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How to paint a room | step by step

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How to paint a room, step by step

Lots of you have asked for a post about how to paint a room. So when I painted my bathroom this summer, I took some photos for you.

Painting walls is not rocket science. And as with most types of painting, prep work is key.

If you’re willing to do the prep work, you can turn out a pretty professional result even if you’re not really experienced.   It’s a great DIY project!

1. Clean + remove wall stuff

Get any extra stuff out of the room so that it’s easier to work!

Then vacuum, dust the moldings, and wipe any messes off the walls and trim.

And you’ll need to remove anything that’s hanging on the wall…switch plates, art, towel racks, etc.

where my medicine cabinet hangs. I took it down, obv!

It’s tempting to avoid removing things like towel racks, but you guys, listen:

It’s SO much easier to paint when almost everything is removed.

Take it all down!

2. Spackle holes and caulk gaps

If you’ve got drywall damage or old nail holes in the wall that you won’t be using, fill them with spackle.   Let the spackle dry, re-spackle if necessary, and sand until smooth.

If you’ve got gaps between your moulding and wall, run a bead of caulk over those.

And if the area where your ceiling meets the wall is a little wavy or bumpy run a bead of caulk there too. That’s done wonders for me in some rooms of my house.

(This brand is my favorite caulk. Definitely better than the cheap no-name type.)

3. Paint the ceiling and moulding without taping the edges.

(Do put down a drop cloth before you start painting. No matter how careful you are, a paint roller is a splattery tool, and you ARE going to make a mess.)

Before you paint your walls, paint the ceiling and the molding and go ahead and overlap the paint onto the wall.

This is easier than taping twice (!) AND it’ll help you get a neat, clean line when you paint your walls.

Let the ceiling and wall get completely dry before the next step.

4. Tape edges.

I know some people can manage to do a great job of painting without taping, but I am not one of those people.

I hate taping, but boy, the results really are better when I use tape.

I do not ever use cheap painting tape. It’s so, so worth it to spend a little more and get tape that’ll seal better.

This is my favorite kind. So much better than cheap masking tape!

Once you’ve taped all of your edges, you can finally….

5. Paint!

To minimize brush marks, I usually like to cut in and paint sort of at the same time.

So, I use a variety of small brushes to coat the edges of an area, and then I use my roller to fill in the middle.

A small roller is so super handy for getting into small places and also for evening out brush marks you may have left while cutting in the edges.

As with furniture painting, it’s best not to do super thick coats.   It’s ok if your first coat doesn’t cover completely…you’ll likely be coming back with a second coat anyway.

(I don’t think I’ve ever finished a room with just one coat of paint!)

In between coats, I put my paintbrush and roller into these plastic covers. They are such a tidy way to keep your brush/roller wet between coats, and I cannot recommend them highly enough.

6. Remove tape.

I don’t usually let the paint completely dry before I remove the tape, as that generally causes more problems for me than it helps. Instead, I take it off right after the second coat goes on.

7. Do touch-ups with a tiny brush.

No matter how carefully I tape, there are always some small spots that need touching up.   A teeny paintbrush is perfect for this task.

8. WAIT before you hang things back up.

It is craaazy tempting to put your switch plates and all back on the walls because you want to see what your fabulous new room looks like all put together.

But it’s really better to wait overnight before you do that because paint remains a little tacky at first, and your switch plates will tend to get a little embedded into the paint.

Same with things like picture frames and towel racks.

So, hold your horses and hang all that back up the next day.

9. Enjoy your newly painted room.

Look at you and your fabulous, I-painted-a-whole-room self!   Woohoo!


Let me know if I missed anything you were wondering about, and I’ll answer in the comments.

P.S. I didn’t mention this earlier, but you’ll obviously need to clean up your painting supplies.   I like to do this outside with a hose and a sprayer because then the mess is not in my house.   Also, sometimes I like to soak my roller covers and paint brushes in water overnight before I give them a final spray.   The overnight soak seems to encourage the last bits of paint to come off better.Save




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lola fullmer

Monday 26th of April 2021

This was very helpful, thank you so much!


Sunday 14th of March 2021

When you paint the ceiling do you use an extension pole? And what type of paint for each surface in the room example trim gloss or semi gloss....ect


Sunday 14th of March 2021

I sometimes use an extension pole if the ceiling is super high. For regular ceilings I usually just stand on a ladder.

Gloss is partly a matter of personal preference, but generally more gloss means it's easier to clean and more durable.

I use semi-gloss for all my trim paint and then usually something more like satin for walls. Flat for ceilings!

Bethany @ CuteCapsuleLife

Thursday 14th of September 2017

Our whole house needs a coat of paint inside and I've been dreading it because of the mess and I always seem to do something wrong. I admit I haven't done the prep work and that is probably what has tripped me up in the past. Great detail and visuals, this does help me. Now where to start...


Wednesday 13th of September 2017

I too had always needed two coats until I tried Behr Marquee paint. I've done four different colours/rooms (all over white, to be clear) with one coat and minimal touchups. It's not the cheap but less expensive than Benjamin Moore if you can buy when on sale/with rebates. I'm using the flat finish. Given that I have young kids and a small house I can't keep them out of the room I'm working in, this has been such a huge life/time saver! Also along the lines of adapting to painting with young kids, I do put the switch plates and outlet covers back on ASAP for safety with no significant problems (I would totally agree to wait til next day if you don't have to worry about little ones getting themselves into trouble!).


Wednesday 13th of September 2017

Great tutorial! I have always done the painting around here. Our house was built around 1910 and has a ton of trim work that some horrid person painted many years ago, so my choices are keep repainting or strip layers of paint. Needless to say, I keep repainting. I have always painted the trim (baseboards/doorway trim) after the walls though. I paint the ceiling, then the walls and last the trim. I tape the trim while I paint the walls but just freehand it when I paint the trim. I have different size/angled brushes that I found work best on our shape trim. It takes forever in our house.

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