How to Paint a Room 

In this article we explain how to paint a room just like a professional decorator. You may also find it useful to read the two articles we have written below:

So for the purpose of this article we will talk about the actual painting of the room. We have assumed that you have covered the floor and used masking tape on door frames and skirting boards.

We will also assume that you have filled in any cracks or holes and sanded those down to a smooth finish.

In other words you are ready to start applying the paint to the ceiling and walls. We have also assumed that you have picked out the colours that you want.

We prefer to use a trade paint such as "Dulux Trade" or "Crown Trade" as they are just higher quality paints, and that means they cover better. Irrespective of what type of paint you have there will come a time to get started.

What Order Do You Paint a Room?

So in any room you will likely have the following items that require painting:

  • A ceiling
  • Walls
  • Doors and door jambs
  • Window frames
  • Skirting Boards

Professional Tip

Paint all the woodwork first with two coats and allow to completely dry

The main reason for this is that it is much easier to put masking tape around your woodwork than to put masking tape on to walls. You will use less tape and it is faster to do. Painting the woodwork first also gives a much neater finish.

In addition to the above, emulsion paint used on walls will wash off woodwork, whereas gloss paint will not wash off walls, should you make an accidental mistake when painting.

Painting Woodwork

So start by painting skirting boards, wooden window frames, doors and door jambs. On wood we recommend using an undercoat and have explained why in our FAQ section below. In short using an undercoat is of course more work, but will give you a much better finish.

Woodwork should be painted with a gloss paint. You can buy different types of gloss paint ranging from a high gloss shiny finish to a sheen finish. That choice is a matter of personal preference.

Gloss paint allows you to wipe the woodwork if it gets marked, and leaves a really clean finished appearance. It does take gloss paint quite a while to dry and doors, windows etc should be left open if possible, to avoid surfaces sticking together.

It is always recommended to leave gloss paint to dry overnight. There are fast drying gloss paints available on the market, but to be honest, we have had mixed results with these. They don't seem to have the same quality finish as an oil based gloss paint.

If you have used an undercoat, then one coat of gloss paint should do the trick. If not, you may have to do two coats of gloss paint.

Paint the Ceiling

Once the woodwork is done it is time to paint the ceiling. An emulsion paint should be used for that and our preference is to use a roller for application, and a small brush for cutting in. We have explained below in our FAQ the differences between using a brush or a roller.

A roller is certainly much faster than using an emulsion brush, and when used properly it is fast and leaves a very neat finish with no lines.

We also highly recommend doing the edges first or as it is better known the cutting in process. There are a few good reasons for this:

  • If you do the cutting in first, you normally feel fresher as you are getting started and your concentration levels are much higher - that means less mistakes and good focus
  • Leaving the cutting in to the end means you have to marry the existing roller line back to wards the ceiling - that can be quite difficult without leaving brush marks

Most ceilings will need two coats to bring them up to a neat seamless finish. The good news is that emulsion dries very quickly so you can see what the finish looks like.

Professional painters will usually do a single coat, allow it to dry overnight, and then do a second coat, as that gives the best finish. It will delay the room painting process, but you will get the best and most professional finish.

Paint the Walls

Like the ceiling an emulsion paint should be used to paint the walls. Before beginning this you should use low tack masking tape to cover the edges of your freshly painted skirting board and windows.

Again we would recommend a roller and a small brush for cutting in. Use the same process as we have described above and do the cutting in first.

Then apply whatever colour you have chosen for your room. Walls will also need two coats of paint for the best finish.

Care does need to be taken around light switches and ceiling roses. Ideally they should have been masked off in the preparation stage.

Room Painting FAQ

As you can imagine we get asked a lot of questions about painting a room. We have listed these below with a set of very comprehensive answers.

Do You Need to Prime the Walls, Ceiling or Woodwork?

Primer is a very expensive purchase and can be more expensive than paint. The good news is that in most cases you don't actually need to use it. There are a few different types of primer such as general purpose, super bond, drywall primer, masonry primer etc.

Most homes will not need a primer. New build houses, if they have not been painted by the builders will need a general purpose primer applied to everything. Most new builds are prepared though so if in doubt ask.

New walls and ceilings are usually made of plasterboard, often referred to as drywall. These walls may also be plastered as that helps with noise reduction, keeping in the heat and leaving a very neat finish.

They will look grey or a pinkish colour if finishing plaster has been used. If the building contractor has not prepared the walls or ceiling, then you will need to prime those.

New walls simply drink paint and it would take quite a few coats to cover the ceiling and walls if you didn't use a primer. The primer basically helps seal the wall and makes the paint stick to the wall.

You can buy a drywall primer and also a wood primer if you need to. A general purpose one works well enough, and will be dry in about an hour.

Do You Need to Undercoat the Walls, Ceiling or Woodwork?

An undercoat usually goes on top of a surface that has had a primer put on it. An undercoat does two main things:

  • Helps smooth out the surface
  • Softens the surface so when the paint is applied you get a slightly softer tone.

We strongly recommend that you undercoat wood. There really is no need to undercoat walls and ceilings.

Should You Use a Brush or a Roller?

use a paintbrush or a roller

It really is a matter of personal preference. No professional would ever consider using a brush to paint large areas such as a ceiling or walls.A roller is faster and we believe it does a much better way of covering a large area, with no brush strokes.

Rollers can be messy if you are working in a room where you can't properly prepare it. In these circumstances a brush may even be quicker, and an emulsion brush is also quick enough to use in something like a small bedroom.

Dealing with a Couple of Tins of Paint

If you are doing a large room, or need to do several coats, then you may have had to buy a few tins of paint. Each tin of paint has a colour code on it and you should be sure that those codes match.

Even if they do it is always better to pour the pots of paint into a larger container such as a bucket and thoroughly mix those together. That will help you be certain of having a single and consistent colour.

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