Painting an entire room can seem like a pretty daunting task, but it’s one that you can definitely take on yourself. It doesn’t need to be an expensive project, either.
This article will guide you through the entire process, as well as offering product suggestions.
We’ve broken down each step of the job to make it as easy as possible for you, and have plenty of handy tips from other DIYers to help you along the way.
Drop cloths/ old bed sheets
These will be used to cover the floor and protect it from any dripping paint. You can also use them to cover any furniture that you’ve been unable to remove from the room.
Something to cover your head and shoulders
Wrap an old scarf around your head or wear a cap.
This is to prevent paint from falling into your hair or onto your skin while you’re working on the ceiling.
Painters table to set everything up on
You can easily find cheap, sturdy tables to store all of your kit on. A day or two before you start your painting, lay your tools out on the table and make sure everything is in order. It pays to be prepared!
This is what you’ll use to cover over any small cracks or holes in the wall.
It’s really important to paint on a smooth surface, so make sure it all feels even. I’ll go into more detail on this later.
Next it's time to sand the walls. Sand off any extra plaster or leftover primer-sealer. Go for a fine grit, as you’ll want to leave the walls matte without scratching them – aim for anything between 360 and 600. It’s also worth buying something around 80 if you have rough wooden skirting or frames.
You’ll want this if you have any holes to sort out, as it will hold any patches in place. It is available from most hardware stores and is normally pretty cheap.
This needs to be good quality, as it has to stay stuck to any surface for the whole day that you are painting. You want something adhesive that won’t leave any sticky residue. When comparing masking tape to painters tape, the latter leaves less residue behind.
This is what will prevent you from painting onto any woodwork or ledges/ doorframes, so is really important to the whole process.
Spackling and Putty Knife
This is essentially a putty that will fill in any small holes or cracks in the wall. Polyfilla is a decent brand to look out for. Anything that will form a paste and seal up imperfections in the wall is ideal. The putty knife will help you mould the spackling or paste to the wall properly.
Damp cloth or sponge
Use this after prepping the walls to get rid of any excess dust or cobwebs/ random sticky things that might be on your walls.
Paint rollers come in different sizes, and the ‘nap’ will be different, too. Choose a high quality paint roller made for ceilings and walls.
You’ll need to loosen/ remove any plug socket covers in order to paint around them properly. Keep track of any screws or nails so that you can put them back afterwards.
Short is best for the fine and flat surfaces, medium pile is best for smooth and more generic textures, with the long pile to be used on textured surfaces
This is a fantastic tip, and definitely worth remembering before you hit the hardware store. Find a roller that fits within your budget and suits the type of paint you've chosen. This will give the best possible results and make your job a lot easier.
When it comes to roller trays, something with a relatively deep well is what you need here. Choose a roller tray with a slanted or angled surface above the well – this is where you’ll drain off any excess paint. Plastic roller trays are fine.
Make sure your roller will fit in it, and that it has an even surface for placing on tables/ step-ladders. You may also want a couple of old containers for trim paint – you may not want to use it directly from the tin to avoid wastage.
Use something smaller to help save on wastage, as having a big ol’ tin to dunk your brush in can make it all too easy to get through too much paint. Recycle plastic boxes or clean a juice carton and chop it in half for a make-shift container.
Paint Spray Gun
There are two choices when it comes to spray guns – HVLP (high volume; low pressure) and airless. Read our full review list to find one that works best for you.
In general, I’d suggest going for an HVLP for larger areas, such as walls, as it gives great coverage with a nice, fine coat.
They tend to get the job done a lot more quickly than paint-rollers, and are way more fun to use! You’ll also need a respirator mask to protect yourself from paint and fumes while using a paint gun. Find one that suits your needs and stay safe.
Synthetic bristles are the best for water-based paints... Natural bristle is best used for solvent-based paints
Depending on the type of paint you’ll be using, you’ll need different bristles. Chalk paints and acrylic paints require different types of brushes, so plan in advance. Keep this handy tip in mind and make sure you get the right brush for the job.
