Great Paint Jobs are Made with the Right Paint Applicators Great Paint Jobs are Made with the Right Paint Applicators

When we’re painting, most of us just want the paint on the wall as quickly as possible with minimal mess. I have found that using the right tool for the job makes it easier and, with the proper tool in your hand, watching the paint move from the bucket and onto your walls and trim can even be enjoyable.

Here is an assessment of the key tools and the circumstances in which you would utilize each one.

Paint Brushes

Brushes, of course, are the painter's staple. The principle is pretty simple - the bristles pick up the paint, and as the brush is drawn along the surface, the paint flows from the bristles and out onto the surface you are painting in a nice even coat. I have given that exact explanation to many people just to have them look at me and say, "Yeah right! If only it were that simple." Well, it is. There are several reasons why people get frustrated with brush painting.

The first is that they are thinking about it the wrong way. A brush is not designed to wipe paint onto a surface. The point of a brush, as mentioned above, is to allow the paint to flow onto the surface. Granted, higher quality paints will flow better than others, but the principle is what is important. When you dip the brush in the can, don't think about covering it with paint, but instead think about filling it with paint. If the bristles are full of paint even in the middle of the brush, then you will only have to apply minimal pressure, and a nice slow, even stroke will allow the paint to flow out of the brush. With a little practice you will even find that you are able to do this without leaving brush strokes.

TIP: Our painting consultant Edward Kimble, author of Interior House Painting Blog, adds, “For oil base, it is possible to not leave brush marks because oil base flows on nicely and takes a long time to dry. On the other hand, latex paint starts to dry as soon as you apply it, so there will be brush strokes. You have to make a straight stroke without stopping. Straight brush strokes are attractve.”

The second reason that DIY'ers get frustrated with brush painting is because they are using low quality brushes. If you take a high quality brush and a cheap one and dip them into the same can of paint at the same depth, you will see just how much more paint the high quality brush holds. This increased volume of paint makes it easier to allow the paint to flow, and saves a lot of time. These higher quality brushes also hold an edge. By that I mean that you can do pretty tight detail work when paining corners or cutting out along a ceiling. If you've never tried a more expensive brush, spoil yourself the next time you start a painting project. I promise you will never use a cheap brush again. Just clean out the expensive one well and it will last for a surprisingly long time. Cheaper brushes shed bristles, leaving them behind on your painted surface, which is very annoying.

TIP: Edward suggests, “When choosing your high quality brushes, take the paper brush cover off and fluff up the brush and make sure there are no bristles sticking out of the sides of the brush. There are different size and shape brush handles. Feel them out in the paint store to see which type you are most comfortable with. Be picky.”

The best brush to have in your toolbox is an angled brush that is 2 ½-inch to 3-inch wide. This is a very versatile brush that can be used for lots of different jobs. It will work well when cutting in a wall you are getting ready to roll. It will also work well to paint moldings and trim work. Finally, this brush is ideal for painting windows and doors. It is a nice size that is easy to work with and will still allow you to hold a significant amount of paint.

Paint Rollers

Rollers are the tool of choice when you have large flat surfaces to cover. Walls, ceilings, panels and large shelving units are ideal circumstances to use a roller. Unfortunately, many people grow frustrated with rollers for the same reasons we discussed with brushes. Let the roller work for you. You shouldn't have to push very hard, and if you do then you don't have enough paint in your roller cover. The paint should flow out of the cover and onto the wall in nice, smooth, even coats. If you are pushing hard enough to leave a line at the edge of the roller, then you need more paint.

TIP: Edward says, “Do NOT buy cheap roller covers, they usually throw bits off onto the wall, leaving ‘fuzzies’ in your paint.”

One of the biggest mistakes that people make when choosing a roller cover is choosing the wrong size. Bigger is better, right? Not necessarily. The thickness of the cover is called the nap. For an interior wall you can usually use a 3/8-inch nap roller cover, and for a finish coat a ¼-inch nap cover. Remember, the smaller the nap, the smoother the finish coat. Interior walls in high end residential settings are almost always finished with a ¼-inch nap if they are using latex paint. If they are using oil, then 1/8-inch would be acceptable.

The larger naps, like ¾-inch and 1-inch, would be used for exterior or industrial applications. Things like cinder block walls and stucco are acceptable applications for these rollers. They hold a lot of paint, which is necessary to be able to work paint into the pits and crevices that are always found in a block or masonry wall. Wide nap rollers can be used on interior projects like rolling textured walls or popcorn ceilings. The same principle applies, though - if you have to push hard, you need more paint. Let the roller cover do the work.

Are Painting Gadgets as Effective as They Claim to Be?

There are a lot of little gadgets on the market that claim to make your paint job perfect, easy, quick, and mess free. My experience is that they don't. Call me a traditionalist, but I have found that a brush and roller is still the best way to create a high quality paint job with minimal mess and hassle. The little gadgets often have to be used in ideal circumstances in order to perform correctly, and I haven't found very many settings where conditions were ideal. Is a corner not quite 90 degrees? Then your little corner gadget won't fit. Your brush, however, won't miss a beat. Gadgets can be fun, but when it comes to quality work, skip the gimmicks and use the tools that have proven themselves.

TIP: Ed emphasizes, “I agree 100% with this paragraph.”

Brian Simkins is a freelance writer living in Chicago. He enjoys using his 14 years of home improvement experience to educate and equip new home owners.

Edward Kimble, professional painter and author of Interior House Painting Blog, contributed to this article.

Got a New Project You're Proud of?

Post it on Your Projects!