Paint can be applied by brush, roller or spray. Spray may seem a faster way of getting the job done, but it requires experience to get an even and unblemished surfaced and is best left to professional applicators. Spraying also requires care with masking and protecting nearby surfaces.

There are some general rules:

  • Don’t paint when temperatures are below 10°C (the paint may take too long to dry) or above 25°C (the paint may dry too quickly or dry on the brush or roller).
  • Try not to paint in full sun. This is especially true for roofs, where painting on a cloudy day works best.
  • Don’t paint outside if rain is forecast.
  • Don’t paint with oil-based paint beyond the middle of the afternoon, as the paint may not be dry enough by the time overnight moisture falls.
  • When using oil-based paints on windows and doors, paint early in the day to allow plenty of time for the paint to dry before they need to be shut.
  • Don’t thin the paint unless the paint label specifically directs this.
  • Allow one coat to dry properly before applying the next – see the instructions on the paint container.
  • Very lightly sand between coats with solvent-borne paint to remove any uneven undercoat application or dust particles.
  • With exterior painting, ensure primer is overcoated within four weeks of application.
  • When painting walls, start at the top and work down. Outside, paint soffits first; inside, paint ceilings first.

Using a roller

Rollers are best for applying paint rapidly to large flat surfaces such as interior plasterboard-lined walls and ceilings.

Select the for the type of surface being painted and the type of finish you prefer. Short pile rollers hold a smaller amount of paint, give a smoother finish, and are best used on smooth surfaces. Medium and long pile rollers hold larger amounts of paint and are suited for semi-rough and rough surfaces. The longer the pile, the more noticeable will be the stippling or 'orange peel' effect in the finish. This can mask small defects in the surface.

Foam plastic rollers are suitable for solvent-borne (oil-based) paints on smooth surfaces.

To successfully apply roller paint:

  • Paint areas that the roller can’t reach (such as edges) with a brush first, then overlap the painted area with a roller while there is still a wet edge.
  • Load the roller by immersing it in paint (to one third of its diameter), then run it backwards and forwards across the corrugated area of the tray to evenly wet it.
  • Roll the paint onto the wall so the roller is almost dry as it bridges the gap to the wet edge (the last painted area) of the section previously painted.
  • Always work in the same direction (up and down on vertical surfaces) and work away from the main source of light.
  • Roll over the area painted with a near-dry roller to ‘lay-off’ the surface to give an even finish.
  • Do not force the roller onto the surface being painted or over-roll the surface (this will cause patchiness).
  • Maintain a wet edge of paint to roll into wherever possible (although when painting large areas it may not always be possible to maintain one).

Before first using a roller, clean it to remove dust and other particles that may affect the paint finish.
When a roller is being used on consecutive days, it can be covered tightly in cling film and stored in a cool place overnight.
After finishing painting, run the roller over sheets of newspaper to remove excess paint.
Clean with an appropriate solvent (see paint container label), wash in warm soapy water and rinse thoroughly in clean water.
Hang rollers to dry in a way that the pile is not flattened.

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Using a brush

The correct way to brush on paint is to:

  • use a brush that is suitable for the type of paint being used and the material/surface being painted
  • when painting large areas use the largest brush that you can comfortably handle
  • for intricate areas – such as fretwork on an old villa veranda – use a brush small enough to get into the crevices
  • load the brush with paint, then remove excess paint by running the brush across the lip of the container. This reduces the risk of paint dripping from the brush
  • use sufficiently firm pressure for the paint to properly coat the surface
  • brush the paint in 2 directions, in general in the direction the light is shining
  • always brush towards the wet edge. A better finish will be achieved, especially with acrylic paints, when the paint is brushed into an edge that is still wet
  • when finishing to a corner, brush out from it to meet the new paint
  • ensure the paint is evenly applied
  • ‘lay off’ the wetted area (laying off is applying the finishing strokes) with light brush strokes in the direction of the grain for timber and towards the main source of light for flat surfaces.

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Cutting in

Cutting in refers to applying a paint edge or line where two colours or finishes adjoin, generally without using masking tape. This may be in a corner or change of direction of a surface such as a ceiling/wall intersection or a wall/architrave intersection and when painting adjacent to the glass of timber frame windows.

A cutting-in brush, where the bristles are tapered, facilitates cutting in.

To cut in:

  • use a small brush, typically no more than 50–60 mm wide, for cutting in work
  • dab the brush into the paint and drag it ‘dry’ against the edge of the paint container – do not over-load the brush
  • using the sharp edge of the bristle wedge, drag the brush in a steady line along the required paint edge
  • continue until most of the paint has been left on the surface
  • repeat the procedure until the edge painting is complete.

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Care of brushes

Cleaning and looking after brushes will mean a better painting result.

  • If painting in hot weather, clean the brush during the day to prevent it becoming clogged with dried paint.
  • When a brush is being used on consecutive days, it can be covered tightly in cling film and stored in a cool place overnight.
  • After the painting job is finished, clean the brush thoroughly with the right solvent (see paint container label), wash in warm soapy water and rinse thoroughly in clean water.
  • Keep brushes in dry storage, hung by the handle or resting flat.
  • Never store brushes for more than just a day by standing on their bristles in a container of water or solvent.

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