Painting is therapeutic to me. It’s an easy and relatively inexpensive way to completely transform a room. I’ve been self-medicating with it for sixteen years. While I was completing my Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Architecture and Design, I began my interior design business doing regular painting and faux finishes. I recently had some friends ask me for some tips. (A certain Canadian friend had done some painting and when she went to pull her tape off, all of her hard work went with it.) So here are some of my favorite painting tips.

Cutting In With Paint

When you start painting a room, “cutting in” is the first thing you do. Cutting in is the brushwork along the edges and anywhere that’s too small for your roller. Sometimes people are anxious to see the color on the wall and get the job done, so they jump in and start rolling on the paint, leaving the detail work for the end. But it’s important to be patient. There’s a reason why you should cut in first. The tools you use to paint leave a texture in the paint, no matter how good you are. A roller leaves a slightly bumpy texture that we call “orange peel.” A bristle brush, foam brush or paint pad leaves a linear pattern. The perfect paint job is one where the texture is uniform across the entire surface. If you cut in first your brush marks will still be wet and you’ll be able to blend them in with your roller work. If you cut in last, your brush stroke pattern will be much wider and you’ll have competing textures in your paint.

The Cons of Painter’s Tape

Painting-Tips-Cutting-In You can usually tell when someone is cutting in because of all of the taped off surfaces. Some people think they have to use painter’s tape to get a clean edge. But it’s not usually necessary and there are actually negatives to using it. Taping adds additional time and expense to your project. It takes a lot of time to tape off all of those surfaces. In addition, using the right kind of tape is expensive. You can’t just use regular, old masking tape. Masking tape has too strong of a grip. At worst, it can completely remove the paint from the surface; at best, it can be very difficult to remove and it may damage the surface. Painter's-Tape-Not-Masking-Tape Tape can also give you a false sense of confidence. Many people think the tape gives them an airtight seal so they just paint right up over the edge. But it’s difficult to get an airtight seal, no matter how good the tape company’s marketing says theirs is. DIYers can be disappointed when they pull the tape off and find out their paint seeped under the tape. A crooked line looks better than blobs of paint. Painter's-Tape-Seepage And, if they used too much paint when they were cutting in, when they go to remove the tape it will take the paint with it.

Using Painter’s Tape to Your Advantage

Painter’s tape can be a valuable tool too. For instance, I tape off if I’m doing a specialty or faux finish where I’m going to be using a large tool or where I need to overlap the edge to make sure that the texture in the glaze goes all the way to the edge. Also, if I’m painting horizontal or vertical stripes in contrasting colors or sheens, tape is the only way to get a crisp line. So, if you want to use tape, here are some tips to use it to your advantage.
  • Use the right kind of painter’s tape. If you’re new to painting and using tape, you need to look for painter’s tape. It is typically blue. There’s also a new painter’s tape on the market that is green. Regular masking tape is difficult to remove and can damage pre-painted surfaces.
  • Burnish the tape edge. As I said, it’s difficult to get an airtight seal along the edge but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. After you’ve applied the tape, take a stiff, smooth object like a credit card, plastic putty knife, etc. and push down along the edge of the tape. This will remove any air bubbles and make sure that the tape is adhering uniformly. Don’t use a thin or sharp item. A metal putty knife, or similar object will end up tearing the tape instead of sealing it.
  • Pre-paint the tape’s edge. This technique is easier if you’re painting stripes on a surface or you have the paint from the previous paint job. Let’s say your trim is painted white and you’re painting your walls yellow. Tape your trim off as you usually would. Now paint along and overlap the edge of the tape with your white trim paint. What happens is the trim paint will seep under any unsealed edge of the tape. This creates a barrier so that when you go over it with your yellow wall paint, any pockets have already been filled with the trim paint. And you’ll never see the trim paint that seeped under the tape because it matches what’s already on the trim.
  • Use your tape only as a guide. If you’re taping off your trim or ceiling to give you a line between the two surfaces, use the tape only as a guide. Pretend it’s a ruler that you’re following and avoid painting over the tape’s edge to prevent leaks under the edge.
  • Don’t over do it. Don’t overfill your brush and slop paint along the tape’s edge. If you have too much paint, there’s nowhere for it to go. The extra paint is going to try and force its way under the tape. Also, not overdoing it on the amount of paint will make it easier to break that line between the paint and the tape when you go to remove it.
  • Follow the line. Paint along the tape edge, not against it. In other words, move your brush parallel to the tape, not perpendicular to it. If you’re painting against the tape, you’re forcing the paint under the edge of the tape.
  • Remove the tape at a 90-degree angle. When you’re ready to remove the tape, don’t just grab the end and pull it off in a straight line as if you were opening a package. In order to break any paint overlap, and to break it in the crispest line possible, fold the tape edge over and pull it off at a 90-degree angle.
Removing-Painter's-Tape-Right Removing-Painter's-Tape-Wrong


