Painting a room can seem like a daunting task, but having the right tools makes the job much easier and the end results more professional looking. With so many options available, it can be confusing trying to figure out which tools are truly essential. To help simplify the process, here is an overview of the must-have painting tools as well as some that can be skipped.
A paint roller is one of the most important tools for painting large, flat surfaces like walls and ceilings. Using a roller allows you to quickly cover much more area compared to using just a brush. Rollers come in different nap thicknesses, which determines how much paint they hold and the finish they produce.
A thicker nap provides more coverage but can create drips if overloaded with paint. A shorter nap gives a smoother finish. The typical nap thickness for walls is 3/8”, which gives a nice texture. Rollers are used in conjunction with an extension pole and tray. Look for ones with a sturdy, well-balanced frame.
The roller frame holds the roller cover and attaches to the extension pole. Seek out metal frames with threaded ends to connect an extension pole versus cheaper plastic frames that can bend under pressure. Ball bearings allow the roller to glide smoothly across the wall. An ergonomic handle provides comfort during extended use.
Unless you are painting a very small space, an extension pole is a must for reaching ceilings and high walls without climbing up and down a ladder repeatedly. Extendable poles allow versatility to adjust the length as needed. Sturdy construction prevents drooping under the weight of a loaded paint roller. Look for twist locks that securely hold the pole at the desired length.
Also called a roller tray, this container holds the paint supply for the roller. The tray should be wide enough to fit the roller without touching the sides. Plastic trays are preferable to metal ones because latex paint doesn’t stick to plastic, making cleanup easier. For less mess, buy trays with deeper wells to prevent spills. Consider disposable tray liners to eliminate washing the tray after each use.
Invest in high-quality brushes made from natural or synthetic bristles. Softer natural bristles work best for oils and stains while synthetic bristles are ideal for water-based latex paints. Buy brushes suited for specific purposes. Angled sash brushes easily cut in along edges and trim. Round and oval brushes work well for corners and details. Wide wall brushes quickly cover large surfaces. Pay a little extra for brushes with comfortable handles for prolonged use. Properly cleaned brushes can be reused many times.
Protect floors and furniture from drips and spills using canvas drop cloths. Unlike plastic cloths, canvas can be reused many times. The fabric also stays in place better. Look for thick 12-ounce weight canvas. Canvas runners come in convenient lengths to position along baseboards. For carpets, opt for cloth with a non-slip rubber backing.
Paint Tray Liners
While not a necessity, disposable plastic tray liners eliminate the need to wash out the paint tray after each use. They conform to the tray shape and simply lift out when the job is finished. This saves cleanup time and hassle.
An aluminum or fiberglass ladder provides safe access to paint ceilings and upper walls. Choose the appropriate ladder height for your room and weight capacity to hold you plus painting supplies. Consider options like articulating ladders that provide flexibility for stairwells or uneven surfaces. Investing in a quality ladder is worthwhile since it can serve many purposes beyond just painting projects.
Painter’s tape, also called masking tape, keeps paint off surfaces that are not being painted like trim and baseboards. Look for tape specially designed for multiple days of painting that removes cleanly without damage. Apply tape smoothly, then seal the edges with a damp rag to prevent paint bleed. Remove tape within the stated time frame.
While paint cans work, transferring paint into a bucket makes for easier mobility when moving around a room. Oval buckets provide more stability than round ones. Features to look for include an ergonomic handle for comfort, deep enough well to insert tools, and a built-in mesh screen to catch drips. Some buckets have magnets to secure brushes and metal tools.
Calculating how much paint is needed for the project saves money and extra trips to the store. Use a measuring tape to determine the square footage of walls being painted. Most paint coverage is 350-400 square feet per gallon for the first coat.
Filling holes, dents and cracks with spackle putty ensures the wall surfaces are smooth and ready to be painted. A putty knife efficiently applies putty. Opt for stainless steel over plastic. Standard sizes are 2” and 6”. The flexible blade allows scooping putty from the container and scraping smooth on the wall.
Spackle or Putty
For minor repairs, look for lightweight, pre-mixed spackling or putty that dries quickly and sands easily to a smooth finish. Some types dry fast and change color to indicate they are ready for sanding and painting. Avoid oil-based putty.
