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Roller Painting Tips

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Roller painting can be a quick and easy way to apply a smooth coat of paint over a large, flat surface, if you know what you're doing. In less experienced hands, the results of a paint roller can be a tad messy, if not outright disastrous. These roller painting tips and techniques will help you paint smoother and faster, while avoiding the light areas, ridges, and roller marks that often mar the efforts of first-time painters.

Buy Good Quality Equipment

All the technique in the world won't help you if your equipment is substandard. Choose a good, sturdy roller frame, as you'll be pressing on it pretty hard. If you plan on painting high walls, ceilings, or floors, you might want to invest in a frame with a threaded handle so you can add an extension pole. Lay in a supply of covers (or sleeves) as well. Smooth walls require a shorter nap, while plaster or stucco will require a nap of 3/4 inch or more.

Use a Brush for Tight Spaces

A paint roller is designed to cover large areas smoothly and quickly. For tight corners and the edges around trim, you'll need to use a small brush. Paint a narrow swathe (about 2-3 inches) around these areas to give yourself plenty of room to maneuver the paint roller.

Prep your Paint Roller

Before you begin roller painting, prepare your roller by dampening the sleeve with water (for latex paint) or solvent (for alkyd paint).

Use a Paint Tray

Paint trays are designed with a deep well on one end, and a ridged slope along the other. You should pour paint into the tray until the well is nearly full, taking care to leave the ridges uncovered. After you dip your roller into the paint, roll it back and forth over the ridges to remove excess paint and prevent dripping. Make sure you have an even coating of paint all over the sleeve.

Paint in Sections

Don't bite off more than you can chew. Select a small section of wall, say 3-by-3 feet or so, and roll the paint on in a zigzag shape. Without lifting the roller, move it back over the section in straight columns. Paint carefully, and make sure you flatten any ridges or smooth out any bubbles as you go.

Start at the Top and Work Down

Paint drips downward, so you should start painting near the ceiling and work your way down to the floor. By doing this, you avoid spilling or dripping paint on any sections you've already completed.

Watch Your Edges

Get as close to the corners as you can with the roller, but be careful not to scrape the edges. The strip you painted with the brush should give you ample room to maneuver. If not, keep the brush handy to smooth out the paint.

Other Roller Painting Tips

  • If you need to stop painting for more than a few minutes, wrap your roller sleeve in plastic or a damp rag, or immerse it in water (if you're painting with latex).
  • Sleeves can be reused, although they do tend to wear out over time. If you intend to use your sleeve again, clean it thoroughly. Squeeze out as much paint as you can. Rinse it (in water for latex paint or solvent for alkyd paint), and squeeze it again. Repeat until the water or solvent is reasonably clear.
  • If you use alkyd paint, do not leave the roller, the sleeve, or any brushes or rags in an enclosed space. Place them outdoors or in a bucket of water, well out of the reach of children and animals.

If you need further tips or advice on roller painting, the experts at your local hardware or paint store should be able to help you.

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