Top tips on how to paint a room

How to paint a room

Looking to give a room a bit of a refresh? It’s not as complicated as it looks. In fact, painting a room is one of the most rewarding DIY projects you can take on – and doesn’t require lots of fancy complicated tools.

But what are the steps to painting a perfect room – and how do you know you’re doing it right?

Here are our helpful hints for painting a room from start to finish.

1. Preparation

You know the old saying – “Those who fail to prepare, prepare to fail.” Follow these steps to prepare to start painting:

Work out what you want to paint

Whether you want to refresh the walls, top up the ceiling or give the room a complete makeover, you should first map out what it is you actually need or want to paint. Different surfaces will require different paints and equipment.

Think about colour choices and styles of paints

If you’ve ever found yourself in a DIY shop, slightly overwhelmed by the sheer variety of colours and styles on offer, you’re not alone. You’ll need to consider certain factors before choosing your paint. Is it going to match your current furniture and household items? Is it going to affect how large or small the room feels? Do you want it to highlight something in the room – or detract?

It’s also worth considering colour psychology and how this can affect a space. For example, green tones are currently very popular among home designers because they inspire feelings of new growth and regeneration, as well as a reminder of nature in the home.

If you’re not sure what colour you like – pick up some samples and paint directly onto the walls to compare your choices. Some companies will even let you upload a picture of your space to their website, so you can see directly how the room will look with different coloured paint.

Gather your equipment

Painting tools

If you’re painting a whole room, you won’t just need paint. These are generally the most used pieces of equipment when DIY painting:

  • Paintbrushes
  • Paint rollers
  • Paint roller poles
  • Tape
  • Paint Tray
  • Sandpaper

You’ve got your equipment – now it’s time to prepare the room

Move any larger pieces of furniture out of the way – preferably out of the room

This is especially important if they balance or sit against the wall. It’ll also eliminate the chance of you getting paint on them. If you have to keep furniture in the room, move it to the centre of the room and make sure it’s well covered with old blankets or tarpaulin to keep it protected.

Measure the walls and (if you’re painting it) the ceiling

Knowing the surface area of the room should help you to calculate just how much paint you’ll need to cover the whole thing. There will instructions on the paint can suggesting how much of it you’ll need to cover your proposed area.

Put tape around anywhere you don’t want to get paint

There are specialist brands you can use – like Frog Tape – but masking tape works just as well. Cover around sockets, skirting boards, radiators, built-in shelves or cabinets, light switches, crown mouldings and doors and windows. Take the time to be as precise as possible here – not only will it leave you with clean, precise lines once you’re done, but the joy of getting to rip them all off once everything’s dry will leave you very satisfied.

2. Cleaning and sanding

Wall filling

If these aren’t brand new walls, it’s likely they’ll need a little TLC before you start putting paint on.

The first step is cleaning. Using the rough side of a standard damp kitchen sponge, or for tougher stains a rag and some white spirit, clean away as much of the dirt and grime from the wall as you can. This will ensure it doesn’t come through underneath the new paint – and gets rid of any textured bits that can ruin the look of the finished wall.

Some walls may require sanding to even out the texture – especially if previous owners or residents have painted over without care or precision. You don’t necessarily need to rent a specialist sander for this task, a piece of sandpaper will do the same thing.

If there are any flakes, holes or cracks in the wall, you will need to fill these in with filler. This can be purchased at most DIY shops. Follow the instructions and once dried, you can use your sandpaper to smooth it over. Depending on the state of the wall, you might need to call in a professional to re-plaster the room completely.

Your wall should now be clean, without imperfections and sanded to an even texture.

3. Priming

Priming your wall is an important step that we don’t always take. But, if you spend the time, the paint will last longer and the wall look much better.

Bare surfaces like metal, wood or a wall that has never been painted before should be primed with a specialist primer. Because the primer is designed to absorb the paint properly and give a beautiful finish, you’ll need to check which one you need before putting it on.

Generally, primers are white or off-white coloured and will not be visible once you’ve put on your paint. Most spaces only require one cover of primer, though some may need more. Check with your local DIY shop if you have queries.

4. Painting

Wall painting

And now, the fun bit.

With all your tools ready to go, the room primed – open up your cans of paint. Many current brands use a particular seal for their paint cans, so you’ll likely need to use a small screwdriver to pry open the lid.

Paint can separate very easily – so you have to stir it upon first opening, and then continue to do so at various intervals as you paint. If you forget, the ingredients can separate, and the paint will be ruined. To stir, you can use a specialist tool or, the top choice for DIYers at home, a good stick. Next time you’re on a walk in the woods, you can pick one up for free.

Ceiling first

If you’re planning to paint the entire room, start with the ceiling. You want it dried before you even attempt the walls in case the paint drips.

Get a ladder and start by painting around the very edges of the ceiling. This is known as ‘cutting in’. Once you’ve gone around the ceiling, paint around any light fixtures or hangings. You should use a smaller brush for this, as it’s more precise. Pour some paint into the paint tray. Take the roller and roll it in the paint, being sure to get rid of any excess. Then, apply to the ceiling.

For smooth ceilings, use a short pile roller; for textured ceilings, a long pile roller. Roll smoothly up and down until the ceiling is covered. You must let it dry completely before putting on a second coat.


Mix your paint with a fresh stick or painter’s tool, then pour into a clean painter’s tray. If you don’t have a clean one, be sure the paint in there is completely dry and not flaking so it doesn’t mix.

Take the walls one by one, as this will give them a more even, consistent appearance.

First, use the large roller to cover as much of the main wall as you can. Using consistent, even strokes, move the brush backwards and forwards, taking care to avoid the very edges. Once you’ve covered those, you can use a stepladder and a smaller brush to fill in the gaps near the ceilings, skirting boards, windows and doors.

Most walls will require two coats of paint – potentially a third if you’re covering a dark colour with a lighter colour. But that decision is up to you. Painting is mostly about taste and common sense after all.

Once you’ve painted all your walls, throw open the windows and get some air in – it will help the paint to dry quicker. Paint can dry in patches, especially if you’ve painted a little unevenly. Don’t panic if it looks patchy – leave it for 24 hours to dry properly and then correct if needed.

Lastly, paint the skirting boards, window panes or any other small areas you want to touch up.

5. Aftercare

Painting tools washing

Congratulations! You painted a room!

Once you’re finished, reseal your cans of paint if there’s any left. They can be used later if you need to touch anything up.

You should then immediately wash your brushes, rollers and trays as the paint can harden quickly and become a real nightmare to wash. Tough stains can be washed in white spirit, though ordinary dish soap and hot water also work. It’s worth getting the paint out now rather than letting it dry as this can affect your later painting work.

Finally, pull up the masking tape and reveal the beautifully painted lines of your brand-new room!

Here to help with all your painting and decorating needs, Capital Painter’s team of experts can help you transform a room or even the outside of your house. Visit our website to find out more or book your consultation today.

Scroll to Top