How To Paint New Drywall (In 4 Easy DIY Steps)

Your new drywall installation is complete, but the unfinished drywall is unsightly. You know how to paint interior walls, and you wonder whether you can just use the same painting process.

To a certain extent, the answer is yes–but there are some critical differences.

This article will give you a clear sense of how to paint new drywall; plus, you will come out with more confidence to pick the right primer, painting, and other tools to do the job comfortably.

Main Starting Points

The big key to painting drywall-- do each step as neatly and completely as possible so that the following steps are easier.

In other words, a good foundation is hard to mess up, but a bad foundation is nearly impossible to perfect.

Always start by laying drop cloths, and be sure any furniture and fixtures are covered, or removed, if possible. Use painter’s tape for edges along molding and the like.

Wear protective eyewear, as well as a dust mask or ventilator, because of the profusion of dust particles released during drywall work.

Be vigilant about tracking dust to other spaces and err on the side of excess when laying drop cloths or damp cloth.

The abundance of dust released is really the most challenging thing about painting drywall. You will need a wet-dry shop vac to get it all up.

Purchase right drywall primers from paint stores and purchase paint based on the square footage of the space; assume at least 2 coats (first coat and second coat) of each, depending on the condition of the wall and the color and quality of the painting.

As a general rule, use medium-grit sandpaper earlier in the process and change to fine-grit as you approach the final coat.

1. Repairing the Wall

This article’s focus is painting new drywall paper, so you should not have much to do. However, repair, if needed, is the first step to prepare drywall for painting new drywall.

At a minimum, most repairs require drywall mud, a taping knife, and joint tape. You might need to smooth over small holes with a putty knife, or do more complicated drywall patch. [1]

Push any protruding fasteners/bolts down.

2. Prepping the Wall

To ensure a smooth finish, apply a skim coat–that is, smooth a thin layer of joint compound on the whole drywall surface.

Sandpaper the coating, using a moderately coarse sanding block or power sander–on an extension pole for high areas.

In fact, there are a variety of sanding approaches you can use–with some more suitable for some projects or areas.[2]

Consider a wet-dry shop vac with built-in power sanding attachment for a big job. Some of these even have helpful features like extension and lighting. 

Note: Regardless of how good your equipment is, still wear eye and ventilation protection.

Carefully brush off and wipe down the wall.

Do not proceed until you have tested the entire wall with a cloth or scrutinized it with direct lighting to be sure there is no moisture or dust left.

3. Coating the Wall with Primer

Use a brush to paint edges and corners, then complete the rest with a paint roller–on an extension pole, if needed.

Drywall primer usually takes only a few hours to dry, but always heed included instructions.

You do not have to sand between primer coats, but sand and brush dust off the dry primer coat before adding the first coat of paint.

You must get the primer dry and clean–completely–before you start painting new drywall.

4. Applying the Paint

As with primer sealer–brush around edges and corners, then roll on the center of all the walls.

Use fine sandpaper between coats of paint, being sure the new paint is completely clean and dry before adding the next coat.

painted drywall

Potential Problems and Concerns With Drywall

Painting Drywall Without Plaster

You might get away with not applying any plaster/joint compound on fresh drywall–as long as you use drywall primer as directed.

This is risky, though, especially if you want attractive results.

Painting Directly Over Drywall Tape

If you start painting new drywall directly over tape, you have created the same problem as above, because drywall tape should always be covered with drywall compound to create a smooth finish.

However, high quality primers might make up for this missed step.

Mold On The Drywalls

Visible mold is usually embedded in the sheetrock layers, so it must be cut out with a drywall knife. If it has infected large sections, the whole panel must be replaced.

If the worst happens, consider selecting a different sheetrock type.[3]

Note that mold-resistant drywall components and coatings do not actually kill and remove mold that is already there.

Water Damaged Drywalls

If the damage is only slight, you can repair it with tape and mud. If the wall is soaked to the point of being weakened, it must be replaced.