Pay attention to whether or not the brush you like is a bristle-retainer! This more important than it sounds, and essentially means that the bristles won’t fall out while you’re painting. There’s nothing worse than finding stray bristles in your freshly-dried paint work.
Brushes sized 100mm-150mm (are) the most ideal for walls and less delicate jobs, (and) 25mm for around window frames and the trim.
Go to your local hardware or paint store (or several stores) and, keeping your inspiration photos in mind, start loading up on paint chips. 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.
This is simply to stir the paint up and get rid of any lumps. You’ll want your paint to be smooth and of even consistency, so it’s worth giving it a swill to ensure this. If you don’t have one already or don’t fancy splashing out, use an old (clean and smooth!) piece of wood.
Make sure there’s nothing on the stick that could come off and compromise the quality of your paint. This isn’t an essential bit of kit, but will definitely help you get a really polished end look.
Step-ladder or roller-extension pole
Step-ladders or telescoping ladders tend to be an essential part of any painter’s toolkit, and for good reason. They’ll allow you to easily reach the ceiling, and normally come with a platform to store your roller tray on.
They’re also a good thing to have lying around your garage, and will come in handy for a lot of other DIY projects and general tasks around the home and garden.
You can also use a roller-extension – a handy piece of kit that attaches to your paint roller handle and allows you to reach higher and further. Make sure your roller is compatible with an extension handle. You can buy the whole kit together, if you prefer.
This is the last product you’ll use in the process, but one of the most important. You can buy pretty much any brush-cleaner from the hardware store.
If you don’t fancy using more chemicals, soapy water can work, too. Have some paper towels handy, or recycle newspaper, to help keep your brushes in great condition for next time.
How Long Does It Take To Paint a Room?
Give yourself plenty of time! You may want to race to the end result, but it’s definitely worth pacing yourself. Allow yourself day or two to get the whole room painted, and try to save it for a weekend if you can.
You won’t be painting the entire time, but you’ll need time to prep, as well as letting various coats and layers dry. Take a day or two to set the room up – it’ll save you time in the long-run and give a much better result.
The painting itself should be done in around a day. It’s often the prep that takes the longest amount of time. Using your painters’ tape can take up lots of time, but please don’t skip this step!
Preparation Needed Beforehand
As with all DIY tasks, preparation is key. You don’t need to get a professional in, you just need to think logically and break the project down into manageable steps. Preparing the room may seem like a boring way to begin your new DIY task, but it’s the only way to ensure a great finished product.
By taking the time to prep a room, anyone can achieve professional-looking paint results
Start prepping the day before you want to paint. This way, everything will be set up for you and there won’t be any last-minute panics about forgetting anything.
It goes without saying, but empty the room! You’ll want to get rid of all furniture if possible, to minimize any potential damage, and give you plenty of space. Take out any light fixtures that are hanging from the ceiling or on the walls.
Cover the floor in old cloths or unused bed sheets. This is to protect it from paint drips, so is really worth doing! Set yourself up a little station – you’ll need a place to have all your brushes, paints and tools handy.
Fold-up tables are a good choice here as they’re super easy to store when you’re not using them. Lay everything out and double check that you have all the things you need. It’s much better to realize that you’ve forgotten something now than when you’re halfway through the job.
If you have any holes to fill in your trim or doors, you will want to fill those before painting
It can be tempting to rush through to the end result, but be patient! Make sure the room is in a decent enough condition to be painted. It’s all well and good having a lovely, freshly-painted room, but cracks and holes will still show.
Use a primer-sealer to cover over any high-shine areas, and use spackling to cover over any holes or cracks. You’ll need a decent putty knife to do this properly.
Alternatively, you can patch over larger holes. This is easier than is sounds, don’t worry. If your wall is made from plaster, use fibreglass tape to cover cracks. If you have a drywall, make a larger hole by cutting into the drywall itself.
