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Wall Painting Basics

The success of your painting project depends greatly on the care that goes into selecting the paints and tools and preparing the walls. These are a crucial parts of the process that will reward you with professional results.

All About Paint

Paint is available in a wide variety of types and finishes, with color choices limited only by your imagination. Whether you want a tough, childproof finish or a soft, sophisticated wash of color, you’ll find just the right paint on the shelf of your paint store.

These simple guidelines for choosing paint will help steer you toward the paint products necessary for the look you want.

Types of Paint

Paint falls into two basic categories: water- based and oil-based paint. Both water-based and oil-based paints are available in various sheens, each recommended for different areas of your house.

Virtually all interior painting jobs today--including wails, ceilings, and woodwork--are done using water-based paint, which is commonly called latex paint. Water-based paint is safer for the envirom-nent and easier to use than oil-based paint. You can clean up brushes and rollers quickly with soap and water, and just as easily remove spatters from your skin. Latex paint dries quickly on the surface, so you can apply second coats in a few hours. Most latex paints have comparatively mild odors, so room ventilation is less of a concern.

Oil-based paints, also called alkyd paints, give a durable, smooth finish, They do, how ever, require longer drying times; and because you must use harsh solvents like mineral spirits or turpentine, cleanup is more complicated.


A glaze is a translucent film applied over a painted surface to create depth and visual texture. By manipulating a glaze with various tools or materials, you can create interesting effects. Glazes are usually a mixture of glazing liquid (which is basically paint binder without the pigment), water, and pigmented paint in proportion suggested by the manufacturer. The resulting glaze has a prolonged drying time, beneficial for creating decorative and faux finishes.



Unseen beneath the top paint coat, primers and sealers are nonetheless key ingredients in a quality paint job. Although they usually have very little pigment, these products help cover flaws and ensure that the paint adheres well to the surface. It is usually not necessary to prime a nonporous surface in good condition, like painted wood, painted plaster, or painted drywall.

Primers are available in both water-based and oil-based varieties. Different types are recommended for different jobs.


Flat latex No sheen; for walls and ceilings
Satin latex Low sheen; for walls, ceilings, trim
Semigloss latex Slightly glossy sheen; for walls and trim; durable
High-gloss latex Reflective sheen; for doors, cabinets, trim; washable; durable
Satin-enamel latex Low sheen; smooth, hard finish; for trim and furniture
Gloss-enamel latex Very glossy; smooth, hard finish: for trim and furniture
Oil-based enamels Very glossy sheen; smooth, hard finish; for trim and furniture


Used for sealing unfinished drywall or previously painted surfaces, this primer dries quickly so your top coat can be applied on the same day.


When you plan to apply a very deep, dark color to your walls, prime first with this type of latex primer. It is designed to be tinted with a color similar to your top coat and will provide better top-coat coverage
and appearance.


Used primarily for sealing raw wood) enamel undercoat closes wood pores and provides a smooth top finish. Do not use the primer on cedar, redwood, or plywood that contains water-soluble dyes, because the dyes will bleed through the primer.


Available in both alkyd and latex forms, these primers are designed to seal stains like crayon, ink, and grease so they will not bleed through your top coat of paint. Use them to seal knotholes in wood and for cedar, redwood, and plywood that contain water-soluble dyes.


Designed specifically for use with metal, brick, or cement block surfaces, these latex primers can be used on the interior or exterior of your home.

You may find metal primers for both clean, rust-free metal surfaces and for sur faces where rusting has already occurred. Both types inhibit rusting and allow the top coat to adhere evenly to the metal.


How Much to Buy?


To calculate how much paint you will need to finish your project, use this standard formula. Work in square feet (or square meters).


1. Measure each wall to figure the area:

  • Height x width = area.

  • Add the wall totals together for the sum total of wall area.

2. Measure each window and door to figure the area:

  • Height x width = area.

  • Add the window and door areas together for the sum total of window and door area.

3. Now subtract the total window and door area from the total wall area:

  • Wall area -- window/door area = total area of the wall space you will need to paint.

4. Measure ceilings and floors to figure total area you need to paint:

  • Length x width = area.

Most interior paint products are designed to cover approximately 400 square feet per gallon (36 square meters per 3.56 liters). To figure how many gallons of wall paint you will need, simply divide your total wall area by 400. (Check the paint can label for the manufacturer’s coverage recommendation.) Don’t forget to double your final amount if you plan to apply two coats.


Drying Times


It is a good idea to estimate how long your painting project will take to complete. While every painter works at a different pace, remember that as a rule, preparation time takes longer than most people anticipate. If you are planning to work on weekends, for instance, complete your wall preparation on one weekend; then on the next weekend move furniture, drape and mask surfaces, and apply paint.




1-4 hours 4--10 hours: do not

                recoat for 24 hours


1-4 hours 6--hours: do not

                recoat for 24 hours


1--4 hours 6— hours: do not

                  recoat for 24 hours





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