There’s nothing like the way a room looks after a fresh coat of paint. One of the most novice-friendly DIY tasks out there, painting can boost your home’s appearance and make it seem cleaner and more modern. However, not every paint project turns out the same; common pitfalls are to blame—but they can be avoided. By learning what not to do, achieving a picture-perfect paint job is possible. Here are the six major painting mistakes everyone makes and how to avoid them.
1. Neglecting to safeguard edges.
The biggest sign of a below-average paint job is the occasional spot of paint on the trim or ceiling. These errors can easily happen when you don’t create boundaries. Pros have safeguards against painting “outside the lines,” which means you should, too. Whether it’s lining edges with painter’s tape or using a spray painting shield, having a physical barrier will keep your lines clean, even when your hand isn’t steady. Press down on your painter’s tape as you go to create a tight seal and reduce the risk of paint bleed-through. Also, guarantee your spray paint shield is properly secured to prevent it from slipping or sliding in the middle of a paint job. Taking the time to use these barriers will save you hours of backtracking and corrective spot painting.
2. Painting over glossy paint or varnish.
Contrary to popular belief, the paint color you choose isn’t the only thing that’ll influence your results—the texture of the surface you want to paint matters as well. While your existing glossy paint may be excellent at repelling scuffs, it’s also going to repel a new coat of paint and look streaky. Luckily, there’s a quick fix. Before you start painting over any glossy surface, sand it or wipe it down with a liquid deglosser. It’s an extra step, but worth it.
3. Working in dim or low light.
It’s important to approach your project with eyes wide open—which means you need to see everything clearly. Don’t try to paint at night or on a dreary afternoon when the lighting is low; you won’t get an accurate picture of how well your paint is covering up the old color. Take your paint project outside on a sunny day or start an inside job in the morning, when there’s plenty of natural light streaming in. With good lighting, the thin areas that need another roll or two will be obvious right away.
4. Moving slowly.
An unsightly error, overlapping brush marks are more evident with darker paint colors and higher glosses. The key to avoiding this is to keep a “wet edge”—which is achieved by quickly moving between sections so the paint doesn’t dry along the edge and prevent a seamless blend. You shouldn’t paint in just one direction, either. Gently and swiftly overlap layers to produce a solid color block instead of separate paint streaks.
5. Not adding paint conditioner for detailed areas.
While paint from the can is thick enough to cover walls, it’s too thick for areas that need to express finer details, like woodwork, doors, cabinets, and textured molding. Paint conditioner thins out your paint slightly so you can apply coats delicately without appearing thick and gloppy. Mix a small amount of the conditioner with the can of paint to get your desired consistency, and always read the directions for the best results.
6. Skipping the primer, especially on dark walls.
If you want to cover up a bold or dark color with a light one, you must apply primer first to “soften up” the previous color. Directly using light paint over a dark wall will force you to apply additional layers, and you may not even cover up the dark color completely. However, using a primer as your first coat will cut your work in half and create a surface that adheres to paint efficiently. Just make sure your primer has dried according to the manufacturer’s directions before painting over it, so you don’t get yourself into another painting mess.
Should You Leave Your Project to the Pros?
Thanks to apps like Pinterest, YouTube, and TikTok, the DIY craze is here to stay. It’s simple to find instructional videos on how to do everything from installing a new toilet to replacing an old deck. But,
before taking a sledgehammer to a supporting wall, think it through. Read our article, “When to DIY vs. When to Hire a Pro,” for signs that it’s safe to take on your home reno task alone and others that signal a pro might be better for the job.