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Your Complete Paint Guide

Updated: Jun 24, 2022



Painting is one of the simplest and most cost effective ways to transform your home, but there are so many sheens, accessories, textured walls, paint types, how do you know where to start and where to look? This guide is to help remediate those worries and unknowns by helping you align the best options for your paint job.


Paint Sheens

The sheen of the paint is the overall look of the paint once it dries and how much light it will reflect. Depending on your paint surface and function of what you are painting, there are particular sheens that should be used in certain locations. See the list below to better help you determine what sheen to use in your paint project.


Best Paint From Each Manufacturer


Should You Use Paint and Primer in One?

We all know that time your time is valuable and it's no different when it comes to paint. We all would love to use a paint and primer in one to save time and energy when painting, but is it the best option? The short answer is, it depends on what you are painting.

According to Spectrum Paint, if you are painting a wall that has already been painted, it is acceptable to use a paint and primer in one. With the wall already having been painted, that original paint has provided a base layer that is already protecting the porous drywall that is underneath. It is recommended to use a paint and primer in one if the existing paint you are painting over and the new paint you are adding to the wall have a similar sheen and color.

If you are painting on virgin drywall, which is the more uncommon scenario because typically this is a professional performing this work when the house is being built, then a primer that is separate from your finish paint is needed to properly seal the porous drywall.


What is the Difference Between Interior and Exterior Paint?

Obviously the biggest difference between these two is where they are typically applied, one is on the interior of your home and one is on the exterior. But, can these be used interchangeably and if not, why not? It all comes down to chemistry. Kevin Jefferson of Paint and Coatings Industry gives a great explanation of the science behind what goes into interior and exterior paint and what chemically makes them different.

At the core of all paints are the ingredients shown above: pigments, resins, solvents and additives, but to make paints either "interior" or "exterior" applicable paints all depend on the resin. For exterior paint, the resins need to be softer in order to protect against mildew, fading, moisture and temperature swings. The softer resins also are able to expand and contract during temperature changes without cracking. Lastly, exterior paint produces more VOCs and is therefore is not healthy for use indoors. It also needs the sun to help it cure.

Interior paint has harder resins that are provide durability and are resistant to cleaning and scrubbing. Interior paints also do not produce harsh VOCs like exterior paints do for human comfort and safety.


Brush, Roller and Sheen Recommendations Depending on What You're Painting

Certain paint surfaces will need different kinds of equipment like particular rollers and brushes. See the graphics below for a quick reference on what you will need depending on what you are painting.


Roller Nap

The nap of the roller is the thickness of the foam or polyester surrounding the hollow roller core. This is what absorbs the paint and is able to transfer it to your painting surface. How significant is getting the right roller nap thickness? Well, if you get your nap thickness right the first time, it could save you a lot of time and effort.

The thicker your roller nap, the more paint that your roller will absorb, therefore, you want to use a thicker nap for surfaces with deeper divots and crevices (i.e. a very textured wall). For more smooth materials, a thicker nap is not necessary and will actually apply more paint than needed contributing to not as clean of a paint job.

After researching a bit, I stumbled upon Sherwin Williams' post about your paint roller and the nap thickness recommended depending on your paint surface. For very smooth surfaces, they recommend a 3/16"-1/4" nap thickness while if you have a smooth / semi-smooth surface, such as drywall, then use a 3/8" to a 1/2" nap thickness. A 3/4" thick nap is recommended for semi-rough surfaces like wood or a ceiling that is more heavily textured.

For more uncommon applications with very high textures like stucco, a 1" to 1-1/4" nap is recommended and lastly, for concrete block, a 1-1/2" nap is suggested.


Painting Techniques

Cut-in your paint first or roll first? Let's start with these terms. Cut-in is where you paint the edges/corners of the walls (at the ceiling, floor and any adjacent wall edges) about 6" out from the corner and work your way towards the corner before beginning to roll the paint on with a roller. This cut-in also includes any wall outlets or light fixtures. So should you cut-in before you begin rolling your paint? Well, according to Don Vandervort at, it depends on the sheen of paint you are using. For flat or eggshell paint sheens, the drying time is very short, so Don recommends that you cut-in all of the corners of the wall before rolling your paint on. If you are using a semi-gloss or high-gloss paint, the difference between the dried and wet paint will be very apparent meaning that if you cut-in all the corners of the room first and then roll, there will be a very obvious difference between the two. For these paint sheens, cut-in one edge of the wall and then roll the paint out from that edge.

For rolling the paint onto a wall in your home, Family Handyman recommends that you start your roller about 1' from your floor and 6" from the corner of your wall. You want to use light pressure and roll upwards toward your ceiling, stopping short of your ceiling. Next, roll the paint back towards the corner of the wall while overlapping your first paint stroke by about 3/4 of your roller length. Keep overlapping your previous roller stroke until the entire wall is covered.


So much to learn about paint. Who knew? Hopefully this gives you some clarity on approaching your next painting project and gives you a bit of knowledge on how to learn from any painting mistakes (like I've learned). Let me know if I missed any tips in the comments section below.




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