paint as it will keep better in a small container.
Decant the paint into a clean and dry jam jar, rubbing petroleum jelly around the rim first so the paint doesn’t make the lid stick.
You can also pour the paint into a plastic food bag. Make sure you squeeze out the extra air as you seal the bag, then replace it in the original paint tin and seal it tightly.
23. Remove crayon marks
To remove crayon marks from painted walls, spray the area with WD-40 then wipe with a soft cloth.
24. Remove spots and smudges
Make a paste of bicarb soda and water, and rub with a soft cloth.
25. Remove ink and marker stains
Wipe with a cloth dampened with methylated spirits.
26. Remove grease marks
Wipe with a cloth dampened with degreasing fluid.