You can then add a patch and secure it with fibreglass tape and spackling. If you’re using a patch, make sure you let it dry before sanding over with the fine-grit paper. The whole wall should ideally be super smooth and matte.
Remember to remove any nails or frame-fixtures. Take off the covers from power outlets using a drill. You should also sand down any rough skirting boards and frames, as this will make them much easier to paint later. Start off with 800 grit sandpaper and work your way down - you can use the fine grit sandpaper from your wall-sanding to give a smooth finish.
Once the room is totally empty, it’s time get the painters tape out.
This is the part that takes some time. Add tape all around the windows and any areas you don’t want to paint, eg woodwork. Decide whether or not you’ll be painting window ledges and door frames, and cover them up if not.
Do your best to paint in dry conditions, as this will help the paint settle and adhere to the walls better. It’s also much nicer for you to avoid painting in humid conditions!
If you’re struggling, close all windows and turn on your AC to keep the room fresh and dry. You’ll appreciate the breeze, and your paint will dry quicker. Leave the doors to other rooms open to ensure air-flow and prevent a build-up of fumes.
Wipe the walls down with a damp cloth or sponge, as this will get rid of any dust or cobwebs.
Clean, uniform surfaces will assure you of a smooth, professional-looking result
Remember: the cleaner the canvas, the better the job!
Order To Paint In
Whether you should paint the trim or the walls first depends on your painting skill, but generally people start at the top of the room. This will help you get an even finish, as you can sort out any paint drips as you get to them.
Start with the ceiling and work your way around the room painting the walls. Save the trim for last, as this will be your chance to properly touch everything up and end on a neat note.
Painting walls tends to be speedier work, too, so there’s no point doing perfect trim work if you splash paint around on the walls! Paint guns can be amazing, but beware of a little bit of overspray if you’re not used to them.
You can also choose to prime the walls or use an undercoat. In this case, prime the walls first using the ‘Walls’ steps below. Later, once this layer is dry, start from the ‘Ceiling’ section and work your way through the rest of the article.
You’ll want to prime the walls one or two days in advance so that the paint has fully dried. Some walls will be in a decent condition and won’t need priming, so this step is optional. Prime, ceiling, walls, trim!
Painting the Ceiling
Use a step-ladder or roller-extension, or both. I’d suggest using a ladder as it gives you better visibility and will offer more precision.
After the ceiling has been cleaned, the next step is ‘Cutting in’. This is when you paint around the edges of the surface with a brush to ensure a clean finish.
It often requires being on a ladder or step-stool for the edge around the ceiling, and you have to reload your brush with paint quite often
Use a paint brush to do this, as you’ll need it to look precise and even. I’d suggest going for a brush between 1 and 2 inches wide – this will give you plenty of control and help you keep a straight line against any frames or woodwork.
When cutting in, try to keep a minimal amount of paint on the brush. You’ll reload your brush quite regularly, but get better results for it.
This is more for neatness than anything else, so dip the brush just under halfway into the paint. Get rid of any drips by running it along the rim of the paint tin and getting rid of excess paint.
The key with painting the edges of any ceiling or wall is confidence! Try and paint with purpose, and use long strokes to get the most out of the paint. This will also avoid any smeary or streaky marks in the paint. You can go back on your work if it feels like it needs some extra work. You can also do this part again on your second layer of paint, so don’t stress too much if it’s not perfect.
Now that the edges are nice and neat, it’s time to reach for your paint roller. The roller you go for will slightly depend on the paint you’ve chosen. The guide above should help you decide. While I’ve suggested that you can choose between a roller and paint spray gun for the walls, stick to brushes and rollers for the ceiling.
Add the paint to the roller tray – fill it around 2/3rds of the way full. Dip half of the roller into the paint and roll it back and forth a few times.
This will ensure it is properly coated with paint. To get rid of any excess paint, roll it back and forth over the slanted area of the roller tray.
This will allow any extra paint to drip back into the paint-well and be reused.
