15 tips for painting walls

Black paint is applied to a wall with a paint roller.
Not sure where to start when painting walls? Here are 15 tips to help you.

Would you like to add some colour to your home, but have never painted a wall before? Here we tell you what painting involves, what the right colour is for you and how you can paint like a pro. Ready to get started? Then let’s go! Here are 15 tips to help you brighten up your home.


The right equipment for painting walls

A woman using a paint spray system on a wall
As well as paint, you’ll need a paintbrush, roller or paint spray system, something to wipe away excess paint and covers for the flooring and furniture.

Depending on which part of the wall you want to paint, you’ll need the following equipment:

  • The right paint for your room makeover, in a sufficient amount.
  • Triangle/corner brush, paint roller, paint tray, drip pan and a tool to mix the paint. You can use a paint spray system to paint bigger areas.
  • Enough floor covering and sheets to protect your floors and furniture from paint splashes.
  • Masking tape to go around the edges of plug sockets, etc.
  • A ladder, if you have high ceilings.
  • A sketch or pattern (if your painting project is on the complicated/elaborate side).
  • Ruler and pencil, or a device such as a cross line laser, to create a template/outline on the wall.

Once you have everything you need, you can get started.


Check your walls

A hand knocking on a wall covered with woodchip wallpaper to check for damp areas and hollow spaces.
If you knock on the wall and it sounds hollow, it may be that the plaster is damp/soggy.

Before you start painting, you should check your wall: what kind of material is it? Many rented homes nowadays come with woodchip wallpaper on the walls. This is extremely easy to paint, provided that it isn’t too old or hasn't already been painted over too many times. In this case, it may no longer be absorbent enough and it’s advisable to strip the paper before you begin painting. If the wall is plastered, do the following:

  • Brush your hand across the wall

If you get paint or plaster on your hand, you should definitely prime the wall first to ensure the new coat of paint takes better.

  • Scrape at the wall lightly with a fingernail

If you can easily scrape off the existing paint, you should remove it before applying the new coat. Otherwise, the new paint will quickly peel off.

  • Knock on the wall with your knuckle

If the wall sounds hollow or any plaster crumbles away, you should remove the plaster in this area and re-apply it before painting. The plaster is either too old or damp – potentially due to mould.

It’s important to properly deal with any mould or mildew spots on the walls before you paint over them. For smaller stains, strip the wallpaper in that area and chip away the plaster underneath. Treat the underlying wall with a mould/mildew remover before replastering and covering with paper again. Allow the plaster to dry thoroughly before painting over it – otherwise the paint may go dark around the edges. With mould, it’s always worth finding out the root cause of the problem. Sometimes it’s insufficient ventilation, and other times it might be another cause. For a more serious mould problem/infestation, it’s best to bring in the experts.

Strip the wallpaper and remove any old paint

A woman using a paint spray system to wet the wallpaper.
You can quickly and easily strip wallpaper by wetting it first – for example, with the aid of a paint spray system – and then scraping it off.

For walls that are already completely painted, you can simply paint over them. However, if only a few areas are painted, you should remove the paint first – for example, using a random orbit sander and fine-grit sanding sheet. Remove any wallpaper by wetting it and then using a scraper/spatula to scrape it off.

Use a paint spray system to remove any old wallpaper. Simply fill it with lukewarm water, spray the water on to the wall, and let it soak in before scraping away the paper with a scraper/spatula.

Deal with cracks and holes

A hole is filled in with filler.
Fill in any cracks and holes in the wall using some filler and a spatula. © istock

If you can see any cracks in the wall or if you have previously drilled a hole in the area where you want to paint, it’s best to fill them in with filler and smooth the outside down with a spatula.


Clean and treat the wall surface

  • A hand wiping down a wall with a cloth.
    Use a cloth to remove any dust from the wall, to prepare it for painting.
  • A cordless handheld vacuum is used to remove dust from a wall.
    It’s easy to remove dust and dirt from walls with a cordless handheld vacuum.

If the wall is very absorbent, you’ll save yourself at least one coat of paint if you pre-treat it with a deep primer. Allow the primer to dry thoroughly before applying the paint. Wipe the wall with a dry cloth before painting, or use a handheld vacuum to help you remove any dust particles.


Choose the right kind of paint

Light blue paint is sprayed on to a wall.
Enamel, emulsion, latex paint ... the type of paint you need depends on a number of different factors.

Do you sometimes find yourself in the paint aisle of the DIY shop wondering which paint you need for your wall? In general, emulsion paints are recommended. These are easy to apply, mix and paint over. If you’re painting your bathroom or kitchen, latex paint is the best option. This is wipeable and water-resistant – but it should be removed before you paint over it. With distemper, you can paint your walls in an environmentally friendly way. However, you can only coat this with another distemper paint – otherwise it’ll need to be washed off first. At the moment, chalk paints are particularly popular: these allow primarily pastel colours to be applied to walls, without that annoying paint smell. However, chalk paints do wear away very quickly. For a high-gloss effect, try working with enamel paint. But use it sparingly, because it clogs up wall pores and, depending on the product, can also have a very strong smell

If you’re not sure which colour paint to buy, purchase a small amount and test it on your wall first. Paint one or two brush strokes, leave it to dry and then see how it looks in your room and the light.