Many paint companies now advertise their paints as being both paint and primer in one. It helps with coverage, and can cut down on the number of coats needed for difficult colors like red. But you still need a good primer for some applications. Unless you’re extremely lucky, you probably have holes and cracks that need to be patched. After multiple steps and sandings, you may be impatient and just want to get done with your project. But don’t skip the primer. Unprimed spackling or joint compound will absorb the water out of your paint and will cause one or both of the following:
  • Your paint will not adhere to the repaired area. You may not notice this because it won’t look different. But if you’ve taped over the unprimed edge, your paint is going to peel right off with the tape.
  • Your sheen is going to differ. The difference in moisture content is going to affect how shiny the paint looks. For instance, if you’re using a semi-gloss, the unprimed area will look closer to satin.
If you’re painting over a wall where you’ve just removed wallpaper, you must not only prime the walls, but you must use either an oil-based primer or a product like Zinsser’s Gardz. If you don’t use an oil-based product, the water in the water-based primer or water-based paint will reactivate any wallpaper paste residue. No matter how many times you’ve washed the walls there is always residue. Unfortunately, it’s not visible until you’ve painted. A lot of residue can make it impossible for the paint to adhere to the wall and the result will be dramatic. In the picture below, we were painting a house that was going to be flipped. We had no idea that wallpaper had ever been on this wall. Once we painted however, it was obvious. Painting-Tips-Wallpaper-Removal Smaller amounts of residue will create odd patterns and differences in the sheen and texture.

Easy Clean Up

Clean up is no fun. Some people wait too long and at the end of the day brushes, rollers, trays or all of the above are ruined because the paint dried on them. So, they throw them out. Or, some people just throw everything out because they don’t want to go to the trouble of cleaning them. It doesn’t have to be difficult. And we don’t want you adding to the local landfill.

Be Neat

The simplest way to make cleanup easy is to be neat from start to finish. Don’t overload your tools.Only so much paint can transfer from your brush or roller to the wall. Any paint that doesn’t make it onto the wall is going to run down into your brush, and then drip off and onto anything around you. Not only will you have to clean your tools when you’re done, you’ll have to clean the floor, baseboard, anything where the paint has dripped.

Less Paint Means Easier Cleanup

To make brush cleanup easier and to protect the life of your paint brush, don’t dip your brush into the paint all the way up to the ferule (the metal band between the brush’s bristles and the wooden/plastic handle). You only need to dip your brush into the paint about a fourth of the bristle length. If you have too much paint on your brush and you’ve dipped it too far into the paint, all of that excess paint is going to run down into the ferule and start to dry. When it’s time to cleanup, all of that excess, dried or drying paint will need to be scraped out. It’s going to take you more time and effort to clean. And, the more pulling and straining you do on the bristles in the ferule, the more you’re going to weaken the glue that holds them together.

Keep Your Tools Wet

When you’re setting up to do your painting, fill a 5 gallon bucket halfway with warm water and either some Murphy’s Oil Soap or Fabric Softener. Then, whenever you finish with a tool—paint brush, roller, stir, rag, etc.—throw it in the bucket. Murphy’s Oil Soap and Fabric Softener breakdown latex paint; water keeps the paint from drying up. When you’re all done at the end of the day, just take everything out of the bucket and rinse them off. My rollers and rags I put through a cycle in the washing machine. My brushes I rinse and brush with a paint brush brush or a wire brush. If you need to take a break, don’t leave your tools lying around to dry out. There are lots of expensive tools on the market for storing a wet brush, roller or paint an. But, one of the easiest, most inexpensive tools I’ve found is Glad Press’n Seal. To keep a painting tool from drying out you just need to keep the Painter's-Tricks-Press'n-Sealair out. You can put a piece of Press’n Seal over your bucket. Wrap it around your brush. Wrap it around your roller. If you’ve got an airtight seal, you can leave your tools for days.

Wash your hands!

Paint loves skin. Whether it’s latex, oil-based, spray paint, wood stain, it’s all difficult to get off of your hands. I remember my dad dousing his hands in gasoline and rubbing them together when I was a kid. Not only is that incredibly unhealthy, but the smell stays with you for days—it would be a good way to get yourself to put down that cigarette though. There are two products I’ve found that work great at getting paint off my hands, arms and any other skin that’s been splattered upon. Goop Hand Cleaner is non-toxic and biodegradable. It also claims to remove stains from washable clothing. (I can’t vouch for that because I’ve never tested it as a stain remover.) But it does work great on my hands. One of the great things about it is that it doesn’t require water. You can choose to rinse it off with water, orPainting-Tips-Hand-Cleaner just wipe your hands clean on a rag or towel. I’ve used some water-free products before and they either left my hands feeling really greasy or the lingering fragrance made me sick and I had to find the nearest sink to wash it off. Goop doesn’t really have any smell. And once I’ve wiped it off, I just feel like I’ve put a little bit of moisturizer on my hands. It’s a great tool to carry around in my paint tools because I can clean up whether there’s water nearby or not. And it only costs $2.99 for a 10.5 oz tube. The second product is a make-it-yourself solution. Mix ½ cup of coconut oil and ½ cup of baking soda together. Apply some of it to your hands and rub them together. When you’re done scrubbing with it, just wash your hands with soap and water. The coconut oil breaks down the paint on your skin and the baking soda helps to rub off the paint. I keep a container of this next to my cleanup station. I’ve cleaned up Minwax stain-saturated hands in just minutes with this mixture. It also does a good job of moisturizing your hands–you’ve just exfoliated with baking soda and moisturized with coconut oil. The coconut oil can be annoying though. It’s difficult to remove all of the residue. So it’s best to use this cleaner when you aren’t going to be doing paperwork, holding pencils or other small objects. There are so many other tips to share. These are just some of my favorites. If you need help with a paint project give us a call.