For efficiency, start in the corner of a wall and roll on a three-by-three-foot W pattern, then fill it in without lifting the roller. Continue in sections until you're finished
Get painting! There are various suggestions on how to paint your ceiling but the general idea is to get it looking even.
Remember that you’ll be applying two coats of paint, so don’t worry too much if it’s not quite right the first time around.
Try to paint each area once only per coat – don’t double-back on yourself until you’re going for the second coat.
Don’t stretch your paint. You don’t want to glop the paint on, but scrimping will leave you with a patchy, blotchy paint job
Repeat this whole stage again, working around the edges before filling in the main area with a second coat of paint. The end result should be nice and even, so wait until it’s all dry before you properly assess the situation.
If there are areas that need going over again, do your best just to paint these sections. Use the roller, or use a small brush to make sure you’re not layering even more paint on other areas.
Painting the Walls
This section is pretty similar to painting the ceiling. You’ll want to use a thin paint brush to cut in, so make sure you take your time with this.
Be careful around any electrical sockets. Try and get this neat, but remember that you can come back to it once the first coat of paint is all dry.
You can either use paint roller here, or a spray gun. As discussed earlier, there are benefits to using both, but I’d suggest a spray gun.
They tend to be much easier to use, and get the job done quickly. As this site points out, spray guns give better coverage and offer a professional look in the end product.
The tiny particles of paint emitted from the sprayer ensure complete and quick coverage in every nook and corner of a wall or a piece of furniture
Work your way around the room, one wall at a time. It can be tempting to have fun and aim the gun at various parts of each wall as you stand in the centre of the room. Don’t do this! Turn down the ‘Rocky’ soundtrack and try and regain some self-control.
Stay the same distance away from the wall as you move along it. You can use a step-ladder if it helps. Find a pace that works for you – too slow and the paint will drip; too fast and you might miss a spot.
You’ll be doing two or three coats here, too, so take your time. Try and get an even coverage with each layer of paint, as the overall look will be much better this way.
Painting the Trims
You can buy specific trim paintbrushes, as I’ve suggested above. Once everything is dry and you’ve painted as many layers as you want, remove the painters’ tape.
This will expose some unpainted areas of the room, such as skirting boards and frames, which is where the trim work comes in.
Remove the tape slowly, so as not to ruin your hard work. Gently heating the tape with a hair-dryer will help to loosen the adhesive and let you peel it off easily.
You shouldn’t need to do this on the ceiling, but can if you have skirting here. Any doorframes or window ledges can be properly and neatly painted around now, so start at the top of the room and work your way down.
It’s personal preference as to what paint you use here – some choose to match the trim work with the ceiling, others opt for plain white and some make the trim a feature of the room by going for a totally new color.
Your brush should be angled and narrow to allow you to really get up against each surface. Hopefully you gave the skirting and any frames a good sanding earlier, so they’re smooth and ready to paint. Make sure you drain off any excess paint in the container before doing this – you don’t want any drips or thick smears contrasting with your perfect walls.
This tip really comes in handy, so bear it in mind when painting. Have confidence and paint purposefully – you’ll save on paint wastage and get a better-looking result, too.
By making long strokes rather than going back and forth, you will hopefully only have to do 1-2 coats
Ensure the first layer of paint is fully dry before you begin the second round. It should only take two coats to get a good finished product, but it’s totally up to you. Having even surfaces will make it much easier to achieve a professional look, which is why the ‘Preparation’ section is so important. Hopefully you’ve taken my advice and read through the whole process before jumping in!
Painting a Room with a Roller
When you take on the task of painting an entire room, using a brush is out of the question, unless you have a month to kill. Using a roller is an effective way to cover large areas like ceilings and walls quickly.
If you have done your prep work correctly, you can even use a small roller for window sills, trim boards, baseboards, and door frames. While this isn’t the ideal method, it can be done. Using a power roller, you won’t have to stop and refill the roller with fresh paint every two or three minutes.
Make sure you pick the right roller brush for the job. You will want to pick a roller with the right nap for your project. If you want smooth walls, for example, get a short nap. However, textured walls require longer fibers, and medium or long pile nap will work best.
