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Understanding Paint Systems | Primers, Sealers & Undercoats | Top Coats | Exterior Preparation | Exterior Painting | Interior Colour Schemes | Interior Preparation | Interior Painting | Paint Care | Paint Quantity | Tools | Techniques | FAQ | Chemicals | Safety
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Your finished job will only be as good as the preparation, assuming you have chosen a quality paint. Paint applied over a poorly prepared surface will not last as long nor look as attractive. To avoid lengthy preparation, freshen up your paintwork before it deteriorates!

Choosing the right primers, undercoats and topcoats is an essential step in achieving excellent results.


Temperature extremes can affect the way your paint covers and dries. The instructions on the can will specify a temperature range and use outside the range is not recommended. Windy warm days can cause exterior acrylic paints to dry very rapidly, dampening the surface slightly before you apply the paint can slow this process down. Remember in humid or moist conditions, your paint will dry more slowly.

Mixing is vital

Before applying paint, mix it well according to the instructions on the can. Always 'box' your paint; ie. if you are using more than one can, tip the contents of each one into a larger container, e.g. a large plastic bucket, and stir thoroughly. You can then pour it directly into your painting pot, or refill the original tins for future use.


There are many different kinds of paint brushes, and choosing the right one for the job can make things faster and easier. You'll find a guide to brush types and their recommended uses in the Tools of the Trade section.

Before using a brush, remove any loose bristles; give it a good tease with your fingers to make sure you've got them all. It's a good idea to moisten the brush with the same liquid that's in your paint, i.e. water for water based paints and turps for oil based paints. Flick excess moisture off.

If you are using a large brush, grip it in your fist. Holding it in your fingers, which may at first seem more comfortable, is very tiring. Smaller brushes are easier to hold in a "pen" grip.

Fill the brush by dipping in up to half of the length of the bristles. This is important as it stops the paint getting back into the metal band, from where it is difficult to remove.

Tap it gently against the sides of the can or pot; don't wipe the brush hard against the lip. The bristles should flex only slightly as you paint - don't over-press; just let the paint flow from the brush.

If you are painting a larger area by brush, apply the paint in vertical or diagonal strips, about a brush length apart, until the brush runs out of paint. Then brush horizontally until the area is evenly covered. Finally, finish off with very light vertical strokes all in the one direction: This is called "laying off". Recharge the brush and repeat the process.

If you are using a brush and roller, the first step is to paint the edges of the area you are going to paint. This is known as "cutting in". The aim is to paint a strip about 5 cm wide around any flat areas on which you can use the roller. To do this, use the narrow edge of the brush and paint with long, slow strokes, using just enough pressure to flex the bristles. Don't do too much of your cutting in at once. Try to roll the open or wet areas before the brushed out paint dries to minimise "picture framing" or ridging around the edges.


Painting window frames, skirtings and mouldings can be time consuming, but it's worth doing the job properly to get the best results. Use a small brush or a cutting-in brush to paint the edges, then fill in the rest with a wider brush. Always work in sections and paint up to a natural break before stopping. As with all painting, try to start at the top and work down, painting with light, even stokes and feathering the edge of the wet paint as the brush empties. Recharge the brush and with gentle strokes work back into the wet edge.

Never try to paint over an area which has partially dried as the brush will leave marks in the surface. If you see a run in the wet paint, paint over it as soon as possible with light, even strokes to paint it out.

The base of skirting boards can be a trap. Remove any carpet, if possible, to avoid getting paint on the pile and help you create a neat, sharp edge. Always use a shield; a bricklayer's bolster or piece of metal or stiff cardboard works well. Hold the shield into the base of the skirting and paint down to it, moving it along as you go. Even if you have no carpet to protect, it will stop the brush picking up dust and grit from the floor.


Make sure you have the right roller sleeve for the job with the correct pile for the surface and gloss level you are using. An extension pole, either fixed wooden or telescopic aluminium, can make painting ceilings and floors a lot easier.

TIP: Usually the longer the pile on the roller sleeve, the flatter the paint and rougher the surface. The shorter the pile, the glossier the paint and smoother the suface.

  • Fit the roller sleeve to the frame and slightly dampen it with water to remove any lint or dust.

  • If you are using acrylic paint to prime it , then use it slightly damp - flick off excess moisture.

  • Pour paint from the can into the reservoir at the end of the roller tray. Be careful not to overfill it.

  • Dip the roller lightly into the paint, then roll it gently backwards and forwards on the ramp to evenly distribute the paint on the sleeve.

  • Roll the paint onto the wall in a series of close zig-zag strokes. Roll upward on the first stroke and minimise spatter by rolling slowly.

  • One roller load will usually cover about half a square metre. When the roller starts to run out of paint, go back and roll over the whole area with parallel strokes to even the spread and texture - all in one direction.

  • Never leave a paint-covered roller exposed to the air for any length of time. When you take a break, either wrap it in plastic cling wrap or stand it in turps or water, depending on the paint being used, but not for prolonged periods i.e. overnight.


A brush and roller are the most common ways of painting around the home, for amateurs and professionals alike. Spray guns, both airless and air driven are used less frequently in domestic situations. It is difficult to produce top quality results with a spray gun without considerable practice, so usage techniques are not covered in this section.


There are a variety of paint application pads available. They are particularly useful for cutting in to edges and make areas like hallways, where there are lots of doors and architraves to paint around, a breeze. They are simple to use. The best way to load them with paint is to use a paintbrush and paint the right quantity directly onto the pad.

A little practice will show you the exact amount for your pad, paint and wall. Then it's a simple matter of placing the pad on the wall and running the little wheels on the edge along the architrave, skirting or corner.

Cleaning up

At the end of the job a little time spent cleaning up properly will ensure your tools are in tip top condition next time you want to use them. To clean brushes and rollers, remove as much paint as possible from the nap (using a wire roller cleaner or scraper) or bristles (using a wire brush) before washing with water or solvent. When all the paint has been removed wash them with soap and warm water. Rinse well and comb the bristles straight with an old comb if necessary.

There is a variety of tools available to make cleaning rollers faster. The simplest is a wire cleaner which does an excellent job of scraping off paint and moisture. There are more complex cleaners available and they are generally effective, but not usually worth the investment unless you are doing a lot of painting.

Store paint brushes by wrapping the bristles in newspaper and lay flat, out of direct sunlight. The bristles should not be in contact with other objects. Alternatively, you can hang the brushes by their handles.

Do not store a roller cover on its side as it will flatten the pile, so stand it upright.

Understanding Paint Systems | Primers, Sealers & Undercoats | Top Coats | Exterior Preparation | Exterior Painting | Interior Colour Schemes | Interior Preparation | Interior Painting | Paint Care | Paint Quantity | Tools | Techniques | FAQ | Chemicals | Safety
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