Home | Lifestyle | Home Repair & Maintenance | Paint | SoYouWanna paint a room?

SoYouWanna paint a room?

If you're like us, your bedroom probably consists of four white walls - much resembling the crazy house that your life has become. Sure, you might have a picture or two hung up, and tables, rugs, the bed, people, etc. all add flavor. However, you can add the perfect touch of character to any room merely by painting the walls.

So we suggest that you take a deep breath, imbue the spirit of Martha Stewart, and get ready to paint the town (and your room) red. And one more time, we really must say how proud we are of you that you decided to paint a room on your own. You are officially a non-wussy.

1. Get The Right Equipment

While fingerpainting your walls may be good for a kindergartener's room we suspect that you're actually trying to fool people into thinking that your paint job was done professionally. So to do so, you'll need some supplies:
 

  • 3-inch flat brush
  • Small angled brush for trim or corners
  • Canvas drop cloths, plastic tarps or newspapers
  • Spackle (a substance used to fill in cracks before painting)
  • Turpentine (if using oil-based paint)
  • Bucket to clean brushes in
  • Painter's tape or masking tape
  • Putty knife
  • Sandpaper
  • Primer
  • Cleaning rags
  • Roller (with extension pole for tall walls or ceilings)
  • Roller tray
  • Disposable rubber gloves

Oh, and getting some paint would help, wouldn't it, Einstein? First measure the square footage of the surfaces you're going to paint in order to know how much you'll need. Paint cans tell you how much paint they contain in square footage, so as long as you measure, you'll be fine.

Here's how to pick the right paint:

Choose a type of paint
Choose a finish
Choose a color
Choose a shade
Choose your brushes and rollers

Choose a type of paint

The type of paint you use (and its finish) are essential factors if you want a neatly painted room. Substances like mercury and lead, which were used for centuries in paint, are now banned. That's because it's dangerous to eat the paint chips of lead- or mercury-based paint. Sure, you don't eat paint chips, but little kids eat all kinds of disgusting things (bugs, boogers, play-doh, etc.); if they eat lead-based paint, they could suffer from brain deficiencies later in life. Here are the two types of paint you should consider:

  • Latex-based paint. This is easiest to work with and the easiest to clean up -- only soap and water are required. Latex is best used on walls, floors and metal surfaces. It also works well on woodwork.

  • Oil-based paint. This is also known as alkyd-based, and requires a solvent-like turpentine to clean off of paintbrushes, your skin, and the telephone when you answer it in an unguarded moment. Oil-based paint is stain-resistant and sticks well to walls and ceilings. It is particularly popular for bathrooms and kitchens.

Choose a finish

Once you've decided on the merits of latex versus oil, you must pick a finish (the same color of paint will usually be available in a choice of finishes). A paint's finish affects how shiny the finished paint job will look as follows:

  • Flat finish: This finish is good for large surfaces, since it doesn't reflect light. It is often used in bedrooms, living rooms, dining rooms and ceilings.

  • Satinfinish: Such a finish is excellent to brighten up hallways, common areas, and children's bedrooms and playrooms. It helps soften the paint job, muting bright colors but still allowing the color to shine through.

  • Semi-gloss finish: This finish is easy to clean, making it great for high-traffic areas (kitchens, bathrooms, doors…).

  • Glossfinish: This finish reflects the most light and tends to be used in small quantities (such as on trim).

Contrary to popular belief, finish was not invented in Finland. That would be the "Finnish."

Choose a color

  • White - White (and its various incarnations such as off-white, beige, and eggshell), provides a can't-go-wrong foundation for any room. Yes, it's boring, but it also doesn't distract. It also makes a room look brighter and bigger. It's great for just about any room, especially bathrooms and kitchens. At its worst, white is: too plain.

  • Red - Bright and bold, red suggests vitality and aggressiveness. It can be a bit overwhelming for an entire room, but if you have a bedroom that you want to convey amorous vibes, it's a unique way to go. Deep, subtle shades of red such as burgundy and maroon are perfect for living rooms. At its worst, red is: too dramatic.

