Pro-Recommended Painting Products
We're always on the lookout for stuff to help us do our painting jobs better and faster. We scour the shelves of paint stores, surf the net and pick the brains of painting pros to find the latest and greatest, as well as the best classic tools and gear.
Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links. Ratings and prices are accurate and items are in stock as of time of publication.
Whether you’re painting a room, touching up some trim or putting a new pop of color on a piece of furniture, few DIY projects change the look and feel of a space like a new coat of paint. Painting is a relatively easy project too, one that even beginner can tackle. Just remember to follow a few basic techniques and tips before you start rolling on the paint.
Another great thing about painting projects is that you can do them with relatively little in the way of tools and equipment. You’ll need to choose a paint color and something to apply it with, i.e. paint rollers for the large areas and small selection of paint brushes for corners and other tighter spots. However, there are a few more products that can be a big help for painters, things that help you paint neat lines, get into hard to reach places and messes to a minimum. These are the kinds of things you’ll find in every professional painter’s kit, but you certainly don’t need to be a seasoned pro to use them in your own projects.
If you’re painting cabinet or bedroom doors, or have lots of trim but not a ton of room to lay everything out, grab several pairs of these Stak Racks. Attaching them to doors allows you to paint one side and flip them over without touching the door. Use 2×4’s to make a shelf between a pair of these to stack lots of trim or cabinet doors.
Sticky Drop Cloth
We like long, narrow drop cloths, or runners. They’re easy to fold and a convenient way to quickly protect the floor alongside the wall, helping you get your painting job done a little quicker. So of course we were excited to see this improvement over the old standby, canvas.
The trouble with canvas drop cloths is that they don’t stay put. Sure, you can tape the edges. But with a CoverGrip Safety Drop Cloth like this, you don’t have to. The plastic-like material has a slightly tacky surface that keeps the canvas in place on wood, tile, concrete or carpet. Plus, the cloth is solvent- and puncture-resistant, and slip-resistant even when wet.
Paint Touch-Up Pen
Got some dings, scratches or nail holes to touch up? Great. All you have to do is find the old paint can, pry off the lid, stir the paint, find a brush and you’re all set. That’s assuming the paint hasn’t dried out. Or you could keep a Slobproof Paint Pen in your junk drawer and be done in minutes.
When you’re finished painting a room, just load the pen with matching paint and snap on the cap. Later, when you’ve got a ding to touch up, give the pen a few shakes and go to it. They’re a little spendy, but it’s sure hard to beat the convenience.
High capacity nine-inch nap roller cover
Minimizing your trips to the roller tray means less opportunity for your roller to drip. A high-capacity roller cover keeps more paint in the nap, which prevents drips and the need to repeatedly go to the paint tray.
Paint Roller Cleaner
This paint roller cleaner is so easy to use that we don’t mind cleaning roller covers. Instead of buying cheap roller covers and throwing them away, we can buy top-quality covers and reuse them. Here’s how it works: Slip the roller cover into the tube and plug the end. Then connect the hose to a faucet and turn on the water. When the water runs clear from the bottom holes, the roller is clean. If you own a roller spinner, you can speed up drying and fluff the roller nap by giving it a quick spin. But it’s not necessary.
Painter’s Tape Applicator
We’ve tried all kinds of masking tape dispensers and painting tools. But for a simple, affordable way to speed up your masking, it’s hard to beat this little applicator from Scotch. After you get a few inches of painter’s tape stuck down, hold the dispenser against the surface you’re masking and slide it along the wall. Wheels press the tape to the surface, and a built-in cutter slices it off at the end of the run. We applied a straight, accurate line of masking tape along the moldings in this room in record time. The 3M ScotchBlue Painter’s Tape Applicator is easily refillable.
How can you go wrong spending less than a dollar for painting tools that simplify paint pouring and reduces a mess? This handy spout snaps onto the rim of a gallon or quart can and directs the paint where you want it. Plus it prevents paint from running down the side of the can and creating a mess on the floor or drop cloth. You’ll find these painting tools at home centers and paint stores.