Drywall Trim

These solid metal or plastic brackets are used to seal drywall corners.

Treat them the same as tape, screw holes, or other uneven areas–apply compound until the trim is mostly level with the wall, then proceed as usual.


Since dust will come down off the ceiling, cover the entire floor underneath and cover wall edges (where the all the walls meet the drywall ceiling), molding, fixtures, etc. with painter’s tape.

Of course, an extension pole for the painter roller or paint roller and sander is absolutely necessary.

If you must paint directly on or close to the ceiling, use a stable ladder. As paint colors go, many people like ceiling white. Note that latex paint is generally the easiest to use. Use a synthetic-bristle brush for latex paint;.

Times To Call A Drywall Contractor And/Or Professional Painter

An unusually high ceiling is not safe for DIYers. Also, drywall installation or replacement is overly complicated for most non-professionals.

plaster on drywall

Benefits Of Using A Drywall Primer

  • Primer Equalizes Color 
    Bare drywall is uneven in color and texture, which makes it nearly impossible to get a consistent finish paint (finish coat) over the entire surface that also tends to absorb paint.

    Bold colors or dark paint color might not look their best on the whitish tan of drywall compound: This is where tinted primer, especially, is helpful.
  • Primer Equalizes Porosity
    The various drywall components have different textures and porosities, making painting bare drywall a nightmare.

    Primer seals the porous surfaces so that the joint compound and sheetrock do not soak up the painting.
  • Help You Save Money
    Without a prime coat, you will definitely need more paint to get a half-decent finish. Ultimately, for most projects, the primer step will save time and money.

What Kind of Primer Is Best For Drywall?

Drywall primer sealer–also known as primer sealer–is usually a water-based PVA primer. Some are labeled for drywall; others are multi-purpose, but indicated for drywall.

It is hard to pinpoint one product or brand as the best primer; there are many good options:

Some are mold/mildew-resistant; high-hiding (conceal scratches, scuffs, and underlying colors); or stain-blocking (conceal stains and keep them from leaching).

What Kind Of Paint Is Best For Drywall?

If you use primer first, there really is no limit on the painting type.

Most DIYers prefer acrylic paint or latex paint–with a few successfully using special types like chalk paint–but there is no reason you cannot use oil-based.

Texture spray is something to consider if you like the appearance of surface texture or anticipate future damage to the wall that you want to conceal.

Epoxy paint is fine but probably not needed for most home interior walls; consider it for exterior walls in a garage, utility room, shed, etc., that might be exposed to weather, chemicals, or serious scuffing.

Painting and priming drywall in one coat (aka self-priming paint) is not the best for new drywall. However, it might work as a casual, cosmetic coat on previously finished walls.

No paint brand is a magic bullet. Even with expensive paint, you still have to carefully apply several coats of primer and painting to get a pleasing result. 

KILTZ and BEHR, as well as Valspar (a subsidiary of Sherwin-Williams), are affordable brands offering a wide selection of effective drywall primer and painting. Kilz Original is the go-to stain blocking primer.

applying primer to drywall

Common Questions On Painting A New Drywall

What happens if you don’t prime drywall before painting?

If drywall is not primed before painting, achieving a consistent and even finish may require multiple coats of paint.

How many coats of primer do I need for drywall?

For new walls, definitely at least two coats. A single coat might work for previously painted walls.

How many coats of paint do I need for new drywall?

Usually, two coats is a safe assumption, but it can vary with the color and quality of the paint.

Can you paint drywall without mud?

Not recommended, but possible. Use a drywall primer to help hide imperfections like seams and corners. Mud also serves this purpose.

What kind of paint do you use on bathroom drywall?

Any water-resistant, mildew-resistant paint is ideal.


Drywall offers some unique challenges, but once you know the basic components and techniques, it is fairly straightforward.

Drywall is such a common wall material–knowing how to make basic repairs is a valuable homeowner skill.

Moreover, knowing how to make your sheetrock look good–and the way you want it–will give you the power to transform your living space.