How To Paint Like a Professional (tips and tricks disclosed)

I used to think that painting projects were among some of the easiest to do.  However, one painting project gone severely awry later, and my belief became that it is rocket science.  It is actually neither easy, nor rocket science.  It’s something that you need to become educated on before beginning.  It is not an exact science.  There may be some occasions when you are well read on the project, and it still fails.  But, those should be very rare – especially if you take time to learn about the products you are working with before picking up the paint brush.


In general, these are the weather conditions you need to paint:

  • Weather temperature needs to be between 50-90 degrees Fahrenheit, ideal being 70 degrees.  This includes the temperature of the surface you are painting.
  • Humidity needs to be around 50% – give a little, take a little.   If relative humidity is over 70%, it is risky to paint.

However, when in doubt, call the manufacturer number available on the paint can to confirm.  Like I mentioned, this conditions are general guidelines.  There are paints out there made to apply in temperatures outside that range.

It is not advisable to paint outside the suggested conditions.  Not only does it effect drying/curing times of your paint, but it can effect the durability as well.  Paint is a chemical, and should be treated as such.  You are much better off to move on to another project while waiting for the weather to cooperate.  You will save yourself money, time, and frustration.

Drying Times

One of the biggest differences between oil-based and latex paints is in the way they dry.

  • Latex paint dries from the outside in (which is why it is dry to the touch more quickly than oil-based).
  • Oil-based paint dries from the surface area out (allowing for it to have a stronger bond with the surface it’s applied on).

Although latex paint ‘dries’ faster than oil-based paint, oil-based paint cures faster than latex.  The difference between the two are that ‘dry’ typically refers to when paint is dry to the touch, and ‘cured’ means it is completely dry through and through.  The time frames listed below are general times, not taking into account factors that may not be ideal for painting (temperature, humidity, etc.).


  • Dry to touch: 2 hours.
  • Recoat: 24 hours.
  • Cured: 3-4 weeks.

Oil Based

  • Dry to touch: 4-10 hours.
  • Recoat: 24 hours.
  • Cured: 3-4 days.

*I’m sure this doesn’t need to be said, but I will feel better knowing it was.  Latex can be applied over oil-based paint, but oil-based paint cannot be applied over latex.

Determining if Paint is Cured

To determine whether or not your paint has fully cured, press your thumbnail firmly  into the area in question.  If the surface indents where your nail was pressed, it is not fully cured.  If there is no visible indention, it has cured.

Paint (Money) Savers

These tips can help you save paint – ultimately saving you money (for more projects, of course).

  • Whether you are using a rolling tray (small or large), or some other container to hold your paint, apply plastic wrap or press n’ seal over your container when you’re finished for the time being.  Provided you are returning to your project within a couple hours or couple of days, this will keep your paint fresh. You will need to stir the paint before you are ready to use it again.
  • The same can be done with your brush or roller – though you may want to make sure either is submerged in the paint to prevent any hardening on your tool.
  • If you only need to save the brush (ran out of paint?), wrap it up in press n’ seal or wax paper.  Do your best to work out any air surrounding it, and it too should stay fresh for a couple days.

*Sealing your brush and pan airtight saves paint that normally coats the pan, and has soaked into your brush or roller.  It also saves lots of time.  You will be ready to begin your project again with your paint and tools ready to go, and you will only have to clean up after that color once.

  • When using a roller, you can save paint by getting it just slightly damp before use.  Damp with water when using latex paint, and damp with mineral spirits when using oil-based paints.  This will help prevent excess paint from soaking in to the center of your roller.  Your roller is just like a brush – you you want to keep the paint towards the tip, which is where it will transfer to the surface you are painting.

Surface Finish

  • Paint Brush: Did you know that if too much pressure is applied to a brush while painting, it can cause it to lose bristles?  Harder does not equal better.  Apply enough pressure to discharge paint off the brush, but not so much that the bristles are out of sorts.  Easy does it.  Less muscle used in your paint application will yield less bristles in your applied paint.
  • When planning to use a brand new nap roller: wrap duct or packing tape around the entire nap surface area, and quickly remove. Repeat this a couple times, then rinse well with water.  Allow to dry before using (especially if you are using oil-based paint).  Doing so will alleviate excess lint from the roller that would have ended up in your applied paint, making for a hairy finish.
  • Crisp Lines: Yes, we all know to use painters tape.  For those of you who have used painters tape, only to have the paint bleed under, THIS IS YOUR ANSWER!  Apply painters tape as you normally would.  Before you apply the color of paint you want the area to be, paint your inside edges the same color as the background paint.  Doing this will allow any bleeding that will occur to be the same color as the background paint, and seal off the tape edge – containing the new paint crisply inside the taped off area.
  • *If you do not know, or do not have the background color of the area you are applying paint on top of, you can use a glaze instead.  This will still seal off the tape, and the clear will still bleed under providing you the crisp lines you want.  However, you may want to take into consideration the gloss factor of both the glaze and background paints.  You do not want an outline of bright clear shine, so make sure they are somewhat equivalent in their gloss.
  • *Revised opinion regarding using glaze to seal tape: I must say that I am now sold on it being the only way to go!  Two reasons: 1. so much easier!  No more switching paint colors for different borders.  2.  I used Old Masters Oil Based Tinting Glaze, and its dry time is much faster (fast compared to oil based paint anyways)!  Second coat can be applied after 12 hours, compared to 24 with oil based paint.  (Keep in mind different manufacturers may have different drying times.  When using latex paint and latex glaze, the dry time may be the same on both.)
  • Having trouble with painters tape curling away from the surface?  To prevent this from occurring do not pull the tape tight as you apply it to your surface.  Instead, allow plenty of slack in the tape as you guide it into placement.  Personally, I think it’s natural to want to have the tape taut when creating a straight line.  However, when stretched during application, tape will alleviate tension from the placement, which is why its edges begin to curl up.
  • Do not use stainless steel to rough up your surface if you are going to be using latex paint.  The water in the latex will rust any small particles left behind from your stainless steel, and ruin the aesthetics of your hard work.  This is true for both latex paint, and clear topcoats.

Asking Employees at Your Local Paint Store

Asking someone behind the paint counter about your painting project is like asking someone how to grow grass.  Each person has their own way to achieve the same outcome – it doesn’t mean they are right.  You literally can ask 100 different paint desk pros, and you will get 100 different answers.  Seriously.  So, bottom line is to find out about the product and your project through the manufacturer of the product.  This may take more time on your part, but will yield you better results in the end.


Call the manufacturer’s number.  It is available on the back of the paint can, and is also available on the website of the product.  Before you decide what product you want to use, call the manufacturer’s of all the products you are considering.  Ask any questions you have.  Do this before purchasing, and you will save yourself time and money!  Especially if you are engaging in an ‘unconventional’ paint project (anything other than painting walls).  Have a list of questions, and compare product choices based on which one will best suite your needs.

Call the manufacturers number if you are in the middle of a project, and are not sure what to do.  The number is there for you to use.  They want you to have success with their product, and they are there to help you achieve that in any way they can.

With that said, there are always exceptions to the rule.  They do want their product to work, and have very strict written guidelines on what needs to be done to achieve that.  So, if you do not hear the answer you want – that doesn’t necessarily mean that it will not work.  It just means that company has not tested that product for that use.  Sometimes you just have to go with your instincts.  Find out the facts, and make the most informed decision based on what you know.

Painting is a great way to make major changes with instant visibility.  These tips are not meant to scare you away from painting, but to provide you with the proper knowledge to maximize your success with your painting endeavors.

Find me here: Tip Me Tuesday @ tip Junkie 

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