Super-Sized Paint Tray
Sure, there are other big paint trays out there, but this one holds an entire gallon of paint. The built-in handles of the Handy Paint Tray make it easy to move, and the extra-wide base helps prevent spills. And if you hate paint cleanup (who doesn’t?), you can buy tight-fitting disposable plastic liners.
Easy-Clean Chinex Brush
The editors here love Chinex bristle paintbrushes. But it’s not just us — our set builder doesn’t use anything else, and the pros we talked with agree that paintbrushes made with Chinex bristles are nearly perfect. They work equally well for oil-base and water-base paints.
But the best feature of Chinex bristles is how easy they are to clean. Many of the new formulations of water-base paint dry quickly and stick tenaciously to other types of synthetic bristles, leaving you with a tough cleanup job. Chinex bristles solve this problem. Paint rinses out easily, giving you a brush that’s “like-new” clean. Corona, Wooster and Purdy make brushes with Chinex bristles.
Until we got our hands on one of these Little Giant ladders, we thought they were just another infomercial gimmick. But now that we’ve had a chance to actually use one, we love it.
The Xtreme is Little Giant’s do-everything ladder. As on the original Little Giant ladder, each side adjusts independently to give you the option of a four- to seven-foot stepladder. Or you can flip it open to make an extension ladder that extends to 17 ft. One of its best features: The ability to adjust the sides to different heights for use on stairs and uneven ground. You can also take the ladder apart to create two trestles that can support a work plank.
This model has several enhanced features, including extra-strong Quad-Lock Hinges, a wide Comfort Step and an Airdeck Workstation. If there’s a downside, it’s the cost. If this is beyond your budget, the company makes other less expensive ladders with some of the same features.
Custom Color Stain Marker
You don’t have to settle for a stain touch-up marker that’s close enough. Get an exact match by loading this Perfect Match Stain Marker with the same stain you used on the project. The pen loads like a syringe. Remove the felt tip, stick the end of the pen into the stain, and pull the plunger back to suck stain into the pen. Remember to stir the stain first. Replace the felt tip and you’ve got a custom-color stain touch-up marker.
Angle Grinder Dust Catcher
We love using our angle grinder as a paint removal tool. But it is dusty! While it’s nearly impossible to catch all the dust, this attachment does a pretty good job. A brush skirt around the perimeter and a spring suspension help seal the attachment to the surface. And the vacuum attachment allows you to collect the dust as it’s produced.
The collector also has a removable segment that allows you to get the grinder in close to edges. Having to drag a vacuum hose along with you as you sand is a little cumbersome. But we haven’t found a better way to catch dust from a grinder.
Lead paint caution: Houses built before 1978 may contain lead paint. Before disturbing any surface, get a lab analysis of paint chips from it. Contact your local public health department on how to collect samples and where to send them.
Great Little Scraper
Several of us on the Family Handyman staff have old houses and spend a lot of time scraping paint. It isn’t fun, so anything we can do to reduce the pain is a big plus.
That’s why we love this little carbide scraper. The triangular carbide blade stays sharp and has three cutting edges, so you won’t need to replace it for a long time. It’s perfect for cleaning out corners or small areas that are hard to reach with a larger scraper. You can also buy pear-, drop- and round-shaped blades to fit the same handle.
Caulk in Any Color
Your kitchen wall is Colonial Green. Your new granite countertop is Arctic Blue. Which color caulk are you going to use to seal the backsplash: white, almond or brown? Don’t like those options?
Pick up Sashco’s eXact color kit and mix one ounce of leftover wall paint into the eXact color tube, shake it up and you’ve got yourself a tube of Colonial Green caulk.
We tried it with orange paint. It came out a little light at first but matched great once it cured. There will be an air bubble or two, which could cause a splatter, so you might want to tape off each side of the bead and plan on tooling it.
