How To Paint A Wall With A Roller Like A Pro

Although painting a wall may seem like the easiest job in the world, in fact it is surprisingly difficult to achieve a professional looking result. Often, what appears to be a simple and quick task turns out to be a challenge, and when finished, the final product is often less than spectacular, resulting in the need to call in a professional decorator to paint the walls all over again.

If you want to save money, it’s therefore important to do the job properly the first time around, and that means learning how to paint a wall with a roller properly without streaking or missing any areas. Redecorating your home is a major financial investment, so make sure that you take the time to research the best possible techniques so that your room can appear completely flawless.

How to paint a wall with a roller

Getting Started


While you may be tempted to simply start loading a paint roller with your chosen color and get started, it’s important to realize that, in fact, the key to getting the right result is not necessarily in the application, it’s in the preparation beforehand.

Failing to get the wall into the optimal condition first is setting yourself up for failure, since the finished product will look lumpy and bumpy with a poor texture. Here are some steps to take when getting started before you even open the tin of paint.


  • First, remove all of the accessories on the wall like outlet covers, faceplates for light switches, knobs, thermostats and of course, paintings and wall art. This will leave you with a smooth surface to begin with, allowing you to proceed more efficiently with your project. While removing small pieces such as faceplates, remember to keep them together in small plastic bags, so that none of the screws will become separated from their fitting. If there are any items that you cannot remove for any reason, you can cover them up with some painter’s tape at a later stage.


  • Remove all furnishings from the area that you are going to work in. Store all appliances, belongings and furniture items in another room until the project is complete as this will ensure that none of them become marked or damaged. If you have nowhere suitable to store items, or if they are too large to remove from the room completely, simply push them towards the center of the room and cover them with a large plastic sheet or drop cloth to protect them. Paint is extremely difficult to remove from upholstery, so ensure that all fabric items are well protected by a cover, even if you don’t think there’s any chance of spilling paint on them.


  • Unplug all of your electronic items and put them in a location where they cannot be accidentally damaged.


  • Put down a drop cloth – a plastic tarp or canvas cloth will ensure that any splatters or spills are effectively caught before they damage the floors or other items in the room. Make sure the cloth extends right to the bottom of the wall, and avoid using anything too flimsy such as a bedsheet or newspaper layer, since these materials are very thin and won’t stop paint from getting through to the surface beneath. You won’t need to cover the whole floor as you can slide the cloth along as you paint from one side of the wall over to the other.


  • Dampen a sponge or clean cloth using mild detergent and warm water and then run it gently over the walls, starting at the top and working downwards. This will clean off all debris and dust which could stop the paint from setting properly. Don’t soak the wall though, you only want to clean it gently. If there is any grime or dirt stuck to the wall, use a little dilute TSP to remove it.


  • Cover any adjacent surfaces to the wall that you are painting with painter’s tape. This protects the trim at the bottom and top of the wall as well as the doorways. It can also cover up any accents which cannot be removed such as dimmer switches. Always line the tape’s edges up precisely or the paint job could end up lopsided. Choose several sizes of tape as this gives you extra flexibility in the way you apply it, giving additional coverage.


Applying A Primer Coat


  • You may think that it’s finally time to begin painting, however you would be wrong. It’s time to use some primer first. In the majority of cases, a classic white primer is the best choice as this allows the new color of paint to really stand out. Usually a gallon will be sufficient.


  • Always use primer if you are painting a wall inside your home as it allows the paint to stick more effectively whilst also reducing how many coats need to be applied for the right color depth. Primer is very useful if you plan to paint a light color over a dark one.


  • Always apply the coat evenly starting at the floor and working upwards, and cover the broadest areas close to the wall’s center. You don’t need a very thick coat, so long as you apply it smoothly and consistently it will work perfectly. Make sure there are no bare patches as this will affect your final result.


  • Once the primer has been broadly applied, use a handheld brush and fill in any gaps. Use the brush tip to work the primer into any hard to reach spaces and crevices and pay attention to alcoves, corners and areas around wall fixtures and trims.


