These ideas and products will not only save you time but also eliminate a lot of hassles—like moving unwieldy ladders and spreading out massive drop cloths. All of the products mentioned here are available at paint stores and home centers.
Tip 1: Our favorite product for painting up high
We discovered this work platform five years ago—and we’ve been using it daily in our photo studio ever since. It’s the perfect height to stand on to reach the top of 8-ft. walls, making it ideal for painting along ceilings. Truth be told, I spend a lot of time sitting on it too.
The platform gives you a wider standing space than a ladder and extends your reach, so you don’t have to climb down and move it as often. When you do need to reposition it, you’ll find the aluminum platform lightweight and easy to carry. The legs lock in place, keeping the platform stable while you work, and fold up for easy storage. It also costs less than most ladders.
Tip 2: Our favorite rollers for a lint-free paint job
Sure, you can buy a 99¢ roller cover, but then you’ll waste time picking fuzz out of your freshly painted walls because the cover will shed as you use it. Cheap covers also get matted easily, which changes the texture of your painted surface. It’s much smarter to spend at least $5 to get a quality cover that will give you a consistent texture, without shedding lint. More-expensive rollers also hold paint better than cheap covers, so you don’t have to reload as often. Look for covers that say “woven” or “lint-free” on the packaging, or ask a paint store employee for help picking one.
Tip 3: Our best tip for superior coverage
Some vibrant paint colors, especially oranges and reds, don’t cover existing paint colors well. If you’re painting over a light color, it might take three, four or even five coats. And even then the color might be off. Try a tinted primer instead. Have the paint store tint your primer gray. Prime the walls or woodwork with the gray primer, then one coat of paint (two at the most!) will cover nicely. It will also give you a “truer” color, one that’s closer to the paint chip you chose at the store. Tinted primer also works great for covering varnished woodwork that you want to paint.
Primer is less expensive than paint, so you’ll save money applying primer and then paint instead of rolling on two (or more) coats of paint. Primer also adheres better to the wall and improves paint durability.
Tip 4: Our favorite tool for cleaning paintbrushes
A $5 painter’s comb helps remove caked-on paint that won’t wash off your paintbrush bristles. And after washing, the comb helps straighten the bristles so they don’t fan out as the brush dries.
A good paintbrush will last a lifetime if you take care of it. Here’s how: After painting, while your brush is still wet, wipe it on newspaper to get rid of excess paint. Then stick the brush in a bucket of warm, soapy water (any liquid soap will do) and slosh it around to wash out the paint.
Hold the brush under running water and run the painter’s comb through it, especially near the ferrule, to remove dried paint and buildup. When the water coming off the brush is clear, the brush is clean. Comb the bristles again to get them straight and let the brush air-dry. Finally, to keep the bristles straight, wrap it with heavy paper (like a grocery bag) and hang it from a hook or store it flat.
Tip 5: Our favorite floor protector
If you’re only painting walls and not the ceiling, don’t bother spreading a drop cloth across the entire floor. Just cover the perimeter with a narrow canvas drop cloth (4 x 12 ft.). A 3- or 4-ft.-wide strip provides enough space for your ladder and materials, and plenty of room to stand on. It’s easier to set up and move than a large square, and it fits conveniently in doorways. We use canvas drop cloths instead of plastic because they’re easy to spread out and they stay in place without tape. And they’re not slippery!
Tip 6: Our best tip for opening paint cans
You can open a paint can with a screwdriver, but it'll leave dents in the lid as you pry it off, making it tough to reseal the can to keep the paint fresh. A paint can opener is designed so the tip slides under the lid and lifts it off without damaging it. And it costs less than a buck!
Tip 7: Our favorite poly—no brush required!
We're big fans of wipe-on poly and use it in our studio and shops. It gives you an impeccable finish—no brushstrokes, drips or streaking—and you can coat a dresser in about 15 minutes. You can also get into crevices without worrying about runs. The poly dries quickly, so airborne dust doesn't cause bumps in the finish, and you can recoat in a few hours. The drawback is you usually need several coats.(minwax and watco are two brands.)