How much paint do you need?

Emulsion paint being poured from a tin into a paint tray.
You should figure out how much paint you’ll need before you start painting.

The amount of paint you’ll need depends on the size of the wall you’re painting, the wall surface and the quality of the paint. Measure the area before you head off to the DIY shop, and use the guidance on paint tins to help you decide how much you need. Remember that you’ll need to apply two coats, especially for darker shades of paint.


What kind of paint roller/brush should you use?

Anthracite grey paint is applied to a wall with a large paint roller.
The bigger the area you’re painting, the larger your roller should be.

If you're painting an entire wall, you’re best off using a paint roller or a paint spray system. This enables you to paint very large areas evenly in a short period of time. Just don’t forget to cover your floors, furniture and other items first. If you want to use a paint roller, use a polyester one for standard papered walls, and a softer one if you’re painting directly on to plaster. You can reach the corners with a triangle/corner brush. Your painting kit should also include a paint tray and drip pan to minimise any dripping when painting. Wash all your tools thoroughly after use so that they can be used again.


Mix your paint

A woman mixing up a tin of paint.
Use a stirrer or mixing attachment from your cordless combi drill to mix the paint before applying it.

Darker pigments often collect at the bottom of paint tins. To ensure you end up with the exact colour you want on your wall, it’s a good idea to mix the paint properly before applying it. You can do this with either a wooden stick/paddle or by using a mixer attachment that you insert into your drill (this method is best for large volumes of paint).


Protect furniture, plugs and other fixtures

A plug socket framed with masking tape, and a piece of furniture covered in sheeting.
Protective sheets, floor covering and masking tape can help protect your home against unwanted splashes of paint.

Before you begin painting, cover all your furniture with sheets and cover your floor. Stick masking tape around plugs, window frames and similar fixtures to protect them.


Measure the outline/edges, apply tape and paint correctly

A straight line is marked on a wall with masking tape.
To ensure your paintwork is straight along the edges, stick Frogtape to the wall with the help of a cross-line laser.

If you want to paint a special pattern on the wall, measure out the lines/edges in advance and mark them up with masking tape. A cross-line laser can help you with this. To ensure your lines are nice and clean, either use Frogtape or try the following trick:

Mark up the lines/edges with masking tape. Then apply paint in the same colour as the paint that’s under the tape (usually white) along the edges and leave it to dry. Then paint your colour of choice over it. Allow this coat to dry, then carefully remove the tape. It’s best to remove the masking tape before the paint is completely dry, to avoid removing any fully dried paint particles from the wall.


Ceiling or wall first?

A paint brush is used to apply paint along the edges.
Paint the ceiling, then the wall – and paint the edges and corners first.

Always paint the ceiling first, before starting on the wall. This will help avoid getting any annoying splashes of paint on your freshly painted walls. Tackle the corners first with a paintbrush.


The right brush stroke

A paint roller is used to apply paint to a wall in a fan-shaped pattern.
Paint quickly, so that you’re always painting over parts that haven’t yet dried.

Experienced painters use the “wet-on-wet” approach – which means moving the roller over painted areas that are still wet. This avoids the build-up of lines or stripes. On ingrain (woodchip) wallpaper, which has a strong structure, you should initially paint in a fan shape to ensure the paint is well distributed. Make sure you always paint from top to bottom so that the paint is applied evenly. It’s best to paint away from the window or the light source – so it’s easier to see where you’ve already painted.


When will the paint be dry?

Masking tape is removed from a freshly painted wall.
Only remove the masking tape once the paint has dried slightly.

Let the first coat of paint dry thoroughly before applying the second. Then you’ll see if you have painted evenly. How long it takes to dry depends on the type of paint you use. Emulsion paint generally takes 12 hours to dry completely, but it may take longer in cold or humid weather. Ensure the room is well ventilated and, if it's a bedroom wall you're painting, vacate the room for at least one night.


How to fix a mistake

A hand removing a splash of paint from some wallpaper with a utility knife.
If your painting project goes wrong, there are a few things you can do to fix it.

Simply wipe up any paint splashes on the floor, if they’re still wet. If you have gotten paint on a part of the wall where it shouldn’t be, wait until it’s dry and then paint over it. And if the edges of your paintwork aren’t even, despite using masking tape, carefully remove the excess paint with a utility knife once it’s dry. Take care not to cut into the wallpaper or plaster, and wear a pair of work gloves.