Paint tins and paintbrush

Painting is high on the list of DIY home improvements but it can be daunting as it costs time and money. But done correctly, a freshly painted room is a cost-effective and big-impact way to make over an interior.

The four essential steps to a professional-finish paint job include buying the right paint, preparing the surfaces, choosing the best tools and using the correct techniques.

Make sure you set aside a decent amount of time. It can take at least six hours to do one coat in a 4m x 5m room, and two to three days to paint an entire room from start to finish.

1. Buying Paint

To work out how much paint you need to buy for a room, measure up each wall and multiply the height by the width.

Add up the areas of each wall for a total. If one wall is 3m x 4m, making 12 square metres, and the adjacent wall is 3m x 2m, which makes six square metres, the area to paint is 18 square metres.

A litre of paint covers up to 16 square metres for one coat. An average bedroom needs at least eight litres of paint for a smooth finish, costing about $105.

Choosing Colour

Colour trends come and go with the seasons, but safe choices are neutrals such as creams and whites that complement changing furnishings.

For feature walls, 2009 colour forecasters predict purples, aquas and primary colours to be trendsetters.

TIP Take a paint sample home to try on the wall and check how natural and artificial light affect the colour and intensity, and how it complements the furniture.

Select a finish

The type of paint affects the finish so choose something that will suit the room you’re painting.

Bedrooms & living areas

  • Walls suit low-sheen or flat acrylic if they’re in bad shape.
  • Ceilings are best with flat acrylic or speciality ceiling paints.

  • Timber trim can take gloss acrylic trim or oil-based enamel in gloss, semi-gloss or low sheen.

Laundries & bathrooms

  • Walls are best with low-sheen acrylic or semi-gloss acrylic with mould-control additives.

  • Ceilings should have low-sheen acrylic or semi-gloss acrylic with mould-control additives.
  • Timber trim can take gloss acrylic trim or oil-based enamel in gloss, semi-gloss or low sheen.

2. Equipment

Big areas are more easily covered using rollers, while brushes are best used around the edges, on corners, trim and any woodwork.

Use a roller on walls, choosing one 230 to 270mm wide to cover as much area as possible.

Nap is the common measurement, which refers to the pile length. A short nap is 6mm, for ceilings, smooth surfaces and high-gloss paints. Medium nap is 12mm, for walls and flat, low-sheen or semi-gloss paints on uneven surfaces. Long nap is 20mm, for rough surfaces.

Use a prep coat to protect and prepare the surface for the coloured top coat.

Primers adhere to timber surfaces and have stain-inhibiting tannin blockers, while undercoat is ideal for preparing plasterboard.

Most prep coats now save time and money as a three-in-one sealer, primer and undercoat, and can be tinted to match the top coat.

3. Preparation

Paint applies best to a clean surface, so use sugar soap and scrubbing brush to remove dirt and grease from walls, rinsing with water.

Cover up flooring and furniture with canvas dropsheets and remove door handles for faster painting.

TIP Avoid using plastic covering, which can be slippery and difficult to tape down.

Remove mould from bathrooms and laundries by mixing one part bleach with three parts water and scrubbing. Rinse, apply an anti-mould preparation product, then paint.

TIP Enamel surfaces should be sanded and undercoated before repainting.

Make surface repairs using interior filler, slightly overfilling to sand back to a smooth surface, then apply a primer undercoat. Use a sanding sponge around trim to shape uneven surfaces.

4. Application

Finish one wall at a time to prevent areas drying and streaking. If taking a break, cover brushes and rollers in plastic wrap or clean them completely.

Start at the top and use a brush to paint cornices, or where the ceiling meets the wall. Paint the ceiling with a roller, starting away from the main window, working towards the light source to avoid painting in shadow.

Paint the walls starting at the edges and corners using a brush, then use a roller. Roll upwards, drawing a big M one metre below the ceiling in a square-metre area, randomly roll strips across the wall with even strokes, finishing by rolling in one direction. Start the next area a metre down, lapping into the wet edge of the previously completed area.

Continue this method along the wall, working a square metre at a time.

TIP Using a roller it’s easy to cover about two walls in an hour.

Paint the trim using a brush. Paint the skirting, then door and window frames.

Apply a strip of low-tack masking tape along the wall and use a trim cutter for a clean line.

Put masking tape on the floor along the the trim to cut a clean line across the skirting.

5. Cleaning up

Wipe brushes on newspaper to remove excess, rinsing away acrylic paint in water and using mild abrasive soap on stubborn bits.

Soak oil-based paint in mineral turpentine then rinse in water.

Comb the bristles and wrap clean brushes and rollers in newspaper, securing with a rubber band to store them flat or to hang on hooks.