Tag Archives: Painting Tools

How to Choose a Paint Brush

Two groups of tools are needed for painting, one for preparing the surface and one for actually applying the paint. For a masonry wall, the minimum preparation is to wash down any previously painted surface. This calls for a bucker, sponges and cloths, strong household detergent or sugar soap (all-purpose cleaner), and rubber gloves to protect the hands.

If the washed-down surface has a high-gloss finish, or feels rough to the touch, use fine-grade sandpaper and a sanding block to smooth it down. Wet and Dry (silicon carbide) paper, used wet, is best for sanding down existing paintwork; remember to thoroughly rinse off the resulting fine slurry of paint with water afterwards. Use ordinary sandpaper for bare wood.

Defects in the surface need filling. Use a traditional cellulose filler (spackle) for small cracks, chips and other surface blemishes, and an expanding filler foam which can be shaped and sanded when hard for larger defects. To apply filler paste use a filling knife (putty knife).

To strip existing paintwork, use either a beat gun — easier to control and much safer to use than a blowtorch — or a chemical paint remover, plus scrapers of various shapes to remove the softened paint.

For removing wall coverings in order to apply a painted wall or ceiling finish, a steam wallpaper stripper will be worth the investment. The small all-in-one strippers which resemble a large steam iron are the easiest type to use.

Painting Tools

The paintbrush is still the favorite tool for applying paint to walls, ceilings, woodwork and metalwork around the house. Most are made with natural bristle, held in a metal ferrule which is attached to a wooden or plastic handle, but there are also brushes with synthetic fibre bristles which are sometimes recommended for applying water-based (latex) paints.

Brushes come in widths from 12 mm / 1/2 in. up to 15 cm / 6 in. The smallest sizes are used for fiddly jobs such as painting glazing bars (mulleins), while the widest are ideal for flat uninterrupted wall and ceiling surfaces. A wide brush can be tiring touse, especially with solvent-based (oil) paints. There are also long-handled brushes with angled heads for painting behind radiators, and narrow brushes called cutting-in (sash) brushes, which have the bristle tips cut off at an angle for painting into internal angles. For the best results, buy good-quality brushes and look after them, rather than buy cheap ones and tossing them after each job.

Paint rollers are used mainly for painting walls and ceilings with water-based paints, although they can be used with solvent-based types too. They consist of a metal roller cage mounted on a handle, plus a hollow sleeve that fits onto the cage and actually applies the paint. Some can be lined with an extension pole, which is useful if there are high ceilings or stairwells to paint. Most rollers are 18 cm/ 7 in wide; larger sizes are available, but can be harder to ‘drive.’ There are also shin mini-rollers for painting awkward-to-reach areas such as walls behind radiators. For any type, a roller tray is used to load paint onto the sleeve. Solid water-based paint is sold in its own tray.

The sleeves are waterproof tubes with a layer of foam plastic or cloth stuck to the outside. Another type maybe made from natural or synthetic fibre, and have a short, medium or long pile, to suit different types of surfaces.

Choose the pile length to match the surface being painted: short for flat surfaces, medium for those with a slight texture and long for embossed surfaces.

Paint pads are squares or rectangles of short-pile cloth stuck to a foam backing and mounted on a plastic or metal handle. The pad is dipped in a shallow container, or loaded from a special paint container with a roller feed, and then drawn across the surface. Pads come in a range of sizes.

Paint and varnish are also sold in aerosol form. This is ideal for small areas or fiddly materials such as wickerwork, but too expensive to use on large areas.

Lastly, do not forget the decorating sundries. A paint kettle is needed for decanting the paint and straining out any foreign bodies. Hand-held paint masks or masking tape are invaluable aids to getting straight edges and keeping paint off adjacent surfaces. Remember to provide dustsheets (drop cloths), which perform better than plastic sheets.

Paint Effects

Many paint effects are based on a few simple techniques. These can be used on their own or combined to produce an infinite variety of paint effects. The techniques shown here all use ultramarine blue emulsion (latex) paint mixed with acrylic scumble glaze and/or water to be able to compare the different effects possible. Two coats of silk finish white emulsion paint were rollered on as a base. Before you start a project practise these techniques first.


Dilute a little paint with a some water in a paint tray or saucer. Dip a damp, natural sponge into the paint and wipe off the excess on kitchen paper (paper towels). Dab the sponge on to the surface in different directions.


Dilute the paint with water and brush on randomly with cross-hatched brushstrokes, using a large decorator’s brush. A damp sponge will give a similar effect.


Dilute the paint with water or scumble. Apply paint with cross-hatched brushstrokes, then press a piece of tissue paper over the wet surface and peel it off.


Mix paint with scumble glaze and brush on with cross-hatched brushstrokes. Drag a flat decorator’s brush through the glaze. The soft effect is achieved by going over the glaze again to break up the lines.


Mix paint with acrylic scumble and brush on with cross-hatched brushstrokes. Run a metal or rubber graining comb through the wet glaze.


This soft, patchy wall finish is pure country. It is traditionally achieved using either a very runny colourwash or an oil-based glaze tinted with oil colour, over eggshell paint. The technique below gives the same effect but is easier to achieve. Wallpaper paste adds a translucency to the colour and PVA (white) glue seals the surface when dry.