  • Yellow - Stimulating, sunny and cheerful, yellow is associated with intellect, power and creative energy. Bright yellows bring warmth and light into dark rooms, and pale yellows make small rooms seem larger. It's also a great kitchen color. At its worst, yellow is: disruptive.

  • Blue - Blue denotes harmony, peace, steadfastness and loyalty. While it's appropriate for any room, blue is an excellent bedroom color because it makes one feel comforted and serene. It can also soften rooms that are over-bright. At its worst, blue is: cold.

  • Orange - Orange combines the energy of red with the intellectual associations of yellow. Dominant and lively, it's a fun choice for bathrooms and work areas. Peachy oranges have a delicate effect, while brownish oranges (like terra cotta) give off warm, cozy vibes. Many living rooms are orange to give it that "den" feeling. At its worst, orange is: non-relaxing.

  • Green - Green is refreshing and pleasing to the eye. It makes dim apartments seem more vibrant by bringing a garden-like atmosphere indoors. With its varying shades, green works in just about any room. Just be sure not to go too dark. At its worst, green is: dull.

  • Violet - Strong and majestic, violet is a powerful accent color. Pastel violets take on the characteristics of red or blue depending on which is more prominent in the shade. (Lilac, for example, takes on blue's characteristics, while lavender takes on red's qualities.) At its worst, violet is: overpowering.

  • Black - You probably like heavy metal, S&M, or some combination thereof. Either way, it's way more than we want to know about you. So don't paint a room black. It'll freak people out. Black walls also tend to look dirty because dust shows up very clearly.

  • Deep "warm" colors give a room an intimate, cozy feel: red-violet, red, red-orange, orange, yellow-orange, and yellow.

  • Light "cool" colors make a room seem more spacious and elegant: green, blue-green, blue, and blue-violet. White also has this effect.

Choose a shade

One of the biggest problems that painters face is that what looks to be "orange" on the sample in the store turns out to be "brown" on your wall. So it's incredibly important to pick the right shade of paint by examining it under different sources of light. Here are some tips:

  1. Examine the paint you desire under both natural light and the bulbs that light up the room to be painted. Again a color that looks perfect under the store's fluorescent rays will turn to bilious shades at home.

  2. Get samples of the paints you like, coat large sheets of poster board to get a sense of the paint and prop them up around the room to be painted. Look at them at different times of day, because morning light will have a different impact than sunset light. This will help you narrow your choice and prevent costly mistakes.

  3. Lighting fixtures also play a part. Diffused light will enrich the color of walls and ceilings, whereas spotlights which focus on certain points will change the color and add shadows to other areas.

  4. Also look at the poster boards when the room is furnished as it will be after the paint job. Furniture and curtains absorb light and create a different effect than an empty room. You'll also be able to see if the paint clashes with the furniture.

  5. When using white or off-white paint, remember it reflects colors around it, such as a blue carpet or burgundy furniture. In general, lighter colors distort less with changes of light than deeper colors.

  6. Remember, the higher the gloss in a paint, the more light it will reflect.

Choose your brushes and rollers

Now that you know what kind of paint you're using, it's a cinch to figure out what type of brush (and/or roller) you'll need. You don't necessarily need both, but there are positives and negatives to each. Rollers help the job go faster and can make your paint job look neater. But rollers are also difficult to use in corners or weird surfaces. No matter what, you're going to need a brush for touch-ups, but we recommend that you start with a roller too.

If you're using oil-based paint:

  • Get a brush with natural bristles.
  • Get a natural (lamb's wool) roller.

If you're using latex-based paint:

  • Get a brush with synthetic bristles (because natural bristles absorb the water in latex paint).
  • Get a synthetic (nylon) roller.

One last note: rollers come in different pile depths, meaning the thickness of fiber used on the roller. The rule of thumb is to use a smoother pile with the smoother surface, and the rugged piles with the rougher surfaces (so they can reach into the nooks and crannies).