Use medium grit sandpaper or sanding sponge to smooth spackled areas and remove any ridges before painting. Sanding sponges minimize the mess of sanding dust. Work in a circular motion. Finish by wiping with a damp sponge to remove residue.
A quality paintbrush cleaner extends the life of natural and synthetic bristle brushes. Fill a container with the cleaning solution, swish brushes to release paint, then spin or hang until dry. Storing brushes properly between uses also maintains bristle shape.
Priming ensures paint adheres properly to surfaces. Use primer when painting over glossy or slick surfaces like tile and metals and for covering dark colors with light paint. Primer also helps paint hide imperfections. Match primer and paint sheens to avoid issues.
Filling gaps between trim, moldings, windows and doors with paintable latex caulk provides a flexible seal that prevents drafts and moisture damage. Caulk also helps create clean painted edges between materials. Apply caulk smoothly, then tool into cracks with a putty knife or finger.
Thoroughly blending paint helps prevent uneven sheen and color inconsistencies. Using a power drill attachment mixes paint faster and more effectively than a wooden stir stick. Mixers with an aerator design blend paint from top to bottom in the can.
Brush Comb/Wire Brush
A brush comb or wire brush cleans bristles and removes dried paint so brushes can be reused. Gently run the comb through bristles after cleaning and before storing. Check that no paint remains stuck between bristles.
Pouring paint through a nylon strainer catches lumps and debris that could mar the paint finish. Straining prevents clogs and streaks when using paint sprayers or rollers. Just secure the strainer over a bucket and slowly pour the paint through.
Painting into inside corners can be tricky. A corner tool guides the brush at the proper 45-degree angle to coat both wall surfaces simultaneously for consistent coverage and straight lines. Look for corner tools with guide holes for different brush sizes.
Smaller paintbrushes allow you to precisely paint trim, edges and cut-in around windows, baseboards, lighting fixtures and other areas. Angled sash brushes are ideal for edging and smaller trim areas. artist brushes work great for very small details.
A paint edger or edging tool has a guard that rides along trim or ceilings to guide the brush for straight, crisp paint lines without taping. However, many edging tools don’t deliver on their claims, so buyer beware. Careful technique with angled trim brushes typically works just as well.
Sponge paint pads work well for lightly applying stain, paint or conditioner to hard-to-reach areas like shutters or spindles where brushes can’t easily fit. Avoid heavy pressure to prevent drips. Soft pads with slight texture hold more paint than regular sponges.
Scraping loose paint, varnish or wood stain requires a sturdy scraper with a sharp blade. Opt for thick stainless steel over flimsy plastic. The hooked end helps pry up stuck material. A comfortable handle provides a secure grip.
Caulk guns ensure an even, continuous bead of caulk. Guns allow you to control caulk flow with a trigger. Load standard cartridge tubes or opt for reusable guns with squeeze rods to reduce waste. Look for guns with smooth pressure control and a built-in puncture tool.
Paint sprayers allow fast, efficient coverage of large areas like siding, decks, sheds and fences. Electric or airless sprayers provide a fine, even spray pattern without thinner. Match sprayer tip size to paint viscosity. Practice first to avoid drips. Sprayers require thinning paint and protecting surrounding areas from overspray drift.
A paint shield has a flexible rubber edge that creates a barrier to keep paint off surfaces like baseboard trim, carpets, tile and wood floors. The shield guides brushes at the correct angle. Use taping for the sharpest lines.
Link multiple paint shields together to create a grid that covers larger areas. Grids speed up trimming time by allowing you to roll right up to the edge without taping. Use grids to paint floor borders and where walls meet ceilings.
Mineral spirits or water safely thin oil-based paints and varnishes for optimal flow through sprayers. Thinner also helps clean brushes used for oil-based paints. Never thin latex paints with water which reduces hide and durability. Follow manufacturer’s directions for proper thinning amounts.
Now that you know which essential, and non-essential, tools you need for painting projects, you can stock up with confidence. Investing in quality tools ensures your paint job goes smoothly and produces professional-looking results. Approach any painting task armed with the right brushes, rollers, trays and accessories tailored to the specifics of your project.