  1. Paint the wall with a plain, light emulsion (latex) colour. Mix the glaze, using 1 part PVA (white) glue, 5 parts water and 1 part wallpaper paste. Tint it with three 20 cm/8 in squirts from an acrylic or gouache tube, or about 15 ml/1 tbsp of powder paint. Vary the intensity of colour to your own taste. Get the feel of the glaze and brush, and adjust the colour at this stage if necessary.
  2. Begin applying the glaze in an area of the room that will he hidden by furniture or pictures; as your technique improves you will be painting the more obvious areas. Start near the top of the wall, dabbing glaze on with the brush and then sweeping it over the surface with random strokes.
  3. The effect will be streaky and the brushstrokes will show. So after about 5 minutes, brush the surface lightly with your brush but don’t use any glaze. The brush will pick up any surplus glaze on the surface and leave a softer, less streaky effect. When working on edges and corners, apply the glaze and then brush it away from the corner or edge.


Brush on a coat of water-based crackle glaze and leave to dry. Using a well-laden brush, apply paint carefully on top so that you lay, rather than brush, it over the surface. Work quickly and do not over-brush an area already painted. If you have missed an area, touch it in when the paint has dried. Seal with acrylic varnish.


  1. Paint the wall with cream emulsion (latex). Leave to dry and then mix a glaze of 1 part raw umber acrylic paint to 6 parts scumble. Stipple this on to the wall. Leave to dry. Mix a glaze with the white acrylic paint in the same way. Dampen a sponge and apply the glaze over the stippling, varying your hand position
  2. Using a softening brush, skim gently over the white glaze while it is still wet. Now mix a glaze with the yellow ochre paint as in step 1, but this time rub it into the wall with a cloth. Leave some areas of white glaze showing. Using another dampened cloth, rub some areas to disperse the paint. Leave to dry.


This paint finish imitates the opaque, soft colour and powdery bloom of distemper, the wall finish most used an oil-based glaze tinted with oil colour, over eggshell paint. The technique below gives the same effect but is easier

  1. Prepare the walls by stripping off any wallpaper down to the bare plaster. Spread filler irregularly with a spatula to simulate the uneven texture of old plaster. Use thin layers and apply randomly from different directions. Don’t worry about overdoing the effect; you can always rub it back with sandpaper when it’s dry, after an hour.
  2. Blend the dried filler into the original wall surface using rough-grade sandpaper, leaving rougher areas for a more obvious distressed effect. Mix water-based paint with water in the ratio 2 parts water to1 part paint. Stir the paint well: it should have the consistency of single cream.
  3. Begin painting at ceiling height. The paint is likely to splash a bit, so protect any surfaces. Use the paintbrush randomly rather than in straight lines, and expect a patchy effect — it will fade as the paint dries. The second coat needs to be stronger, so use less water in the mixture. Apply the second coat in the same way, working the brush into any cracks or rough plaster areas. Two hours later, the ‘bloom’ of the powdery finish will appear.

Painting Doors

The main problem with painting doors— or indeed any woodwork with a large surface — involves keeping what professional decorators call a ‘wet edge’. Obviously, the door has to be painted bit by bit, and, if the edge of one area begins to dry before this is joined up to the next area, the join will show when the paint dries completely.

The secret of success is to work in an ordered sequence, as shown in these illustrations of flush and panelled doors, and to complete the painting job in one continuous operation, working as fast as is reasonably possible. Windows are more difficult to paint than doors because they contain so many different surfaces, especially small-paned types criss-crossed with slim glazing bars (muntins). There is also the additional problem of paint: straying on to the glass. The ideal is a neat paint line that covers the bedding putty and extends on to the glass surface by about 3inches to seal the joint and prevent condensation from running down between putty and glass.

Remove the window hardware before you start painting. On casement windows, tap a nail into the bottom edge of the casement and into the lower frame rebate and then link them with stiff wire to stop the casement irons swinging about.

For the best results, remove sash windows from their frames before painting. Modem spring-mounted windows are easy to release from their frames. With older cord-operated types, remove the staff beads (window-stops) first to free the sashes. Although quite a major task, take the opportunity to renew the sash cords (pulley ropes).This makes it possible to cut the cords to free the window.


  1. Tackle a paneled door by painting the moldings (1) around the recessed panels first. Take care not to let paint build up in the corners or to stray on to the faces of the cross rails at this stage. Next, paint the recessed panels (2).
  2. Paint the horizontal cross-rails (3), brushing lightly inwards towards the pale red panel moldings to leave a sharp pattern edge. Feather out the paint thinly where it runs onto the vertical tiles at each end of the rails.
  3. Finish the door by painting the vertical center rail (4) and the tiles (5), again brushing inwards towards the panel moldings. Where the rail abuts the cross-rails, finish with light brushstrokes parallel to the cross-rails.

Varnishing Wood

  1. On bare wood, use a clean lint-free cloth to wipe the first coat on to the wood, working along the grain direction. When it is dry, sand it lightly and then wipe off the dust.
  2. Brush on the second and subsequent coats of varnish, applying them along the grain and linking up adjacent areas using light brushstrokes


Remove the door furniture and wedge open the door. Divide it up into 10 imaginary squares, and start at the top by filling in the first square. Finish the paint out towards the door edges so that it does not build up on external angles. Paint the next block at the top of the door. Blend the 2 areas with horizontal brushstrokes, then with light, vertical laying-off strokes.

Continue to work down the door surface block by block, blending the wet edges of adjacent blocks together as you paint them. Always aim to complete a flush door in 1 session to prevent the joints between blocks showing up as hard lines. Replace the door furniture when the paint is touch-dry.


  1. Stick masking tape to the glass with its edge 3 mm/in from the wood. Paint the surrounding wood, removing the tape when the paint is touch-dry.
  2. Alternatively, hold a small paint shield against the edge of the glazing bar (muntin) or the surrounding moulding while you paint. Wipe the shield regularly to prevent smears.