  • Always apply primer with a smooth, long stroke before smoothing it by brushing the primer in several directions. To achieve precise angles and lines, use some painter’s tape. Allow this coat to completely dry which will take about 4 hours before you apply the first coat of paint.


  • It is often advised to apply the primer the day before you want to paint the wall so that it will be ready in time. Since painting the first coat of paint over a damp primer coat will cause smudging and clouding, it’s important to ensure that you wait until you can be completely sure of its dryness. If speed is of the essence, ensure that the space is well ventilated as this will speed up the process of drying.

Painting a home interior wall

Priming Your Roller


Although priming the roller isn’t really essential, it will ensure the best possible result for your paint project.


  • Remove any lint on the roller using painter’s tape. You can do this by wrapping a strip of tape around your fingers ensuring the sticky side faces out.


  • Dab your painter’s tape over the paint roller until you can see no more lint sticking to the tape. By removing all lint from your paint roller, you can ensure that the paint job will be smooth and even. Removing lint from the roller with ensure that you have an even paint job.


Loading A Paint Roller


  • Although it may seem like the easiest thing ever to load a paint roller, many people are amazed by how easy it is to get it wrong. Paint rollers are a better choice when covering large surface areas than a paintbrush since it gets the job done more quickly and makes the task of interior painting much easier.


  • However, loading the paint roller properly is essential before you get started. You can either use a bucket or a paint tray when using your paint roller, however loading the paint onto the roller before you start to paint will reduce how many coats you need to apply to your wall and will also ensure that your paint job is even and smooth.


How To Use A Paint Tray


  • Pour your chosen paint into the paint tray’s well until it has been filled halfway. Never overfill the tray as you risk spilling paint over the sides and this will also made it more difficult to load the roller properly.


  • Roll your paint roller gently into the well, beginning at the paint tray’s ribbed section. Start to roll the roller slowly into the well which is filled halfway with paint. You don’t need to push the roller down into the very bottom of the paint well, you just need to ensure that the roller is well saturated with paint.


  • Repeat this process 5 to 6 times as this will ensure that the paint is evenly distributed across the roller. Continue going backwards and forwards from the ribbed section to the well of the tray until the roller feels heavy and the paint appears to be even. This means that it is properly loaded.


How To Use A Bucket


  • If you would prefer to use a bucket rather than a paint tray with your roller, first hang a roller screen inside your bucket. You will need a 5 gallon bucket with a two-hooked screen which hangs over the bucket’s lip. Make sure that the screen is hanging inside the bucket.


  • Fill up the bucket with your chosen paint. Only fill it to halfway and ensure that a minimum of half the roller screen is above the paint line.


  • Dip your paint roller into the bucket, around half an inch into the paint, using the roller screen to help guide the roller as you are dipping it into the paint. It’s important to avoid dipping the roller too deeply into the bucket as this will cause paint to get onto the side of the roller.


  • Roll the roller up and down against the screen. Once the roller is fully saturated with paint, it will drip off the roller back into the bucket. You will repeat these steps 5 – 6 times before being ready to begin painting.


After loading your roller using your chosen method, allow it to sit for a couple of minutes. This will ensure that the paint properly soaks into the roller allowing the paint job to appear more smooth and even. If you are using a water based paint you should always prime your paint roller using water as this will make loading it much easier.

You can do this by saturating the roller with cold tap water. Afterwards, roll the roller 6-7 times in the air and then dry it using paper towels. Although this procedure is not strictly necessary, it often makes loading paint onto the roller much simpler and quicker, especially when using a water based paint such as latex.


Starting To Paint


It’s finally time to start painting the wall. However, the key is to pick the best kind of paint for inside your home. Don’t just consider the color but also the finish and texture you would prefer for your wall. Pastels are a good choice if you want to brighten a room, whereas if you opt for a darker color you can add extra dimension and size to larger communal spaces such as kitchens.


