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How to Paint a Room for Beginners: A Complete Guide

If you have a room makeover idea that involves a painting job, our step-by-step guide will walk you through how to paint a room. From planning and prep work to painting and cleaning up, we’ll share DIYer painting techniques for how to paint a room for beginners.

Read on for our tips and tricks on how to paint a room for beginners — you’ll be painting like a pro in no time!

A room painted an orange red color. How to paint a room for beginners.

Prepping Your Room and Supplies

Even before you pry your first can of paint open, there are a lot of things that need to be done. You need to prepare the area for painting and make sure you have all the tools you need.

Gather Tools and Materials

Getting the right tools and paint supplies is essential for learning how to paint a room for beginners. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Roller covers (for textures)
  • Roller tray (for large areas)
  • Paint tray (for small areas)
  • High-quality paint
  • Step ladder
  • Tarp or plastic drop cloths (to protect floors and furniture from paint splatter)
  • Canvas drop cloths
  • Paint brushes (in a variety of sizes, including an angled brush), keep in mind that natural bristles have more flexible tips while synthetic bristles are stiffer but hold more paint
  • Paint kettle (storing extra paint) so you don’t have to carry the whole can
  • Paint roller with an extension pole
  • Stir stick/paint stick
  • Tack cloth
  • Painting tray with a lid (for storing leftover paint)
  • Painting tape

Choose the Right Color

When choosing colors for your project, you can use paint chips to help you visualize your space in different colors. If you want to use light to dark colors, consider having light colors on top with darker colors or a bold color underneath.

When choosing a color scheme, opt for a paint color that’s easy to work with, especially if you’re a novice.

Remember that a dark color can make your room feel smaller, while lighter colors can make spaces feel lighter and wider. Lighter colors also create a more subdued effect.

Some paint manufacturers offer a paint calculator so you can plan for the amount of paint you’ll need.

Paint Type and Finish

When learning how to paint a room, there are many paint types to choose from. Each has its own finish (glossy finish vs matte finish) and durability.

Cans of paint in various colors.

Water-Based or Latex Paint

Water-based paints have a fine texture that allows you to see the surface underneath, making them perfect for touch-ups that only need fresh paint instead of an entirely new color.

Oil-Based Paint

Oil paints are easy to apply and are the best for one-coat coverage. They’re also versatile — you can use oil-based paint on almost any surface, including plastic, glass, and metal.

Solvent-Based Paint

Solvent-based paints dry even faster than water-based ones, so there’s less waiting between coats of paint. They also provide durable coverage on surfaces.

Paint Finish

Paints come in various finishes that reflect different amounts of light. This affects their ability to hide surface imperfections. It’s crucial to select the proper finish for the various architectural elements when painting a room for the best result.

  • High-gloss paint reflects the most light. The finish is shiny, durable, and the most resistant to dirt and oil. It’s an excellent choice for cabinets, doors, and trim.
  • Semi-gloss or trim paint is also a good choice for trims, doors, and cabinets because it’s easy to clean. You can also use it on the walls of high-moisture rooms like bathrooms and kitchens.
  • Satin or pearl paints are less reflective than semi-gloss, but are still candidates for using on doors, trim, and cabinets.
  • Low-lustre paints are the final recommendation for doors and trim when painting a room.
  • Eggshell paint provides a shine-free but durable finish, making it suitable for high-traffic areas.
  • Matte paints offer an elegant, smooth finish on surfaces. Matte paint doesn’t reflect light, so bear that in mind. It can be used in busy areas such as hallways or family rooms.
  • Flat paint is often used for ceiling paints. It’s not recommended for walls since it doesn’t hold up well to washing or rubbing to remove dirt or stains.

Remove Furniture, Wall Art, or Rugs From the Room

Before painting a room, you must remove your furniture and other items to protect them from paint spills. It’s easier to paint the walls and ceilings of a cleared room than to navigate around things!

Cover Anything Left With Drop Cloths

Any furniture or appliances that can’t be moved should be covered with plastic drop cloths. Some items typically covered with plastic sheets are counters, tabletops, and built-in shelves and cabinets.

Apply Painters Tape Around Any Trim, Outlets, or Casings

Painter's Tape

Painter’s tape can be used to secure drop cloths to the items and for smaller areas like wall outlets and light switch covers.

Wash Walls With a Sponge

Before applying paint on walls, you need to have a clean canvas. Clean walls allow better paint adhesion and provide a smooth, professional finish after painting.

Wash your walls with soapy water with some mild detergent or dish soap mixed in. Give it a final rinse wipe-down to ensure no surface dirt, soap residue, mold, or mildew is left behind.

If You’re Using High Gloss Paint, Sand the Walls Lightly

Glossy paint provides less adhesion than other paint finishes. To get glossy paint to stick to a wall, it’s a good idea to sand the area first with fine-grit sandpaper. Sand lightly without damaging the wall underneath.

Wear a dust mask while doing this for your respiratory health and safety.

Ventilate the Room

Paint contains chemicals called volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can be harmful when inhaled. Before painting a room, ensure it’s adequately ventilated by opening as many windows and doors as possible and having a fan on standby.

You can also buy low or no-VOC paints that are healthier for you — but make sure you ventilate well even when using these paint products.

Applying a Primer

Rolling primer onto a wall.

