Painting and Decorating – A Broad Brush Guide

We all like to think we’re up to a spot of painting and decorating, but do you know the tools, skills and preparation work needed to do a good job?

If you’re preparing for some painting and decorating jobs in the near future – as many people are at this time of year, homeowners and professionals alike – then your very first step will be to make sure that you’re properly prepared. There are few things worse than being midway through a painting job and suddenly realising you’re missing a vital piece of equipment. So what do you need to produce the perfect job?


  • Decorator’s overalls
  • Painter’s goggles
  • Dust masks
  • Gloves
  • Shoe covers

PPE is a vital element of any DIY job, and it’s no different when it comes to painting. Goggles and dust masks protect the eyes and lungs, and shoe covers might not always be quite as essential, but are they’re still useful if you need to protect furniture and carpets.

See also: What Happens When Architects Design Furniture?


  • Dust sheet, canvas sheet or similar type of sheet
  • Painter’s tape or masking tape
  • Decorating cloths

The first step in any painting job is to clear the space as much as possible, moving furniture out or to one side, and protecting the remainder with cloths and tape. Decorating cloths, meanwhile, are suitable for wiping and polishing any surfaces that you’re going to paint ahead of time, so that your finish isn’t ruined by any dust or debris clinging to the surfaces underneath.

A low adhesive masking tape is best for painting woodwork accurately – don’t make the mistake of using the cheapest, the more expensive professional types give much better results.

See also: For Decorating Success, Reach for FrogTape®

The quality of tape is measured in the time it can remain on the walls, door or window frames before it becomes very difficult to peel off. This is also called the “clean peel” time where peeling does not leave the adhesive on the surface.

Masking tape comes in a widths to suit all jobs from 12mm beading inside glass panelled doors, to protecting seven-inch skirting from screed splashes. Cheaper masking tapes should be removed in three hours whereas the more professional tapes can be left in place for up to 14 days without difficulty. For masking large areas, tape can be used to hold sheets of newspaper in place. For curved surfaces a more flexible tape can be used which is created especially for masking curved areas.

The first painters’ union was formed in London in 1502 and was called the Worshipful Company of Painters-Stainers. The market for paint, wallcoverings and woodcare products was worth an estimated £925m in 2017 according to a report by AMA Research. About 10 percent of all paint we buy in the UK is eventually thrown out, the majority of it paint bought for residential projects.


  • Emulsion or oil paint, or paint suitable for sprayer
  • Suitable primer
  • Paint kettle and paint can opener
  • Paint roller, sleeve, extension pole and tray
  • Paint brushes, including large, small, special types
  • Bucket and sponge
  • Stepladder

For smaller rooms, paint roller extension poles can be particularly helpful as they help you to do most of your painting from the ground rather than up a ladder, avoid unnecessary risks in working at height. Radiator brushes use an angled head which helps you to move around in obstacles and into corners. A plastic bucket and sponge help you wipe any paint splashes off woodwork, as some colours can stain lightly-coloured gloss paint. A sponge can also be used to clean walls before painting and to remove cleaning products.

See also: The Right Tools for Every Decorating Job

Using spray paint, whether from an aerosol can or using a spray-gun, is an art in itself.

  • Choose your location. Outdoors is best, but an open garage is a good second choice. Otherwise, open as many windows as possible and use a fan while spraying and drying.
  • Protect from overspray. Set small projects in a deep cardboard box, or put down a drop cloth when working with bigger pieces.
  • Prepare the surface. For best results, most materials must be cleaned, sanded, and dried before spray-paint application. Applying a primer will result in a smoother surface, truer colour, and longer-lasting finish.
  • Read all directions. Check for the proper spraying distance and drying times before you begin painting.
  • Test your spray paint. Try a practice spray on a piece of scrap material in the same surface as your project. A steady spray tool offers an easy-to use trigger that creates an even stream of paint.
  • Apply multiple thin coats. Sweep the spray across the project, beginning and ending each coat off the side. Complete a coat over the entire project at one time, instead of working in stages for more consistent colour and finish. Consult the paint guide for the recommended “recoat window” and drying times.
  • Clean your spraying equipment, or for cans prevent clogging by holding the can upside down and spraying until only a clear gas is released. If a tip does become clogged, wipe off the opening with warm water or lacquer thinner. Never stick a pin or wire into the hole.

I’ve seen plenty of DIY disasters in my travels, so I’m aware of what can go wrong if people try to dress up their domestic surroundings when they don’t know what they’re doing! Apparently painting and decorating are the most commonly undertaken household tasks, with 48 percent of householders having done some in the past year, compared to 30 percent who carried out minor alterations and 27 percent putting up new curtains/blinds or shutters. I can’t say why, by according a to a Mintel survey, householders in Scotland are most likely to have carried out a project in the past year (79 percent) while those living in London are least likely (68 percent).

– Martin Roberts

Buying Brushes

Paint brushes don’t have to be expensive – affordable types tend to have synthetic bristles rather than animal hair. This doesn’t mean you have to settle for poorly made brushes – check that they are well made and the bristles are well attached.

Look particularly for a loose ferrule, the metal part above the bristles. If it’s loose, than brush may come apart at the handle. There’s not much you can do about this, as you won’t be able to take it back to the shop after you’ve used it, so check the quality before buying, or stick to reputable brands.


There are lots of painting and decorating accessories you may find useful, so it’s worth keeping them handy, even if it’s under your sink or in the shed!

  • Ready-mixed filler and filling knife
  • Flat scraper tool
  • Fine sandpaper

These will be useful in preparation, removing flakes of loose paint, and filling cracks in plaster to ensure a smooth finish.

Finally, remember, as American humourist Will Cuppy said in his classic memoir How to Be a Hermit, “It is really surprising what may be done in the home with a small can of paint, if you aren’t careful”! ■

See also: For Decorating Success, Pick up a Paint Sprayer

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