Brushes, rollers and pads

Make sure that you have the correct equipment for both the material you are using and the surface being painted in order to minimize the time the task will take. Never use brushes, rollers and pads that are past their best; the end product will not reflect the amount of time you have invested.

Good brushes have a decent length of bristle; they should not be stubby. Rollers can be more messy than brushes, as the paint is more likely to splatter, but they are a good choice for large areas such as walls and ceilings because they speed up the application.

Rollers produce a slightly more mottled surface than brushes. Indeed, if you want a super-smooth surface, do not use a foam roller, because the air trapped in the foam will produce an ‘orange-peel’ effect. And this texture will survive subsequent paint layers.

Paint pads are similar to rollers; using a paint pad is an excellent and speedy way of covering large surfaces. Made from mohair bonded onto a foam backing, they are available in several sizes. There are special edging pads for precision painting and small pads to use on mouldings and glazing bars. Best used with water-based paint, paint pads produce a smooth finish, but they do apply less paint per coat than rollers, so you may need an extra coat for the same density of finish.

Buy enough of the appropriate paintbrushes, rollers and paint pads for the task, but it is probably not worth buying heavy-duty industrial equipment unless you are renovating a whole house from top to bottom. If you require any expensive or specialized tools, consider hiring them instead.

First steps to painting walls

Before you start, dust the rim of the paint can with a dry brush or damp cloth to remove any dust or grit which could fall into the paint and contaminate it. Work your way around the tin with the spoon handle, levering gently until the lid flips off. Stir the paint thoroughly in a figure-of-eight movement with a clean piece of dowel.

Pour a quantity of the paint into a clean paint kettle, tray or plastic bucket because, when you are moving up and down ladders, this is easier to handle than a full tin.

Using a brush

Before using a new brush, get rid of loose bristles by working it vigorously backwards and forwards across the palm of your hand.

To begin painting, dip the brush into the kettle until one third to half of the bristles is covered. Remove the excess by dabbing the brush against the inside of the kettle, not by scraping the brush against the rim of the tin. Scraping it pulls the bristles out of the brush, contaminates the paint with stray bristles, and can make a mess of the outside of the tin. Alternatively, you could tie a piece of string taut across the top of the kettle and clean the brush against that. Do not be tempted to overload the brush as it will be much more difficult to manoeuvre and it will almost certainly result in drips that will show on the finished paint surface. It is also essential not to apply the paint too thickly and that you leave enough drying time between coats; consult the directions.

If you are using emulsion paint, you need to work fast because the rapid drying time of the paint can lead to shading. Using a 10—15cm   brush, work across the room in areas approximately 70cm   square. Use criss-cross brush-strokes to cover the area evenly and finish on a light, upward stroke. This is called ‘laying off’. Move swiftly and methodically as you paint across the wall.

Handling the tools

Oil-based paint requires a different approach. It dries more slowly than emulsion and thus allows a little more flexibility. Use a smaller, 2.5—5cm   brush, held between thumb and forefinger, like a pen, and begin to make parallel vertical lines of paint across an area measuring approx. 30 cm   square. When you have used up most of the paint on the brush, work swiftly across the vertical lines, blending them together into a solid layer of paint. Finish the area off with light, vertical strokes and move on quickly to the adjoining area.

Using a paint pad

Pour some well-mixed paint into a paint tray; you can use either a standard roller tray or one specially designed for use with pads. Load the paint by running the pad backwards and forwards over the ridged area of the paint tray, or over the loading roller in a paint-pad tray, to ensure an even application. Work on the edges of the wall first using a small pad or a special edging pad. Then, using a larger pad  , apply the paint in overlapping criss-cross strokes, working on an area of 1 sq  m   at a time. If you are painting ceilings or high walls, fitting the pad to an extension pole will speed up the process considerably.

Using a roller

Select a suitable sleeve for the wall surface and slide it onto the roller cage until it clicks shut. Pour some well-mixed paint into a roller tray and run the roller down the sloping part of the tray into the paint. Roll it up and down along the ridged slope to remove excess paint.

After cutting in with a paintbrush at the edges of the room, apply the paint in side-to-side, up-and-down strokes, spreading the paint evenly over areas approx. 60cm   wide. Lay off on a light upward stroke before reloading for the next area, taking care to blend the edges of the two areas together. If you are working on a ceiling or on high walls, you may wish to add an extension pole to the roller.

Tools and equipment

Containers: for paintbrushes, use metal or plastic buckets; for rollers, plastic trays.

Decorating brushes:

  • 10-12.5cm brushes for walls.
  • 2.5-5cm brushes for details.
  • 5-7.5cm brushes for ‘cutting in’ around the tops of walls.
  • 2.5cm brushes or angled-headed brushes for window frames.
  • a selection of artist’s brushes for details.
  • 5-10cm oval-headed brushes for applying varnish.

Roller cage: can hold a variety of sleeves.

Roller sleeves:

  • short-pile mohair for applying silk emulsion. medium-pile sheepskin for matt emulsion. medium-long pile for textured surfaces.
  • patterned foam rollers for dramatic effects.

Extension pole: for pads and rollers, when painting high areas such as ceilings.

Radiator roller: small roller on a long handle for reaching into the awkward space behind radiators.

Paint pads: often have hollow handles so they can be used with an extension pole.

Mahl stick: to steady your hand for details.

Stepladder or ladders: to create a painting platform.

For decorative paint effects:

  • pieces of natural sponge.
  • flogger: for dragging.
  • dusting brush or specialist graining brush.
  • selection of stencilling brushes.
  • large stippling brush.
  • softener brush: to soften brush marks.
  • fitch brushes: for spattering and stippling.
  • specialist rollers, rockers and combs.
  • lint-free rags: for rag rolling.

Equipment to hire

  • Spray guns: to cover large areas very quickly. Always wear a face mask.
  • Battery-powered paintbrushes and rollers: the paint is pumped from an attached reservoir along a plastic tube.
  • Scaffold tower: a safe platform if painting a very high room.

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