Whichever color you choose, always ensure that you have purchased enough in one go so that you won’t accidentally run out before the end of the project as you may not be able to find a matching tin again. One gallon is often sufficient for covering up to 400 square feet of wall.


  • Open your paint and mix it thoroughly using either a handheld stirrer or an electric mixer. This will ensure an even consistency. Don’t paint direct from the tin as this will cause extra splattering. Instead, pour your paint into a large bucket before you mix it. Make sure to follow this step even if the paint was supposed to already have been mixed when it was purchased as this will keep the pigments and oils from separating for a better and smoother finish and coverage. Once the paint appears to have a uniform texture, it’s time to begin painting.


  • Before you start using your paint roller, use the paintbrush first to starting painting by hand at the trim. Dip your paintbrush tip into the paint by about 2 inches, allowing any excess paint to naturally drip off. Brush the paint gently onto your wall using the angled edge of your brush. Begin at an upper corner of the room and then follow the painter’s tape working downwards with linear, smooth strokes until the outer perimeter has been completed. If you paint outwards from the wall trim by about 2 to 3 inches, it will be a lot easier to paint the rest of the wall using a paint roller. While doing this job, pause every now and then to add more paint to your brush whenever the strokes start to become more faint.


  • Once you have painted the outer edges of the wall, take a wide paint roller and use it to paint the center of the wall. One of the best ways of using a paint roller is to apply in an alternating W or M pattern, but working forwards and backwards over the same piece of wall until, finally it has been filled in before moving onto the next section.


  • If you cannot reach the top of the wall closest to the ceiling, you should use an extended handle for your roller. Always ensure that the edges are overlapping as you roll.


  • Never use more paint than necessary to cover your coat of primer as oversaturating the roller results in unsightly dripping in your paint top coat.


  • Once you have applied your first coat you can apply the next. Depending on the depth of color you would like, you can add two or three coats of paint, all applied in an identical way using the roller to start at the wall’s outer edges and working inwards. Before you paint your second coat, you must always wait at least two hours and preferably four, and again between your second and third coats to ensure that the fresh paint has fully dried for the most flawless finish. The majority of interior walls require only a couple of paint coats, however if you wall has a very coarse texture, or if you are covering a very dark color of pre-existing paint, you may need more.


  • Avoid obvious seams by ensuring that you go over your entire wall, even the area that is around the trims.


  • Leave the paint to dry overnight. Check for any lumps, drips, thin areas or other problem spots before you decide that you have finished the project. Allow the paint’s top coat twice as long to fully dry as the primer and avoid touching the paint until it is fully dried as this will just result in smudges and damage. Interior paint usually takes up to 48 hours to fully cure, but once it has finally done so, remove your painter’s tape, replace all of your decorative items, accents and fittings and your room is finally done!


Fixing Problems

Fixing paint roller problems

There are several common problems which often occur when painting using a paint roller, however most are easily corrected.


Removing Drips


Paint drips are caused by a poor paint technique, however while they are unsightly they are easy to remove by using a scraper to scrape them back. You can then sand down the area to achieve a smooth finish and apply another coat of paint to the affected area.


Hiding Stains


Stains which appear on your wall after painting are either caused by smoke damage or by not priming the wall properly before applying paint. Clean the affected area with TSP and allow to thoroughly dry before applying an oil based undercoat, allowing it to dry and then applying another layer of top coat.


Gritty Finishes


If you didn’t prepare the paint properly before applying it, there may have been impurities in the mix which now make the finish gritty and unpleasantly textured. You can resolve this problem by sanding down the affected area and then reapplying a coat of paint.


Poor Coverage


Perhaps you didn’t apply sufficient coats of paint in the first place, and now the result is a patchy wall that doesn’t look even? You can rectify the problem by simply sanding down the affected area to ensure that any ridges are smooth and then repainting over it with sufficient coats to ensure that the entire surface looks matching and even.


By following these helpful tips, you’ll find that the process of painting your wall will not be as difficult as you think, and you will achieve a perfect, professional finish that will save you money instead of hiring in a professional painter and decorator.

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