Applying a coat of primer preps the wall for painting. It creates a layer that prevents paint from seeping into the wall, which means you use less paint. It’s vital for new walls that haven’t been painted before.

Before rolling a primer layer, fill any nail holes, cracks, and other superficial imperfections with putty. Allow it to dry, and then smooth down with sandpaper.

Open the Primer Can and Stir

Stir the primer well before using it. Stirring properly mixes all the paint’s ingredients.

Apply Primer Around the Borders and Walls

Prime the borders of the walls first. This will help prevent bleeding when you apply your paint. Use a brush, roller, or another applicator tool to do this. Make sure to apply the primer evenly and without any streaks.

Smooth the Primer With a Paint Roller

Once you have an initial coat of primer layered on, use a paint roller to smoothen the layer. Use a back and forth motion until it’s evenly distributed. This will give your paint a smooth appearance later.

Apply Second Coat if Needed

If you find spots that haven’t been covered with primer, you’ll need to apply a second coat. Before you do, ensure that the first layer is completely dry.

If the first layer isn’t dry, there’s a chance that the primer won’t adhere properly and may peel off in the future.

Sand the Primer Before You Start Painting

You know that smooth flat surfaces are necessary for a professional-looking paint job. So before painting a room, use fine-grit sandpaper to smooth the primer on top.

Depending on your wall, you can do wet sanding (uses wet sandpaper) for a finer finish to improve paint adhesion. Sanding power tools help perform this step quickly.

Painting the Walls

A can of yellow paint.

Finally! You’ve chosen your paint, bought materials, prepped the room, and primed the surfaces. It’s time to get going and start painting a room.

Open the Paint Can and Stir

After opening your can of paint, give it a good stir to make sure that the components, particularly the pigment, are evenly distributed. This will help you avoid streaks when you start painting a room.

Cut in Edges With a Paint Brush

Since paint rollers can’t paint tricky areas like corners, where walls meet the ceiling and floor, and the borders along your trim and baseboards, you need to cut in the edges. This means painting these areas with a paintbrush.

Pour a small amount of paint into a container to cut in your edges. Dip only a third of your angled brush in paint. Wiggle the brush around and try to get it sufficiently covered in paint.

Wipe off excess paint against the sides of your container. Start brushing 2 inches from the edges of the wall with downward brush strokes. Use a pencil grip as you do so.

Then start brushing the edges with the narrower edge facing upwards.

Fill the Paint Tray Correctly

Once you’ve cut in your edges, fill the paint tray with paint until the deeper end is about three-quarters full. Make sure the paint is thoroughly mixed before using, and stir it often so the pigment doesn’t settle in one area of the can.

Dip the Roller and Remove Excess Paint

Dip your paint roller to coat it with paint. You want around an inch of space on either side of the roller when you put it in the paint to avoid wasting any product.

Remove excess paint by rolling over the shallower part of the pan or using scrap cardboard or newspaper.

Paint the Ceiling First

Painting a ceiling.

Wondering if there’s a right way for how to paint a room? It turns out there is!

When painting a room, always start with the ceiling. This way, any ceiling paint that drips onto the walls can be covered when you paint them later.

Use a wide paint roller with a ¾-inch nap for your ceiling. Start at the leftmost corner and work towards the middle, ensuring that all areas have even coverage.

Use a back-and-forth motion with your roller and use overlapping strokes to paint over track marks.

Painting a Room’s Walls, Option 1: Paint From the Top

The most efficient way to paint the walls from the top is to start at one end and work your way across. Use any applicator for this task but ensure there is just enough paint on the surface to avoid dripping or splattering.

Painting a Room’s Walls, Option 2: Roll Paint in V or M-Shaped Motions

Another option is to start from the middle by creating alternating M and V-shaped patterns. Use up-and-down strokes to prevent roller marks.

With continuous strokes, keep painting until the entire wall is covered with a coat of paint.

Wait for the Paint To Dry

It’s essential to wait for the first coat to dry before applying the second coat of paint. If the first coat is still wet and you rush in with a second coat, it can cause the paint to streak or smear.

For latex paint, wait 4 to 6 hours before putting on a second coat. If you’re working with oil-based paint, you’ll need at least 24 hours in between coats.

Apply a Second Coat

Man rolling blue paint onto a wall.

If your paint is thin or you’re painting a room a drastically different shade, you’ll need to apply a second coat. Otherwise, the original color may bleed through your new paint.

To apply a second coat after the first layer has thoroughly dried, follow the same set of instructions for applying the first coat.

Peel Off the Tape and Clean Up

Once the paint has dried, start removing the tape. Use a putty knife or your fingers to gently lift one end of the tape and pull it away from the surface. If paint leaked through the drywall or wood, clean it off with a damp cloth before it sets.

After about two weeks, use a damp microfiber or tack cloth to remove dust and debris from the surface to make your paint job look clean and professional.

How to Paint a Room Like a Pro!

A room painted teal blue.

Learning how to paint a room for beginners might seem daunting at first. However, once you go through it the first time and get the hang of it, painting a room will seem easier and less overwhelming the next time.

By learning how to paint a room yourself, you save money since you don’t have to pay for professional painting services. And you can change the colors in your home any time you want!

Visit the Interior Painting page on our website for more inspiration for painting a room and other painting projects.