Painting a Room with a Spray Gun
Painting a room with a spray gun is even faster and more economical than using a roller. With a spray gun, you can cover an entire wall in less than 10 minutes. Spray guns are more expensive and require more clean up and maintenance. However, if you are short on time, there is nothing better.
On top of that, you will ensure you get a smooth, even coat every time. Spray guns, like an airless model, can atomize paint and apply huge amounts in short periods of time. You can spray the primer, base coat, color coat, and topcoat using the same gun (choose the right tip and clean thoroughly between each use, though.).
Yep, this is the boring bit but you need to do it. There’s no point buying lovely brushes and (pricey!) spray guns if you’re not going to look after them.
Some brushes and rollers are cheap and can be used once, but they won’t give you the best possible results.
Hopefully your tools will be of high enough quality to reuse, so keep them clean and make them long-term additions to your tool-kit.
Scrape off any leftover paint on your brushes – partially to save on wastage, but also to make the cleaning process easier. Soak the bristles in water or cleaning solution that is specifically-designed for this purpose.
You can use soapy water if you’re not a fan of the chemical solutions. Rinse the brush in fresh water until it’s free from paint of soap/ chemicals, and wrap in paper towels. Allow it to air-dry by hanging up or laying somewhere warm.
Wrap the brush with heavy paper. Pre-fold the paper as shown, then wrap it around the brush and tie it loosely with string. This step is critical to retain the shape of the brush
Follow the same steps for your paint roller, making sure you rinse out any soap or solution from between the squishy foam-rolls. Spray guns will come with their own, personal manuals – it’s so important to keep your paint gun clean.
These tend to be investment-buys, as they can be a bit of the expensive side. Look after yours by getting rid of excess paint, otherwise it could become clogged and stop working.
Room Painting FAQs
How much paint do I need to paint a room?
To decide how much paint you need, you will need to measure your room properly. When looking for the square footage, the ideal method is to measure the length of a wall by the height of the wall and multiply the two numbers together.
Do this for each wall in the room and add the totals together. This will give you the square footage of your walls. For the ceiling, you will need to measure the length of the room by the width of the room and multiply those together.
After you have your total square foot measurement, you can decide how many gallons of paint are needed. The average is that a single gallon will cover 400 square feet. Always round up and buy extra paint when you are unsure.
How much does it cost to paint a room?
The national average cost to paint an average sized room is between $200 and $800. For a DIY project, you can expect to pay $100 to $300 for your materials.
Can I blend 2 paint colors on a wall?
Yes, you can. Also called an Ombre wall, two colors are chosen and mixed together. You will split your wall into three sections. After mixing the two paints, you will have three shades to choose from.
Use the darkest shade first, followed by the mixed paint, and then the lightest paint last. Use a dry brush to cross-stroke where the colors overlap for a blended look.
Congratulations, you’re finished! Your room should look amazing if you’ve taken care to prep everything fully. Hopefully, you remember to read through this article a couple of times before starting to paint!
As I said, give yourself plenty of time to get this project done. If you rush things, you’ll probably end up feeling dissatisfied and unhappy with the end result.
Take your time and have fun with the process. It’s not all as intimidating as it can sound, so don’t stress too much.
It can be tempting to scrimp and go for cheap products. Even if you’re only planning on using brushes and rollers for this job alone, choose good products. This is a pretty big job, and it’ll really pay off to buy good-quality products.
Splash a little extra cash on bristle-retaining brushes, good quality nap on your paint-roller and decent painter’s tape! The better that stuff sticks to the walls, the less likely you are to experience any dreaded paint drips or runs.
It takes some hard work and dedication, but it’ll be so worth it in the end. Try and have with it all – this is an exciting project to work on!
See this guide as a checklist and work your way through each step – all of a sudden, the whole task seems a lot more manageable. You’ll soon be sat in your newly-decorated room; put in the effort now so that you can fully relax later...