Over the course of the five years I lived in it, I painted every room of my first house. I moved a couple years ago to a new place, but have only just recently started painting again.

Here are some things I learned the hard way, things I wish I had known before I embarked on my first painting projects.

Things to Spend On

You’ll find that you need a lot of supplies when painting rooms, and there are some things that are worth spending a little extra on, and some things that you can scrape by with the cheap-o versions of.

Here are the things I’d recommend going for high quality on:


Get a good 2.5” brush, I prefer the kind with shorter handles. The nicer ones wash easily and can be re-used, while the cheap ones lose bristles constantly (which lodge themselves into your wet paint) and don’t come clean as well, so it’s worth getting a few good ones rather than a dozen disposable ones.

Wall and Trim Paint

You want to get the highest possible gloss for things like trim and cabinet doors, which covers well and also prevents wear and handprints and things, and cleans more easily.

For the actual walls, you’ll want at least “eggshell” finish. Stay away from anything flat or matte, unless you like seeing fingerprints and smudges all over your walls.

Also, remember that no matter what, any paint that lists itself as “single coat coverage” is a lie - you will wind up doing multiple coats. Best to make your peace with that early.


It’s hard to overstate what a game-changer good painter’s tape is. Cheap stuff will fail to stick and fall down on you while you’re in the middle of painting, and then it’ll rip a million times while you’re trying to strip it off when you’re done.

I also highly recommend the double-wide kind, which gives you that much more leeway to be slightly imperfect (especially useful when doing awkward ceiling corners and the like) and saves a ton of time consuming touch-up work you’d otherwise have to do if you get a stray splotch of paint an inch out of place.

Things You Can Scrimp On


I’ve never been able to get a roller clean enough to re-use with a different color, so they’re essentially disposable and you might as well get the cheap ones. Unlike with cheaper brushes, I haven’t had any problem with the less expensive ones not being as good at coverage or application of the actual paint.


Trays and the plastic inserts are also disposable so you might as well get the cheap ones. They’ll still hold the paint just fine.

Ceiling Paint and Primer

Unless you’re planning on touching your ceilings a lot, you can just get the cheapest ceiling paint and primer you can find. You don’t really need primer unless you’re taking something that’s already a dark color and painting it a lighter color anyway.

Drop Cloths

There’s a surprising variety and varying quality of drop cloths available, but anything that covers the floor will do. I actually often just use a scrap of cardboard, since you really only need to cover the area directly beneath where you’re painting at any given moment anyway.

Order of Operations

While it can be tempting to get started painting the walls right away, you’ll actually spend a ton more time taping and waiting for things to dry if you do that (assuming you’re also planning to paint the ceiling and trim). Do the ceiling and trim first, since you don’t have to tape off where they meet the walls, especially if you’re doing the ceiling and trim in white.

You only really need to wait a couple hours between coats of paint, but make sure you wait at least 24 hours before applying tape to any newly painted surfaces, or you’ll wind up peeling off the new paint you just applied when you remove it. And be sure to score the seams where your tape meets the newly painted edge with a utility knife before you peel off the tape, which will give you a much cleaner line.