A Beginner’s Guide to a Headache-Free Paint Job

Do you feel frustrated when you hear the phrase, “It’s just paint! I do, even though I’m completely guilty of saying it myself. This is usually a phrase thrown around as Scott and I debate the merits of this blue versus that blue, this white versus that white. “It’s just paint! we’ll say, meaning, it’s not that serious—you can always paint again. Even still, that doesn’t mean we don’t want to nail it on the first try without having to start the job over from phase one.

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Before we begin any painting project—whether it’s a room, a piece of furniture, or art for art’s sake—there is a checklist we need to complete before ever picking up a brush or roller. When we skip these steps, we find that pesky phrase sneaking into our vocabulary! But, when we follow these steps, we find ourselves headache-free at the end of a satisfactory paint job. In this scenario, I’m going to stick to talking about painting a room, as we have painted countless (and I really mean countless!) rooms ourselves. Here are my tried-and-true guidelines that won’t have you defaulting to “It’s just paint! Rather, you’ll be patting yourself on the back for a (thorough) job well done.

On finding “The One.” Deciding on a paint color is easily the most taxing task of them all, right? I recommend browsing your favorite blogs and magazines, earmarking paint colors that stand out to you. You might start to notice a theme; maybe you’re choosing all subtle pastels or perhaps you’re leaning bold and dark. First, never, ever trust that the color from those photos is going to look the same in your own home! Go to your local hardware or paint store (or several stores) and, keeping your inspiration photos in mind, start loading up on paint chips. Choose shades that lean warmer or cooler than you think you might want because you might be surprised to see that they’re right for your room. As soon as you get home, pin them to the walls of the room you’ll be painting. Look at them every chance you get—from morning to night. Move them from wall to wall, as they’ll likely morph in color and tone. Almost immediately, you’ll be able to nix a few. Continue until you’ve landed on “The One.”

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Choose the right sheen. Once you’ve decided on your perfect color, the guy behind the counter will ask you what sheen you’d like. Typically speaking, ceilings are always a flat finish, whereas living and dining areas are eggshell. Trim and doors fall under the semi-gloss category, and some brands even have a satin finish for bathrooms and kitchens. My general rule of thumb is this: You can’t go wrong with eggshell for almost all walls. Yes, even in bathrooms and kitchens. Although this sheen will appear matte, it’s still wipeable and kid- and pet-friendly. Nothing ruins a beautiful paint job faster than a too-shiny finish. Satin, I’m looking at you.

Invest in the right tools. Don’t skimp on your paintbrushes! On average, a $10, 2″ angled brush will be your best friend for cutting in along the baseboards, ceilings, and door trim. Pick up ½”-¾” nap roller covers for smooth to semi-smooth walls, and make sure you have a tray and liners. We love using an extension pole for getting high on the walls without a ladder and gaining better leverage, too. When you have the right tools to start, your job will not only go more quickly, but you’ll be happier along the way.

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Protect the room. Okay, you’ve chosen your paint and you’ve brought it home—now what? Take a moment to remove all electrical and vent covers, setting them aside and keeping the tiny screws nearby. Lay down drop cloths on the floors, cover any furniture, and throw on clothes you don’t mind staining permanently with paint.

Prepare the walls. For stellar end results, you’ll want to start with walls that are free of blemishes. Scan your walls and sand down any rough spots. Use spackle to fill in dents and sand those as well. If there are gaps along your trim work, a bead of caulk (smoothing it over with your finger) will disguise them nicely. We typically do this the evening before we paint.

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Tape and paint! Scott and I have fallen in a groove where I cut in using my 2″ brush, and he rolls. Painter’s tape along your baseboards, crown and around doors will yield a more crisp line if you’re not confident with a steady hand. My biggest tip: Peel the tape while the paint is still somewhat wet for the cleanest line! Waiting overnight will often times peel fresh, dried paint along with the tape.

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Finally, enjoy your room! All these steps are so worth it to bring you the best outcome for a beautifully painted space. If you’re stumped on finding “The One,” take a moment to browse the Bali Pinterest page to gather inspiration. (Psst… This board is brimming with ideas!)

Happy painting!

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