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It’s one of the quickest ways to give a home a facelift, but painting like the pros requires patience, attention to detail, a steady hand and yes, tedious preparation.

It’s a messy business, with lots of bending, twisting and negotiating ladders, and inevitable dithering over the crucial colour scheme.

Decide up front who lands the back-breaking tasks of heavy sanding and painting the ceilings.

Painting is not just about getting the paint onto surfaces successfully. There’s an awful lot of work involved in not getting paint where it shouldn’t be.

To start

Start your painting project with some measurements. You will need to know how many square meters you will be painting.

Asses the surface you want to paint, is it fresh plaster or cement, is it old flakey paint or wall paper, is it a relatively new finish?

Tools of the trade. A wall scraper and painter’s tape

How dark is the current colour compared to the new colour you’ve chosen? If the old paint is very dark and your new paint is light, you may need an undercoat or have to apply more coats of paint.

What’s the quality of the surface? Is it a nice smooth surface or is it a bit rough?

If you can’t decide on a colour scheme, get some sample pots and experiment.

Surface prep is time consuming but will give the end result a more professional look.

Remember, colours can look quite different in different lighting conditions, don’t just rely on looking at the paper samples in the shop.

Paint comes in a number of finishes from matt to gloss and are either acrylic or enamel or oil-based.

Flat paint hides flaws in old walls. A semi- or high-gloss paint works best on woodwork, such as door and window frames, and skirtings. Low-sheen is the most popular finish for walls.

Careful cutting in gives a much better finish.

Wear and tear is another point to consider. For example, high traffic areas or walls subjected to small sticky fingers will call for a tough, easy maintenance finish.

Most surfaces require two coats of paint, and if you’re painting over a dark colour or a new wall, you’ll probably need an undercoat.

That said, many paint companies now offer “one coat wonders”, so it’s worth having a good browse of the paint shelves.

Fantasy land: you will not look this cute or happy when you’re painting. Wear old clothes or overalls and cover your hair. Gloves are a good idea too.


You might be a wiz with a paint brush and roller, but all your efforts will be in vain if you haven’t meticulously prepared the surfaces.

Cover the floor
Be generous with the drop sheets, taping them to the walls so they don’t slide around. Make sure the drop sheets are tough enough to resist tearing if you’re going to be moving a ladder around.

Good lighting is essential to ensure even coats of paint.

Light and ventilation
Make sure you’ve got good even lighting where you’re working so you see what you’re doing clearly. Wall surfaces and paint colours will look different in different lighting conditions, especially if it’s daylight coming from a single window.

Use a good bright portable light for best results. And check what you’re doing from different angles in the room.

Whenever using chemicals and stirring up dust make sure you have plenty of fresh air.

Move the ladder, don’t risk a fall or back strain by reaching too far.

Older walls will need any loose paint scraped off. Holes and cracks need scraped out to remove loose material and then patched with a suitable filler.

Blade scrapers are great for tidying up old paint jobs that left paint on window glass.

Be very careful painting over old paints, some of them are oil-based and cannot be painted over directly.

Not all fun and games: Don’t be fooled by DIY shows on TV, painting is hard work … hijinks with a paint roller in the an episode of The Block.

Water-based paint will stick to oil-based paints but only if the surface is prepared correctly. Get some professional advice on this one.

Filling and sanding
The rougher the overall wall surface is to begin with, the more your nice neat filled spots will stand out as shiny patches. Roughen up your patching a little if you want it to blend in.

Old, chipped woodwork will look exactly that if you don’t give it a really rigorous sand, starting with coarse sandpaper and finishing with a fine grade.

Use a smaller bucket to carry with you as you paint.

Give the walls a good sand over rough or shiny surfaces too and a quick sand over all the rest.

Vacuum up all the dust and lose bits of paint and plaster once you have finished preparing the surfaces.

Follow this by washing with sugar soap.

Painter’s tape
Use masking tape to protect surfaces such as light switches and skirting boards. In fact if you aren’t 100% confident of having a very steady hand… tape up the edges of everything you don’t want paint on.

A quick wipe with a rag will remove some stray brushstrokes on glass or other shiny surfaces, but it’s much easier to remove painters tape than unwanted paint, wet or dry.

This sounds like a lot of fiddling – and it is – but you just won’t get really good results without it.


Before you take the lid off the paint can, make sure you are ready to go with all your tools and equipment.

There’s nothing worse than starting to paint only to find you need to make another trip to the hardware shop or garage.

The type of surface you’re painting and the type of paint on will determine they types of brushes and rollers you will need. Always buy the best brushes and rollers you can afford, they will make the paint job look more professional.

Buying cheap rollers might seem like a good idea but not when you’re left with fuzz in your fresh paint or extra work because the roller won’t hold enough paint.

Don’t put too much paint in a roller or brush. You want the paint applied evenly but not too thick on the walls. Use a nice firm pressure when using a roller.

Step one – edges
Start painting by cutting in around all the edges with a brush or a paint edger

Make sure your cutting in doesn’t dry before you start filling in with the roller.

Using a small container for your paint as you walk around the room is easier than moving a heavy tin of paint with you and is less dangerous to carry up a ladder.

Step two – walls
then use a roller to apply the paint in long, even zig-zag sweeps, finishing in parallel strokes that even out any overlapping paint edges.

Rollers will make painting walls much faster and give a far better finish than brushes.

You don’t want it dripping down the wall or on the floor and certainly not flying off the ends of the roller in globs.

Cutting in around light fittings and wall fixtures at the same time as you roll will help to avoid a patchy finish if you have a large area and won’t start using the roller before the edges dry.

Using a straight edge tool will help keep paint off adjacent areas if you haven’t taped them up. This tool is especially useful for painting right down to the bottom of walls in carpeted rooms.

The paint is for the wall not for the tool, just put paint on the wall side of the brush. Wipe the straight edge frequently to make sure it’s paint-free against the surface you are protecting.

Extension poles are a must if you’re painting high ceilings, it will be faster and much kinder on your back and neck, not to mention reducing the dangers of trips up and down a ladder.

Use roller tray liners for easier clean up and less waste.

Drop sheets are essential but they don’t save floors from paint you walk from the room you’re painting to another.

Try to clean up spills on your drop sheet as they happen, but always check your shoes or take them off before you step off the drop sheet onto unprotected surfaces.

Wrap brushes and rollers in plastic to prevent drying out or needing to wash if you’re taking a break or continuing the following day.


  • Thoroughly stir the paint before starting
  • Always work your way down, starting with the ceilings first
  • Choose the best quality paint brushes and paint you can afford
  • Paint in manageable patches to ensure you’re not going back over paint that’s started to dry already.
  • Tie up/cover your hair unless you want paint speckles that don’t wash out once dried.


  • Use a cheap masking tape. Buy proper painter’s masking tape that won’t remove the paint or chunks of plaster when you pull it off
  • Overload your roller or brushes with paint
  • Stir paint with a brush
  • Try to paint over crumbly surfaces you will just get ugly lumps in your paint

Safety tips

  • Always wear a dust mask or respirator when sanding or using products with fumes warnings
  • Ensure rooms are well ventilated
  • Use a fan to assist with ventilation
  • Check your ladder is rock-steady before you step on it
  • If your building is old, allow for the possibility of toxic lead paint. Further information can be obtained from the Environment Protection Agency on 1800 803 772
  • Reduce trips up and down ladders by using smaller paint pots when painting with a brush, use and extension handle with a roller and avoid the ladder completely.

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