Better Roller Pole
Some tools you just have to try to believe, and this Shur-Line Easy Reach extension pole is one. Press the button and pull back with your other hand — the pole extends in both directions like magic so you can get your paint roller anywhere you need it. We wouldn’t think of rolling paint without a pole. And this pole makes the job even easier. With practically no effort, you can adjust the pole from 30 inches to five feet to dial in the perfect length.
Tool for Painting Edges
If you don’t paint every day, “cutting-in” a room can be frustrating. It’s no wonder there have been so many attempts over the years to make a tool that simplifies the task. The Accubrush edge-painting tool is one of the best we’ve tried. It makes cutting-in quick and easy. With just a little practice, you can paint perfectly straight lines along ceilings and moldings. You’ll still have to finish some areas with a brush, though, since the tool can’t paint right up to adjacent edges. Connect a pole to the ceiling-edging tool and you can paint along the ceiling without even getting on a ladder.
Pro Masking Tool
Mask off baseboards quickly with a hand-masking tool. It applies the tape to the paper and cuts it to the right length with a twist of your wrist. The 3M Hand-Masker is popular with painting contractors because it provides a fast, affordable and convenient way to cover trim or walls with masking tape, paper and plastic to keep the paint off. But these masking machines aren’t just for pros. If you do a lot of painting and are looking for a quick way to protect woodwork, doors, windows and cabinets from paint spatters, have a look. It comes with a six-inch blade that can be extended to 12 inches. These Hand-Maskers hold a roll of masking tape and a roll of paper and apply the tape to the edge of the paper as you pull it out. You use the blade to cut the paper and tape to the desired length. You can even buy a roll of super-thin plastic sheeting and use that instead of paper to cover walls or other large areas.
Easy-Off Roller Frame
There are a lot of roller frames on the market, but we like this one the best. Like other premium roller frames, it’s sturdy, so it doesn’t bend when you apply pressure. And it has better bearing surfaces than cheap frames for easy, squeak-free rolling. But the feature that really sets this roller frame apart is the quick-release springs that hold the roller cover firmly in place while you’re rolling and yet release easily when you want to remove the roller for cleaning. You simply rap the metal frame against the edge of a bucket or laundry tub and the roller cover pops off—no more struggling to get a slippery, paint covered roller cover off the frame. Sherlock frames also have a hexagon recess and holes in the bottom of the handle to accept a matching Sherlock extension pole.
Quick-Connect Paint Pole
When it’s time to paint, this is the extension pole we fight over. Clip on the roller frame, adjust the length and go. In seconds, you’re rolling walls or ceilings with a pole that’s the perfect length. The quick-connect feature allows you to easily connect and disconnect the roller frame without having to screw and unscrew the pole. In addition, the pole is hexagon-shaped to prevent it from spinning, and is super easy to extend. Just push the button to release. Then pull in or push out the top section until the spring-loaded pin drops into a hole in the pole to lock it in place. The Sherlock GT Convertible shown here (the 2-ft. to 4-ft. size) includes a screw-in adapter that stores in the handle and allows you to convert any roller frame into a quick-connect version.
Brush and Roller Spinner
Our editors don’t like cleaning up painting gear, so it’s no surprise that this brush and roller spinner is one of their choices for best painting gear. A few quick handle pumps is all it takes. But be sure to keep the roller in a bucket or deep sink to avoid a mess.
Wagner Heat Gun
Older heat guns had just one control — the person using it. You controlled the temp by how far you held the gun from the surface. So you’ll love the Wagner Furno 700 heat gun. We did. In fact, we loved it so much that it’s one of our Family Handyman Approved products.
A state-of-the-art heating tool, this electric heat gun features an LCD display, push button controls and six fan settings including a cool down mode. Its 1,500 watt heating element puts out 5,100 BTUs with temperature settings from 125 F to 1,300 F. Weighing just two pounds, it feels comfortable while in use. It also includes a glass protector and flare attachment.