Who doesn’t love paint? It’s luscious and creamy and comes in every color imaginable. Regardless of the sheen — flat, eggshell, satin or gloss — painting is a great way to either radically or subtly transform your environment.  Your color choices are important because they can either stimulate the senses or create a sense of calm.

However, to achieve the perfect result, you can’t just start painting willy-nilly. Following these 10 commandments of painting can help to ensure success in your selection, prep and paint process.

Get inspired before you pick a paint color. Image courtesy of Benjamin Moore.

#1: Never uses swatches as the first step

Resist the impulse to just randomly select a color swatch and start painting. If you start painting on a whim, you may later decide you don’t really like that color. Take the time to figure out what you really like.

“Seek inspiration. Start by grabbing anything that appeals to you — anything that makes you stop for more than a couple of seconds,” says Andrea Magno, Benjamin Moore Color & Design Expert. If you tear out or pin enough pictures, she says you’ll start to see patterns emerge. “You’ll realize your eye is always drawn to dark greens, perhaps, or you find pastels fresh and appealing,” Magno says. “Maybe you like sharp contrasts, bright accent colors, gleaming white crown molding.” While black is the most stylish color of every year, some people prefer neutral colors like builder’s beige.

Make sure your color will work in the room. Image courtesy of PPG Paints.

#2: Choose your paint color last

Paint is available in a gazillion hues, but the same can’t be said for everything else in the room. “Before selecting your paint hue, it is important to first select new or consider your existing flooring, fabrics, window treatments and other fixed items that are staying in your room while you redecorate, since these furnishings have a limited color palette,” explains Dee Schlotter, Senior Color Marketing Manager at PPG Paints.

“Many homeowners paint their walls first, and then try to find bedding or furniture to accent with the wall color, which is difficult.” She recommends reversing this practice since paint colors are almost unlimited, and you can match and tint to almost any color. “Once the decor elements are considered, you can match your paint color or choose a complementary tone from the other colors in the home’s palette.”

Try it out on the walls first. Image courtesy of Benjamin Moore.

#3: Always use samples

Swatches are good, but nothing beats actual samples. “By painting out a sample on a piece of poster board, you now have a large sample that will provide a great representation of the color, and it will also help in understanding how a color reacts to the natural and artificial lighting in the home,” Magno explains.

Bold colors should be tried out in large sections. Image courtesy of PPG Paints.

Schlotter agrees. “Once you’ve narrowed down the color selection, PPG recommends purchasing a sample quart of the color and painting a swatch that is at least two feet by two feet so you can see the color against different lighting throughout the day and evening.” This will help you assess the color in both natural and artificial light.

Get your walls ready before you start painting. Image courtesy of Sherwin-Williams.

#4: Prepping is a must

Prep is the most important part of a painting project. “Prior to painting, remove surface contaminants with an appropriate cleaner, rinse thoroughly and allow to dry,” advises Mark Eichelberger, Senior Product Manager for Sherwin-Williams Consumer Brands Group.

If you’re painting exterior surfaces, Dan Schaeffer, Owner of Five Star Painting in Austin, recommends either power washing or otherwise cleaning the surfaces. “To make sure they’re dry, you can use a moisture meter to test moisture levels,” he says. “For shiny surfaces, you may want to sand to remove a sheen prior to recoating.”

And don’t forget to use primer — unless your paint contains it. “Primer typically does two things: it creates a surface on which the paint can bond and seals a surface so the finished paint is more uniform,” Schaeffer says.

Also, when you’re painting bare wood, like cedar and redwood, Eichelberger recommends a stain-blocking primer to cover knots in the wood. “Knots contain a high amount of tannin, a colored wood extract, which, if not properly primed, can bleed back in and show through the painted finish over time,” he says.

Create a smooth surface before painting. Image courtesy of Sherwin-Williams.

