The essential DIY painting guide

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.

painting filler filling

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.

painting cutting in

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.

painting ladder

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.

painting patchy light

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.

Laura and Emily ... hijinks with a paint roller in the new season of The Block.

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.

painting bucket

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.

Story Source:


Jhai is an award win­ning Inter­net Mar­ket­ing Real Estate Agent for Eld­ers Toongab­bie and Kings Langley. After run­ning his own inter­net mar­ket­ing busi­ness he has now set his own sites for the real estate industry. He observed that 90% of real estate agents did not know how to mar­ket them­selves online. Jhai is now fixed on one goal. To teach real estate agents that they can mar­ket online so much bet­ter than they cur­rently are.

Since then he has been con­sist­ently quoted in the Sydney Morn­ing Her­ald and Real Estate Busi­ness online. He is a reg­u­lar guest blog­ger on, shar­ing his expert­ise of mar­ket­ing aspects for the Real Estate Industry. His biggest pas­sions are his wife, mar­tial arts, dogs and most of all property.

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Cnr Federal Road Prospect Highway Seven Hills NSW 2147 Australia