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Painting Like a Pro – Step 1. 80% is the Prep Work

After years of painting rooms, I have perfected the process and can tell you that 80% of a professional paint job is in the preparation. Today’s post will be about properly prepping your room before painting. Then I’ll post next week on how to paint your room like a pro.

Start by removing everything from your room that isn’t bolted down to the floor (notice how I said “floor”.) You will be removing anything that is attached to the wall. That includes towel bars, TP holders, pictures, outlet covers and switch plate covers. I will allow you to leave a light fixture if it is a sconce style. But, otherwise, get it out of there, ALL of it! We are doing it we’ve started painting like a pro.

painting like a pro outlets

But, how do you remove those toilet paper holders and towel rods if you can’t see the screw?

painting like pro towel rods

Here is the top secret, hidden location of those wall mounted accessories. Get down on your hands and knees and look up. Underneath there is a teeny tiny hole.

painting like pro diy tip

And inside that hole is usually either a hex screw or a flat head screw. You will need a little hex wrenches or flat head screwdriver to undo the screw. A flashlight may also be helpful. Turn the screw until you can pull the fixture off the mounting bracket.

painting like pro fixtures

Once your room has been emptied, bring in the tarps, towels, newspapers or plastic. Cover anything that is left in the room. Painter’s drop cloths work the best, but they can be expensive. I usually use plastic drop cloths, then put a folded towel in the entrance of the room to wipe my feet on should I step in any drips.

Even the neatest painter will drip paint! And if you are a klutz like me, you may even step in the paint tray. (Not a good thing.)

pro painting floors

Are you paying attention? This next task is the most important to truly achieve a professional paint job (in my opinion.) Have you assessed the condition of your walls. Do you have any holes or dimples in it?

patch dywall holes for painting

You will need to patch any and all holes (unless it is a picture hanger and you are going to use the same hanger after painting), HERE is the tutorial for patching all types of holes.

Okay, no holes now, but do you really know how smooth your walls are? Well, turn off the lights to find out!

smooth pro painting tip

And don’t forget to bring a flashlight. Aim your flashlight parallel to the walls and let the light beam skim the surface. Suddenly you will see all the imperfections. The bigger ones need to have some spackle or joint compound added to smooth them out. Any hills or bumps need to be sanded down.

Soon your walls will look like this!

pro painting tips spackle smooth

Yikes, looks like some kind of pox virus.

After your spackle or joint compound is dry, be sure to sand it smooth.

pro painting sand smooth

Then use a damp sponge and a pail of fresh water to remove any and all dust. You will probably need to rinse out your sponge frequently. (Especially if you patched as much as I did.)

painting tips clean patches

Time to tape!  Start by taping any light fixtures or permanent fixtures in the room. If you are re-painting your entire room (ceilings, trim and doors) I’d wait to tape the molding and door or window trim. For our downstair’s bathroom I knew I was going to repaint the trim too, so I left it exposed to be sure I got the wall color all the way down to the trim and even onto it. Tomorrow I’ll show you why I do this.

painting molding

If you don’t need to paint your trim, you can use a handy dandy tape dispenser like the one below, but honestly, I can tape off the trim just as fast by hand (after years of practice).

painters tape tips

Here is another little pro painting secret, if you want to keep the paint from bleeding under the tape, you can seal it with matte medium (available at artist supply stores.)

painter tape tricks

Simply pour a small amount into a cup and then brush it on the edge of your tape where it meets the surface you are going to paint.

sealing painter tape

This puts an invisible seal over your tape edge. It won’t work ALL of the time, but it will really cut down on any seepage and therefore any touch ups you have to do later. You’re well on your way to painting like a pro!

Other Steps in this Series:

Step 2. paint and sheen

Step 3. painting your room and finishing touches

pretty handy girl painting like a pro

48 replies
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  1. Margaret
    Margaret says:

    Here is my “paint behind the toilet tip:” 1. Remove the lid to the tank. 2. Cover the entire toilet with a large garbage bag. 3. Adhere a tiny painting sponge to a paint stick. The brand I use will actually FIT on the end, but if yours doesn’t, double stick tape is great. 4. Paint with this tool behind the toilet! WORKS GREAT!
    I adjusted this tip from a pro painter’s blog I read.

  2. Dan Johnson
    Dan Johnson says:

    Great tips, Sarah. Of all the tips on painting I’ve read in the last year, yours is the first I’ve seen using a clear coating on the tape line. I do something similar to prevent paint bleeding under the tape, except I use clear satin paint. It’s in the paint department where you buy your regular house paints. If you want truly sharp, professional lines with minimal touch-up, this is the way to go.

  3. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    Hi, thank you for sharing this lovely helpful post! I have a question, the walls I want to paint are kinda dirty, like around the light switch, and the trim has built up dust. Do you need to make sure your walls are clean when you prep them for paint, should you be scrubbing away all the dirt first? Thank you hope you can help!

  4. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    Help I’m about to rip my hair out My husband removed a light from my kitchen ceiling I now have a big spot where the light use to be I’m having a hard time trying to match the color to the rest of my ceiling I have patched the hole’s now I just need to paint the spot Just to add to my problem my ceiling isn’t white It’s more of a light alabaster color I’m so frustrated

  5. Nicole Siemers
    Nicole Siemers says:

    great blog that I’m just finding! And great tips! But what I want to know is HOW on earth do you get behind the toilet????????


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Step 1. 80% of a professional paint job is in the prep work. […]

  2. […] ScotchBlue tape if you have read the backlit bookcase post, painting the bamboo rug post and the painting like a pro post (where I share some tips for using ScotchBlue Painter’s […]

  3. […] Now about the rest of your home, let’s Learn How to Paint Your Walls Like a Pro! […]

  4. […] favorite painting post of hers is about my least favorite part of painting – Prep Work. But it’s well worth any time it takes to read because it’ll save you loads of time when you go […]

  5. […] a lamp or flashlight. Turn on the light and aim it at the ceiling. The harsh shadows will help highlight any imperfections. This is best done at night or in dark conditions. Use little bits of painter’s tape to mark […]

  6. […] too can learn how to paint a room like the pros, start with this three part tutorial […]

  7. […] ScotchBlue tape if you have read the backlit bookcase post, painting the bamboo rug post and the painting like a pro post (where I share some tips for using ScotchBlue Painter’s […]

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