5 Painting Tips for a Smoother Finish

gloved hand holding paint spray device up close

Getting a smooth finish for your painting project takes patience, skill, and knowledge. To achieve the best possible finish, there are certain steps you should take before, during, and after the paint job. Every step of the painting process is just as important as the next, and each can affect the entire project if you’re not careful. Here are some tips to get a smooth paint finish.

1. Choose the Right Tools

The tools you use for the job are a crucial factor for achieving a silky smooth finish. Apart from the tool you use to apply the paint, you’ll also need to choose a quality primer to help your paint stick easier.

Experts seem to agree that a paint sprayer will often apply the paint more smoothly than other tools and it also requires a lower skill level for a better end result. Carmelo Marsala, Owner of Spray-Net, Inc, says “If spraying is not possible use a foam roller and do multiple thin coats.”

In regards to choosing the right roller, Issabel Williams who’s responsible for home renovation projects involving painting for Fantastic Services, suggests “[t]he surface you are painting determines the nap and the size of the roller. For walls and wood, you can have the smoothest finish with a small 1/4″ nap roller cover or foam roller.”

2. Clean and Prepare the Surface

person preparing wall with cleaning stick

The very first thing you need to make sure of when starting your painting project is that the surface has been completely cleaned. Whether you’re painting a wall or vinyl siding, removing dust and debris is a must. For walls especially, it can help avoid any bumps or bubbling risks according to Praesel, Owner of Five Star Painting of Waco.

To prepare walls, Williams suggests filling holes in the wall and sanding since even small chips and dents can become more visible with fresh paint. “Sand the walls from the baseboard to the ceiling with a 220 grit sandpaper using either a sanding pole or electric wall sanders,” she says. “Then repeat the process and sand horizontally along the baseboard and ceiling.”

Once that’s done, use a tack cloth to clean the dust and then wash your walls using either sugar soap or TSP.

Brad Loveless, Marketing and Product Development Manager for Simpson Door Company advises that when painting wood, make sure to sand to remove handling marks, raised grain, and other blemishes. If you encounter pitch, apply mineral spirits using a cloth to draw the pitch out of the wood.

3. Prime the Surface

When you have finished the preparation work, you will have some patches across the wall filled with joint compound. If you paint directly over them, they will suck the moisture out of the paint, giving it a dull, flat look and will look noticeably different than the rest of the wall. To avoid this, you need to prime the wall, suggests Williams.

“Usually, you need more than one coat of paint to get complete coverage, so remember that multiple thin coats always produce better results than just one or two thick coats,” she says. “Another trick is to use tinted primer—grey or similar to the finish paint. Tinted primers will give you better coverage of the existing paint color and your finish coat will look more vibrant.”

Loveless notes that just like walls, doors should also be primed although some doors are already pre-primed by the manufacturer.

4. Use the Right Technique

roller applying paint to wall

The right technique will vary depending on the surface you're painting, tool, and paint you're using. Praesel notes you need to apply the paint carefully because if you paint too heavily then this can lead to sagging.

When painting walls, start painting an entire section of the wall at once without stopping. Williams recommends to paint the wall in long strokes from the ceiling to the bottom and make sure that the roller doesn't dry out. Let each new stroke overlap the previous one while it's still wet.

Loveless adds that by doing multiple coats of paint, you’ll achieve a thicker finish which will help your finish last longer.

5. Know The Recommended Drying Times

It’s important that you’re aware of what the correct drying time is for the type of paint your using. “Sagging or blistering can be caused if there wasn't enough drying time between coats,” Praesel says. “Be sure to read recommended drying times carefully on the type of paint you choose for the project.”

As an example quality outdoor latex paint will be dry within four to eight hours depending on weather conditions while stain can take up to two days Praesel mentions. Apart from just waiting for paint to dry, you might also need to sand between coats. Marsala mentions that certain high-performance paints, once cured, require sanding between coats to ensure inter-coat adhesion.

It’s not just the type of paint that plays a role in how long you should wait, the temperature and humidity levels are also factors you need to consider.