The 4 Biggest Painting Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them)

Painting can be easy, if you avoid these common mistakes.

Close-Up Of Yellow Paint On Brush Against Wall
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Paint is a necessary ingredient that makes a house your home. But with tones of paints, brushes, and surfaces—not to mention picking the right color—it can be easy to overlook a small detail and end up with a less than perfect paint job.

But if you try to avoid these four common mistakes, you're on your way to putting down a fresh coat that will make you proud.

Mistake #1: Using the Wrong Tool

roller to wall
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People often use the wrong tool because they don’t know which tool is correct. Rollers and brushes are meant for specific kinds of finishes to be applied over specific surfaces, from rough to smooth.

Rollers: the smoother the roller, the smoother the surface it is meant to be applied to and the smoother the paint it is supposed to leave.

These are mini rollers, but the same applies to standard paint rollers. For example, this is a , this one is a , and this one is .

It can be difficult to sort out paintbrushes, so some simple rules help. The stiffer the brush, the cleaner the line it will cut and the more paint you can hold with it. This is especially helpful when painting exterior trim in the summertime, when the brush will start to sag from the paint and the weather. The tradeoff is that a stiffer brush will have a tendency to flick paint, and especially stain, which can make a mess.

This one is with an angled tip to help it get into corners, and straddles both painting options.

Softer brushes, , are better for stains and clear finishes, like varnish, spar varnish, shellac, and brushing lacquers.

Mistake #2: Skipping the Primer

People are confused by paint today because they're often marketed as paint and primers in one. These are fine for light-duty applications over which there is an existing coat of paint that is clean and not glossy. Otherwise, use a primer when you paint to increase bond, improve the surface finish of the top coat, and improve the bond to difficult substrate.

Here are four examples. For bare drywall, use a , seal over stains and hide colors with a , and for painting bare steel make sure to inhibit rust. Finally, if you need to seal over knots or cover smoke damage and odor, this .

Mistake #3: Using the Wrong Paint

High Angle View Of Green Paint Can At Home
Alyssa Stasiukonis / EyeEmGetty Images

Some paints are labeled for use, and others are labeled . Pay close attention, especially when shopping at a serve-yourself location or online.

Mistake #4: Having Lousy Surface Prep

Paint sticks well to a clean, lightly abraded surface—it’s that simple. If the surface is dirty, clean it with an all-purpose cleaner, especially one that’s good at removing grease. Dirtex has been a favorite with painters for generations.

Use for general cleaning, use dissolved in hot water for high-strength cleaning, and use such as 3M Sandblaster for sanding between paint coats or taking the shine off enameled surfaces.

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