Before you begin
Click here to see our handy preparation tips.
It will be safer to leave the power off as you paint the room. If you decide to turn the power back on, workcarefully around electrical areas.

Unless you are an experienced painter you are likely to make mistakes when you paint around light switches and fittings. Therefore, remove all doorknobs, light-switch plates and electrical-outlet covers, and light fixtures before you start.

  • You should always paint the ceiling first because if any paint spatters or drips onto the walls, it can be wiped away (when the paint is still wet) or sanded and patched before you paint the walls.

    Of course if you paint the ceiling after the walls, you run the risk of splattering paint all over your handiwork.

  • If you need to paint a primer onto the ceiling, do this first.

  • Use a 100mm brush to 'cut in' along the top where the ceiling meets the cornice.

  • This strip will make your paint job look nice and neat, especially if you plan to use a colour on the ceiling that is different from the one you have chosen for the cornices.

  • You can then use a roller and extension pole to paint the rest of the ceiling.

    Handy tips

  • Cover tins when you're not using them, as paint tends to dry out. Water-based paint, in particular, dries out much faster than oil- or solvent-based paints.

  • You don't need to clean your paintbrushes or rollers every time you need to take a break. Wrap them in plastic wrap and seal them in a plastic bag. They'll be ready and flexible when you return.

  • Keep a rag and brush handy to deal with drips, spills and the general messiness of the process.

  • If a drip of paint becomes too hard to spread out or wipe away, let it dry completely and then sand and paint over it.


  • Start painting the walls only when the ceiling is completely dry (after at least 24 hours).
  • Use masking tape to cover the lengths of the cornices and skirting boards to prevent splattering.
  • Paint into all the corners with a 100mm paintbrush.

  • Use a 50mm brush to paint a strip on the wall where it meets the cornice, around doors and windows, above the skirting boards and around any other trim or detailing, as well as wherever a paint roller will not fit.

  • When rolling, create a 'W' pattern about a metre wide and then fill it in to ensure an even application of paint. Feather the edges of the fi rst section and then work towards it with the next 'W' action.

    Try to start rolling the next section before the previous section of brushedon paint (the borders or 'cutting in' along window and door frames and in corners) has had time to dry.

    This will ensure that the rolled-on paint will blend in rather than become a second coat. When approaching a corner, paint a band with the 100mm brush in the corner and then continue with the roller, overlapping the wet paint.

  • Paint from dry areas into wet. Try to start rolling the next section while the 'cut in' is still wet to prevent an obvious line. This will help reduce any paint ridges.

  • Feather (thin out, or soften) all the edges as you go, whether you are using a brush or a roller: this will help to prevent ridges. As you roll paint onto the wall, the roller will contain less and less paint.

    When you have completed the 'W' shape and have filled it in, feather the edges with a thin layer of paint, which is what remains behind on your roller.

    If you only roll thick bands of paint, slight ridges tend to form on the edges of the strokes as pressing with the roller squeezes the paint to the outsides.

    Thinning out the edges of these bands prevents these edges from hardening before your next pass with the roller.

  • Apply a second coat in the exact same way once the first coat has dried.

  • Once the walls have dried you can paint the skirting boards with a good quality enamel paint.


  • Cover doorknobs, locks and all hardware with masking tape.

  • If the door is flat, treat it like a wall and don't forget to paint the edges (both the side with the hinges and the side with the lock).

  • If the door has panels, paint the interior panel edges first and then the inside of the panel.

  • Continue to paint the rest of the door.

  • Once the first coat has dried thoroughly, apply a second coat in exactly the same way as you would for a wall.

    Window frames
    Window frames are not easy to paint and it's quite possible that you can paint them shut by accident if you aren't paying attention.

  • Open the window.
  • Paint the edges of the frame.
  • Paint the interior casing of the frame.
  • Paint the woodwork surrounding the window (such as the sill) last.
  • Do not shut the window until the paint has dried.

    Handy tip
    If you only have a small amount of paint left, decant it into a glass jar (solvent-based paints tend to erode plastic jars over time).

    Mark the new container and include information such as: the name of the colour and its identifying product code/number, where it was purchased, the date the paint was used and the room in which it was used. If you still have the paint swatch, glue this to the jar.

    The big clean up
    If you used latex paint: Soak your brushes or rollers in a solution of water and fabric softener for about 10 minutes.

    Swish them around in the water before removing and rinsing them well with clean water. Wipe or roll off excess moisture and then air dry the brushes and rollers before storing them.

    If you used oil-based paint: Soak the brushes in turpentine and rub the bristles together to release the paint. You should wear gloves for this.

    Continue to rinse in new solvent until the brushes are clean. Wash them with soap and water and then rinse thoroughly. Leave them to dry.

    Note: Do not pour the solvent down the drain. Rather, keep the used solvent in a sealed container and call your local municipality to enquire about the correct way to dispose of solvents.

    Any painting tips that you'd like to share? Post them in the comment box below.