#5: Seal cracks and holes

Some DIYers try to seal cracks and holes with paint. Don’t do it. “When painting drywall, fill cracks and holes with patching paste and sand smooth,” Eichelberger says. Schaeffer agrees and adds that caulking the baseboards will make the paint job look clean and finished. “Also, caulking joints, especially exterior ones, is critical to sealing gaps so moisture doesn’t get in a house,” he says.

Give your paint a good stir before getting started. Image courtesy of PPG Paints.

#6: Most paint should be shaken and stirred

While James Bond prefers “shaken, not stirred,” you can do either with your paint cans to ensure the pigment is evenly distributed. “When pigment is added to a can of paint, it is typically shaken at the paint store,” Schaeffer says.  But in the event it hasn’t been, or if the paint has been sitting for a while, he advises shaking and/or stirring it. “However, not all products should be shaken before use. For example, polyurethane will introduce air bubbles and, for clear products, that is not ideal.”

Temperature should play a role in your painting planning. Image courtesy of Sherwin-Williams.

#7: There’s a right time to paint

There are ideal times to paint and times when it would be best if you didn’t paint. “Apply only when paint, surface and air temperatures are 50–90 degrees F (10–32 degrees C) during application and drying time,” according to Eichelberger.

For interior paint jobs, Mike Mundwiller, Benjamin Moore Field Integration Manager, says the environment is generally controlled (meaning you don’t need to worry too much about temp), but for exterior paint projects, he offers the following advice:

  • Ideal painting conditions are 77 degrees F and 50 percent relative humidity.
  • Do not paint in direct sunlight.
  • In early spring and late fall, do not start too early in the morning or work too late in the day.
  • High winds can cause the paint to dry too fast and cause lap marks.

Take it from the top. Image courtesy of Sherwin-Williams.

#8: You need a painting plan

Whether you’re using bold or neutral colors, paint the ceiling before you paint the walls — and work on one wall at a time, advises Eichelberger. “After painting the ceiling, start by edging around the ceiling, corners and trim with an angled brush. Then, immediately roll the inside of the wall before going to the next wall.” If you paint one wall at a time, he says the paint will blend much better and reduce the chance of streaking or lap marks.

When you’re painting with a roller, Eichelberger recommends applying from the dry area into the wet area using firm, crisscrossed strokes. “Finish with long, even strokes in one direction for a smooth, uniform paint finish.”

Your paint roller is your ally. Image courtesy of Benjamin Moore.

However, don’t overwork the paint, since most premium paints today flow on very easily, according to Mundwiller. “When rolling, let the roller do the work,” he says. “There is no reason to put a lot of pressure on the roller. Lay on a nice even coat and move on.”

Set yourself up for success by investing in the right tools. Image courtesy of Benjamin Moore.

#9: Don’t skimp on tools

While your technique is important, your tools can also determine the quality of your paint job. Eichelberger recommends using premium-quality rollers and premium-quality nylon/polyester brushes.

Mundwiller agrees. “Tools often make the difference between an easy job that looks great and a beastly job that doesn’t look so good when it’s finished.” He warns against scrimping on tools. “Use the recommended roller or brush for the paint you are using — it makes a huge difference.” And if you’re using a sprayer, Mundwiller recommends practicing in an inconspicuous area before tackling the main job.

Keep as much air out of your paint as possible. Image courtesy of Sherwin-Williams.

#10: Keep your paint and tools fresh

When you need to take a break from painting, don’t leave your paint and tools exposed. “Make sure to cover your paint by placing the lid back onto the container,” Eichelberger says. “Also, place aluminum foil over your handheld paint container, roller tray and your applicators.” If you don’t, he says the paint can dry and form a film on top, which makes it harder to apply the paint evenly.

Simple kitchen finds — like aluminum foil and plastic wrap — can help you keep your paint fresh. Image courtesy of Benjamin Moore.

And Mundwiller goes a step further. “If you take a break, wrap your brush and roller (handle and all) in plastic wrap and store them in the refrigerator, since this will keep the brush fresh for when you’re ready to paint again.”