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7 Painting Hacks Design Bloggers Swear By

dining room

Design by Emily Henderson Design; Photo by Zeke Ruelas

A new coat of paint is one of the easiest ways to transform a space—just check out that bold blue on the dining room above—but if you’ve ever set out to tackle a paint project, you know how quickly the process can become overwhelming. Should you use a brush or a roller? What’s the best sheen? How long should you let the paint dry between coats?

Home décor bloggers have the answers to many of these questions, not because they were born with the knowledge, but because they’ve learned the hard way through trial and error. Luckily, they’ve shared their findings with the rest of us. From shortcuts to favorite products, Here’s a round-up of some of bloggers’ best painting advice.

Not All Painters’ Tape is Created Equal

Traditional blue painters tape will get the job done, but often requires touch-ups. For years, bloggers have raved about the aptly-named green FrogTape, which has a built-in adhesive. Julia Marcum, of Chris Loves Julia, found that the tape performs even better after you run a damp cloth over it, thereby further activating the adhesion to produce crisp, run-free lines. See a side-by-side comparison here.

FrogTape Multi-Surface Painting Tape $6.00

With Practice, You Can Ditch the Tape Altogether

Painters tape is ideal for beginners, but with a steady hand and the right tools, you can save time and money by edging around trim and windows sans tape. Sarah Fogle of Ugly Duckling House offers a step-by-step guide, as well as her go-to brush: The Wooster Shortcut Angle Sash Paintbrush. The rubber handle makes it easy to grip and its small shape maximizes control.

wooster paintbrush
Wooster Shortcut Angle Sash Paintbrush $6.00

You Can Customize the Paint’s Formula

If you’ve ever fallen in love with a color, but wished it was just a tad bit lighter or darker, this tip is for you. While remodeling her farmhouse kitchen, KariAnne Wood of Thistlewood Farms discovered that most paint stores can create a custom formula, based on percentages (like 70% grey, 30% white). Take home samples and play around to find the perfect match.

Consider a Space’s Use Before You Pick a Sheen

dark dining room
Designed by Arlyn Hernandez; Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp

Emily Henderson’s blog tapped the contractors who worked on her Los Angeles home to find out which paint sheens work best in certain spaces. From flat to gloss, they weighed the pros and cons of each and discussed which trends are better experienced in the pages of a magazine. “If you dare to do full-on matte, be sure to shell out for a high-quality paint, always use a primer, and don’t skimp on the number of coats you apply,” the contractors suggest. “Be prepared to use many a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser and keep a jar of paint and blue tape handy for regular touch-ups.” Eggshell remains one of the most popular sheens and for good reason: It’s easy to apply, easy to clean and hides imperfections. That said, eggshell is not ideal for bathrooms or areas with high humidity. Instead, opt for a satin or semi-gloss sheen.

If you dare to do full-on matte, be sure to shell out for a high-quality paint, always use a primer, and don’t skimp on the number of coats you apply.”

Try a Deglosser in Place of Sanding

Another pro tip from the husband and wife team behind Chris Loves Julia: skip the sanding and use a deglosser. Their quick, low-budget kitchen remodel turned heads, thanks in large part, to the transformation of their existing kitchen cabinets. They prepped and painted them over the course of a weekend and one of the biggest timesavers was the Jasco Easy Liquid Sander Deglosser, which can be applied using a sponge or rag and has virtually no odor. It also works as a degreaser and improves paint adhesion. “It works on paint, varnish, enamel, lacquer, polyurethane, and stain — you name it,” Julia writes. “We’ve used it on cabinets, wood moldings and doors with great success.”

sander deglosser
Jasco Easy Liquid Sander Deglosser $7.00

There’s a “Miracle Primer” That Transforms IKEA Furniture

Jenny Komenda, founder of Juniper Home (formerly the Little Green Notebook), is particularly good at creating “wow” pieces from ordinary items. Case in point: her glamorous makeover of the IKEA Pax wardrobes. “I’ve painted a lot of IKEA furniture in the past,” she writes. “Spray paint usually at least sticks and covers, but the paint will almost always chip off eventually without the right primer.” Enter the Zinsser B-I-N Shellac-Base Primer, or as Jenny calls it “miracle primer.” Whenever priming a piece of furniture for a dark paint color, Jenny asks whoever mixes the paint to tint the primer. “It seems to help get a darker, truer color in the end when you’re not having to work to cover up the white primer.”

Zinsser B-I-N Interior Multi-purpose Shellac Wall and Ceiling Primer $16.00

A Sprayer Can be Life-Changing

Mandi Gubler is a paint guru, to say the least. On her blog, Vintage Revivals, she’s detailed tricky projects like how to paint a laminate dresser and how to remove paint from concrete. When it came time to paint her home, an old mercantile, she did it almost entirely on her own. One of the biggest takeaways? Invest in a sprayer, specifically the Graco X7. In Mandi’s words: “IT CHANGED MY WHOLE LIFE FOREVER. I’ve used small handheld sprayers off and on through the years but never really stuck with it because they were too complicated to clean, they had to be refilled all the time, and they didn’t do a great job. If you're embarking on a painting journey, buy a sprayer. Seriously.”

paint sprayer
Graco X7 Airless Paint Sprayer $475.00

Use a Brush for Painting Doors

With what we just learned about sprayers, it’s tempting to want to use one for every project, but Sherry Petersik of Young House Love makes the case for using a brush when painting doors (she loves that same Wooster brush mentioned earlier). In a detailed blog post, Sherry breaks down which parts of the door to paint first, the best kind of paint and even shares a wardrobe tip we hadn’t thought of before: Paint with your clothes turned inside out. Genius!