Painting: Lessons Learned

September 20, 2010 § Leave a comment

Confession time. Apart from our closet wall and now this bathroom project, I’ve never painted anything big. Art paper at school, yes; walls, no. Mr. E is pretty much as inexperienced. However, armed with a little know-how and a lot of self-awareness we were able to paint successfully.

Sherry and John at Young House Love recently had a good post about how they paint. Obviously they’ve figured out what works for them. This is what we learned about our working styles and how that applies to painting.

Get a quality brush, especially if you have even half a plan to paint something else, ever. Seriously. You’ll thank yourself later. Do not skimp on the brush. GET A GOOD ONE despite the expense. Seriously!! We started with el cheapo brushes. We hadn’t even done half of the first coat when I was so frustrated I almost cried.

Prepwork really counts. By collecting everything you conceiveably need you’ll save many a step. Also, do taping, removing or protecting valuables, spackling, sanding, and/or priming as needed. This paintjob didn’t require a primer, since we treated the contractor’s white coat as one. For other projects, I might consider it.

If you’re working with someone else, go over what you are about to do in order to avoid misunderstandings. We played around with two or three plans, and I’d already forgotten a few choice details. (I’m so glad Mr. E is here to help me!)

Practise your technique if you’re a newbie. I started painting behind and around the toilet, where slips are less visible than elsewhere. Once I knew how my brush behaved, I cut in around the window by beginning my stroke away from the window frame, then inching closer and closer until the paint went where I wanted.

practising cutting in

Cutting in without taping works for me, if I go slowly. This narrow strip is between the tub (right) and the window. This picture is after the first coat with the bad brush. Looking at the sloppy finish still makes me cringe, brr!

Rags are your friends, whether dry, damp, or wet. For a lot of things. For wiping dirty fingers, wet fingers that might have some paint, and wet paint brushes. For wiping off paint oopses from the floor, wall, moulding, or shower enclosure. For dusting the moulding behind the toilet before you paint. *ahem*

Lining your paint tray with a plastic bag will extend its life.

paint tray lined with plastic

Figure out your work style, and adapt it to the task at hand. For example, Mr. E can’t cut in without taping to save his life. I, however, don’t want to take the time and paint reasonably successfully without taping if I go slowly – with a good brush. We ended up dividing the area between us and prepped (or not) and worked according our own styles. The end result looks equally good.

If you have the basic techniques mastered, start with a difficult area and move towards simpler and more straightforward. That way you’ll tackle the time consuming part when you’re still energetic, and finish with something nice and easy.

Be prepared to touch up. Nobody’s perfect.

Touching Up

I had to pull out my artist's brush and to paint this narrow gap, and even then I went back with a smaller brush and a Q-tip.

The most important lesson, I think, is figuring out what works for YOU. We all prefer different strategies. The best laid-out advice may be worthless if it doesn’t make sense with the way you tick.


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