Brush and Roller Basics
The following video produced by Sherwin-Williams covers some of the basics of paintbrushes and rollers to help you paint more efficiently.
It’s amazing how the right tools and a few tips can make any paint job easier, faster, and more successful. Many jobs, especially new construction, will include a combination of spray application and brush and roll application. Regardless of the type of job, there are a few best practices to follow. Whether you’re spraying or rolling inside or out, it’s a good rule of thumb to start at the top and work your way down.
For interior jobs, that means painting the ceiling first, then using a brush to cut in at corners and around any trim, like woodwork, baseboards, crown molding, and so on. For these areas, we recommend using a 2.5-3 inch angled brush to paint about a 2-inch band onto the wall. If you’re painting a larger area, however, a straight edge 3-inch brush will get the job done faster. Regardless of the job, the paint you’re applying will determine the brush to use.
A high-quality brush made with synthetic bristles of nylon or polyester is the best choice for latex paints, while natural china bristle brushes deliver better flow and leveling for oil-based paints, stains, and varnishes. Holding any brush for hours is tiring, but this technique will reduce fatigue and result in a smoother, streak-free finish. Hold the brush near the base of the handle and dip it halfway up the bristles. Tap the excess off on the side of the can. Wiping it on the side of the can create drips. Press the bristles against the surface lightly. Too much pressure can cause runs and a sore wrist. When painting trim, use the same technique. However, a smaller size brush may provide more control.
On new construction, if the trim has not been pre-finished off site, paint trim after the base coat has been sprayed, but before paint is rolled. As you’re painting, cut in one wall at a time with your brush, then roll paint onto the rest of the wall while the cut-in band is still wet. It’ll result in a more seamless finish when the paint dries. Although roller covers are a common choice for covering large areas, not all roller covers are created equal. Just like choosing the best brush for the job, the surface you’re painting and the type of paint you’re using will also determine the right roller cover. If the surface is smooth, you’ll want a roller cover with a shorter pile or nap height. Heavily textured surfaces, like stucco or some ceilings, will require a roller cover with deeper pile. to ensure good coverage on uneven surfaces.
Different types of roller cover fabrics are also designed to optimize results. Synthetic covers are ideal for latex paints. Natural fiber covers, like mohair or sheepskin, are designed for oil-based paints. Otherwise, the water in latex paint can cause natural fibers to swell and get matted and blended covers combine the pickup power of natural fibers with polyester for longer life.
These hybrid covers can be used with any type of paint. For better performance when using a new roller cover wrap a strip of inverted masking tape around your hand and run it across the surface to remove loose fibers. Otherwise, those fibers may come off on the wall and ruin your hard work. When you’re ready, pour some paint in a roller tray and move the roller back and forth a few times until it’s evenly coated. Then draw it across the ridges of the tray to remove excess paint.
Working in 2-foot sections, make an N pattern and cross roll to spread the paint. Finish each section with light roller strokes at right angles to the cross rolling. Maintain light pressure for even coverage across the entire surface to provide a smooth, attractive finish that also satisfies the coating’s recommended film thickness.
Mil thickness is a measurement of the thickness of the paint film when it’s applied to the wall. It’s important because the paint is formulated to perform best at a specified thickness. Apply too much paint and the coating may sag. Too little coating will result in poor hide or insufficient defense against moisture or UV damage.
The coating manufacturer may express the required thickness as wet mil thickness or dry film thickness, which simply refers to the thickness before or after the paint is dried. Although there are several types of gauges used to measure mil thickness, this common tool has notches spaced at 1 millimeter increments. Hold the gauge at a 90 degree angle to the surface and press firmly, ensuring that both sides contact the substrate.
The number above the last visible notch indicates the mil thickness of the coating. If you’re measuring wet film thickness, there will be a trace of paint on the gauge. Make sure to clean the gauge as soon as you’re finished so it’ll be accurate the next time you take a reading. Whether you’re painting inside or out, temperature matters. Many new home interiors can be chilly, so having a heat source will ensure that the paint dries to the desired color and finish. Outside, you should paint when the humidity is low and the temperature is between 70 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. When the humidity is high, water-based paints will take longer to dry.
On sunny days, try to follow the shade so wet paint isn’t exposed to direct sunlight. That can cause the paint to blister. And just like interior painting, it’s best to start at the top and work your way down, always maintaining a wet edge as you work. If you paint into an area where the paint is already dried, the film could buckle or peel later, The last step is to clean up. High-quality brushes will last for years if properly maintained. For latex paints, warm water and mild detergent are all that’s needed to clean a synthetic bristle brush. Rinse your tools in freshwater until there’s no sign of residual paint. For oil-based paints, clean up using the recommended solvents.
Always follow the manufacturer’s safety recommendations when using solvents. And of course, never pour unused paint down a drain or storm sewer. Consult your local recycling agency for more information on proper disposal regulations. Follow these suggestions and you’ll have a great paint job that’s efficient, great-looking, and delivers lasting performance.