Paint with a professional finish
Do you hate house painting or furniture painting because you get covered in paint and get blisters where the paint has dried on your brush handle? Do the bristles on your brush go hard and stick out at crazy angles making edge-painting impossible? Do you get grumpy, forget what you’re doing and drip paint everywhere? Or are you just struggling to get a smooth finish?
This article will help you gain the best possible paint finish. For painting safely see Ladder safety.
If there are only two tips for painting for pleasure they have to be: (1) buy a good brush and (2) never dip your paintbrush more than half way up the
Synthetic brushes used to be anathema to painters. Paint dripped from the brush and the inflexible bristles left grooves and bare patches on the finish and on the psyche. Then, the only worthwhile choice was a natural bristle brush. Now, however, it’s best to go synthetic — but only with a top-quality brush that has its bristle ends split and feathered. These brushes hold paint and flow like a dream.
It makes economic sense to buy the more expensive ones because they’re easy to clean, hold their shape and last a very long time if cared for. You could own your favourite brush as long as you own your car! I use a 62-mm brush for most house-painting jobs. It is wide enough to hold plenty of paint but small enough for tight areas and light enough to prevent wrist pain!
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Stir your paint pot well. Use a flat paddle or piece of wood (not a stick) and make sure you stir right round the bottom where the thick solution is. As you stir, draw the paddle up and round into the mixture until there are absolutely no streaks of colour on the surface. Use only the tips of your bristles to wipe the stirring paddle clean (the first step in keeping painting pleasurable!).
If you’re using a large quantity of paint, decant a small amount into a small lidded pot for ease of use. Place the small pot on a flat surface before you pour. Have your brush handy so you can clean the edge of the large pot before returning the lid. Again, use only the first half of your bristles!
Dip your brush into the paint — a third of the way up the bristles — then lightly dab against the inside edge of the rim of the paint pot, to hold possible drips onto the brush. (As the pot empties, dab the brush on the inside wall of the paint pot, always in the same place. This will keep your pot mess-free.)
Even when you stroke the paint onto the surface, use the first third or half of your bristles (have I said that before?). This will help prevent paint clogging in the upper reaches of the brush. Use long, flowing strokes with a regular, easy rhythm to spread the paint evenly. When you apply the next brush-load, begin a little away from the part you have already painted. Stroke evenly and spread the new paint back, feathering it into the previous application with light tip-of-the-bristle strokes.
If you’re working into a corner or along an edge, you might need less paint on the tips of your bristles. Assess how much paint you’ll need and dip the brush into the paint accordingly. (See ‘Painting straight lines and neat edges’ below.)
When painting in corners or on a stippled surface, you might dab with the end of your bristles. Once the corner or stipples are filled, stroke the surface with light flowing strokes (away from the corner) to avoid ugly brush marks in the dried finish.
If you’re exterior house-painting, find a shaded, sheltered area or side of the building to work on. Wind or hot sun will dry your brush out as you work, eventually making the paint uncontrollable. Plan your day so that you can follow the shade around the house. If you’re forced to paint in sun or wind, wash your bristles lightly in the appropriate solvent at intervals to stop them clogging
(see ‘Maintaining your painting tools’ below). Dry the brush on newspaper or
spin the handle between your palms — inside a spare bucket or paint pot so the
drips don’t cover you!
Faster painting methods
Rollers and speed brushes are the Ferraris of paint applicators. For each, you’ll need a special tray in which to hold your paint.
Speed brushes are made of a replaceable flat rectangle of foam topped with fluffy fabric, attached, at an angle, to a handle. They are ideal for painting the surface of weatherboards or wide, flat areas as they can apply a thick, even coat that covers well. You’ll need to have a brush on hand for painting the corners. It would be advisable to do all the corners first, rather than trying to juggle brush and speed brush throughout.
A thick pad of paint will be applied to the wall on the first stroke of a speed brush, so begin this stroke 200 mm or so from the place the paint was last applied. Make your second stroke from where the paint was last applied and gradually feather all the paint into an even coat with long, smooth strokes. Stroke horizontally on weatherboards and at varying angles on a smooth, flat wall, gradually making your strokes lighter as you create the finished surface.
Rollers come in varying depths of fluff, so ask your paint merchant which one is appropriate for the job and the type of paint you’re using. If you’re painting a ceiling or wall, you should buy a long handle for your roller. This will save you time and effort in climbing trestles or a ladder.
