Before painting, you must ensure your walls are ready for the job. A good starting point is holding up a light and raking your eye over the wall, highlighting imperfections.

Painters such as the experts at the Fresh Coat Painters have certain procedures they follow to create a great-looking finished project. By following these tips and insider tricks, you can produce a similar result in your own home.

Clean the Surface

Regardless of the material your walls are made from, or the state of your existing paint job, a good cleaning is essential before you begin your painting project. It may seem unnecessary, but it will ensure that your paint adheres properly to the wall, resulting in a long-lasting finish.

Start by removing anything hanging on the walls, including curtains and drapes, to allow you to get right into the cleaning. Then, carefully dust your surfaces, if needed. This can be done using a vacuum dust brush attachment, a feather duster, or simply by wiping the surface with a cloth. If you have a flat paint finish, be careful not to rub it too hard – doing so can leave splotches that show up later.

If there are any stains or marks on your walls that your usual cleaning solution cannot remove, test a small wall area with rubbing alcohol. If the paint doesn’t discolor, you can use a baking soda paste or a magic eraser to help them disappear before your next cleaning session.

Next, wash your walls with warm water and mild soap, if necessary (especially if you have crayon-happy children). If you’re concerned about the effect of the washing agent on the quality of your finish, it’s always worth doing a patch test first on an out-of-the-way corner.

Prep the Surface

You wouldn’t build a house without a solid foundation and shouldn’t paint your walls without properly prepping them first. This involves cleaning, scraping, and sanding to ensure your fresh coat of paint adheres well to the surface. It also includes repairing cracks or chips in the wall surface and caulking where necessary to seal any gap.

Start by washing the surfaces with a liquid household cleaner such as TSP (Tri Sodium Phosphate) for grease or bleach to eliminate mildew. This will remove dirt and neutralize the odor from the mildew. Then, wipe the walls with a damp cloth to rinse off any remaining cleaner.

Marker or crayon marks are notorious for bleeding through multiple coats of oil-based paint. The next step is to find and mark any flaws you must fix. They might be invisible until the afternoon sun hits them and glares at them shamelessly if you’re lucky. To find these, use a trouble light to “rake” the wall surface (similar to how a carpenter would). Anywhere the trouble light highlights an area that needs spackling or patching, mark it with tape so you don’t accidentally cover it up when you apply your new coat of paint.

Prime the Surface

A good paint job requires more than just washing walls and choosing a chic color. Loose plaster patches, cracks around window and door frames, and other gaps must be filled. A flexible sealant can fill these gaps and make them less noticeable.

The next step is priming the walls if they are porous or previously painted in oil-based paint. The primer will act as a base for the new paint and help it adhere to the surface. If you’re changing the color of your wall, a high-build acrylic latex primer will also help hide more vivid paint colors and reduce the need for multiple coats of paint.

After the primer dries, lightly sand any bumps or ridges using fine grit sandpaper folded into quarters. Be sure to vacuum or wipe down the wall after sanding to remove dust.

If you’re using a roller, dampen it with water for latex primers or mineral spirits for oil-based primers. This will allow the paint to be evenly absorbed by the coating, which can avoid lap marks and streaks. If you’re working on a ladder, it can be helpful to work with another person, one cutting in the corners with a brush and the other rolling the rest of the wall. This will speed up the process and ensure no visible lines of join where the brushwork meets the rolled areas.

Paint the Surface

Painting walls can be a quick and affordable way to refresh your home. But it is important to take the time to properly prep your walls before you start to ensure a professional finish and avoid painter’s remorse later on.

Before you start painting your walls, finding any flaws that may need repairing is a good idea. This can be done by holding a trouble light against the wall and raking it over the surface (this is also called light raking). You can then spot any dings, dents, or other imperfections.

Try to patch up any holes or dents in the wall with spackle (for plaster walls) or joint compound for drywall surfaces. Once these are dry, sand the area gently until the surface is smooth. This will help the new paint to adhere to the wall.

Finally, give your wall a light scuff with fine-grit sandpaper to dull the surface and allow it to absorb more paint. This will also make the surface more even for a more polished look.

Once you have completed your sanding, putting down a drop cloth or plastic sheet to protect the carpet and furniture from any potential splatters is a good idea. You should also clear your working space and scoot any furniture away from the wall.