Because a roller can’t paint into corners, you’ll need to paint the corners of the room first with a brush (the top and bottom of the walls and all the inside corners).
Pour paint only into the flat area at the bottom of your tray.
Dip the roller lightly and shallowly into the paint.
Roll the roller round a little on the sloping part of the tray then dip it into the paint again, lightly and shallowly.
Do this two or three times. The aim is to get a fairly even coat of paint around
AVOID dipping the roller deeply into the paint so the central hub fills with paint. You’ll end up with paint on the floor, in your hair, down your roller handle and in splodges on the wall if you do.
Painting straight lines and neat edges
Some people insist on using a small brush for edges, believing it gives them more control. I choose to use the same 62-mm brush that I use for everything else. By putting only a little paint on the bristles I can hold the brush at an angle to the edge and, watching the bristles carefully, judge which bristles are going to create the line. Because the 62-mm brush holds plenty of paint I can run a greater length of line, with more flow than I could with a small brush. However, each to their own!
When painting along an edge, start away from the edge and watch the bristles of the brush to determine which ones are creating the line. Then move to the edge.
In difficult corners I start near the corner (not in the corner), pull the brush away from the corner until the bristles are lying flat and even, then approach the corner again, jiggling the brush with very short forward and backward strokes. Once the corner is filled I smooth the surface with a single stroke away from the corner.
You might also want to try using masking tape (see ‘Adhesive tapes’ ). Run the tape along the edge, on the side you don’t wish to paint. Press the tape down firmly, so that paint won’t leak underneath the tape. Paint up to and onto the tape. Remove the tape as soon as the paint is touch-dry. If left any longer, the paint edge may crack as you pull the tape away.
This process is fine if the surface you’re painting up to, and putting the masking tape on, isn’t newly painted. But if you’re painting one colour up against another, you’ll need to wait several days for the first colour to be fully hardened so the tape won’t tear it off. In reality, acrylic house paints take two weeks to reach their fully cured and hardened state.
Cleaning painting tools
It is always best to wash your brush or roller as soon as you have finished with it. However, when a friend pops in for a chat or you’re hanging out for morning tea, you can keep your brush or roller fresh for a little while until you pick it up again. Wrap it in plastic cling film or a plastic bag and store it in the shade. This will exclude the air and, for a short time, prevent it drying out.
If you have been using water-based paints, work the brush in a bucket of water to dislodge the thicker paint in the centre of the bristles. Then run the bristles under a tap until the water runs clean. If you intend to use the brush again the next day, put a wire through the handle and hang it in water inside a bucket. If you have finished your paint job, wash the brush finally in warm soapy water. If it doesn’t come absolutely clean, soak it overnight in a solution of water, detergent and cloudy ammonia and wash it again the next day.
To clean a roller, roll it backwards and forwards in your paint tray filled with water. Change the water frequently or pour running water into the tray from a tap or hose. Continue until the tray water is clean. Do a final wash with soap.
If you’re using oil-based paint or shellac, check the tin for the appropriate cleaning solvent. Pour the solvent into a spare pot or your paint tray and work the brush or roller until the paint is soft and thin. Wash them next in a solution of warm water and soap. Washing machine powder works well for synthetic bristles. Shampoo is best for natural bristles, as it tends to replenish the natural oil in the bristles as it works. If the tool remains sticky, repeat the process.
Extra painting hints
Don’t leave a paintbrush standing on its bristles in a pot of water or solvent. The bristles will become misshapen and impossible to use. Find a way of suspending it in the solvent or water — either by passing a wire through the handle of the brush and resting it on the lip of the pot or by using a brush holder, which suspends the brush from the side of the pot. (You should be able to buy a brush holder from your paint merchant.) The solvent or water should completely cover the bristles.
The joy of a good quality synthetic brush is that, if it has become misshapen, you can run it under hot water to restore its shape.
It sounds unlikely, but it is possible to store a paint-filled roller in a freezer overnight if it is wrapped in plastic. The cold prevents the paint in the roller drying out. But many paints contain toxic chemicals, and not many people have an old spare freezer for the odd paint job!
Paint that has dried into a brush can be removed by soaking it in paintbrush restorer. Stroke the bristles with an old nail brush, working away from the handle.
Store clean natural-bristle brushes in brown paper or a heavy paper towel to keep the bristles in shape.